Local/Municipal Government Megathread

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:54 pm

While biglaw and bigfed get the vast majority of the attention around here, I'm hoping to raise the exposure level of a very different world: Local government (civil side, not DA/PD). The NYC Law Department is the stereotypical example people think of, but it's far from the only opportunity out there. There's no OCI for local government so it's naturally a bit tougher to break into, but I think with the right knowledge (which hopefully I can provide!) it's an easier nut to crack than you might think. I'll try my best to answer any questions, and if anyone else works in this field, feel free to join in!

Just a brief background on me, I was fortunate enough to get a job at a city's law department right out of law school, and it's been an awesome experience. I'm currently going into my 2nd full year there, and am planning to stick around a while. Without revealing too much, I'm in a litigation-based practice and work for a city with a population >1m which isn't NYC. Generally speaking, I enjoy the work I do and the amount of responsibility and client contact I get to have. Biggest downside is definitely the salaries; if your law school has a good LRAP, you'll definitely need to take advantage of it.

So feel free to ask whatever you want, and I'll try my best to answer (or just come bitch about how your city has screwed you over on your property taxes or whatever).

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby zot1 » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:57 pm

School rank? Class rank? Salary range? Additional perks?

User avatar
LaLiLuLeLo

Silver
Posts: 644
Joined: Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:54 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:06 am

Exit ops for a corporate biglaw attorney? I've always been interested in local/municipal government (county level) but idk if it's even a realistic goal.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 29, 2016 6:00 am

It's worth noting that at least in CA the big counties and cities often pay 2x as much as the state. While you will obviously be nowhere near a biglaw paycheck, they offer a very comfortable PI salary. Entry-level positions seem to be few and far between though, with the exception of the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office fellowship: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/cco/opport ... wship.aspx

User avatar
jchiles

Silver
Posts: 1267
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:49 pm

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby jchiles » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:14 pm

Municipal law rocks but it varies so much from state to state and even within states in terms of how people get into it or how different municipalities or local government units handle their legal needs.

tyroneslothrop1

Bronze
Posts: 285
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2016 3:48 pm

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby tyroneslothrop1 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:43 pm

I work at a firm that serves as outside counsel to municipalities and often consider lateraling into the County Counsel's office. Around here the salary exceeds 100K.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:25 pm

OP here. Phew, I'm kinda glad to see some replies. I was kinda worried I'd make a 'megathread' and no one would even reply! :lol:
Just want to preface this by saying that while I think my advice is applicable to most big city law departments, (LA/Chicago/etc.) it's most likely not going to apply to NYC or small municipalities.

zot1 wrote:School rank? Class rank? Salary range? Additional perks?

I was ~median at a non-HYS T14, but that's not really typical for the hires we make. Coming straight from law school, good grades are definitely not essentially, and even if you're median or below at a non-T14 you'd have a decent chance if we're hiring in an area you have a background in (for example, a former police officer who wants to defend Civil Rights cases). Having ties to the area can be very helpful too.
Salary for recent grads where I am is in the 50-60k range, which I think is typical in most cities. If you're coming from biglaw, you'll likely be able to come in at a higher salary, but still not six figures (there are exceptions, though).
Additional perks? I think most cities still offer decent pensions, and the healthcare (at least where I am) is great (I have friends in fedgov and our healthcare is cheaper and seems better). The best part, IMO, is the environment and the hours. I love all my colleagues, and the hours are great. Most people are in by 9 and out by 530, sometimes staying until around 7 if you have something big going on.

LaLiLuLeLo wrote:Exit ops for a corporate biglaw attorney? I've always been interested in local/municipal government (county level) but idk if it's even a realistic goal.

So I'll admit right from the start that municipal governments are mostly doing litigation. That said, we still have transactional attorneys, it just might be harder to find an opening. Just using the NYC Law Department as an example, they have 16 divisions, of which it looks like 3 are mostly transactional (and the rest mostly litigation): Municipal Finance, Contracts and Real Estate, and Economic Development (Wikipedia says they have 17, with a Pensions division; not sure if they got rid of it or what, but that would also be transactional). Those seem pretty comparable to the transactional groups my city has as well. Generally speaking where I work, if there's an opening, having 2+ years in biglaw pretty much guarantees you an interview.

Anonymous User wrote:It's worth noting that at least in CA the big counties and cities often pay 2x as much as the state. While you will obviously be nowhere near a biglaw paycheck, they offer a very comfortable PI salary. Entry-level positions seem to be few and far between though, with the exception of the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office fellowship: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/cco/opport ... wship.aspx

I can't really speak to this specifically, but my experience is that the vast majority of municipal lawyers are in the 50k-100k range (again, I'll stress that the salary is pretty much the only downside to these jobs IMO, but it's a major bummer). If there are places in CA that start at six figures, by all means go for it!

