Matt Patton contacted me after I posted a message looking for recent law grads who were still looking for legal work.
Patton, 31, worked for AOL as a product engineer before going to University of Baltimore School of Law. He passed the bar in July 2010 but got no offers of legal employment and, eventually, took a half-time engineering job under contract. That, and his legal background, led to permanent employment at the young firm, where he has managed to combine his skills into a job he loves.
This is his story.
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My employment journey started in September of my third year, when I sent resumes to 70 Maryland circuit court judges and a dozen Baltimore and Washington, D.C. firms. Between then and graduation, I interviewed with seven judges and exactly zero firms. I received no offers. After the bar exam, I sat for two more judicial clerkship interviews and again received no offers.
After consulting with the UB career office, I decided to contact UB Law alums who work in intellectual property, which is my area of interest. After reaching out to roughly 10, I received one call back from a very kind and informative attorney, a partner in a big D.C. firm, who gave me some very candid advice about the state of the legal employment market which was, “It sucks, just try to stay somewhat active in the legal community for the next year or so and see what happens then.”
So, I decided to think my future over for a few weeks while becoming a virtuoso at FIFA Soccer for Wii. While closing in on my third consecutive English Premier League title (that week), I received a call from an ex-AOL colleague about doing some engineering work for DoublePositive Marketing Group, at which he was now working.
I agreed, entered into a contract employment agreement and went to work 20 hours per week. It didn’t take long for my computer and math skills to come back and before long I was meeting with the management about permanent employment. What struck me most was the interest the company had in my hybrid tech-legal skills, since the firm outsourced all legal work and employed no in-house counsel.
As a permanent employee, my first legal task was to read over a very simple and standard vendor contract. I treated this as if it were a merger agreement between two Wall Street banks.
Since then I have taken more of an active role in legal affairs, mostly serving as the liaison between our executives and outside counsel, but also in dealing with things that are much too simple and routine to outsource. I have most recently been tasked to survey the company’s IP and work with our outside firm to develop a strategy for protecting it. Although tech work still takes up roughly 90 percent of my time, I am enjoying being able to participate in the business and legal affairs of the company.
In short, I am as lucky as it gets. I could very easily be home conquering the next version of FIFA Soccer, but instead I am at a stable job, being paid well and doing work I love with some of the finest people I have ever met. I am expecting my first child in July with my ever-supportive wife of eight years and I come home every day with a smile and a funny story.
Not a day goes by where I am not thankful for my situation.
The advice I give those still looking is this: When it comes to any opportunity, be as open as possible. Don’t dismiss a job based on its title, or its description, or the fact that it’s a corporation and not a law firm; go in and talk to them. Don’t dismiss an area of practice; go in and talk to them. Don’t undersell your non-legal skills; sell them as much as possible!
And first and foremost, if you find yourself on the couch wondering when you are going to catch a break, don’t panic because your break is coming as long as you keep up your end by following up on every opportunity you can.
Good luck and I am thinking of all of you.
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