Have you ever looked at the people senior to you at your firm, the partners and senior associates, and thought, “I don’t want your life!” So did former lawyer Helynn Nelson, my guest on this episode of the podcast.
Helynn landed a coveted employment litigation associate role in Biglaw, but the lifestyle of a Biglaw lawyer was simply not how she imagined spending the rest of her working life. When she got pregnant with her first daughter, she decided to make some big changes that ultimately led her to her current role as an HR professional at Google.
In this episode I’m sharing the first half of our conversation all about her journey into and out of law and eventually into HR, and in the next episode I’ll be sharing our conversation all about what her day-to-day at Google looks like, plus the incredibly cool story of how she became an accomplished sommelier.
Meet Former Lawyer Helynn Nelson
Helynn went to Tulane Law School intending to specialize in sports law. By the end of her first year, she had decided that she did NOT want to practice sports law, and had realized that the reality of the legal profession was very different from how it is often portrayed.
After she graduated, Helynn clerked for a state appellate court in Connecticut while her husband attended business school at Yale. When her husband graduated, they moved to the D.C. area, where Helynn first practiced a combination of employment and family law, and then moved to a Biglaw firm to practice employment litigation.
When she realized she wanted out of Biglaw, Helynn made the jump to recruiting and eventually to human resources.
Oh, and along the way she became a level 3 sommelier! (Tune in next week for our conversation all about that!)
In this episode, Helynn shares about:
- Deciding as a kid that she wanted to be a lawyer because of Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show.
- Thinking she wanted to go into sports law because of her family’s connections to pro and college basketball—then completely changing her mind after 1L year.
- How law school and the law are so much less glamorous than they are often portrayed to be.
- Not being able to find a mentor in her law firm who was actually living a life that she wanted to live, particularly when it came to motherhood—it existed, but not in ways she was willing to do it.
- The total clarity that came from getting pregnant and learning it was a girl.
- Feeling like in Biglaw her pregnancy was a problem to be solved or managed, instead of an event to be celebrated (and how different that was from other places that she’s worked).
- Why fighting against the traditional ways law is practiced in Biglaw when she didn’t see anyone who looked like her or had the life she wanted felt just as heavy as all the law school loan debt.
- Meeting a former lawyer who had started her own recruiting firm on LinkedIn while she was on mat leave and picking up some part-time work during her leave to see if she liked it.
- Deciding not to return to Biglaw and going all-in on recruiting.
- Discovering in her recruiting work how much she enjoyed the human resources aspects of the work, and deciding to get certified as an HR professional.
- What certification looked like, how it helped her, and whether she recommends it to lawyers making a similar move.
In the next episode, Helynn will share all about her day-to-day as an HR pro at Google, and all about her experience of becoming a sommelier!
Connect with Helynn:
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seedless_somm/
- Helynn’s podcast, Wine Fault: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/wine-fault/id1515142473