Why I Chose Corporate

When I started law school I was sure I would be a litigator.  In part this was because the task of constructing and criticizing arguments was what appealed to me about law in the first place; but it was also because I had virtually no idea what a transactional lawyer did.  Finance had never much appealed to me, and my background prior to law school had been largely in academia, not business.  Litigation seemed like a natural fit.

But for a variety of reasons, I ended up choosing to begin my career doing corporate work.  The more I learned about what such work entailed, the more interested I became in it, and I realized that while litigation seemed to be a much better fit with my background, corporate was a better match for my personality and what I wanted out of my career.

There were some practical concerns that made corporate the best choice for me.  For instance, I knew that I wanted to spend at least part of my career working outside the U.S., and there are far more opportunities abroad for U.S.-trained corporate lawyers than there are for litigators.  While you may hear about some American lawyers working abroad in international arbitration, these positions tend to be few and far between.

More important, however, was the fact that I realized the type of work corporate lawyers spend their days doing was more appealing to me than the litigation counterpart.  Junior litigation associates are largely tasked with performing legal research and writing memos.  I had gotten my fill of this during LRW, and this summer I quickly came to appreciate not having to spend my days logged on to Westlaw.  While junior corporate associates do more than their fair share of menial and mind-numbing work, my impression is that the work is oftentimes more interactive than that done by litigators, at least early on in one’s career.  I had been told that corporate partners spend their days on the phone, and I found that even as a summer associate, much of my time was spent communicating with parties involved in the transaction on which I had been assigned.  I found this interaction to be more satisfying than I had found legal writing and research, which is by its nature generally a solitary pursuit.

On a more abstract level, I realized that I had become disillusioned by the basic fact that litigation is at its heart a matter of persuading another individual of the correctness of your position.  It’s an inescapable fact that it doesn’t matter if you’re right, so long as you’re able to convince someone else that you are.  The fact that the winning side may be wrong but more persuasive is not bothersome to me so much because it offends my sense of justice, but rather because it makes the skills honed by litigators seem trivial.

It’s a commonly uttered refrain during the 1L Ames competition that many judges deem the briefs of HLS 1Ls to be better than many that are submitted in their courts.  While this remark is meant to be encouraging, hearing it always made me question why I should devote my life to developing skills that can be competently deployed by students in their second semester of law school.  I felt that if I couldn’t get excited about trying to master the skills of an effective litigator, then litigation was probably not the path for me.

Transactional work, on the other hand appealed to me because I was attracted to its complexity, and I felt as though the skills and knowledge I would acquire were more tangible.  Transactions have a sort of puzzle-like nature to them, and the fact that I had had so little exposure to them prior to law school made them seem all the more intriguing.  Only time will tell whether my interest in transactional work will withstand the beating it will surely take as a junior associate asked to make countless seemingly inconsequential revisions to some minor transaction document.  But many law students must make a choice without having the luxury of much experience in the work they’re signing up for, and as things stand now, I’m pleased with the choice I made.

One Foot Out the Door is a column written by an anonymous Harvard Law 3L. The column runs every other Thursday.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.

OCS Responds To Dewey Troubles

According to the Office of Career Services, a “handful” of Harvard Law students were affected by Dewey LeBoeuf’s recent financial difficulties, and OCS has contacted “several firms on behalf of our students to see if the firms could make room for an additional 2L or 3L.”

“During the past few weeks, we have reached out to all [the] 2Ls and 3Ls that we knew were going to Dewey,” Assistant Dean for Career Services Mark Weber said, “We have met with many of them to help them adjust, adapt, and respond to a very difficult and unfortunate situation at Dewey.”

“I am confident that when the dust settles all students impacted will have found other excellent opportunities,” Weber said.

According to Weber, 1Ls interested in learning more about how to evaluate potential employers’ financial situations should read the Evaluating Offers section of the OCS web site. “Even if you ask all the right questions, however,” Weber said, “There’s no guarantee that the person you’re asking is fully aware of the firm’s financial condition.”

A 2L’s Reflections on EIP

If the Office of Career Services is adopting the same approach it did last year, then 1Ls will by now have been instructed by Assistant Dean of Career Services Mark Weber that they need not worry about the Early Interview Program because everyone will be fine and will get a great job—except of course for those who won’t be fine and won’t get a great job, because, after all, it’s not 2007 anymore. OCS’s simultaneously anxiety-inducing and reassuring message is one of the many odd aspects of EIP that stand out in my mind as I reflect on the bizarre experience that is EIP. The oddities of EIP only just begin with OCS, and the experience suprised me in a number of ways.

For instance, EIP was actually a lot of fun. While the thought of participating in somewhere around 25 interviews over the course of five days was daunting, in the vast majority of cases, the 20-minute time slots passed quickly and painlessly. With a few notable exceptions (firms, you know who you are), they consisted almost exclusively of congenial small talk. Despite the hectic schedule, the experience was entertaining, energizing and certainly more interesting than a typical week of class. One need not be a gregarious extrovert to enjoy the experience. In fact, the highly structured, predictable nature of the social interactions that dominate EIP tends to cater to those who might not be as comfortable in more free-for-all type social interactions. No matter how socially awkward you are, it is not very difficult to keep a conversation going for 20 minutes when you have so many things to talk about (such as, for instance, the life story that you have condensed onto your single-page, OCS-approved resume). I’m sure that everyone had those few interviews where it seemed as if that interview-ending knock could not come soon enough, but I would venture to say that these were the outliers.

More than being pleasant experiences, the interviews were valuable because they allowed me to learn something about areas of the law I knew little about. In fact, I found my interests evolving as I went through the process and learned more about what the day-to-day life of practicing in a number of areas is like. Because the 1L curriculum (and law school in general) is highly focused on litigation, I particularly appreciated having the opportunity to meet transactional attorneys and hear about the work they do. It also goes without saying that having the opportunity to perform in a couple dozen interviews in short succession allows you to hone your interview skills as the week progresses and to develop skills that will no doubt serve useful in the future.

Perhaps what was most surprising to me about EIP was the sense of camaraderie that pervades the experience. Although we were all competing over many of the same jobs, because so much of the process seemed to be out of our control (as it most certainly is), there was little point in feeling competitive with our classmates. Rather than creating a competitive atmosphere, EIP presented an opportunity to bond over the strange experience we were all going through and to reconnect with friends after the summer break as we clustered around the tables in the student lounge, reminding each other of details of firms that we had culled from their websites.

Perhaps some will object that I have painted an overly rosy picture of EIP, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that I enjoyed the experience a bit more than some of my classmates.  I would, however, encourage anyone planning on participating in EIP to approach it with an open mind. You  just might be surprised.

The author is an anonymous Harvard Law student. 

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.