Source: Getty Images — cool picture

From Georgetown Law to Amazon: “Post-law”

Dan Park
Dan Park
Jan 15 · 5 min read

Part III of a detailed, yet casual personal account of pivoting a career in law to software engineering entering my 30s


This is a multi-part story, if you would like to skip any article, use the links below:

Foreword
Part I: “Pre-law”: The blunder years
Part II: Law — The “long”-cut to software engineering
Part III: “Post-Law”: Yesterday a lawyer, today a software engineer
Afterword


“Post-Law”: Yesterday a lawyer, today a software engineer

I don’t plan on writing too much more about whether law changed me in some profound manner. I think speckled in the sentences above, it is evident that it has affected me in many ways. Honestly, the minute details of the law are forever lost to me. I cannot tell you all the required elements of criminal trespass off the top of my head. However, the way of thinking, understanding how to critically think about facts and apply it in different contexts was honed in me. I don’t think law school necessarily made me a more logical or rational person — nor did it make me more eloquent as some would think. Instead, the schooling and the overall environment focused my thinking towards a more disciplined exercise of research and argumentation. Even still, I feel that the biggest takeaway from the experience was the feeling of being there, at the proverbial peak. I tried to illustrate this point through the list of professors above; however, it bears mention again that, looking back, the experience of sitting in those classrooms were truly sublime in its own unique way. Some people aspire their entire lives to make it there. And to say that I walked through those halls, sat in those classrooms, and spoke with my classmates, many of whom would undoubtably become future leaders in America and across the world — that’s something else.

Still, giving up law to pursue something else wasn’t easy. But I wasn’t going to over-invest in something that I couldn’t see myself doing for the next twenty-plus years of my life. As corporate counsel in a Fortune 250 company, I had exposure to attorneys who have been working in the field for twenty-plus years. It was easy to look at their day-to-day life in the office to see what mine might possibly look in time. I think that made me walk out that door faster than anything else. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong about their job — it just felt bland in my book. It was nothing like law school. No thrill or excitement in learning. And so left it all behind.

It is worthwhile to pause and think whether I would’ve left law if I had no alternative career path in mind. I think the answer would’ve been a resounding “no.” The reason why I felt software engineering may have been a viable path for me was due to a number of factors. First, my younger sister went through a coding bootcamp and got a job within three months of graduation (this was in 2016). Second, I had a number of close friends who were software engineers and the combination of their work-life balance, compensation, and challenging work was enticing. Third, I started taking free, online courses to get a feel of coding and I genuinely enjoyed it. And lastly, I felt that for better or for worse, software engineering seemed like a bottomless well of learning that would sate my thirst for just that. With all these things in mind, law quickly took a backseat to software engineering.

In November 2016, I applied to two coding bootcamps in New York — App Academy and Fullstack Academy. My sister was a Fullstack graduate and had good things to say about their three month program so I felt drawn to the latter. I eventually joined their January cohort and fast forward a few months later, I graduated from a coding bootcamp. I don’t have as much to say about my experience there because stories of bootcamp grads are ubiquitous—both the good and the bad. I may write a detailed post about the pros and cons of it in the future… but not now. But yes, by April 2017, I was one of those many bootcamp graduates flooding the entry-level software engineering market.

The job search was a bit anti-climatic. I wasn’t entirely concerned about mass applying to jobs as some of my classmates. I was more focused on getting my skills to a competent level. Furthermore, I wanted to explore different concepts in greater depth to try to unlock better and deeper understanding. A few of those deep dives have been documented in my earlier blog posts. Ultimately, I felt that I still had a gap to close to get to an employable level. So instead of applying to jobs, I just studied.

Towards the end of April, I got an email from an Amazon recruiter asking to schedule a phone interview. I had forgotten that I passed along my resume to a friend who worked there. He had referred me to a few positions in Seattle. I definitely didn’t expect to hear back as I had no relevant education or experience — however, I still got the interview request. I figure this could be good practice for future interviews so I went for it. I guess there’s no point in dragging this account on further — but I ended up getting the offer. It was an offer worth relocating my family, along with a newborn daughter (!), across the entire country. After pushing back the start date to July to spend time with my daughter, on July 17th, I started my job as a software engineer at Amazon. It’s really quite interesting if you think about it. It took me about 8 years from the time I decided to go to law school to when I decided to leave the legal profession; however, it took me 8 months to transition from a legal career to my Amazon offer as a software engineer. It really is weird how things turn out.


Read the closing article in this story: Afterword

Dan Park

Written by

Dan Park

Husband, student of JavaScript, love React! ex-attorney with J.D. from Georgetown Law

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