Friday, May 8, 2009

Big Versus Small (A Shift In Thinking)

The job search has been pretty dismal in general, but is currently looking up and I hope to be able to report good news soon. As I said in the last post, the layoff may end up being a good thing in the end. 

I tend to stay too long at jobs. From background and observation I have an aversion to jumping ship when things get rough, even if it might be the wisest course. One of the good things about being back out on the market has been interviewing with the type of small firms that I did not look at during law school. The law school brings in firms for on-campus interviewing (OCI). As you might expect, these tend to be mid-size and larger firms that do regular, yearly recruiting. I got a ton of interviews through the OCI process, so, at the time, never felt the need to look beyond that resource.

During the OCI interviews, I was never very impressed with the mid-sized firms. They had all the drawbacks of the large firms, without several of the advantages. My experience with the mid-sized firms was projected onto smaller firms in general, leaving me with a poor (and undeserved) impression. However, the recent interviewing that I have done has really opened my eyes and made me rethink things drastically. While the recent layoff is almost certainly coloring my thoughts to some extent, I have been really impressed with what I have seen so far and have been focusing my job search toward firms in the 5-25 attorney range.

At those firms I would be getting into court right away, and perhaps even running my own cases in short order. The big firms provide a lot of support of a certain type, but unless you get lucky and land an assignment on the one plumb project that comes down that year, it can also take a loooooong time to get actual trial experience or even get assignments where you are materially involved in the strategic aspects of a case. The small firm will give you that experience out of the gate, with the added motivational incentive of being put into a position where the possibility of spectacular failure is a very real option. (Of course, there is no chance for spectacular victory without the risk of its opposite.)

I think I know now what would be my ideal setup going forward and long-term, should my career stay in the private sector. I may not get that ideal immediately, but it is nice to have a new frame of reference and a renewed goal in mind.