As a newly licensed attorney, you may feel ready to tackle any obstacle thrown your way if an employer is willing to give you a shot at the big time. At least, that is how I felt in the fall of 2017, after getting sworn in and starting a judicial clerkship in the Denver metro area. I was so hungry for a position in my chosen practice area (electric utility regulatory work) that when a sought-after regional firm called me, I prematurely warned my very understanding judge that I would be leaving my clerkship should I be chosen for the position.
After making it through several interviews to the final round, the firm notified me they had chosen another applicant. Though disappointed, I gained invaluable experience interviewing with a prestigious private firm and happily continued my clerkship. To my surprise, several months later, the phone rang, and everything changed. The law firm that had very kindly rejected me wanted to know if I was willing to consider a position doing electric utility regulatory work. As soon as I was about to excitedly shout “YES” into the phone, the partner gave me the but— “But the position is in Nevada.” I, a proud East Coast transplant, had never been farther west than Denver. I paused, weighing the opportunity against the sacrifice. So many of my friends had compromised their chosen practice area just to land a job and gain experience. Many of my classmates were willing to do anything to find a job in their field; however, when presented with the opportunity to move, they found they were not actually willing to do anything.
On the other hand, at 26, I was still rootless enough to consider putting my life in boxes and re-establishing myself in a new professional setting. So, with stars in my eyes and a pep in my step, I took the job and packed up my Subaru to go to yet another bar exam (I was disappointed to learn Nevada had no reciprocity with any other jurisdiction). Carson City, Nevada, with a population of more than 50,000 permanent residents, was not Denver by any stretch of the imagination, but the firm gave me a position that presented unique opportunities. I was working in smaller offices with big firm advantages. Although the firm’s Denver office had more than 100 attorneys, the Carson City and Reno offices, between which I would split my time, had a combined total of 30 attorneys.
When I arrived in Nevada, it would have been all too easy to fade into the sunset and accept a smaller legal market as my destination. My mentors taught me the importance of establishing your name and seeking work in other practice areas to build connections. My opportunities in Carson City allowed me to not only engage in my chosen practice area but also gave me access to experts in various fields, from real estate law to intellectual property, across our offices in several states. It allowed me the flexibility to return to Denver and work remotely from the Denver headquarters. I could get my hands on a little bit of everything: corporate transactional work, real estate leases, and of course, utility law. Eventually, I was persistent enough in my firmwide networking endeavors that several Denver partners allowed me to work for them in Denver for the entire month of June. After a year and a half in Nevada, this ultimately led to a permanent transfer back to the Denver office.
Take the opportunity presented at the time and turn it into the opportunity of your dreams, even if that means leaving home and starting over. Though I have since left private practice to practice utility law in the public sector in Denver, my current job would not have been possible without moving to Nevada to cultivate my professional experience. Moving to another state and battling through yet another bar exam is not ideal. It was not easy to move somewhere I had never even visited. However, I was driven toward my dreams and unwilling to sacrifice my chosen practice area, and it paid off for me. It could pay off for you, too.