Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Adventures, pt. 3: The Background

2 pm, Jan. 8, 2012

I'm still waiting to hear the results from the interview, so I figured I should fill in the story behind this potential move. Because even if this opportunity doesn't work out, that won't be the end, I'm going to keep looking. It makes me sad to type that- unlike nearly everyone else I know, I like working for a big law firm. I genuinely like my job and I like the people I work with. But, for reasons outside my control, both of those statements are changing. And I think it's my responsibility to own my career and make changes before I become a victim of it.

I could stay here for at least another year doing work for other sections that at best maintain my career and at worst knock me off track by learning too much about an area of law I actively dislike. I can't get into too many specifics, but basically, my section is changing. People have left- for personal reasons, and the occasional firm-related reason- it's added up to a lot of people. Right now I'm the second most senior associate in my section. I've lost my mentors. We've gone from being a major player within the firm to feeling like more of a satellite team, lending support of cases centrally staffed outside our city. None of that is necessary bad, but I feel like my learning has slowed and my favorite parts of my job- interacting face-to-face with a group of super smart people, working on big cases involving big money and complicated legal issues- those opportunities are dwindling as the cases move outside my office. I gained some amazing experience working on a huge IP matter this year, but that was outside my section and outside the area of law I actually want to practice and, looking forward and seeing more IP opportunities than corporate litigation opportunities on the horizon, I felt I needed to make a choice: either jump in to IP with both feet and move downstairs and join that section, or leave this office or the firm generally to pursue corporate and securities litigation. I could coast along for another year, collecting paychecks and helping out with small roles on other matters, but I wouldn't be growing and that's what being an associate is supposed to be about. I don't want to interview somewhere as a potential 5th or 6th year and have gained no substantive experience since my 3rd year.

I bookmarked the jobs page on the SEC website over a year ago. I've loved securities law since law school- it's the reason I started out in a corporate transactional practice before quickly realizing that it's litigators who dig through facts and case law and marge the two together in persuasive arguments. And that's what I love. So I switched to litigation and spent a year working on big corporate and securities cases and LOVING it. Then they dwindled. Then I went on maternity leave. Then I was back and all those fun cases were gone or in other offices. I looked at the SEC page again, but suddenly I realized I didn't have the securities experience to apply for anything there so I thought I'd spend a year gaining some and then apply. But finally, a few months ago, I realized I was never going to gain that experience in my current role and I needed to just apply anyway. I updated my resume and included a few bracketed bullet points- aspirational items I hoped to fill in. Things like, "write a securities article and get it published by the end of the year," and "work on another securities matter." And I did all of those things. I researched and wrote a securities article in October. I called partners and got staffed on an advisory matter relating to a previous securities litigation case I worked on. I put google and Westlaw alerts on certain new securities-related bills and cases. I read the BCG report on the SEC (which was mandated by Dodd-Frank), read the manual for the Enforcement Division, read the headlines daily... just generally inserted myself back in the world of securities law after a year-long detour in the world of IP.

While that was going on I also discreetly reconnected with alumni of the firm and my office, talked to a recruiter or two, and updated my firm profile. I didn't really want to work for another law firm- I really like mine. I got incredibly busy again on my IP matter and flirted with the idea of staying with my current job for another year and working part-time, figuring that if I couldn't get the career satisfaction I was looking for, I might as well up the personal satisfaction column and spend more time with my family. Then, at the end of October, I found out about an opportunity to apply for the SEC in Fort Worth. After missing several deadlines over the summer only to see every job on the job board vanish when the budget crisis hit, I knew I couldn't wait. I also knew how disappointed I was last time when the jobs disappeared. I was ready. I filled in my resume, typed up a cover letter (two things I hadn't done since 2006), and sent them off.

The interview was last Friday, January 6th. I spent about 2 weeks preparing in my free time- reading my old case briefing, reading everything enforcement related that I could get my hands on, spending several hours listing out everything I've done at the firm and organizing it into groups of "biggest challenge," "creative," "most proud of," etc., so I could have something pop in my head whenever I was asked one of those questions that are always hard to think of concrete examples in the moment. I re-read the articles I've written and re-outlined the briefs I'd written in securities cases, figuring they'd want to hear details on those and knowing I'd forgotten almost everything about them. I reviewed the organizational chart of the division, read recent headlines, even read a book published by a former SEC attorney (great book, actually, and several of the interviewers had read it as well)... I couldn't think of anything else I could do to prepare. And now that I'm on the other side of the interview, waiting for the phone call that will tell me if this will be the next chapter in my career, I know that short of magically finding a way to work on more securities cases, there was nothing else I could do.

So I wait. If this doesn't work out, I'll be disappointed, but good will come out of it. I've realized I really am ready to move on. I don't think I want to go to another firm. I've gained some interview practice. I've updated my resume. I'll just have to keep looking.


  1. You totally earned this! What an awesome way to prepare! I have an interview on Monday and took the advice of a lawyer friend of mine - google everything about the interviewing partner. I made a list. This makes me feel totally unprepared.

    I'm so proud of you!

  2. Damn. I need to bookmark this as a how-to guide on making your career happen! As an aside, you are freakin' brilliant, because I would die if I worked in securities law, I can't even begin to wrap my mind around it. Way too complex!

  3. Congrats and so impressed by all the prep you did!! What a great example of making something happen and how luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

  4. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. The SEC is actually why we made the move to DC last year (not sure if you saw all of DC-related whining on FB). He returned to Big Law.

    More than happy to share any of his insights while we were out there. Just mssg me on FB.

    And super congrats. I'm so happy for you.

  5. (from MJS -- sorry MJS I accidentally pressed "delete" on the moderation page and I can't find out a way to undo it!)

    LL, you are, no exaggeration, the most driven person I "know". I am so proud of you, and so happy that your hard work, drive, and savvy are recognized, and that you are reaping the rewards of all your amazing dedication. You are an inspiration, and as always, thanks for sharing all this through your blog. It's such a wonderful resource, and very much appreciated.

    Best wishes as you guys move forward! Warmly, MJS

  6. I'm soooo excited for you!! This is so amazing. I can't wait to hear about all of the changes coming up!!

  7. Wowza! Congratulations! I'm so impressed with how you're managing your career, and how savvy you seem to be at it - that's something I've done a terrible job with, and it's inspiring to see how it can work. I'm so excited for you - best wishes on the transition, and a prayer for JP to find his dream job, too!

  8. Congrats on the job!! This post is SO INSPIRING! I really like the way you were able to pinpoint your goal, figure out the steps to get there, and even leave blanks in your resume to fill in. This attention to detail shows why you're so successful and the type of direction any job-seeker could use. I will keep it in mind as I look for faculty positions. THANK YOU for sharing! Congrats again!!!

  9. It's over a year after you wrote this post, but Butterflyfish pointed to it. I don't know if I did not happen to read it when you wrote it, or if I have just forgotten reading it.

    I love how you did this!

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living