We’re excited to bring you another interview in the “Getting a Job Without OCI” series. Today we welcome Vadim Alden, business and employment lawyer with Alden Law PC. Welcome, Vadim!
1. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Up until about 9th or 10th grade I wanted to be a heart surgeon. Early in high school, I realized that I was more interested in language, politics, history, and that factual analysis was more interesting to me than blood. That’s when I decided I’d rather be a lawyer.
2. What did you think you’d do when you started law school? Is what you do now the same/different?
I thought I would practice corporate litigation, specifically IP and anti-trust. I quickly realized that was not for me mostly due to (1) barriers to entry (patent bar, engineering/science undergrad background, as well as mediocre grades that would keep me away from bigger companies); and (2) my desire to focus more on litigation in the employment/tort area. I ended up practicing products liability, commercial, and employment litigation before coming back to transactional work and contracts, which is mostly what I do now.
3. How did you find your first job after law school?
I figured out early on that my mediocre grades (they were right smack in the middle) would not get me an OCI job. The first summer after my 1L year, I got a non-paying job in Los Angeles as a law clerk for the City Attorney’s Office. The LA job, however, exposed me to depositions, hearings, and a ton of experience in the employment law area. I knew that my grades were not going to get me the job, so my experience had to. The LA City Attorney clerkship helped me get a part-time job as a law clerk at one of the oldest small litigation firms in San Jose, where I worked 2-3 days a week part-time while in law school. I researched case law, wrote memos, and prepared initial drafts of motions. This left me little time to do anything other than school and work, but eventually it paid off because my hands-on experience is what got me the offer from a big firm (my first job) in San Jose. They were concerned about grades, but knowing who I worked for in town, seeing my work product, they figured I could get the job done.
4. What do you do today?
I now practice business and employment law, with a strong focus on forming and maintaining business entities and managing employer’s risk from the hiring decision all the way to termination. My clients are primarily start-ups (both tech and non-tech), professional service businesses (dental, architectural, etc.), and small-to-medium sized businesses (<50 employees).
5. What are three tips you would give to a law student looking for work outside of the OCI process?
- Don’t bank on your law school or OCI; use all tools available to you in your position. Some of my law school friends who had 3.8 GPAs kicked back during OCIs, expecting the jobs to come to them. That did not happen. Unless you are at a top 20 nationally ranked school, and the economy has an urgent shortage of lawyers, no one is going to chase you for a job. You must use every available tool at your disposal to find a job, which means relying on everything else in addition to OCIs. I got 6 interviews for OCI my first year, but I hustled to get those by researching the firms, finding out the interviewers, and in some cases, even going to networking events for the firms and meeting associates and partners before my interview so they knew me. I got 2 callbacks, and 1 offer, which I got way too late, and after I already accepted my law clerking job. Meet everyone. I called alumni from my alma mater (CMC) in the area and met with them for coffee to discuss opportunities, plans, and ideas. Learn from people who have careers you are considering having. The best way to learn was through my own experience. The second best way was through the experience (and mistakes) of others.
- Become an asset. Remember that once you get passed the HR/initial screening at a firm, no one will care about your grades for that position. It is all about how quickly you learn and whether you can show the partner/senior associate that you have what it takes to pick things up and analyze critically. Improve your skills in your time off in an area most important to your target firm. You want do practice employment law? Brush up on the latest DLSE guidelines, look up or attend some CLE seminars on the subject (many are free to law students), get a mentor, ask that mentor or another senior attorney you know if you could accompany them to a deposition or a court hearing as an observer. My first employer was not impressed by my grades – far from it. But they liked that I’ve been to court, attended depositions, and knew the basic procedure for a litigation case. This meant that they would have to spend less time teaching me the basics and could then do what they prefer – bill their clients. It’s important to remember to become and asset and stay one. After two years at my first firm, I’ve participated in four trials, taken 20+ depositions, and argued close to 50 motions. When I went to an interview at an even larger, international firm, one of the interviewing partners scoffed at my grades and said they were weak. I told them that was true, but dared to find a 3rd year at their firm who came close to the amount of motions/depositions I’ve taken. My attitude was simple: do you want someone who got an A in a law school course 4 years ago that is meaningless to the area of their practice or do you want someone who actually knows how to do what you need them to do or is at least well on his way? Sadly, many big firms still prefer the former, but I did not want to work for a place like that anyway.
- Be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what kind of people you want to work with, and what types of cases you enjoy. Because in this job, if you do not enjoy your clients, your cases, or working with your co-workers, it is all too easy to be miserable. If you tried an area of the law that wasn’t to your liking, try something else. Don’t be afraid to analyze your own skills and ambition. This career requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice, and it has to fit your own subjective goals in life. You can always learn a new legal field, but you cannot feign interest in something that simply does not appeal to you in the first place.
Thanks, Vadim. Great advice!
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Vadim Alden is an experienced Bay Area attorney representing small and large businesses, start-ups, and individuals in business and employment law. Vadim’s corporate and business practice includes advising clients about business entities and start-up formation, drafting and negotiating employment contracts, commercial real estate leases, and working on a large number of acquisitions and related financings. Vadim also serves as general counsel to several established and emerging companies in the Bay Area. In addition to corporate work, Vadim has broad-based litigation experience, successfully representing clients in all phases of litigation, including through arbitration and trial.
Before founding Alden Law PC, Vadim worked at both large and mid-size law firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, representing foreign and domestic clients in corporate, employment, products liability, and regulatory compliance matters in California and other U.S. states and territories. Vadim is a member of the San Francisco Bar Association, the Contra Costa Bar Association. He regularly lectures and presents seminars on employment and business law. Vadim has been published in the San Francisco Daily Journal, and has been named a Rising Star by the Northern California Super Lawyers magazine in 2012 and 2013.
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And check out the other posts in our Getting a Job Without OCI series:
- Getting a Job Without OCI: Christiana Dominguez, Attorney with Blanning & Baker Associates
- Getting a Job Without OCI: Danielle Fong, Human Resources Manager at Family Connections
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Deanna R. Jones
Thanks for the tips! I’m graduating from law school soon, so these tips will be excellent to help me land the job that I want. He made a very good point about how it’s important to use all of the tools that are available to you rather than simply relying on your law school to help you out. I agree, it takes more than a good GPA to get a good job in a law office, so it seems like good advice to network with multiple law firms to meet prospective employers.