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What Is Your Elevator Pitch?

If you ask 100 attorneys, who successfully transitioned to careers in business, how they did it you’ll likely get 100 different answers. For those that left law specifically to find a new career it often begins with tracking down a list trying to match their background such as “Alternative Careers for Lawyers who are litigators”…”Alternative Careers for Lawyers who are corporate attorneys”  “Alternative Careers for Lawyers who are practicing employment law” etc.  While others rise in the ranks of their law departments and are recruited for business positions within the same organizations.

But, if you looked closely, you’d almost certainly see one commonality. To get that first job triggering their new career they all had a story. Simple.  Straightforward.  But they had to have it down cold.  A story in answer to the 2 questions every interviewer will ask you.

“Why are you leaving the law? followed by why are you a fit for this job?”

Get past that and you have an unlimited runway.

I used ‘elevator pitch’ in the title of this article because it sounds sexier than ‘story’ but also because it adds an element of time to the process. It’s not just having a story. It’s delivering it clearly and concisely. Back in the 80s before I left law for a job in business, I had read that TV Producer Michael Mann got the greenlight for his hit series, Miami Vice, from NBC on a two-word pitch: ”MTV Cops” . I made a point of paring down what was going to be my elevator pitch. In my case, shaving a few sentences.  I didn’t go crazy with it mind you.  My story was still at least a minute, but it was all on point. I got that first job because of my elevator pitch. 

Over the years I’ve helped a number of attorneys hone their elevator pitch.

I distilled it down to a formula. One that is basic but works very well. Here it is:

You start with a sincere explanation of why you are ready, willing, and able to leave the practice of law.  You have freedom to express yourself here with one caveat.  Under no circumstances should you bad mouth the law, lawyers or any of your past legal employers.  Even if you are given an opening by an interviewer such as: “Yes, I can see why you want to leave the practice of law, it seems like a tough way to …” or “I see you are coming to us from ‘xyz’ law firm.  I’ve heard it’s a snake pit over there…”

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Demonstration of success in your job as a lawyer. The flow is ‘I was successful as a law student, I was successful as a lawyer and now I’m going to do my best to be successful here’.

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Explanation of the value of the JD skill set.  You know the list: ability to spot issues, analytical thinking; writing, speaking and presenting persuasively; tireless worker, used to delivering results under pressure and the like.

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matching those successes and skill set to the specific job you are interviewing for  = YOUR STORY=YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH   

A couple of quick examples:

A 3rd year corporate associate applying for a position with an insurance company as an underwriter in the Reps and Warranties Group.  R&W is a type of insurance policy purchased in connection with corporate transactions covering indemnification for certain breeches of representations and warranties.  The formula applied:

Famed TV producer Michael Mann got the greenlight for Miami Vice on a two-word pitch: “MTV Cops”

Associate explains their own unique reasons for wanting to leave the practice of law. Associate describes all the successes he or she has had in working on complex M&A transactions.  Associate talks about several fundamental things they learned in law school.  In this case, assessing risk, issue spotting and discussing intangibles such as the ability to think on one’s feet and write succinctly. The associate then talks about everything they have learned about the Reps and Warranties business (this is the one element of your story which obviously requires prior research) explaining in detail the overlap of their job as an M&A attorney, law school skill set and the requirements of this kind of insurance underwriting.

As a side note, the insurance industry has, arguably, more non-practicing attorneys in business roles than found in any other sector. Literally, thousands in areas like brokerage, claims, underwriting.

A 4th year litigation associate is interviewing for a position with a global investigative/monitoring/security firm. (Guidepost Solutions is a good example).  The associate explains their own unique reasons for wanting to leave the practice of law.  The associate describes their successes in complex litigation.  The associate talks about the value of their legal education referencing relevant skills such as risk assessment, complex project management, analytical thinking and presenting before groups in Moot Court.  Lastly the associate, having researched the investigative services industry, explains in detail the overlap of their litigation success and law school skill set with the requirements to be successful in the investigative services world.

Your story should not be confused with the term, ‘personal brand’.  Personal branding is broader and deeper than an elevator pitch.  Think of it this way.  A business’s brand is a representation of the company’s image as others see it (Apple—innovation), a personal brand is the way others see you.  It’s what makes you special and unique in the world. It’s really a fascinating subject. To learn more, I’d suggest taking a look at our Cultivated Career Corner where we have a number of experts on the subject.

For our purposes, remember, stick to your story.

.Ed

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