By Mitchell Kempker ’07
I never wanted to be a lawyer. During my childhood, my mom worked for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. I saw lawyers sitting in offices and drafting briefs all day. It looked miserable. (Although my best law school grade was the appellate brief, I was right. It was miserable.) So when I graduated with a finance degree from Mizzou, I took a job as a financial analyst with a large company in Denver. Unfortunately, after about a year, I realized the only part of the job I enjoyed was talking with the in-house lawyers. Law school soon followed.
After finishing law school, I still had no interesting in drafting briefs, so I pursued a transactional career. I started with a large regional firm, followed by a small boutique firm, and now a mid-sized office of a large international firm. As others have mentioned on the blog, it is important to find the best fit for you. There are lots of options, whether it’s with a firm, government work, sole practitioner, in-house counsel, etc. It is often difficult for us to see options past our first job, but don’t be afraid to make a change.
As a transactional lawyer, the standard “good lawyer” practices–hard work, timeliness, etc.–still apply. In addition, there are other, less obvious, bits of advice for being successful. First, you should know the business of your client. For example, you should understand the business’s core functions, the inherent risks with those core functions, and the company’s long-term goals. You cannot advise a company on any contract or transaction without understanding this basic information. Second, you should understand the risk tolerance of your client. Some lawyers are deal makers, and others are deal breakers. Typically, your client’s primary goal is to get the deal done. Certain issues are deal breakers. Understand what that means for your client, and don’t let the other issues kill a deal because you’re focused on winning a negotiation with opposing counsel. Third, and this is more about building a practice, keep in contact with your clients on a regular basis. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Call your clients on a weekly or monthly basis and ask what they have going on. This practice will certainly lead to additional business.
A transactional practice can be a rewarding career if it’s a good fit for you and you do the things necessary to build your practice.