In Defense of BigLaw…Sort Of

Angela Kopolovich - Legal RecruiterJust in time for OCI, we’re thrilled to welcome back Angela Kopolovich, Managing Director of the boutique attorney recruiting firm Alegna International to share her thoughts on a controversial topic: Whether you really should take that BigLaw job you’re not sure about. (And, no, your concerned parents did not pay her to write this piece.)

Here’s Angela!

I’m going to share a piece of advice with you that I got when I was in law school.

It came from my wise old owl of a mentor, right before OCI turned our lovely, quiet law school into a scene from Paranormal Activity. (If you haven’t lived through it, just wait till September…)

“If your grades and class rank make you competitive for a spot in BigLaw,” he told me, “you should probably take it.”

As you may recall, I went to law school because I wanted to be a prosecutor, so I was a little surprised by his suggestion.

“Surely BigLaw is not an appropriate career step for me. They don’t even handle the type of criminal work that I want to do. What would be the point?”

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Are You Setting Yourself Up For a Résumé Red Flag?

Trashed ResumeYou know how everyone says follow your passion? Well, what if following your passion results in a giant résumé red flag? What then?

Today, we’re thrilled to have Rebecca Shoom — a rising 3L at an Ontario law school who currently works in Toronto — here to explain the unexpected pitfalls she encountered after following a side interest that BigLaw firms didn’t fully appreciate.

Without further ado, here’s Rebecca:

“1L summer is your last taste of freedom — relax, explore an interest, have fun!”

This was the advice given by professors and students alike in my first week of law school. So, that’s exactly what I did.

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Do You Have to Be an Annoying Suck-Up to Succeed as a Summer Associate?

Thumbs up! I read this advice for summer associates this morning, and it made me want to poke my eyes out.

I’m trying to imagine what I would have done if a summer had approached me at a firm event and said, as suggested:

I’m working on an IP matter with Joe. Your IP practice was one of the reasons I chose the firm, and I am researching an interesting X issue.

Where to start?

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Summer Reading List: Growth is Dead, Now What?

Growth is Dead, Now What?If you’ve got no interest in BigLaw, feel free to skip Bruce MacEwen’s short book Growth is Dead, Now What?, a study of “law firms on the brink.” For everyone else, it’s a good, quick read that’ll get you up to speed on the challenges facing large law firms — now and in the future.

(Hint, if you think you’re getting a BigLaw job, or you’re currently an associate, make the minimal investment of time and money required to read this book. It’s short, and you’ll learn something useful.)

What’s the Book About?

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Leaving Litigation: How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Leave?

Open DoorIn her last post, Elaine talked about how she networked her way into her new job. Today, she discusses a critical question for anyone considering a career move: How do you know when it’s time to leave?

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?

People often ask when I knew I was ready to leave. I know that it’s easier to say than to do; there are many reasons we find it difficult to leave the firm — substantial school debts, supporting a family, the fear of “falling behind,” not having a job during a recession or not being as marketable as a lawyer if you didn’t have something lined up already, the belief that you had already invested so much in a legal education and therefore couldn’t possibly throw it down the drain, the desire to maintain a high-income lifestyle, etc. etc.

Rarely is anybody ever 100% emotionally ready to leave. And rarely do you ever know if you made the right choice until you’ve had the benefit of hindsight.

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Leaving Litigation: What Comes Next?

NetworksIf you’ve read the prior posts in this series (about Elaine’s motivations for leaving BigLaw litigation, her pre-planning, and what happened when she gave notice), you’re probably on the edge of your seat wondering what came next?!?

What did she end up doing, and how did she get the job? Well, your patient waiting has paid off. Here’s the story, in great detail.

What did I do after I left?

I did a whole lot of nothing in August. I gave myself one month to travel and to not worry about money and to marvel at what life was like without seeing the perpetually blinking red light on my blackberry.

Then I started at the DA’s office.
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Leaving Litigation: What Happens When You Quit?

QuittingPreviously, Elaine explained her background and motivations for leaving her BigLaw litigation job, and talked about the pre-logistics of doing so. Today, it’s on to what happens when you finally DO give notice, and what it’s like to go to cocktail parties when you’re not working!

When did I leave?

I decided to leave after I received my bonus, which would give me greater financial freedom over the next few months. I left in late July, a month or so after we received our mid-year bonuses.

I actually considered staying until after the end of the year. However, I’d just ended one patent case in time to get staffed on another huge case — due to my “institutional knowledge” (i.e., familiarity with the kangaroo court frequently referred to as the “ITC”). I didn’t want to get embroiled in another ITC case again, with its accelerated schedule and limitless discovery. I was also afraid that, if I left in the middle of the case, my team members would get screwed.

How did I give notice and what were my last two weeks like?

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Leaving Litigation: Preparing to Leave

Preparing to Leave BiglawIn Elaine’s first post, she talked about her background and motivations for leaving her BigLaw litigation job. Today, she discusses the steps she took before she left for good.

How Can You Figure Out What to Do When You Work All the Time?

I was working too much to think about what I wanted to do. When I came home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was do more research on the Internet or to meditate on career aspirations; I was far more inclined to pass out in front of the TV to last season’s episode of 30 Rock.

So I made an appointment with a career counselor, who I found through Yelp. It wasn’t that she said things that were terribly surprising or life changing — but I just needed to do something. We discussed my personality and what types of jobs might be better suited for me. (I’m still not sure how “dental hygienist” and “coal miner” made that list.)

After about three or four sessions, I found the following advice to be very helpful: contrary to what every legal recruiter will tell you (“It’s virtually impossible to find a legal position if you’re unemployed”), she suggested that I take time off and volunteer in areas I might be interested in.

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Leaving Litigation: A First-Hand Account

BigLaw DepartureI got an email recently from a friend who’d done what lots of other young lawyers want to do — she left BigLaw for a job she liked better (without leaving the law entirely). When she offered to tell her story, I jumped on it, naturally!

Today, Elaine gives a bit of background and explains why she wanted to leave her BigLaw litigation position. Later on, she talks in great detail about how she did it — how she left, and how she ended up in a position she likes a lot better.

It is possible! Stay tuned.

Without further ado…here’s Elaine.

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Law Firm Hiring Partners Talk About What They’re Looking For

Are you interviewing for summer associate jobs? If so, I strongly suggest you watch this Bloomberg Law video series. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Trust me, I’m the low man on the totem pole here — the rest of the guests are seriously impressive BigLaw hiring partners and such.)

All total, they run about half an hour, but I pretty much guarantee you’ll learn something useful!

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