Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thinking Aloud About My Career Options

It should have been clear to me early on in my career that I was never going to amount to anything. I came from a working class family, and I went to second rate schools. I got through these schools on the strength of a prodigious memory and the good fortune of having relatively high intelligence. I was under the impression at the time that I was becoming "educated". I did not know that I was being sorted, indeed that I had already been sorted by my choice of schools and fields of study and circumstances of my birth.

In law school, I was sorted big time into the lowest quintile. I hated law school and could never make myself conform to the requirements that would lead to good grades. It's not that I was disinterested. I was very interested. I just wasn't interested in precisely what the professors were serving. I squeaked by and was effectively barred from a career in a major law firm by my pitiful class standing. I could not be counted on to conform.

I hated lawyers and lawyering for a long time. I still dislike lawyers of a certain ilk, but I have found a style of lawyering that I can abide and even take pleasure in. I decided that academia might be a better fit, so it was off to graduate school. Once I realized what I would have to conform to and what a miserable existence many of the academics lived, I knew that academia was no escape. It only took six years and tens of thousands of dollars to figure this out. I didn't want to get a PhD any longer or to be an academic. So I sorted myself out of school and back to work. Kudos to the faculty at Columbia for not concealing their misery and douchebaggery.

One valuable thing I got out of Columbia was a side program I pursued as an elective in conflict management and dispute resolution and peace studies. This training was life changing and enabled me to reimagine my profession. I am a first rate negotiator and mediator thanks in part to this training, and I use these skills to good effect as an in house counsel.

I know what it takes to succeed as an in house counsel, and I know how to add value to an organization. It is a way different kind of lawyering than what you experience in a law firm, and it can even be fun. I don't even think of a lot of what I do as lawyering since the negotiation of complex business agreements involves so much more than potential legal issues. It is more about relationships, and it feels more like being part of the team. You're involved before things go all to hell.

So I'm looking to get another in house gig by the time my contract runs out. I'd happily keep working as a contractor, and I'm open to that. Another alternative I have been mulling is to become specialized in something relatively obscure and consult on that topic. Right now I'm thinking of building on my environmental background or on some aspect of the logistics business. Maybe I'll go with maritime law or customs regulations or some such thing. I dabble in these now, so it should be easy to become an adept. I am also trying to win the MegaMillions lottery so that career issues will be mooted.

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