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby zot1 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:36 pm

What is your career progression like?

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:45 pm

Chiming in because I'm an extern at an office like OP's for this school year. I also have a biglaw SA lined up for next summer. And I have to tell you that from my own personal experience, if the most important thing for me in a job was hands on substantive work right off the bat in civil litigation I would absolutely go straight to an office like the one I work at. Perhaps my office isn't typical, but it seems from what OP is saying it probably is.

As an *extern*, I've been given more substantive work then I will see for years in biglaw. I've written motions, appellate briefs, helped with witness prep, etc. I feel like I've been spoiled with how much responsibility and trust my supervisors have placed with me, because I know if I go into big I'll be back pedaling into doc review.

Also the hours my supervisors work are so appealing. At 5, the office shuts down completely. I've seen someone stay late once.

I know my office, which is local to my law school, hires mostly grads from my law school and some that externed there.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The NYC Law Department is the stereotypical example people think of, but it's far from the only opportunity out there.


Can anyone in the NY area chime in on what other opportunities people may be interested in if not NYCLD/DA/PD?

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 30, 2016 8:56 pm

Could you lend some advice on landing one of these jobs right out of law school? I see myself in local/municipal government and the sooner it could happen after graduation, the better :D And what type of substantive issues do you work on?

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:11 pm

Also interested in path to municipal law straight out of school

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 31, 2016 12:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The NYC Law Department is the stereotypical example people think of, but it's far from the only opportunity out there.


Can anyone in the NY area chime in on what other opportunities people may be interested in if not NYCLD/DA/PD?


I'm the anon who posted right above you, I'm actually in NY. The thing to realize is that all the bigger counties are going to have a law department. Pretty much pick one and google that county plus "County attorney's office" or "law department". A quick google search showed offices of varying sizes (from ten to sixty attorneys) for the counties of Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Westchester, and Albany. And those are just going by the most populous cities in NY.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:44 am

How often do you get work emails after 5 on weekdays or on the weekends?

How often do you feel stress or fire drills at work?

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:45 am

Another way for people to get into this work is to look for firms who represent local government/state government. In my state, there's firms that will represent like 100 municipalities.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:29 pm

zot1 wrote:What is your career progression like?

Internally, my department (and I think this applies generally, but can't be certain) doesn't have any sort of 'guaranteed' progression like you see in biglaw. Moving up the ranks is basically a combination of sticking around and hoping your bosses leave or hoping that your unit gets additional funding for more senior positions. That said, because we have relatively high turnover (nothing like biglaw, and it's virtually all voluntary; we don't do the "stealth lay-off" thing and anecdotally I think only 1 person has been 'fired' in a long time) due to the salaries, there are always positions opening. Also, it's pretty easy and common to switch between different units. So if you start out doing contracting but decide you want to do labor law, making that switch isn't too difficult (it's also not uncommon for people to switch practice areas to get a promotion, as you might imagine).

Exit opportunities aren't usually going to be biglaw or F500 companies (neither is unheard of, but they aren't common), but local mid-sized companies and firms (to the extent they still exist...) are options, as are PI places. Curiously, no one really seems to go to federal or state government, and while we get a fair amount of criminal attorneys (both DA and PD), no one leaves to get into criminal law. If other cities are anything like mine, there are also a ton of 'partially' governmental agencies which will be options as well. Some people will work at my department a few years, lateral to a firm for a year or 2, then come back into a higher position. To sum it up, like government jobs generally, working one of these jobs doesn't really put you on the path to the 1%, but it's a sustainable life. And if you leave for something else but want to come back for whatever reason, it usually isn't too difficut.

All that said, since we're a relatively common exit opportunity for people coming from other firms or other government jobs, for many people the career progression is working there a long time and building up a nice pension!

Anonymous User wrote:Chiming in because I'm an extern at an office like OP's for this school year. I also have a biglaw SA lined up for next summer. And I have to tell you that from my own personal experience, if the most important thing for me in a job was hands on substantive work right off the bat in civil litigation I would absolutely go straight to an office like the one I work at. Perhaps my office isn't typical, but it seems from what OP is saying it probably is.

As an *extern*, I've been given more substantive work then I will see for years in biglaw. I've written motions, appellate briefs, helped with witness prep, etc. I feel like I've been spoiled with how much responsibility and trust my supervisors have placed with me, because I know if I go into big I'll be back pedaling into doc review.

Also the hours my supervisors work are so appealing. At 5, the office shuts down completely. I've seen someone stay late once.

I know my office, which is local to my law school, hires mostly grads from my law school and some that externed there.

