Spending "too much" time starting in Government

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Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:22 am

I've seen this discussed around here a lot and while I tend to believe that issues are far less black and white than TLS usually suggests, I might be way off base here.

A friend of mine explained to me the other day that if you start your career I government but want to move to a large or midsize firm at some point, you really have two options.

Option 1) spend 3-5 years starting in government then join as an associate. Your legal skills and experience will be valued, but you're still junior and since you've never billed, you essentially start from square one in a lot of respects upon joining a firm.

Option 2) you commit to government and try to climb the ranks, eventually hitting a ceiling in maybe 10-15 years. at this point if you've made the right moves your name alone will carry weight, and of course your years of experience is valuable, so firms will want you.

If he's right then this basically means anyone starting in government who wants to move to private practice should do so within 5 years, otherwise the timeline increase 2-3x and, on top of that, you have to continue climbing the ranks. Is this right? For example if someone starts their career at a regulator and stays for 7-8 years without any significant promotions, are they really that unmarketable to large and midsize firms?

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Toni V

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Re: Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby Toni V » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:00 am

While other scenarios exist, your friend’s overall advice is pretty much spot-on.

dixiecupdrinking

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Re: Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:For example if someone starts their career at a regulator and stays for 7-8 years without any significant promotions, are they really that unmarketable to large and midsize firms?

It's not common (biglaw, at least). Some of this is probably self selection, though. People who go from government to firms are probably by nature the more ambitious ladder climbers at their agencies. If you're looking for a steady paycheck, an interesting-enough job, and a life outside of work, why would you lateral to a firm as a mid-senior level associate? Those are the very associates who are desperately trying to get your job in the government.

lapolicia

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Re: Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby lapolicia » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:12 pm

Current government attorney here. The advice you got is generally accurate, but there's a few caveats. First, at least at my agency, there just aren't many people who start in government. Since most attorneys came in as biglaw 3-4 years, there's just not a whole lot of incentive for them to go back to biglaw into the same associate positions that they had tried so hard to escape just a few years before. Also, biglaw isn't the only (or even the most popular) exit option. Most people from my agency exit to in-house or high level compliance positions in finance that pay a bit better than government but have much better hours than biglaw.

One common path that I've seen people who started in government take is to go to biglaw around year 4-5, work there for a few years, and then come back to the agency into a management position

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Re: Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby favabeansoup » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For example if someone starts their career at a regulator and stays for 7-8 years without any significant promotions, are they really that unmarketable to large and midsize firms?


Depending on the regulated industry I would think it is better to go in house at this point vs. a firm. Firm after 10-15 year in gov will yield a bigger paycheck, but it also would mean drastically increased work load and long term commitment. In house will probably still net you a substantially salary increase, but with a smaller workload and less need to climb the political ladder.

current gov regulators can better comment on the viability of going straight to in house vs. firm, but it just makes sense to me that it would be an easier adjustment.

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Re: Spending "too much" time starting in Government

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:40 pm

OP here, thanks to all for the input so far, it sounds like my friend's insight was generally on point.

Just for background, I actually am in government now and have been for nearly 2 years. This is my first job out of school and is very much a unique position - my office never hired newbies and I'm about 12-15 years younger than the next youngest attorney here. This conversation with my friend started because I have the opportunity to go to another government agency. Without getting into the specifics, it would certainly be a "step up" from my current position. On the other hand though I would really like to spend at least some time in a firm at some point in my career for a variety of reasons, so I'm trying to decide if I want this new position or if I should start looking at firms.

It's a tough decision as my current "20 year plan" is very broad; I really just want to be successful in the area of law I'm practicing. So what does that mean? Money? Name recognition? Influence? Maybe all those things, maybe some. I am pretty ambitious and motivated yadda yadda, but I guess there's no "right answer" when it comes to this stuff...



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