BY ERIN ARCHERD
This article is the first in a series talking with 3Ls who have decided not to work in Big Law after graduation.
Sasha Shapiro, a professional classical musician as well as law student, came upon her job with the United Steelworkers Union in Pittsburgh largely through HLS connections. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a permanent job offer after splitting her summer between a firm and the Union.
Where are you working and what got you interested in that job?
I’ll be working for the United Steelworkers after graduation. I got the job basically by being in the right place at the right time. I came into law school interested primarily in women’s rights. For my first summer, I applied to about ten women’s rights organizations in various locations.
The first one that called me was the Pittsburgh office of the Women’s Law Project. (The WLP is based in Philadelphia and has its main office there, and they opened a sattelite office in Pittsburgh a few years ago.) I drove to Pittsburgh, interviewed, and got the job. I took it because it seemed to offer more variety than most internships.
The Women’s Law Project internship lived up to, or possibly exceeded, my expectations. I still have a great relationship with the attorney there. I liked Pittsburgh enough to consider going back. Since I knew I enjoyed working in women’s rights law, I decided to branch out and try something different for my second summer. In my life outside of law school, I’m a professional classical musician, and I have been a member of the musicians’ union since I was in graduate school. My union affiliation is very important to me, so I decided to apply to small union-side labor firms in Pittsbugh, where I had just spent a summer, and Chicago, where I lived for six years between my master’s degree and law school.
What was the job hunting process like?
During the application process, I walked into Alexa’s office one day to ask her a question, and she told me that the Steelworkers wanted me. They already had several HLS alumni in their legal department, and one of them had called Alexa and begged her to send them someone. I got the person’s name, called, and scheduled an interview for fly-out week. I also interviewed that week with two small firms in Pittsburgh and three in Chicago. By the end of the week, I had offers from the Steelworkers and Cornfield & Feldman, my first-choice firm in Chicago. Both of them were willing to let me split the summer, which is what I did.
When I got to the Steelworkers, two of their lawyers had left recently, and they were planning to add another position. This meant that they had three openings. However, I didn’t know I was being considered for a permanent position and was quite surprised to get an offer of permanent employment (with a defined benefit pension) at the beginning of my last week there. They don’t usually make offers that far in advance, but because they had three openings and liked my work, they were willing to hold a position for me.
Also, the legal department is currently nine men and one woman, and they’re horribly embarrassed about that. So I’m an affirmative action hire. I thought about it over the rest of the summer and the beginning of the fall semester, and I decided to accept. Once I move to Pittsbugh and start my job with the Steelworkers, I should be able to do some pro bono work with the Women’s Law Project, where I worked during my first summer.
What was the most useful piece of advice someone gave you while you were considering your career? Probably the best piece of advice I have gotten at HLS was from Elizabeth Warren, my 1L reading group professor. She told us to do what we want and not to worry about what other people think we should be doing. I have found that I’m much happier when I make my own decisions, and it’s important to trust myself.
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