An Interview with Attorney, Matthew Thrasher

Statue and pillars outside a courthouse

Matthew Thrasher's career as a corporate in-house lawyer started as an undergraduate at Occidental College in Los Angeles. His double English and Philosophy major led to his recognition that his love for words and complex thought would serve him well in a legal career. The promise of a wide array of career options in the legal field sealed the deal.

He ranked in the top 20 percent of his law class at Vanderbilt University Law School, Nashville, Tenn., to achieve prestigious Dean's List honor. He also received the Vanderbilt Scholastic Excellence Award in Legal Writing, and was selected as a Legal Writing teaching and research assistant.

After attaining his Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.), Mr. Thrasher's first job with a Houston, Texas, law firm led to his career as a corporate lawyer. He enjoys the broad diversity of his work, in which he manages legal issues ranging from real estate to federal tax law. Among his professional highlights is North Carolina Law Review publication of his legal paper.

The future is open to those in corporate law, and Mr. Thrasher aims to delve into the operational and entrepreneurial functions of business. Work as a corporate lawyer keeps him abreast of several different and frequently changing practice areas, a broad view of the country's professional landscape that is not only one of the most challenging aspects of his position, but one that is preparing navigate his future business career.

You & Your Career

Tell us about your career in the legal field.

I am currently in-house counsel for First Magnus Financial Corporation, http://www.firstmagnus.com/, a privately-owned mortgage bank headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. I practice corporate finance and securities law. Prior to joining First Magnus in May 2006, I was an associate at Snell & Wilmer, LLP in Tucson from 2004-2006, practicing in their corporate and real estate finance sections. I joined Snell & Wilmer after working in Houston from 2002-2004 for Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP, practicing in their corporate and securities sections.

What do you enjoy most about your career? What do you do dislike?

What I enjoy most about my career as in-house counsel is the diversity of work available to me. Working for a large company gives me the opportunity to work on projects in many different practice areas, from real estate to employment law to federal securities law. The only aspect I dislike is dealing with some of the tedious day-to-day matters. When working for a firm, clients only ask their lawyers to work on the large scale projects. However, as in-house counsel you are responsible for dealing with the large, complex projects, but also with many smaller and less interesting ones.

What exactly do you do on a daily basis?

The majority of my day is taken up attending meetings, participating in conference calls and responding to e-mails. Communication in various mediums is critical to my daily work. Although that sounds mundane, the topics of those activities can and do vary widely from day to day, which makes each day interesting. New projects, issues and problems come up on a regular basis, which keeps me engaged even though the actual activity (i.e., reviewing and drafting documents, answering emails) may be the same.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

As in-house counsel, the most challenging aspect of my job is having to learn quickly about new practice areas. In-house attorneys are expected to be a "jack of all trades," with a broad base of knowledge about many practice areas. I'm frequently asked to learn about new practice areas in order to answer questions from management or to guide a developing project. Although this is what is most challenging, it is also what keeps the job fresh and interesting.

What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

My professional goals are to learn more about, and become more involved in, the business side of my company. I enjoy practicing law, but I would like to transition more to the operational and entrepreneurial aspects of the business world.

Education Information & Advice

Tell us about your undergrad education and degree.

I double majored in English Literature and Philosophy at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. I received my J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tenn., http://law.vanderbilt.edu/. I majored in English and Philosophy because I have always enjoyed reading and writing.

What led you to decide to go to law school?

When I opted to go to law school, it was not because I was particularly interested in the law, but more because it afforded me a great deal of career options. Having a law degree gives you a great deal of control over your career. Lawyers are almost always in demand, and a J.D. gives you the flexibility to pick the place where you want to live, and the area in which you want to practice.

How has your education benefited your career?

Most areas of the law are reading and writing intensive. The ability to critically analyze writings has been a valuable tool for me, and I think my undergraduate majors gave me a strong foundation for that skill set. Similarly, a good attorney must be able to communicate effectively in writing, whether in an e-mail, a memo or a contract. My undergraduate and law school education helped me learn to communicate clearly in writing.

Does graduating from a prestigious school make a difference in landing a good job in this field?

Law school rankings can be very important depending on the type of job you want to get upon graduation. Large national and international law firms, as well as federal court judges, often only recruit students from the top law schools. Your odds of obtaining a prestigious judicial clerkship, or a job with a large firm in a big city, are definitely better if you attend one of the top tier law schools.

In Closing

What kinds of jobs are available to graduating law school students?

There are many types of jobs available to graduating law students. I have friends with law degrees who now work as in-house attorneys, lobbyists, politicians, professors, judicial clerks, government attorneys, legal writers, and as attorneys for non-profit organizations as well as firms both large and small. A law degree is a great way to get started in many different industries.

Editor's Note: Matthew Thrasher is happy to answer follow-up questions from students looking into the career of law. To email Mr. Thrasher, click here.

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