Last month I received an email from Cameron McCord. McCord is a fifth-year associate at a boutique bankruptcy firm in Atlanta, where she’s been having “a great experience.”
“I am in court all the time and have started handling my own trials,” McCord wrote. “I have worked here since my second summer and am able to have a good work/life balance. I have an 11-month-old and a four-year-old, and my husband is a full-time student. I think it is important for people to realize that you can be successful without working at [Biglaw].”
Upon reading her email, I knew I had to feature her and her firm. I mean, she reads my column! And, I suppose, a firm that affords its attorneys the opportunity to maintain a life outside of work is, well, awesome.
Here is what goes down at Jones & Walden LLP….
McCord did not set out to be a small-firm lawyer. Before law school, McCord was a photographer. Given her self-proclaimed “bohemian lifestyle,” she knew that she would only enjoy working in a certain environment, one that let her be herself and not require her to wear a suit (when not going to court).
During an OCI interview with a large firm, McCord was warned by the interviewing partner that she would hate Biglaw and should instead consider Jones & Walden. (Um, where was this guardian angel when I went through OCI?) She heeded the warning and has been at Jones & Walden her entire career.
When asked why she picked the firm, McCord said that it was the combination of the amazing art on the walls of the office and the comfort she felt when she walked in (as opposed to the sterile environment at some other small firms). The firm allows and even encourages people to be themselves. There is no dress code and no one-size-fits-all personality.
McCord specializes in Chapter 11 bankruptcies. As a mid-level associate, she is running her own cases. This, according to McCord, is in stark contrast to her much older and mostly male colleagues in the field.
The best aspect about working at Jones & Walden, aside from the quality of work and culture, is that McCord is able to have a life outside work and actually spend time with her young children. After hearing myriad stories from other women attorneys at Biglaw (and some small firms that required a lot of face time) about how they outsourced the raising of their children, it seemed to me that there was something special about McCord’s firm. Indeed, Leon Jones, the founding partner, also has young children and respects people with families.
“I feel really lucky to work here and to be able to have a life. I am not a part-time associate, but I am still able to leave work at a reasonable hour and be with my children,” said McCord.
It is not all gum drops and lollipops, however. McCord acknowledges that there is greater pressure on associates at small law firms. The individual associate, not a middle layer of other associates and partners, is responsible for running her cases, and the oversight that comes with a heavily staffed case is not present.
Despite the pressure of her practice, McCord (who never thought she would be a lawyer) said that there is no other place where she would practice law. If only we could all find a perfect fit like McCord, then perhaps Amazon could stop devoting an entire section to self-help guides for lawyers. (But then what would I have to complain about?) At the very least, I thank you, Cameron, for sharing your story. Hopefully some readers can (or have) recreate(d) your success.
For more information on Jones & Walden, check out their website.