How Client Protection Paved My Road to Law School

  • Tom James
  • Jun 26, 2019
Life & Careers

After roughly eighteen months as a legal assistant at a corporate law firm, I gave my two weeks notice with excitement. I was confident that I would never again compile a binder or be tapped to print an “urgent!!!” document. 

I felt burned out and to my surprise, I realized I needed a break from the law. Until then, my formative professional experience was in legal-focused roles and I’d grown up seeing my father work as a lawyer.  I was, of course, naturally headed toward law school as well. After all, the baker’s son bakes, and the candlestick maker’s son makes candles. Surely, law school was the logical next step for me.

But I realized I’d never bothered to ask myself a simple question: whether a career in law was something I truly wanted. I knew peers that had gone to law school as a default or because they couldn’t commit to a credible alternative, and I didn’t want to become one of them. Worried I was sprinting toward a goal I’d selected for the wrong reasons, I decided to pivot. I said goodbye to my law firm, gave away my LSAT books, and started a new job at AlphaSights, a high-growth information services firm, where I joined the Client Protection (CP) team. While neither a strictly legal nor compliance function, my new team operated at the juncture of both professions and would offer insight into the intersection of law and business. I was confident that this transition would help smooth the seams in my resume that separated the legal work I’d done up until then and my future as a high-powered New York City businessman in a well-tailored suit and fashionable (but inoffensive) tie.

client protection

 

Ironically, the job I’d hoped would offer a transition away from the law, instead rejuvenated my interest. My teammates all have varied professional backgrounds and seeing how they apply their specialized legal expertise to different scenarios has shown me how powerful an understanding of the law is and what it can achieve. In turn, CP has offered me responsibility and opportunities to improve my leadership skills. For example, I redrafted a component of our legal framework to address international traffic in arms regulations. When we launched two new products, I helped tailor our compliance policies and procedures to address the specific risks associated with the new offerings. Through these projects, I’ve learned to navigate a commercial and regulatory environment as a professional. Personally, I’ve strengthened my emotional intelligence and gained a newfound confidence and career clarity. I now understand the law as a tool for creative problem-solving, one that allows for innovation that’s inspired but also safe. This discovery made me excited about the possibility of applying to law school again. 

I applied in the fall of 2018 and will be attending law school this September. My road to law school has meandered, zigged, and zagged. However, its ultimately brought me to an informed decision that I can confidently support based on years of success not only as a student but also as a professional who has explored facets of the law in different contexts. The realization that I still want to attend law school wasn’t as important as my realization as to why. Working at AlphaSights empowered me to continue my legal path because it’s where I’m best suited to leverage my professional experience and enthusiasm for using the law to creatively problem-solve. 

I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from the Client Protection team and the firm as a whole. Maybe you’ll see me as an AlphaSights advisor in the years to come! 

senior associate client protection
Tom (center) celebrating his elevation as a Senior Associate with teammates Emily (left) and Chloe (right) 

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Tom James joined AlphaSights in November of 2016 and serves as a Senior Associate on our Client Protection team