[Thanks to Jeff for sharing his informational interview report regarding a career as an attorney.]
For my report I interviewed a partner in a small law firm. I found her when my parents told me that they knew a person that was a lawyer. So then I had a few emails back and forth with her, asking if it would be okay to interview her for a class assignment and general knowledge on a career in law. A few more emails later we agreed on a day to meet and then I went to her office and interviewed her, using the pretty much the questions that were given, for about 30 to 45 minutes. Overall the process of finding and interviewing her was pretty easy because my parents did already know her and she was very willing to meet with me and answer any questions I had.
For my report I interviewed a partner in a law firm, a firm that deals mostly with doing business law. Her official job title is an attorney and it was her very first job right out of law school and she has been working their for a little over 24 years. Her responsibilities mostly consist of litigation and client counseling. It can vary day to day, but usually consists of seeing anywhere from eight to ten clients in a day or doing some litigation. She also pointed out that most of her cases are settled out of court and that in the last 24 years of working there she has only gone to court somewhere between three and five times. She also informed me that average time spent on a single case is anywhere from a year and a half to two years and that this is considered to be done somewhat quickly.
As far as skill needed to do this job successfully, the three most important things are reading, writing, and analysis. She also said that, writing is probably the most important of the three, not necessarily in terms of writing something like an essay, but being able to write in the appropriate format for use on legal documents, which is a very structured style of writing with little movement for improvising. She told me that her three favorite things about being an attorney are litigation, helping her clients, and the writing. She said litigation is probably her favorite part as it is challenging and usually very interesting. However, she that helping anywhere from 8-10 different clients at the same time, court deadlines, and just the general amount of time one case can consume can be very stressful and challenging.
Now for taking steps to get into this career she said first and foremost would be just to go to law school and that other than that there is really no way to get into this career path. Other than that though she informed that I can obtain information about getting into law school or looking into what being an attorney is about I could visit the Santa Clara or state bar association.
Probably the single most shocking thing to find out was the salaries for a starting attorney, which she said in a small firm could be anywhere from 60 to 70 thousand a year and for large firms around 120 thousand a year, that just as starting salary. The 120 thousand sounded really nice to me, but she said that at large law firms a lot of the work is uninteresting as it can be a lot of shuffling papers with very few lawyers actually practicing in the court rooms in these large firms. She also said that you will generally have no life because they will want you there early and to stay late, which is part of the reason you make so much, but you lose a social aspect as you are pretty much always working. However, that being said, there isn’t much room for advancement at a small firm as there aren’t many positions to be had, but at large firms you can move from paper shuffling/assisting on cases to handling cases in court to a partner. As far as her own experience over that last 24 years practicing law, she says she absolutely loves it, it is never boring and that she couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life.
All the information she provided me with was helpful and almost all of it was new to me. The only things I really knew were if you wanted to get into law you had to go to law school and that a large percentage of cases were settled out of court in some types of law. For example, business law suits generally can be settled out of court fairly easy as the parties can agree, but in terms of criminal law they either take the plea or they don’t and then move onto court. I found the starting salary to be amazing. I don’t want to seem like I am all about money, but a starting salary in the ballpark of between 60 and 120 thousand depending on the firm seemed really nice.
I found this informational interview to be very helpful. The way she talked about how much she loved her career as an attorney and then what kind of things she loved about it, they really seemed to resonate with me. When I told her that I really enjoyed the few law classes I had taken, she said that that is probably a very good sign that I would to pursue this course and enjoy it. This made me pretty excited as it began to really cement one of the choices that I had in mind for my career.
Thank You Note
Dear Ms. xxxx,
Thank you for giving me your time yesterday so that I could interview you about your career. I know that you had other things you could be doing so thank you very much for allowing me some of your busy schedule. The information you gave me was very helpful in writing my report and hopefully will be very helpful to me for choosing my career. Thanks again.
Jeff (Feb. ’10)