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getting into biglaw a year after graduating???


I'm a 2010 grad (UCLA, 3.5 GPA, passed CA bar on 1st try, want to practice in the Bay Area) who chose not to do biglaw to follow a passion for sports law (an opportunity came up that I didn't know if I would ever get again). I'm enjoying what I do but regretting missing the big law experience - both for the money (i have loans to pay off) and for the opportunities it will present even in my specific field - for example, most professional organizations want their GCs and assistant GCs to have biglaw experience.

My question is, how do I get into biglaw without going the traditional OCI route (obviously not an option for me) when I have no experience in any relevant practice areas? Some of my general skills are obviously transferrable but to do, for example, corporate transactional work I would have to be trained like I am a new grad. It seems strange to enter as a first year associate when I have been out of law school for a year but I'm not sure what other route to take to get into biglaw.

And assuming the answer is "just apply", do I just start sending out to firms in the area? It's not like they are posting openings for 1st year associates. Even if they did, I would be coming in likely after the 2010 grads and before the 2011 grads, which seems odd.

Hoping my year of fun doesn't forever preclude me from trying out a large firm! Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.

I can't be that helpful at all, but I basically job hunt all day, and I've seen several big-ish firms (100-200 attorneys) looking for candidates with 2+ years experience.  I actually saw one posting on craigslist the other day for a position at a firm with around 300 attorneys.

I'm probably not qualified to answer your question, but I will anyway.  As such, take it for what it is:  free perspective from an anonymous source over the internet.

Seems to me that biglaw isn't the place you "go to".  It's the place you "come from".  Although I have no legal experience, I do have a lot of corporate experience and there are some companies like this.  Some consulting firms, P&G, IBM, General Electric, etc.

Once you've taken that first job elsewhere, it's difficult to break into those companies. 

I did know a couple of biglaw associates and they both said that not only did their firm have a few people who graduated from lesser schools (Cleveland State was the one they mentioned specifically... I didn't debrief them, so there may have been more), they also said that there were people who transferred into the firm after having a career elsewhere.

I will only say this:  to get in, it appeared that they had already established careers that were comparable to the duties they were going to perform in biglaw.

With Jones Day, they have links for "experienced candidates" to click on.  Of course, this is a big firm (that's an understatement) and with people constantly leaving in order to raise families, etc., they have a big need for associates.

I guess I don't want to discourage you, but it's entirely possible that this boat has already sailed.  There are just some things you can't make up for later.

If you want to be a supreme court justice and you didn't go to Harvard or Yale (probably Yale), or maybe Stanford (if you're a diversity pick), you just don't stand a chance.  All the work in the world won't help you.

If you want to be a Law professor and didn't graduate from a T14, and probably more like the top half of those schools, it's just going to be darned near impossible.  (And I swear, half the law professors in the country graduated from Harvard or Yale, so, your odds diminish as you go down the food chain.) 

Same thing with biglaw:  the time to do it is right out of school.  Is it impossible otherwise?  No, but for most intents and purposes, it's exceedingly difficult.

I doubt you'll get much guidance on this because the people who have done it are very few and far between and probably had a good measure of luck involved.

Thane Messinger:

--- Quote from: FalconJimmy on April 30, 2011, 09:53:17 AM ---Biglaw isn't the place you "go to".  It's the place you "come from".  Although I have no legal experience, I do have a lot of corporate experience and there are some companies like this.  Some consulting firms, P&G, IBM, General Electric, etc.

--- End quote ---

This is generally right, but the market for laterals is, in its own way, a bright spot for the right candidate.  The essential trick is to be independently valuable.  Usually this is through a proven skill, such as x area of law.  Occasionally it can be specialized connections, but most often it is simply--well, not simply--an expertise.  If you can show that expertise to the right partners, you might just be in.  Paradoxically, the level of the hiring biglaw firm isn't all that important.  In fact, they're usually the ones on the hunt. 

As a lateral, you'll usually work with a recruiter.  If you've not yet had the experience to develop that area-specific expertise, such as just a single year, that should be the focus--but it's still possible to develop contacts with recruiters, and it's possible a position will open up and, if the stars are properly aligned, that could be that.

In terms of approach and interviews (and an excellent set of excerpts by a biglaw hiring partner), check out Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job.  Valuable for small law too, but especially important for the former.

Best of luck,


Another option, though not optimal given your situation, is to spend a year clerking for a judge.  Judges often hire clerks who have been out of school a while.  For you, state appellate court is a possibility.  Idk what 3.5 translates into for class rank, but if you finished top 10% with Law Review experience, you can also try some USDC's. 

Big firms aggressively recruit former clerks. 


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