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After serving in the military, David Chambers worked day jobs while attending law school at night and was hired into Clifford Chance’s Asset Finance practice. His training and diverse experiences have helped him land on his feet in Big Law.

T H E I R   V O I C E S

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photo of David Chambers

As a young person reading books for school, I was attracted to characters who were lawyers – To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites. The pop culture portrayal of lawyers – what it took for them to understand a case and really help someone – resonated with me. I think I’ve always known that I wanted to be a lawyer.

After completing my undergraduate studies, serving for five years in the military and earning a master’s degree in regional studies, I was ready for law school. I went to night school part-time and worked at the New York Stock Exchange during the day. The job provided exposure to the financial side of business and the work of a transactional lawyer.

When the time came to select a firm for my summer program, I knew exactly where I wanted to be. I had always heard that my firm has an outstanding global reputation, and once I arrived and started working with our teams, my choice was confirmed. After the program, the firm offered an assignment to stay on as a paralegal during my last year in school, and from there, things fell into place.

As an intelligence specialist in the US Marine Corps, I received intensive training about different cultures and histories. These are important factors in a tactical or military environment, and the lessons translate well in an international legal practice.

Transitioning out of the military wasn’t easy, though. I went from wearing a combat uniform every day to wearing a suit. The firm’s support has been essential, but I’ve also found it helpful to integrate some of the daily rituals of military life. I still wake up early and make the bed: that discipline starts my process for the rest of the day.

One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned is to just march on, even when you find yourself in an embarrassing or awkward situation. The military tests you for that ability, and it’s very useful in the law. As a junior, you’re going to make mistakes. But if you can take that as a given and see mistakes for what they are, then you can learn from them and make sure you don’t repeat them.

Every day at work is a humbling experience: no matter how much you’ve learned, there’s always something new coming up. Having that awareness can help you check your pride and keep difficult issues in perspective. I’ve learned a lot just by watching experienced partners and associates face a new problem and then coordinate an entire team to tackle it.