Once my childhood fantasies of playing in the MLB or the NBA become abundantly clear to be just that, I knew I wanted to attend law school and I knew I wanted to attend Mizzou. My father was an attorney and alum (class of ’72) and I fully expected to practice law in either Kansas City or St. Louis. After graduating from Truman State in 2001 with a business-finance degree, I worked for a large public company in KC. It was there that I met a number of the in-house attorneys and first thought of combining my business and (future) legal educations as a legal practice.
While I was at the company, I had an opportunity to chat with its General Counsel. One piece of advice he gave me has stuck with me to this day; I call it the bullseye effect, in which people get so focused on one singular goal or target that they miss out on so many other opportunities flying by. He advised to have goals but to be open to new opportunities that come your way and not get tunnel vision. Whether that’s in life or with regard to your career, I think its sound advice. And particularly with the ever-evolving legal market in the past 5 years, I think its especially important to law students.
As far as my career path, I attended MU Law beginning in 2003 and graduated in 2006. I was fortunate that the legal market was still strong during that time and I had opportunities to summer intern after my 2L year in KC, St. Louis and Chicago. Keeping the GC’s advice in mind, I chose the Chicago opportunity with a large national law firm. After graduation, I joined the firm’s corporate and securities group, which meant representing companies in their IPOs and other securities offerings. This market was still quite active in 2006 and 2007 but dried up during the global recession beginning in 2008. My practice evolved accordingly during the second half of my time at the firm and instead of new IPOs or offerings, I represented many of these now public companies in their SEC filings and other public company compliance matters. That experience proved invaluable when my current employer was looking to fill a spot on its corporate and securities team with someone who had experience with ’34 Exchange Act filings. Since 2010, I have been advising internal clients within the biotech company on these matters. I never thought I would be living and working in southern California when I first stepped foot in Hulston Hall ten years ago.
When I speak with current or prospective law students, I give the same advice:
(1) be open to any opportunity that presents itself. The legal market may not have as many of the traditional opportunities as it did a decade ago but there are still opportunities to be had.
(2) Work as hard as possible. You never know how an opportunity will present itself but if you have worked as hard as you can, you know you will be ready when it does. The idea of working hard isn’t just confined to the classroom. It also means utilizing all of the networking contacts that are available to you, particularly through the Career Development Office. MU Law has alums across the country and so if you are interested in a particular geographic area, find out if there are alums in that area and reach out to them for advice.
(3) If you are looking to become an attorney for a company, realize you don’t have to work at a large firm to go in-house. Companies want experience (rarely are you going to go in-house out of law school) but that experience can come in a variety of forms. The key is having the experience that the company and its industry require. My colleagues at the biotech company have a myriad of prior experiences, including working for small, medium and large firms and/or working for government agencies that regulate the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, such as the FDA and the USPTO.
As I think to my friends/colleagues from the class of ’06, we have attorneys at all types and sizes of law firms and companies; we have people in politics at the state and federal level; working for federal, state and local agencies, including prosecutors, public defenders and members of the JAG corps; and those in the academic setting as professors and law librarians. And I would venture to say most of my classmates were not aware of these opportunities, let alone think they would get the chance to achieve them, when they started law school. And our class is no different than any other graduating class at Mizzou Law. Enjoy your time at Mizzou but work hard, avoid the bullseye effect and make the most of opportunities when they present themselves to you.