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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The Key to OCI Success

KeyThere’s been a lot of ink spilled about OCI, the on-campus interviewing process by which law firms hire summer associates. (You can find several such articles here: Summer Jobs 101, in fact.)

But let’s get down to brass tacks. What’s the single biggest thing you can do to ensure you get an offer?

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Why “Get Over It” Isn’t Helpful Advice

SkiingIf you spend time in discussions about “women in the law,” you’ll pretty quickly run into a particular Type, which, frankly, I’ve had about enough of. I’m not naming any names, and it really doesn’t matter exactly who any of this is based on. Imagine it’s an amalgamation — because it is. I’d never kiss and tell.

Anyway, here’s the situation. Someone, generally a young lawyer looking for advice, raises a totally reasonable and valid concern — say, for example, that law firms aren’t particularly hospitable places to work — and gets this response:

Suck it up. Stop whining. It’s your fault if you can’t handle the hours/the pressure/the come-on from that inappropriate senior associate. You just need to be more driven, more ambitious, and more resilient, and this won’t be a issue. It’s your problem, and I don’t want to hear about it. (Oh, and by the way, if you quit over this, you’re failing women everywhere who don’t have your options.)

Helpful, right? Yeah, not so much.

The interesting part is who this stuff is coming from. To put it delicately, it’s female lawyers, generally current or former BigLaw partners, of a “certain age,” who are ostensibly trying to be helpful and supportive to younger women.

So, taking that at face value, I want to talk about exactly why this approach is wildly unhelpful and offer a few suggestions that might facilitate a more productive dialogue.

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One Reason the Legal Profession is So Screwed Up

DangerAs some of you may have seen, I published a piece on Ms. JD recently that raised some heckles: What No One Tells You Before You Go to Law School: You’re Entering a Sexist Profession. The reactions to this piece were very interesting:

  1. Wow, thank you for writing this. I’ve seen/experienced the same thing but no one really talks about it.
  2. I haven’t seen this at my firm, so it must not happen.
  3. I wasn’t aware this was a problem, but now I am and I appreciate you telling me.
  4. Too bad this happened, but it was probably your fault.

It’s that last reaction that I find most interesting. These types of reactions fall into two categories:

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Should I Become a Lawyer? Some Advice from the Author of Best Friends at the Bar

Susan Smith BlakelyToday I’m very excited to have Susan Smith Blakely, author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, here to talk about the challenges women face in the legal profession, and how they can be overcome.

Susan has another book coming out soon, so keep an eye out for that! Now, without further ado…

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