How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Rufus: What law student weblogs do you read? Can you give us more detail as to which ones (a) amuse you; (b) provoke thought in you; (c) annoy the hell out of you?

As for the rest of your post: I agree that "careers like lives have twists in them." That's definitely been my experience. In fact, even though I graduated in 1990, my career is still taking twists. It makes practicing law more interesting. To allow it to happen, however, I had realize not only that "a job is not a marriage," as you say, but also that it's good to take risks now and then. I think it's often the fear of taking risks that keeps people stuck in jobs that are a bad fit for them.

David Giacalone

You say "angina", I say "agita." You say "exorcise your demons," I need to exercise mine. Strangely, only "some" law student weblogs annoy you a lot, but I'll chalk that up to your tender years or my peri-dementiaed status.

Despite those differences, Roof, your attitide about law careers is quite perceptive. I would only add that the biggest stumbling block to career flexibility (other than the silly notion that lots of money equals happiness or success)are the tin handcuffs that come with accumulating too big of a monthly "nut" to make career shifts look doable in the shortrun. So, I again urge new lawyers to keep their living standards very modest -- and to find a life partner (and raise kids) who see you as something much more than a mealticket.

Carolyn Elefant

I second your thought that a job is not a marriage. And the same holds true for solo practice. Many of so-called experts who've written advice on going solo argue that you shouldn't go solo unless you're completely committed and/or sure that you're cut out for it. This way of thinking prevents many lawyers from going solo at a point in their careers when it could be beneficial - i.e., where they've reached a limit on gaining experience at a firm or where they've lost a job and can't find anything else. The truth is, however, that solo practice, like any other job in law, doesn't have to be permanent - it can serve as just another link in the chain to finding the position that's meant for you.


Evan, I'm pretty sure I qualify under all three categories.


And fix David's hanging italics tag.

David Giacalone

Mea culpa. I had no idea that a hanging italics tag could leak over into other Comments. A whole new avenue for mischief for bored law students and corporate counsel.

Dylan, If no one will pay you to be a law review copy-editor, maybe Corpus Juris will have an opening that suits your temperament. Ain't it nice to have career options?


Dylan and David: I fixed the italics problem. I am a full-service host.


A part of me disagrees with Rufus' criticism of law students worried about getting their careers off the ground, because it is undeniable that the first job one gets out of law school has an enormous impact on the rest of one's career.

I NEVER thought I'd be a civil litigator practicing insurance coverage and bad faith law at a large firm. I'd always, ALWAYS, imagined myself as an underpaid prosecutor putting bad guys in jail for the rest of my life, or as a plaintiff's lawyer tearing down corporate evil-doers on behalf of the little guy. I was actually about to start Round 3 of panel interviews with the felony prosecutor's office in Major Metro City, when I fell in love with a small firm that interviewed me one day. And once I got that first job working for an insurance coverage guru who liked me, and fed me coverage work, which led to even more coverage work, which led to my falling in love with coverage work... the rest is history (still developing of course, but right now I intend to never abandon this specialty I'm developing in insurance coverage law).

David Giacalone

UCL, While the first job might be important, flexibility with regard to it and to future positions is probably far more important. Two good reasons: (1) most law students only have a notion in their heads of their dream job, but no idea what it will actually feel like or whether it will actually interest or suit them; and (2) a small percentage of law students get the job they think they want (and some are unlucky enough to actually get it).


I think David's last comment perfectly sums up the point I was trying to make. But that could just be the Vicodin talking.


Well, as a current 1L I can attest to the fact that all my classmates "know" what kind of law they're going to practice. I admit, I tend to think I have an idea of what I'd like to do, however, I did work in the legal field for a few years post-college. (Heaven forbid I make the law school committment without being sure about it.) But in defense of my classmates, it is drilled in our heads every day that we need to choose an area of law. At least once a week I'm asked by someone (professors, law school admin., etc.) what kind of law I'd like to practice when I graduate. It's used to place us in mentor groups as well as academic support activities. So while I'm trying to avoid committing to anything this early in the game, I almost feel guilty for it.


I think it's the same all over really. The two areas that I now "specialise" in, I didn't study at uni at all. And one of my mates did a lot of study in one of them and really wanted to practice in it and has never managed it (even though she works for one of Australia's biggest law firms).

My career certainly hasn't turned out the way I'd envisioned it. I thought I'd be the big corporate lawyer by now - either partner or well on my way there. But when I tried it, I realised that I hated it. So I went with the flow and tried something else.

I've ended up being one of those people who knows a little bit about most areas and so I tend to be slotted in to wherever there's the biggest workload at the time. It's made for an interesting career so far, I can tell you that much! ;o)


quasi in r.e.m.

What a timely post. I have been admiring the 2Ls at my school, noting how nice they look in their OCI interview clothes, I can only hope that next year I will be invited to interview.

My fear is this, my school scrapes the bottom of the second tier. It's located in what UCL likes to call a major metro area. I dispair of finding a job this summer. Every second or third year student I have talked to here here has confirmed that there is no such thing as a paying summer job for 1L students from my school. Even as I wonder if I am getting what my professors are trying to teach, and put in late nights trying to get through the reading, the worry that I won't be able to pay my rent or even afford basic necessities like food this summer nags at me incessantly.


Let me go out on a limb here and state that more experienced, veteran lawyers tend to be a bit out of touch with the realities of law practice for young lawyers. As a few brand new 1st year associates have told me on different occasions, senior lawyers have simply forgotten what it is like to REALLY be brand new. Therefore, a lot of newbie associates learn as much from slightly experienced juniors (like moi) as they do from veterans, on different topics of course. I dare say this difference in perspectives is in play here.

