Ask Vault: Help! I Chose the Wrong Law Firm
February 21, 2018
I am a second-year law student at a T5 law school. I accepted a Summer Associate position at a top Chicago law firm in September and have been living in regret since then. My regret comes from my choice being the first time in my life where I went with my head instead of my gut. Around decision time, I was flooded with outsider opinions who I consulted with as I tried to decide between Firm X and Firm Y—both V25 BigLaw firms. Every outsider (except one) told me to go with Firm X because of its undeniable prestige and stellar Chicago reputation. Firm Y is globally just as prestigious, but does not capture the Chicago market in the same way Firm X does.
I liked everything about Firm Y and believed it was the right choice given what I wanted out of a Summer Associate position and early legal career, but my friends' and family's opinions of the situation clouded my judgment and swayed me to choose Firm X. I continue to ruminate over the decision and am still uneasy about it. My question is: how should I play my cards this upcoming summer? I obviously want to keep an open mind about my upcoming time with Firm X and give it a chance, but I'm still convinced that I would be happier at Firm Y. Should I keep in contact with Firm Y to see if I could potentially regain an offer for post-graduation should they have a need? How should I approach this situation for the time being as well as the future?
Thank you so much,
We know that deciding where to spend your 2L summer is a big decision, with long term career implications. The firm with which you summer will most likely be the firm with which you spend at least the first few years of your post-law school career. You have buyer’s remorse now, but I do think you’ve actually figured out a good action plan, even if you don’t realize it yet,
You say you “obviously want to keep an open mind about my upcoming time with Firm X and give it a chance,” and that would be my first—and most important—piece of advice. The people you meet during the recruiting and interviewing process are likely not going to be the same people that you work with once you’re at the firm. And though reading about firms at Vault is helpful in guiding your career choices, nothing compares to the experience you get on the ground while working at the firm. If you go into the summer with an open mind and still feel like you made the wrong decision at the end of the program, that’s when you’ll need to take action
Now as for what you should do with Firm Y, the answer is nothing, for now. I’ve talked with a few BigLaw recruiting professionals, and they said they would consider it odd to hear from a 2L who regrets their choice before their summer. While summer programs are the biggest feeder for entry level hiring at most firms, most large firms will also hire a handful of law school grads who did not summer with the firm. And snagging a former summer from a higher ranked firm would be a boon to the recruiting team at the lower-ranked firm. So if you still feel you’d rather work for Firm Y after your summer at Firm X, just simply reach out to your recruiting contacts at Firm Y and tell them as much. If they have the need for another associate, they’ll likely be happy to add someone who they have already vetted and who is gung-ho for their firm.
In summary, do your best to drop your regret, go into your summer with an open mind, reevaluate after the summer program is over, and only then reach out to the other firm if that’s what your heart still desires.
Best of Luck,
by Matt Moody
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