Once you get into a top law school, staying on the Biglaw course requires determination, talent and a clear headed focus on your goals. Getting out of Biglaw requires all the same strengths, mixed with a little bit of crazy.
J. Ashwin Madia has been a law firm associate and a Marine, and now he’s running for Congress. But like so many of us his journey started in the relative safety of a top law school. The friends of his from NYU Law might know him better as Jigar. Madia starting using his middle names when he joined the Marines.
The few Marines I’ve met all talk about a desire to give back to the community and Madia is no different:
My parents came to this country with $19 between them, and they bought an $11 bottle of champagne and they started with $8 in this country. So this was a small way to give something back.
Where Madia is different is that his post-bar trip was disturbingly similar to boot camp, insofar as he had to go to boot camp.
The marines are kind of unique in that if you fly a plane or drive a tank or are a lawyer, you all go through the same training. It was funny, after I took the bar exam I had 8 months of crawling around in the mud and shooting a machine gun and learning martial arts and learning how to be a rifle platoon commander.
Madia helped the Iraqi government formulate their legal system, focusing on getting suspected terrorists competent defense lawyers, fair trials, and if guilty, speedy incarceration.
He has also had more traditional legal jobs. After his tour with the in the Marine corps, Madia went back to Minnesota (where he is from) to work at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in their IP department.
But, you know, sometimes I would look out of the window there and just think of other things I could be doing.
More about Ashwin Madia and his G.I. Joe advice to Biglaw associates after the break.
Madia, a Republican turned Democrat (Democratic Farmer-Labor party for those who know their Minnesota politics), is running for Congress in the Minnesota 3rd. Its is an open seat in a previously Republican district. Madia was a long shot to even win the primary, but the latest Survey USA poll has him within the margin of error in the general.
Madia credits his law firm for helping him compete in this race:
[O]ne of the biggest hurdles unfortunately for anyone getting involved in elected office is money. Its raising money. … But I was very lucky because I had a group of pretty well off people who worked in law firms who wanted to help me and wanted to support me. So I was able to establish some credibility early on by raising quite a bit of money in a short period of time. And a large part of that was because both the partners and associates at Robins were so supportive.
Would you support a fellow associate running for Congress? Do you think your partners would? A lot of firms talk about supporting their associates in various extra-legal endeavors, but how many are really willing to make a cash investment?
Not surprisngly, Madia has some very direct advice for associates who are looking for something more than the Biglaw lifestyle offers, “just do it.”
They just need to make the decision to do it and cut off all avenues of retreat. … Chances are if they’re working at one of these top law firms, they’ve been successful at everything they’ve ever done in their whole life … so they have the skill set to do it.
Ashwin Madia will checking in on his old NYU haunts soon. He’s holding a fundraiser at the Harmonie Club, Monday the 15th. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, it is some pretty interesting advice for anybody just “looking out of the window.”