Home > 1L: job search > a crisis of conscience

a crisis of conscience

January 19, 2006

(Ed’s note: this post has been edited since I posted it. I realized it didn’t quite say what I wanted it to. So apologies for changing a post around, but I thought, in this case particularly, that accuracy was really important.)

I didn’t come to law school for the money or the prestige or the power. I came to law school because I like to write and the kind of writing lawyers do seemed to suit me.

I’m not especially seduced by big firm salaries; I’m not set on making six figures my first year out of law school. As long as I make enough to pay down my loans (the quicker the better, of course) and am doing work I find at least somewhat intellectually stimulating, I’ll be happy. Sure, my plan all along has been to work for a firm after graduation, if for no other reason than training. And then, when I have some experience, try to teach legal writing and get published. But I’ve always thought I’d want to work at a small boutique firm rather than a multinational one.

For my 1L summer, I had intended to focus on working for a judge or as a research assistant. My thought was that I could work for a firm next summer and that I should take the opportunity this summer to do something else. But then time slipped away from me and I hadn’t sent letters or resumes to judges and people around me were getting interviews and I was starting to get VERY nervous. So I threw my lot in for winter OCI and waited to see what would happen. And I figured I might as well apply for some firm jobs outside of OCI — my grades would make me at least competitive, if not a lock, for a job as a 1L and the prospect of being paid (and not having to take out more loans) was attractive.

Yesterday, on the advice of a friend who had recently heard from a particular firm, I sent a resume and cover letter to them via email. Six hours later, they called me for an interview. The interview is tomorrow.

And that got me thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled! But I’m also a little freaked out. In comparison, my OCI interview didn’t give me any twinges because I had looked into their work before I bid on them. They’re small, they do work that interests me, and they’re well-regarded. No problems there. But my interview tomorrow is at a bona fide BIG firm — they do everything — and I don’t know very much about them. Yes, there are good sides to their broad practice areas (and bad sides to the large number of attorneys they employ) but somehow, part of me feels like I’m selling out by even considering them. (Is selling out even the right phrase? I’m not sure.) Of ocurse they have practice areas that interest me — even a group that does the same kind of work as my OCI firm. But it’s BigLaw! I wasn’t going to do that this year! I was going to do something . . . different! Something that wouldn’t be exactly like what I’ll be doing next summer.

I don’t want to be one of those law students who comes in with goals and ambitions that are outside of the big firm model yet who gets seduced by not just the pay but also by the ease of working in such a firm. Applying to big firms, after all, is by far the easiest route to take. (It may not be the most fruitful, but it is indeed easy — no cold calling, no door-knocking. Just send your resume to a bunch of firms and chances are you’ll get at least a few interviews.) It also gets the most institutional support.

That is not to say that the big firm thing might not be exactly what I am best suited for. I just don’t know, and I thought I’d take this summer to try something I might not have a chance to try some other time. And yet I seem to be falling into the big firm thing. I wish I could say the reason is that I AM suited to a big firm, but I just don’t know. Obviously, I do not have an offer of summer employment yet. I may yet end up as a research assistant. But I still wonder what am I doing? as I consider the possibility that I’ll end up with an offer from a big firm.

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Categories: 1L: job search
  1. January 19, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    I say go ahead and do it. I didn’t go to law school to work for a firm or to make big bucks (haha, obviously, or to even have “a” job), but I ended up sort of falling into OCI on a whim and getting a summer job at a firm. The firm experience was worth it – to find out for SURE that I did not want to work for a firm. The firm was wonderful – medium sized, paid well, very laid back, everyone really was nice (except maybe like 3 people, but that’s a pretty good percentage), and everyone was so happy. I mean, these people lived in the same neighborhood and sent their kids to camp together, etc. And somehow I knew that, no matter how great they were, or how great and laid back the job was (NOT what I was expecting), it wasn’t right for me.

    Of course, they agreed because they didn’t make me the offer anyway. But I think it was definitely worth it, even if all you get is maybe some connections. But actually getting to do “stuff” is also worth it, just for the experience.

  2. January 19, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    I wouldn’t get too worked up about it yet… do the interview, do your best. See which place offers you a job. If they both do, you have a decision to make. If they don’t, crisis averted, right? Or if you get offers from both, do one this summer and try to see if you can do the other next.

    Besides, you might end up _liking_ biglaw… or not. At least you’d *know*. And there are worse things for a public interest/public defender/academic/whatever to say than, “I did do one summer in BIGLAW and thank god I never have to do that again!”

  3. January 19, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with BIGLAW. But Dave’s right — your twinges are perhaps a bit premature.

    As far as giving up your dreams… it’s one summer. Not much time in the scheme of things.

  4. January 19, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Ditto everything said above. When I started law school — and all the way through my third year — I worked for a civil rights organization and the thought of BigLaw just didn’t jive with me. I thought that nothing could be further from what I wanted to do with my legal training. But then I realized that I would be completely discounting an entire segment of the legal profession based on hearsay, not personal experience. And I really can’t stand when people make judgments based on anything other than their own experiences. So I quit my real day job for the summer associate thing. I too learned that it wasn’t a good fit for me, but it was a fabulous, fabulous experience. I would encourage you to do it. The summer went quickly, and in addition to a great salary, I learned a lot (because my firm actually worked us pretty hard). I gave up my fulltime job for a 10 week experience, and I don’t regret it a bit.

  5. emily
    January 20, 2006 at 12:27 am

    dude. cha-ching. that’s all i have to say. lol

  6. TP
    January 20, 2006 at 10:45 am

    I think by sitting down and seriously thinking about this stuff, you are way ahead of the game. Many people end up at BigFlaw precisely because they don’t think about whether it is what they really want, IMO. It just seems like the thing to do, and hey, it pays damn well, too.

    Best you can do is ponder it, make a decision, and trust yourself. JMO.

  7. January 20, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I think that you’d be making a mistake to write off a summer at big law because of what other students say about it. It’s like deciding not to join law review or moot court because somebody else didn’t like it.

    And who knows? Maybe you will like it. I didn’t expect to like what I found, but frankly, I found that I really liked the work at my firm. It was challenging, the people seemed to like their jobs, and all in all it was a great experience.

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