I never expected TikTok to be famous. But life works in fun ways. I mean, my original plan was to become a successful lawyer. That’s why I became a partner in litigation at the most prestigious Biglaw company that would hire me. For some inexplicable reason, I thought that being in litigation meant that I would question witnesses or give final statements.
But that’s not what happened. Instead of going to court, I found myself spending all my time managing my e-discovery, building privilege journals, and handling “fix please” emails from partners. I mean, I wanted to convince the jurors! This was not the kind of job I wanted to do.
So at 33, six years out of law school, I decided to start over and do something different. I decided to join a legal technology startup as an entry-level sales representative.
Friends were worried when they first heard. “Are you going to use your law degree to sell technology to lawyers?” they asked. “Like faxes and dictaphones?” I mean, they weren’t trying to be mean. They did their best to support them. Even if what they said didn’t inspire much confidence.
“I think it’s so great that you decided to move to a lifestyle job,” they said, apparently unaware of what it’s like to work for a startup or have a share of sales.
I could never have imagined, but switching to legal technology sales has changed my entire career. I joined the space just as the wave of digital transformation hit the legal industry. Over the next few years, things really took off. And I have to go on the wave.
That’s how I ended up doing exactly the kind of work I was looking for. Instead of trying to convince the jurors as a trial lawyer, I found my place by convincing other lawyers - as a salesperson. I had a small reputation, which led me to be recruited for a unicorn job that was designed specifically for me and my personality.
Which brings me to this section.
I think we are facing an epidemic of career in the legal profession, in which more lawyers are dissatisfied at work than ever. Much of this is driven by student debt or gold handcuffs. But it is more than that. I’ve talked to so many lawyers over the years who feel trapped in their jobs. What should you do if you hate what you do? How do you know what else is there?
That’s how I’d like to help. Over the years, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of lawyers out there who do incredibly interesting things. Not everyone is in technology like me. Some are still at law firms or departments, doing interesting things besides. But others work in unexplored territory. They founded companies, worked in highly specialized roles or created massive internet audiences.
And the craziest part? Most work in jobs that didn’t even exist a few years ago.
That’s what happened to me. After starting out in legal technology sales again, I had this new sense of freedom. I’ve lost the burden of having to follow a prescribed path to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. That freedom gave me the strength to experiment and try things that I would never have if I had a traditional job.
Ca TikTok. I’ve heard of the app, but never thought about it. At least until some lawyers encouraged me to try it. One of my first TikToks went viral and I quickly learned that I was pretty decent at making short stupid videos. I realized that these videos provided me with a unique and powerful way to interact with the legal community.
Which has business value.
My social media platform also opened my eyes to what’s left there. Interacting with the community, I learned that there is a larger and more vibrant ecosystem of lawyers and legal professionals who do really interesting things. And in the coming weeks, I’d love to share more with you about what I’ve seen and heard. A lot of interesting things are happening in our industry.
But if there’s one thing I hope you’ll get out of this article, it’s this: If you want something more out of your career, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track. There are just as many opportunities out there. I hope my stories help you find something better.
Stay tuned, friends.
Alex Su is currently the head of community development at Ironclad, a leading legal technology company that helps speed up the contracting process. Early in his career, he was associated with Sullivan & Cromwell and was a clerk for a federal district judge. Alex graduated from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, where he was an editor of law school and a graduate speaker. In his spare time, he writes about his career journey and legal technology in his Off The Record newsletter. You can find Alex Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.