Question: How did you decide what industry to get into after graduation?
The short answer is that I didn’t decide on an industry. And in many ways I still haven’t. As a corporate lawyer, I have the unique opportunity to work with companies in a variety of industries in the U.S. and around the world to overcome their problems. My major in Economics has been invaluable in helping me better understand my clients’ businesses, as well as coming up with solutions to overcome their problems.
At Wisconsin, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after graduation. I started out as an engineering student but ended up with majors in Economics and Spanish. As my last year of college neared, I was hit with the practical reality that I needed to either find a job or go to grad school. I took the LSAT for law school thinking I might follow the path of others in my family who were practicing lawyers in Wisconsin. But I wasn’t necessarily sold on three more years of school. I interviewed with one or two employers through the business school. Nothing panned out. When my LSAT score came back I knew I wouldn’t be going to the Ivy League. But rather than wait to take the test again, I decided to take a chance and move to New York City to attend a lesser-known law school.
I wish I could say that in law school I figured out the industry or work I wanted to do. But I didn’t. I thought I might be a prosecutor, but at the end of the day I took the best job I could get—at a law firm in New York City that advises companies and executives on all aspects of corporate law and litigation. At the time I had no idea what a corporate law firm actually did. As it turns out, the work is fascinating. I get to learn about all kinds of industries and businesses, and come up with ways to resolve the thorny issues that companies who interact with the world inevitably face. From representing a major software company accused of improperly monopolizing a market, to an ocean freight shipping company accused of price fixing, to financial institutions caught up in the massive securities fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff, I’ve had to learn about a variety of businesses and markets, and the forces that move them. In doing so, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with top economists who are experts in their fields. Having an understanding of economics has given me a competitive advantage in my work.
One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t need to decide on an industry or a profession right out of college. The sifting and winnowing may not end for you with a degree from Wisconsin. You can keep on exploring and looking for opportunities. You may not find the right fit right away, and you may just find something you love to do where you never expected.
—Andrew Finn ‘05