Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Transitioning out of appellate practice

I have been doing appellate work for over 10 years and would lawyer32101/11/19
If you've gotten an interview, it means that they are intere toooldtocare01/11/19
How did you get into compliance? Did you have any training i lawyer32101/11/19
Yes, worked for a state administrative agency. I may have m toooldtocare01/11/19
When a lawyer applies for a non-legal job, a potential emplo passportfan301/11/19
"You have to convince the person that, while your career in thirdtierlaw01/11/19
Why can't you tell them what you tell us? "I've been doing jeffm01/11/19
no chance I'd hire someone who said that. Sounds like a m dingbat01/11/19
That's the way you take it. Others might take it differentl jeffm01/12/19
In the original post, it isn't clear what job OP was intervi toooldtocare01/12/19
I think we believe him because we're more familiar with why saltlifesticker01/12/19
True. And if I was interviewing for a non-legal position an jeffm01/13/19
no chance I'd hire someone who said that. Sounds like a m dingbat01/11/19
i did appellate legal work for a decade, and then i realized whiteguyinchina01/13/19
Why would you want to get out of appellate work? Sounds like onehell01/16/19
I second this. Appellate work is my jam. The hard part thoug jorgedeclaro01/16/19
True, but at least if you lose because of trial-level mistak onehell01/16/19
Ineffective assistance claims are so rarely meritorious, you tacocheese01/16/19
I know what you mean when you think appellate has to be a dr jeffm01/16/19
Right. All the solos in my town say something similar. Most onehell01/16/19
I didn't put it artfully, but what I was saying is appellate jeffm01/16/19
"can understand why someone who did it full-time would get t onehell01/17/19
"He told me their curriculum is very focused on this idea th jeffm01/17/19

lawyer321 (Jan 11, 2019 - 3:12 pm)

I have been doing appellate work for over 10 years and would really like to do something else, maybe not even practice law. I applied for a job in a law related area and it seemed that they were very unimpressed that I would want to give up practicing law. Maybe they thought I wasn’t a good lawyer? I am just tired of all the research and writing but I felt it was useless to say that. Intold them I wanted to be part of their organization and was excited to use my legal knowledge in another career. How do you answer that question in an interview for a non-attorney job, as to why you want to leave the practice?

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toooldtocare (Jan 11, 2019 - 3:59 pm)

If you've gotten an interview, it means that they are interested in you, otherwise they wouldn't bother. So in answering "why do you want to leave the practice of law" tailor your answer to what they do and what skills you bring to that. You've got to be specific, as in you fully understand their work, and can do a great job doing it because you've got these x talents. It's worked for me transitioning from law to compliance, and it can work for you, too.
So I've never said I want to leave legal practice; instead my answer is about how great the job they are offering is and what I'd bring to it.

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lawyer321 (Jan 11, 2019 - 5:13 pm)

How did you get into compliance? Did you have any training in that?

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toooldtocare (Jan 11, 2019 - 5:40 pm)

Yes, worked for a state administrative agency. I may have misunderstood your original post; I thought you were getting interviews and were having trouble at the interviews themselves explaining how you would transition.

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passportfan3 (Jan 11, 2019 - 6:21 pm)

When a lawyer applies for a non-legal job, a potential employer thinks two contradictory thoughts:

1) This person must be a terrible lawyer; that's why he's leaving that gold mine of a profession.

2) This person must be an amazing lawyer who will leave for a six-digit law job as soon as he can.

You have to convince the person that, while your career in law has been great, what you really want is a career in their field.

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 11, 2019 - 6:38 pm)

"You have to convince the person that, while your career in law has been great, what you really want is a career in their field."

This exactly. It's also your chance to sell yourself. "I have a great job and enjoy parts of what I do very much. What I realized is that my favorite parts are 'x,y, and z', I love doing it and I excelled at it. Then I saw this opening and realized I could turn doing only 'x,y, and z' into a career."

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jeffm (Jan 11, 2019 - 7:06 pm)

Why can't you tell them what you tell us? "I've been doing this 20 years. I'm good at it, but it's become too old hat. I'm ready to transition, etc."

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dingbat (Jan 11, 2019 - 7:58 pm)

no chance I'd hire someone who said that.

Sounds like a mid-life crisis, and after a few months he/she will go back to his/her old job.

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jeffm (Jan 12, 2019 - 8:33 am)

That's the way you take it. Others might take it differently. In any event, lawyers are too busy trying to manipulate people with words instead of just being direct with them. IMO, that's the wrong way to go about it.

OP said the same thing in his post, but nobody tried to tell him he's just in a mid-life crisis and he should forget about it. Why can all of us believe him, but an employer should not?

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toooldtocare (Jan 12, 2019 - 10:39 am)

In the original post, it isn't clear what job OP was interviewing for, and in order to get a job, you've got to convince your prospective employer that you've got skills/experience/whatever that you will bring with you. So presenting your experience in way that fits the job description isn't manipulating anyone; it's what all job applicants do.
But you can't walk into a job interview and announce "I'm sick of my current job; hire me" and expect to get hired. Unless you give them a reason to hire you, they aren't going to do it.

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saltlifesticker (Jan 12, 2019 - 1:50 pm)

I think we believe him because we're more familiar with why someone would want to leave the law. In my experience, those who have never been in the field don't understand the struggles. Most ppl outside of the law seem to think being a lawyer is instant social status and six figures.

