Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My Career Journey

I've been working in the legal area for the past 7 years. My first job out of college was as a Legal Assistant at one of the big corporate white-shoe law firms down on Wall Street. I did it kind of by default because I had done a summer job at another big firm down in DC. The money was nice at both jobs, and there were all sorts of perks which afforded me a kind of "rock-star" life. Well, that's what my friends seemed to think since I was transported everywhere around the city by one of the ubiquitous black Lincoln town cars or traveling to Australia on a $15,000 first-class ticket, or eating at some super-expensive, five star restaurant all on the company's dime. But after 6 years of moving up through the ranks and establishing myself as Senior Case Manager and countless all-nighters, I couldn't deal with the hours anymore.

So I made a switch to a much smaller company based out of San Francisco. My new company is a legal tech company whose clients are mostly law firms and corporate in-house legal departments. It's a start-up and I joined only a few months after they opened their first New York office. At first, I was excited because I thought I'd get a lot of business experience and would get to experience a different non-law firm environment. I also thought I'd get to share in the wealth with a start-up dot com since I knew from first-hand experience how legal technology and online document management are expanding rapidly.

Corporate law firms are funny places. You work on cases involving faceless parties about issues which no ordinary human would ever really care about, and get lost in all the legal mumbo-jumbo back and forth and the archaic procedures and pettiness that rear their ugly heads. At at no other type of business, will you find people doing the most pointless tasks that people do at law firms. And non-lawyer support staffers REALLY have a hard time caring all that much while doing these pointless tasks. Let's face it. Most of them went to college, got a liberal arts degree, and imagined doing a job that made them feel like their expensive college education was worth it. But the worst thing about being a legal assistant is working on a case in which it's really hard to care about the issues and participants because you're defending billion-dollar companies who perhaps have done some not so honorable things. Sure, there are people involved, but it just becomes a sea of names, and pretty soon you go from one case to another, not really knowing what the issues are, dealing with mountains of documents and just doing the work.

Now I could have made more of an effort perhaps to get more involved, and I do get involved, but only enough to help me get my work done faster and more efficiently. In all honesty, I really didn't care because I'm not at all interested in the work that I ending up pigeon-holing myself into. When I left my old firm for my new job, I thought I'd get a different perspective in my field and even branch out into a different role. Well, my job function has changed somewhat, but at its root, I still deal with the same types of issues that infuriated me at my old job, and I realized that I just want out of this field altogether. The worst part is that I have gotten super-busy and have had to work some evenings and weekends. I was supposed to leave that all behind when I left my old firm. Last week was one of my worst ever at my new job, and Friday, with all the monsoons that New York has been having, I was in the crabbiest mood.

What would I like to do? Well, I only realized this a few years ago, but I would like to work in hotels. I'd like to work for the corporate organization of a hotel company like Hyatt or Starwood in the area of branding or brand equity. I like thinking about the different types of guests who stay in hotels including thinking about what I like in a hotel. I like thinking about locations and the overall guest experience in the room, the overall property and other amenities and loyalty programs.

Unfortunately, the only practical way for me to get into this is to go back for business school. But I have a hard time motivating myself to get back into studying for the GMAT and preparing myself to apply. I've made some attempts and even taken the GMAT, but I need to really buckle down and do it.

Then again, the other day, I tried the "Self-Checkout" at Food Emporium. Who knew scanning bar codes could be so much fun?


tim said...

Take it from me, scanning bar-codes is way more fun than reading techno-mumbo-jumbo.

teahouse said...

I agree with you that law firms are evil. Yeah, sounds like you have a dream..why not pursue it?

And the Food Emporium in my neighborhood has self-checkout. It's fine..but the computer goes crazy if you lean against the counter while you're trying to check out your groceries.

Aaron Weber said...

So, you tried a big law firm and a small law firm-- before giving up on the law entirely, perhaps there are more options to consider? I mean, you could go into a genuinely small practice working with individuals (although in that case you get exposed to a lot of really annoying people being unreasonable in their divorces, etc.) Or you could go in-house for a company you think is interesting or worthwhile... My girlfriend's brother-in-law was at a big NYC firm for quite a few years, basically paying off his student loans, and now he's out in SF working at a software company as in-house counsel and focusing on intellectual property. I think he ultimately wants to move into entertainment law.

I've considered getting an MBA as well-- but the whole going-back-to-school, standardized-tests thing just keeps putting me off. Ugh.

Also, for humor re: the law see http://www.unfogged.com/archives/week_2006_06_04.html#005024

Tara said...

I am addicted to the self-checkout at the store. It's a blast.

And yes, I need a life.