Ed. Note: Will the Lost Generation ever find its way back into Biglaw? This new column is written by a member of the Lost Generation who initially was thrown off of the Biglaw bandwagon but was able to get back on, and is now trying to hang on to his Biglaw second chance.
By the second semester of my 3L year, I began to realize that my whining about graduating law school unemployed was no longer an overly dramatic response to having been no-offered. It had become a legitimate concern.
For the first few weeks of the first semester, I dreamt of finding another Biglaw job somewhere in the country. As the rejection letters rolled in, I began to embrace the idea of practicing in the public sector. I imagined prosecuting violent criminals for assault or defending drug-users for minor misdemeanors. I managed to snag a couple of interviews through the meager offerings of 3L O.C.I. But, I stood no chance against my classmates who had been committed to a side of the criminal “v” since 1L year. Also, there was a glaring white space on my resume where it should have read “offer received.” Instead, it read, “I’m here because the high-paying legal employer that just reviewed over ten weeks of my work didn’t want me, and now I’m screwed and desperate.”
The other candidates had PILC and PILF all over their resumes . . . in bold. I, on the other hand, had never even been to that damn auction everyone kept talking about. Even if I could have competed for those jobs, I knew that I was undeserving as compared to many of my hard-working peers who had committed to being A.D.A.s or public defenders from the beginning of law school. Don’t get me wrong, though. If given the chance, I would have taken one of the jobs immediately…
Naturally, my job search led me into the offices of career services. I emerged with pamphlets for clerkships and the DOJ Honors Program. Deciding to overlook the fact that 3Ls across the country from better schools, with better grades, and with offers from better firms than the firm that had no-offered me were getting rejected for those jobs, I applied. I received no interviews.
I sent out cover letters and resumes to small firms, mid-sized firms, public interest organizations, and the government. I received a couple of phone interviews but got no further. I kept wondering what people ranked below me in my law school class were doing. I still don’t know.
Finally, I decided to do something drastic. I decided to go to law school. Again. Another law school. A better law school. I applied to T20 LL.M. programs with a general or individualized focus. I ignored the warning of George W. Bush: “Fool me once, shame on me . . . fool me twice shame on me . . . you . . . err . . . you can’t get fooled twice.” After looking up what LL.M. actually stood for, I sat down at the table for another hand to see if I could win my money back. I began to dig myself deeper into debt, betting that I would emerge better off.
At first, this move seemed horrible. I was pouring good money after bad, and both the good and bad had been loaned to me at an ugly 7.5%. But, the LL.M. did have its benefits. First, it filled the time gap that I would have had on my resume. Second, it deferred my existing loans. Third, it allowed my roommate to mock me about the fact that we both worked long hours but that I was paying to do so whereas she was actually paid. Finally, it allowed me to broaden my network.
That final benefit was the key to my landing another job at a Vault 100 firm. One professor during my LL.M. was impressed with my work. That professor had a connection to a firm. When that firm was looking to hire, my name came up. It didn’t hurt that I was happy to work in one of the lower-key offices where there was an opening.
Thus, I did not get my job by having my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend put in a good word for me. Nor did I earn my job solely through merit. I had to know someone, but that person recommended me because of the solid work that I had performed and not because my dad used to play golf with him. The LL.M. allowed me to expand the pool of people who had been exposed to my capabilities. It also increased my debt significantly.
Was it worth it? It’s easy to say doubling down on your nine when the dealer is showing a five is a good play. It’s a great play… so long as it works out.