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jeffm (Jan 13, 2019 - 11:58 am)

True. And if I was interviewing for a non-legal position and having to explain why I'm done with law, I'd tell them as well that law, contrary to what most people believe, is not instant social status and six figures, or alternatively, that instant social status and six figures isn't enough to justify it anymore.

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dingbat (Jan 11, 2019 - 7:59 pm)

no chance I'd hire someone who said that.

Sounds like a mid-life crisis, and after a few months he/she will go back to his/her old job.

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whiteguyinchina (Jan 13, 2019 - 3:04 pm)

i did appellate legal work for a decade, and then i realized that my attention to detail, ability to punch the clock and do what i am told, qualified me for a great career processing TPS reports in your massive compliance department!

i would just be honest. you have to explain why u r getting off the gravy train. saying that legal work is a snooze fest is ok, unless the other job is another snooze fest aka compliance.

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onehell (Jan 16, 2019 - 11:11 am)

Why would you want to get out of appellate work? Sounds like a dream. Lots of research and writing, no messy facts or trial-level antics, just law. In fact, appellate work might be the one kind of legal work law school really does train you to actually do.

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jorgedeclaro (Jan 16, 2019 - 11:42 am)

I second this. Appellate work is my jam. The hard part though is if you only do appellate work, you’re stuck with the record and lack of objections and preservation that you might have needed to win your appeal.

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onehell (Jan 16, 2019 - 3:07 pm)

True, but at least if you lose because of trial-level mistakes, you bear no blame and need feel no guilt. As you said, you're stuck with the record as it is, not what it could or should have been. As long as I had no involvement at the trial level, I'd find that freeing.

Related point, though a little different because the mistake helps you, would be how appellate criminal stuff is so often based on trying to find a reason to allege ineffective assistance of counsel. Would feel kinda bad as a law-library-egghead Monday-morning-quarterbacking some poor overworked trial attorney who often had to make decisions in seconds from deep in the trenches of the heated environment of a trial. Oh well, guess that's the game.

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tacocheese (Jan 16, 2019 - 6:43 pm)

Ineffective assistance claims are so rarely meritorious, your have to have some really egregious facts to be a good appellate lawyer who raises the claim. That is, if you're a good appellate lawyer, I don't think you should feel bad raising a potentially meritorious claim. There are, however, a lot of crap appellate lawyers who raise crap IAC claims.

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jeffm (Jan 16, 2019 - 11:53 am)

I know what you mean when you think appellate has to be a dream career. If that's all you do, you start to wonder if it's more fun to be in the arena or maybe doing something else. It can become dull and detached. A very law school-like task.

I like appellate a lot. I don't get enough anymore.

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onehell (Jan 16, 2019 - 3:11 pm)

Right. All the solos in my town say something similar. Most of them get appellate stuff every once in awhile and they love it when they do, but no way would they ever have enough of it to sustain an entire practice. Heck, a lot of 'em will take that stuff pro bono or very low-bono just because it represents an opportunity to get a published decision onto the resume.

Someone who actually has enough appellate work to do nothing else would seem to me to be living the dream.

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jeffm (Jan 16, 2019 - 6:39 pm)

I didn't put it artfully, but what I was saying is appellate can be one of those things where you should be careful what you ask for. It's a pleasure because it is something different and new and challenging. If that's *all* you did, it might lose its luster quite a lot. I can understand why someone who did it full-time would get tired and want to find something else.

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onehell (Jan 17, 2019 - 2:45 pm)

"can understand why someone who did it full-time would get tired and want to find something else."

lol I can't. Different strokes for different folks, I understand, but the whole reason I went to law school was because I love to research and write. I loathe messy facts. So dispositive motions and appeals. If I could do nothing else, I would be very happy. It just feels like "pure law" is so much more intellectual than situations where it is clear what will happen if X is true and the only issue is whether X has been proven with appropriate evidence.

And you'd think more people would think that way, just because law school itself is like that. Seems to be a big disparity between an educational curriculum that focuses on reading appellate cases for 3 years and being a "trial lawyer." If there were tons of people going to law school that loved trial work, you'd expect to see more theater majors and stuff like that. But you see a bunch of English majors and stuff. Those types are more introverted on average.

Heck, I've got a friend who went to that Gerry Spence trial lawyers college thing at that ranch of his. He told me their curriculum is very focused on this idea that the courtroom is your theater. I'm sure that's attractive to some types of personalities, but not the typical law-school bound person.

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jeffm (Jan 17, 2019 - 5:26 pm)

"He told me their curriculum is very focused on this idea that the courtroom is your theater. I'm sure that's attractive to some types of personalities, but not the typical law-school bound person."

Right. My former law partner also went to the same Spence college.

Here's the thing:

Law is almost exclusively glamorized in the media via trial. Everyone is intrigued by lawyers having to tap dance in real time. In appellate, everything is already in place. It is a cool, calculated and non-dramatic thing. There are very few movies based on the appellate process. There are a great many award-winning movies based on trial work.

Appellate is a pleasure to an introvert, for sure. However, if any part of that introvert ever wanted to come out of his shell and perform on the stage of life, trial work is definitely the most rewarding for that - particularly jury trials.

It is the most invigorating thing, for example, to get a verdict for punitives after most everyone in the panel during voir dire said they are sick and tired of people abusing the system for punitive damages. So, imagine that! You don't have 90 days to come up with your response. You're going to have to dance and do it really good and convincingly. The dance starts in 15 minutes! That is fun! (In the right cases, of course. Losing can be agony, as any experienced trial lawyer will readily admit.)

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