Panelists Stress 'Know Thyself' Approach to Choosing a Law Firm
Law school graduates can boost their job satisfaction significantly if they pay attention to what makes them happy, three law firm partners told a group of University of Virginia students during a Career Services talk Monday.
The panelists for "What to Consider When Choosing a Practice Area" agreed that a new lawyer's aptitude for work is important, but being content with daily life is essential.
"Before you can be happy in your field, you need to be happy," said John D. Adams '03 of McGuireWoods.
He and his fellow panelists, Jamie Baskerville Martin '96 of McCandlish Holton and Sean M. Beard '00 of Hunton & Williams, said students should carefully weigh the nature and pace of the work, co-worker personality types, and firm size and geographic location.
Adams, who previously served as associate counsel to President George W. Bush, specializes in complex litigation at the trial and appellate level. Clients often come to him because they're the focus of a government or criminal investigation, and they expect a rapid response.
"I like the variation, and I even like a little bit of the intensity that comes with litigation," he said. It helps drive me."
By comparison, Martin said, practicing transactional law and administrative litigation for a smaller law firm isn't as dramatic — and that's just fine with her. In helping hospitals and physician groups navigate mergers, joint ventures and other types of intricate relationships, she may have to sift through thousands of pages of healthcare law, but at the end of the day, she can go home and be fully available to her family.
"The healthcare industry is for morning people," Martin said. "My days start very early because my clients' days start early, but that front-end loading of the day tends to give me more flexibility in the evenings for family time."
While Martin said there are days that she might go without much interpersonal contact, Beard said he discovered early into a patent law internship that he needs more human interaction to be happy on the job.
"I'm sort of a 'people person,'" he said.
Later, when he clerked at Hunton & Williams, Beard interacted with the corporate team and not only felt excited by the type of work, but the types of people doing it, he said.
"The most important thing, I felt, is to make sure you like the people you're working with," he said. Make sure their personalities and behaviors somewhat match your own."
Beard now works with many of the same attorneys — as well as with representatives of domestic and international corporations — to facilitate mergers, acquisitions and other types of business deals.
All three attorneys work for Richmond-based law firms. They told students to pursue careers in towns or cities where they feel most comfortable, rather than choosing a location for prestige alone.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.