It is easy for a 10, 20, or 30 year lawyer who already has a successful career behind him to dismiss the importance of that first job. The truth is that my classmates from the graduating class of a few years ago, many of whom I keep in touch with regularly, are enjoying or hating their respective lives largely as a function of their very first job. The guy who dreamt of working in BIGLAW in New York City but instead decided to try the public defender's office for a year first? He just opened up his own shop down the road, practicing criminal defense, and he's good, so he's probably going to keep at it. The guy who had no idea where he was going or what he would do upon graduating? The federal EEOC picked him up and he's becoming an employment expert. There's also the gal who knew nothing about taxes, absolutely nothing, but somehow got the attention of the IRS Office of Special Counsel and now she knows tax courts like the back of her hand. Anyone doubt that'll stick with her for a while and help her get her next job, when and if she decides to move?

The first job doesn't chain you to a career track you can't break free of. But it influences the direction in which you will go. It may lead you to discover a love of a practice area you never thought you'd have (such as in my case), which will stay with you for years and years. It may lead you to discover you hate transactional law with a passion and compel you to prosecute sex crimes for the rest of your life as a backlash. So that first job is important. And it's okay to spend a lot of time thinking and frowning and deliberating over which offer to take or which interview to schedule when you're a 3L. My point is simply that.

David Giacalone

UCL, I don't want to be ageist, but one of the few rewards of growing older is learning that (1) panicking about something that you have very little control over is silly, as is panicking far in advance of the necessity to do so; (2) old folks really do remember how it used to be, and we (futiley) hope to save the younguns from making the same mistakes we made, and creating a lot of new ones for themselves; and (3) you can learn more important things about yourself and life from situations that go wrong than from situations that seem to be going fine.

We have also concluded that the current under-30 crowd are (with very few exceptions) almost totally "synchronic" -- they have very little ability to see events and situations in their historical context. Worse, their window for comparison and context seems to constantly narrow, and now encompasses no more than a few years of "history".


I think I might be the IP-oriented student mentioned above and, as lawyers and will-be-lawyers are wont to, I have a response.

Some of us law students "know" where we're going. Yes, it's a bumpy ride. Yes, there will be twists along the way and unexpected changes in direction. (Anyone else feel like they're on a roller coaster yet?) BUT, and here's the punchline, despite those caveats, I'm positive that my first job will be in IP and that, 5 years down the road, I'll be with either an IP or litigation firm. (Because I think I might like litigation.)

My background is in science, Physics to be precise. I'll be sitting for the Patent Bar (again, sigh) sometime before the end of this year. I'm currently working for an IP firm. I've been there for 16 months now. Hopefully they'll make me an offer and I'll stay on. Furthermore, from my experience thus far, I enjoy IP work. I love every aspect of it I've encountered. Even the inane research assignments are bearable if not (*gasp*) enjoyable. I've learned a lot from my work and I'm learning more every day.

So when I say "I'm going into IP law and not Insurance Law," it is not without basis. And I can honestly say that insurance law does not interest me in the slightest. Does this mean I'll never work in or with it? Of course not. But it does mean that, for the foreseeable and immediate future, I'm with IP and not Insurance.

So what's the big deal? (And Rufus, if I am in fact the student you speak of, which I vaguely remember myself to be, I meant no slight by my comment.)

Larry the Longhorn

Quasi in r.e.m.: I go to a first tier law school (closer to the top than the bottom), and there are no paying jobs with large firms for 1Ls here, either, unless you are in the top 10%. Small firms will pay $7-8/hr if you are in the top 25-33%. The vast majority of people I know worked for free their first summer.

TW. Andrews

I'm a pre 1L who's making a career jump from computer programming in the biotech industry to law.

It seems to me that Rufus' point isn't that people aren't shaped by their first jobs--He still works in the same area he did at the Evil Defense Firm--but rather that even within a particular area of the law, any given individual has lots of options.

Hate your current job with BIGLAW? Try a boutique firm. Prestige/Power/Money fanatic? Try a lateral to a big firm. If you're unhappy, you can go solo. Or become inside council at GCE or the equivilant in your area. Or go work for the gov't.

While your career path will be dictated to a great extent at the knowledge you gain at your first job, the knowledge comes with you if you decide to go somewhere else. And there are many different places where what you've learned will be useful.


I just hope that someone wants to pay me to be an attorney some day. I like my school, and I like the law, but I'm more at the bottom than the top of my class. Maybe if I didn't play on the internet during class....

Rayne of Terror

Interesting original post. Even though I'm a 2L I've noticed the same things b/c I'm not working next summer I'm having my first baby. I've even said to stressed out friends after interviews, is this your dream job? Aren't these jobs all the same? If it's not your dream job then why obsess about perfection? I had a dream job in gov't before coming to LS and it's about a lot more than pay - which is what my classmates are hung up on. I know this is getting off topic and contradictory to what I just said but in response to Larry's point that 1Ls don't get paid. If you go somewhere for the summer where your classmates are not looking, you can easily get paid a good wage and not even be in the top 50% of the class. I go to a similarly situated Top Tier school and was able to get picked up for a paid gig this summer just by looking in a small central Illinois town that no one else was looking at. Do I contradict myself? Okay then, I contradict myself.

Neyamul Chowdhury

hey i m a south asian with brown skin, interested in becoming a lawyer in Uk after completing my LLB....but what i have heard is that there are a lot of discrimination done to brown skin lawyers.Is it true?

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