I Turned Down Summer Offers


QI think I made a big mistake, and as my friends jump up and down about their jobs, I am somewhat scared. I elected to come to law school to make a big difference. If you ask me to define “big difference,” I would be as perplexed as someone trying to define the standards for reasonableness. After one year, the naiveté wore off; reality hit me. There were loans, parents getting older, and the desire to some day have a family. I realized I looked like a hippie, and if I wanted to make a living, I needed to not look like I hit the bong before, after, and during class.

So I did. Over the summer, I made good progress with some fairly heavy-hitting Pacific Northwest firms. I looked like a corporate lawyer, and I was determined to be one. I was in the top 10 of my law school class and thought I was destined for stardom—dreams of Skadden even began running through my head after interviewing with Bob Bennett.

Then in November 2008, with finals approaching in my first semester of second year, I was offered summer associate positions at three firms. With professors yelling at me and administration decrying my stupidity, I turned them down. Something didn’t feel right. It dawned on me that I did not really want to be a transactional attorney. In fact, I found the idea of staring at buy/sell agreements and analyzing assignment clauses downright repugnant.

The problem? I don’t have a job lined up right now. I have applied to every appellate firm I could think of in Alaska, where I want to practice, and I haven’t even received a return call—16 firms and not even a fun rejection letter.

So what can I do? With my goal of specializing in environmental and federal Indian law, what kinds of options exist for me? More importantly, what should I do to network and get myself into one of those appellate firms?

To conclude, was I a dumbass for turning down those job offers when my heart wasn’t in it but the money probably would have made me feel better? I guess I can always be a fire lookout.

AYes, you were a dumbass. Those whorish, commercial, satanic firms you proudly thumbed your nose at were your ticket to Mecca. In other words, they were your passports to the “appellate firm.” Most smaller firms don’t like to—or can’t afford to—train their associates. That’s why they tend to hire experienced laterals from bigger firms like the ones you rejected.

Sadly, your weed-smoking idealism clouded your judgment. It’s just a summer job for God’s sake! It’s not the rest of your life. Ten weeks.  Lots of fancy lunches and dinners. A few research memos here and there. No one was asking you to sell your soul.

Luckily, you still have time to pull a rabbit out of your hat. First, stop applying to appellate firms (by the way, lots of Big Firms do appellate work; it’s not some magical term reserved for holier-than-thou boutique firms fighting the good fight on behalf of the disadvantaged) and start applying to government agencies and medium-sized firms. The Big Firms have pretty much shut down their recruiting process, so that’s a waste of time. But no matter what, you need to find a job somewhere doing something.  Otherwise, you’ll spend your third-year interviewing season (futilely) trying to explain why you didn’t have a legal job during the summer.  So make lots of calls, send out lots of emails and letters, and find a gig.

If not, buy a pair of binoculars and start looking for fires.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

17 Comments

  1. BL1Y

    February 24, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Ex-Bitter speaks the truth, Hombre: you are an idiot.

  2. BL1Y

    February 24, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Sounds like someone let his 1L ICWA project get to him.  At least his blunder means there’s an open spot for someone else.

  3. Al Dickman

    February 24, 2009 at 5:40 am

    Give this poor schnook a break.  Not only is he jobless, he will have virtually no opportunity to get access to women who look, these days more than ever, for a man to support them.  Feel bad for this jerk, as he will be left holding his own in a down economy.

  4. Alma Federer

    February 24, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Women don’t need men to support them, Dickman.  This is 2009.  Women are independent these days, making our own money and spending our own money.  The last thing we need is for some peckerhead to be telling us what to do.  Women are right behind me on this one, fella.  Women must seize any advantage they get even if it means jumping over men to do it.

  5. Ace in the Hole

    February 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

    So Alma, are you volunteering to continue working in law while your man is a stay at home dad?

  6. Craig

    February 24, 2009 at 6:56 am

    This guy is going to be fine. Everyone, including this website apparently (which I thought was going to be different), likes to tell you all the reasons you are doomed. Your teachers make you feel inadequate, people looking at your resume stick their nose up at you and career advisors make you feel like you just threw away your entire career because you turned down some summer jobs. If you are smart and practical (which is in question considering you email a website called “Bitter Lawyer” for advice), your career will turn out fine. If you don’t want to be a transactional lawyer, there are many different firms out there where you can get practical experience doing what you want. You just have to find them. Good luck.

  7. Anon

    February 24, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Craig: Your comment is ridiculous and irrelevant.  At least Ex-Bitter is trying to help with his harsh words.  You, on the other hand, are just saying “It’ll be okay. Snuggle up with a blankie and a cookie and don’t worry.”

  8. Jake

    February 24, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Craig: Isn’t the point of an advice column to actually try to give advice?

  9. BL1Y

    February 24, 2009 at 7:25 am

  10. Jobless 2L

    February 24, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Nice move, d-bag.  Take the job then worry about your values.

  11. LMark

    February 24, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Are you set on Alaska?  Cause there are plenty of other places where you can do environmental or indian law.  Pretty much the entire inter-mountain west, for instance.  And, Indian law often spills over into other areas of law.  I briefly worked at the public defender’s office in New Mexico, and dealt with a few Indian jurisdiction issues.  I don’t know if they hire summer interns, but it’s worth a shot.  If you are willing and able to work for free during a summer, it will expand your options.

  12. Anonymous

    February 25, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Should we arrange for BL1Y to hump Alma?

  13. Bro

    February 25, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Bro, listen:  Call the firms back. Call the hiring partner and beg for your summer position back.  Trust me. Bro, trust me, do it. Call them and beg for your position back, tell them you made the biggest mistake and will take a pay cut, even work for half salary.

  14. BL1Y

    February 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Anonymous at 2:51AM = http://www.meatspin.com

  15. Anonymous

    February 25, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    you gotta stop limiting yourself. In this economy…you want to practice a very specific type of law in Alaska? You learned your lesson once…now…be flexible and apply at any firm that may do what you are interested and go there. After a couple of years..then go to Alaska to search your dream job.

  16. Georgie

    February 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Take the job!

  17. Content Associate

    March 5, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Moron.  Transactional or not, it would have opened doors for you.

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