Saturday, January 01, 2011

Full Circle

A little over two years ago, I was devastated when my firm laid off me and half of my class as the economy tanked. After that, I was very lucky to land at Sun Microsystems, and even luckier a year later to move to a music startup. I eventually became Corporate Counsel at an amazing company of amazing people (including a General Counsel that I adore to this day) in the industry I love. It was basically my dream job, but like relationships, careers are all about timing. I learned how to be a lawyer for a startup, and that meant learning how to do business operations, junior biz dev, chase endless signatures, and edit HTML. But because I was such a junior attorney (less than 2 years out of law school), I couldn't ignore that something was missing: legal knowledge. I could negotiate our artist agreement and NDAs, but our payment processor agreement had to be send to outside counsel. This wasn't anything new - the lack of complex knowledge has gnawed at me ever since I left the firm.

In the summer of 2010 I received an email out of the blue from the IP partner at my old firm. (One of the two that walked into my office to lay me off!) Did I hear that him and a few corporate partners had moved to a new firm? What was I up to, and did I have any interest in interviewing? At first I turned him down - I was at my dream job! - but over the next month I found it eating away at me. I was learning how to be corporate counsel for this company, but these days, in this industry, in this economy - no job lasts forever. Was I learning how to be a lawyer for a company in my future? Was I learning enough to be General Counsel? Was this the only opportunity I would have, while I was still young enough to need the education, to gain entry to a top-50 law firm under the mentorship of an outstanding lawyer that I liked and respected?

It's probably a sign of how sheltered and blessed I've been, but making this move was the hardest decision of my life. I was so torn that after I went through the round robin of interviews, an embarrassingly big part of me hoped I wouldn't get an offer so that the decision would be made for me. Do I have regrets? Of course. Do I think I made the right decision? Yes. I've learned more in the past 3 months about being an IP attorney than I did in the past year. I'm on track to bill 2400 hours, and I've supported almost 30 venture capital financings. I feel like an athlete in training season - I learn little things and I have big-picture epiphanies, and the very next day a situation arises where I apply that knowledge. I'm totally awed by what I don't know and by what the partner and a senior associate give me, and by what I know I'll learn.

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