Degree from Michigan: A.B. Political Science and Spanish
Current location: Chicago, IL
Year graduated: 2010
Student Organization Involvement: Michigan Marching Band
Other jobs held or graduate programs attended since graduation: J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis
MC: I work as an attorney in a boutique law firm in Chicago practicing labor and employment law. I practice management-side labor and employment law, so in my practice I exclusively represent corporations and management in employee-related disputes. Seventy-five (75%) of what I do is litigation, meaning representing companies/management in discrimination lawsuits, wage and hour violations, retaliation claims, or trade secrets matters. The other 25% of my practice is more transactional, such as counseling employers on how to handle situations that come up in the workplace and drafting severance, non-compete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality agreements.
KC: How did you decide on this specific field within law?
MC: After I graduated from Michigan in 2010, I immediately went to law school that same year at Washington University in St. Louis. At the time, I was unsure of what I wanted to practice, but my work and law school coursework led me to this field.
KC: What during your time as an undergrad at Michigan made you decide to pursue law school?
MC: I discovered in college that I really enjoyed reading and learning new things. I was a double major in Political Science and Spanish, so I did a lot of reading and writing. I wanted a career that would allow me to continue to learn new subjects and use my writing skills.
KC: I’ve heard that the legal industry as a whole is in turmoil right now – a lot of lawyers and not enough jobs. What are your thoughts on this?
MC: I would agree with that sentiment. It has been a very challenging economy for recent law grads. The recession started back when I was in college, and while I think it’s recovering, I don’t think it’s ever quite going to be where it was before.
To anyone who is reading this and interested in what I’m doing, I think it’s important to step back and decide why you are really interested in pursuing a career in law. A lot of people tend to go to law school because it may be the path of least resistance. I don’t know if that’s a very good reason; this career is challenging intellectually and emotionally, and it’s very time consuming. I knew a lot of people in my year who went to law school because they thought it would give them a lot of transferrable skills, or because they didn’t know what else they would do instead. I think those are textbook reasons of why you should not go. However, if you’re really passionate about being a lawyer, then by all means pursue it!
KC: What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job?
MC: What I enjoy most about my job is coming up with arguments in defending our clients, representing their interests, and responding to legal arguments that come from the other side. It’s challenging, and you’re always going to be making different arguments based on the facts and on the applicable law in that case.
I guess my least favorite part of my job would be responding to opposing counsel when they make litigation a personal issue. We’re all doing our jobs to represent our clients. All of us as lawyers have an ethical obligation to zealously represent our clients’ interests. However there are times where the other side has a very visceral reaction to what they see, and it becomes personal or emotional. Often times, that leads to some hostile phone calls or nasty emails. It can be very adversarial.
KC: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with current students hoping to pursue a similar career path?
MC: Do your research if you’re looking to go to law school. Not all law schools are interchangeable. Every school offers different things and tailors to different interests and needs. For example, if you’re interested in public interest work, look at schools that have a clinic or multiple clinics that focus on things in the public interest realm. These clinics are like extracurriculars in law school – students typically enroll and get credit for them, but you’re participating in real world work under the supervision of a professor. Alternatively, if your passion is mergers and acquisitions, figure out the best place to go that will help you get there after law school.
Law school is no longer the time to select a school based on its exotic location; where you go may play a large role in where you end up practicing as an attorney. That said, don’t forget to enjoy your time in school. Law school is filled with many intimidatingly smart people who will hopefully become close friends of yours during and after law school.