The Road Less Traveled: Alternative Legal Paths.

Happy New Year, fellow writers (and readers)!  Thanks for stopping by!  Let's start things off with a shot of some Q&A to ease us down the road. 

1. What is an "alternative legal path?"  

In this blog, we'll be discussing anything you can do with a law degree that doesn't involve keeping your feet stuck on the traditional conveyor belt. This could include: 

  1. Opening a solo practice
  2. Transitioning into a high-level HR/recruiting role at a law firm
  3. Continuing to practice in biglaw, but in a "nontraditional" way - such as in an overseas office or working part-time
  4. Starting a business - SeamlessWeb was founded by a hungry first-year associate at a New York law firm! 
  5. That coveted business side role, or
  6. Stepping away to focus on personal goals, such as qualifying for the Olympics, writing a novel, or starting a family. 

2. But that's so not me.  I'm a biglaw gal all the way!  Why should I tune in? 

When I graduated law school, I thought I was on this path: 

  1. OCI
  2. Summer Associate Offer
  3. Permanent Offer
  4. Pass the Bar
  5. Biglaw Associate
  6. Biglaw Counsel OR GC-Track In House Role
  7. Biglaw Partner OR GC
  8. PROFIT!!! 

Ten-plus years removed from receiving my JD, I'm seeing a lot of classmates (including me) who, instead, ended up on this path: 

  1. OCI
  2. Summer Associate Offer (maaaaaaybe)
  3. Permanent Offer (eventually!) 
  4. Pass the Bar (perhaps not on the first try!)
  5. Biglaw Associate (for a limited time only...)
  6. ???????
  7. PROFIT!  

The only constant in life is change. Maybe you realized that you didn't fit into a large, traditional law firm, or you lost your job in the recession or via a "stealth layoff".  

Or, while waiting for comments to arrive on that S-1 that's been keeping you at the office until 3AM each night, you come up with the next Big Disruptive Business Idea.  

Or, you want to see if the xiaolongbao are that much more delicious at the Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong than at the one in Glendale -- and blog about it, like this 2009 Chicago JD, now a travel blogger on her fiftieth country. 

Or, you're just sick of wearing pants to work -- virtual law firms, we're looking at you!  The global workforce is increasingly mobile, and the gig economy is finally making in-roads into the legal profession.  Is a Rent the Runway  for lawyers not far behind?  

3. So why should I listen to you?  

Because I was that biglaw associate once who thought that enough expense-account omakase and Jerome Russeau boots could adequately compensate my lawfully shredded soul for another 300-hour month billed.

Then, one Friday in 2009, I got called into a conference room by a managing partner. As he closed the door and The Rains of Castamere started to play, I knew I was not long for a traditional legal life.  

I'm not alone - many lawyers grew open to dabbling in alternative legal arrangements or careers after getting laid off in the Great Recession, perhaps starting to appreciate that work-life balance and flexible arrangements weren't just for Crossfit Moms. 

4.  So what did you do once you got the axe? 

Here's my LinkedIn page.  You Google stalk everyone from your dog groomers to your nanny's Tinder dates, so I wouldn't think to be exempt!  

5. Any advice for lawyers open to an alternative path? 

Be flexible, be nimble, keep your ear to the ground. Networking is not a dirty word, but focus on a few strong connections. Don't measure success by the stock of your business cards or the size of your offshore investments or the square footage in your Bronxville manse. 

Sometimes you don't choose the the alt life.  The alt life chooses you. 



Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. I look forward to reading more entries about the alt career path.

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