Editor’s note: This answer came in response to the Quora question, “Are there any corporate lawyers out there who really love their jobs? If so, why?” We have reprinted it with the author’s permission.
Yes, there are many corporate attorneys who love their jobs and love going to work everyday for numerous good reasons. I was formerly an associate in the corporate restructuring group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Chicago. While I ultimately decided to leave because I had other interests that I wanted to pursue, I genuinely enjoyed my work and found it very rewarding. Some of the primary reasons why:
- The people that I worked with were some of the absolute brightest and most insightful people that I have ever met. The intellectual firepower at an elite law firm is equalled by very few other workplaces.
- In addition to being extremely bright, many of my fellow attorneys were engaging, friendly, and pleasant people. A good percentage of those coworkers are still some of my closest friends even after being gone from Skadden for ~6 years and living in CA for most of that time.
- The work you are doing (at least after your first year or two) is interesting and important. The former head of Skadden’s Chicago office used to give a speech to summer associates where he would take that morning’s Wall Street Journal and point out how many of the front page stories Skadden was involved in. It was always a very substantial percentage.
- But more important than press coverage, the deals that I worked on shaped industries, set precedents that are still widely used today and made important differences in communities. We we instrumental in saving companies and, in so doing, preserved existing jobs, created new jobs and strengthened tax bases in smaller towns and cities whose public services funding was heavily dependent on one employer or industry.
- Much of the work is very intellectually stimulating. At the highest levels of practice, there is little precedent for much of what you are trying to accomplish. Success requires creativity, team work, and a broad set of skills. Very little work is of the “cookie cutter” variety.
- Your work is constantly changing. Because you move from engagement to engagement, you work with new groups of people, learn different industries, do different types of deals, and face new challenges.
All of this is not to say that everything is rainbows and unicorns. Every profession has its downsides and being a corporate attorney is no different. But it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding profession (besides the monetary rewards).
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