Saturday, February 7, 2009

undergrad and other

Thanks GP for your insights.  I've got another guest for you folks.  This person, we will call him (yes, it is a him), DT (different track) guy, is going to discuss the benefits of the non-traditional path (e.g., government/public service).  Especially in this economy, we can't all assume we can sit our tushies down in Big Law for several years.  DT is going to talk about how one goes about getting into this track and what he has liked about the track.  Now, DT is a long-time friend and a good person (not to mention holds impressive TV trivia knowledge), so please welcome him when he joins us and be nice!  Remember, this is all voluntary sharing for your benefit, and our frustrated writers.

Someone asked about undergrad institutions and whether a perceived "weak" one hurts your changes in BigLaw.  I will say that there are some snobs in BigLaw, and if they don't know your undergrad or think it isn't up to snuff, they may turn up their noses.  For some people you can't change that.  But, for others, the key is how well you did in undergrad.  I've seen people who were the top of their class at "abc no name college" and then got into a top or very good law school and did just fine.  This is especially true if you are in the same region as the college and people know it better.  But the law school grades will be key, followed by how well in undergrad.  I personally like to see a solid undergrad and someone who did a good job there. But I recognize that people attend different schools for different reasons (finances, need to near family etc.).  If you went someplace because they gave you a four year scholarship - put that on your resume -- it helps us understand. 

Again, the law school grades are key and no one is guaranteed anything these days. Firms that are hiring can be extremely selective.  We may be looking for more of a practice group fit.  I think I earlier mentioned that I have hired someone from a not-well-known undergrad because of specific professional and work experience.  Law school ok, but not great.  This person got the job because of the experience and fit with the practice area.

So, bottom line is obviously you can't change the undergrad at this point. Hopefully you did well.  You've gotta get the law school grades and get some experience.  

I also want to touch on some of the business development side of things that GP discussed and will do that in a later post.  

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the alternative approach posting. If DT is up for fielding questions, does he have any insight on folks pursuing the alternative track temporarily and then going back into the law?

As I recent grad, I am struggling to find any entry-level positions at law firms, but I have been urged by career services to look into consulting, tax services, and investment. If I want to work as a lawyer in the future, should I apply and take these jobs or should I hold out and take a contract attorney position or something less prestigious that is more law related?

Anonymous said...

great question, I want to ask the same question too. I get the impression that either you are in the law, or out of it, and that even experienced attorneys, once they go do something else, it is hard for them to go back in. Is that true?

Different Track Guy said...

This is DT replying to the first two comments which strike the same theme - what impact does the alternative track have on me if I want to re-enter the traditional practice of law?

From my personal experience, I would encourage you to find something in the law once you are out of school and passed the bar. As you can see from my experience, I didn't seek a position outside of the law until approximately 9 years after bar admission.

I wouldn't trade anything for the time that I developed my skills as an attorney and, more importantly, my ability to write frequent memoranda on the law. I have found that strong writing skills are lacking in many public service agencies' management ranks so the more that you refine your skills, the better positioned you will be to advance once you decide to take an alternative track.

I do think that if you do not practice law in any capacity early in your career, then you will face the question that you have raised implicitly: Will anyone let me back into the traditional legal career path? I do believe that may very well be the case because it will appear as though you gave up on the law before you gave it a chance.

In my case, by always maintaining a solo practice, I am able to side-step this issue, if it were to re-emerge, by replying that I have always been engaged in the practice of law without interruption. My solo practice is, in reality, my insurance policy for any planned return to the legal profession.

Do I think that the big firms will find me appealing if I were to seek a position in traditional, big firm private practice? Absolutely not unless I achieve the top position at my agency some day and have that kind of cache associated with my name.(after hours) and had always been engaged with the law and with clients. I do think that if I were to seek public service or non profit positions in the law, then I would be as credible, if not more so, than other candidates who have only practiced law for the entirety of their careers. Why? Because I have sat in their seats and had to understand budgets, personnel decisions, and policy.

Hope this helps.

DT.

Different Track Guy said...

Sorry guys. I'm new at this and made a typo when cutting and pasting text above. The last paragraph should read:

Do I think that the big firms will find me appealing if I were to seek a position in traditional, big firm private practice? Absolutely not unless I achieve the top position at my agency some day and have that kind of cache associated with my name. I do think that if I were to seek public service or non profit positions in the law, then I would be as credible, if not more so, than other candidates who have only practiced law for the entirety of their careers. Why? Because I have sat in their seats and had to understand budgets, personnel decisions, and policy.

Anonymous said...

3:23 here - thanks for answering the question so quickly. I guess we just gotta keep pitching for some kind of legal job to stay legit for the longer term. Your other post (about your career path) is helpful in that regard.