I think this is a fair assessment. New attorneys will definitely get substantive work right from the start (which is part of why it can be hard to get in right out of law school), and interning/externing is definitely the best way to get in (I'll expand on that below).

Anonymous User wrote:Could you lend some advice on landing one of these jobs right out of law school? I see myself in local/municipal government and the sooner it could happen after graduation, the better :D And what type of substantive issues do you work on?

The substantive issues are totally practice area dependent. Generally speaking, you have to keep in mind that the reason a municipality has its own law department (as opposed to just always hiring outside counsel, which we do sometimes) is to take care of the 'routine' legal work (although even 'routine' stuff can get VERY complicated). Unlike a biglaw firm, our client isn't going anywhere, and we don't need to spend time building a book of business or billing hours (that said, you still need your clients to like you because, as I said, they're not going anywhere!!), so the practice areas a municipal law department will have are the things the municipality does regularly (I have no experience in it, but I've always thought of ourselves as being like in-house counsel on steroids).

Because the practice areas vary so much, I can't really speak to all of them without spending another week writing this post lol. The NYC Law Department's website has a good breakdown of their different practice areas: http://www.nyc.gov/html/law/html/divisi ... ions.shtml

Chicago and Philadelphia's websites had decent ones too (I couldn't find one for LA), so hopefully they're helpful. If there are any practice areas which interest you, just say and I can give you an idea of what kind of day-to-day work they're likely doing.

As for getting one of these jobs, start while you're still in law school if at all possible!! A lot of our new hires are people who interned with us over the summer, even if they end up getting hired into a different group than the one they interned in. If you can't get a summer internship (or even if you do get one), apply to extern during the school year; either go through your law school or email their hiring contact (if you can't find who it is, ask an alum from your law school who works there). We really like people who are going to be dedicated to working for us, so even if you interview for a summer internship and don't get it, it will look good to come back and ask if you can work for us during the school year (that said, don't be annoying...). When you're interviewing/applying, definitely have a few specific practice areas in mind (2-3 is good, depending on how exactly they break them down), and have a few reasons for why they interest you (I know, I know, typical legal interview stuff).

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The NYC Law Department is the stereotypical example people think of, but it's far from the only opportunity out there.


Can anyone in the NY area chime in on what other opportunities people may be interested in if not NYCLD/DA/PD?


I'm the anon who posted right above you, I'm actually in NY. The thing to realize is that all the bigger counties are going to have a law department. Pretty much pick one and google that county plus "County attorney's office" or "law department". A quick google search showed offices of varying sizes (from ten to sixty attorneys) for the counties of Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Westchester, and Albany. And those are just going by the most populous cities in NY.

Anonymous User wrote:Another way for people to get into this work is to look for firms who represent local government/state government. In my state, there's firms that will represent like 100 municipalities.

Agreed, but it can be tricky to identify the firms that represent municipalities like you mention. Also, though some suburban towns still use outside counsel for their work, most places hiring firms are going to be pretty rural, which likely doesn't appeal to most people on here. And based on the number of attorneys we have and the number of summer interns we hired, I would be shocked if a county with <50 attorneys is hiring more than 1 or 2 people for the summer, so I wouldn't focus on those unless it's a hometown/etc.

Anonymous User wrote:How often do you get work emails after 5 on weekdays or on the weekends?

How often do you feel stress or fire drills at work?

If I can change this to after 6pm (I usually get anywhere from 2-10 between 5-6pm), this depends a bit on the practice area, but generally speaking it's semi-common. Most days I won't end up with anything substantive, sometimes just a department-wide email, sometimes 2-3 emails, and extremely rarely more than that. Where I work, at least, until you get into a more managerial role (usually around 5-6 years, unless you're hired into it or have really good prior experience), there's no expectation for you to even check your email when you're not in the office. I do, and will occasionally respond to things (though I've probably sent <10 emails from home since I've been hired), and my coworkers think I'm insane.

Stress? There can be quite a bit tbh. I think it's just natural to being an attorney, knowing that you're representing other people (or, in my case, an entire municipality!) and are responsible for what happens to them, especially in litigation. I've had maybe 2 or 3 fire drills since I joined, and I think that's relatively typical. Of course, even a 'fire drill' for us really just means I was super stressed and had to stay until ~7pm to finish something up. I don't think I've ever stayed past 8pm, FWIW. So compared to a biglaw fire drill, they're nothing.

User avatar
zot1

Gold
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby zot1 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:23 pm

Thanks for answering all my questions.

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:40 am

zot1 wrote:Thanks for answering all my questions.

No problem! Unlike most attorneys, I actually like my job and enjoy sharing what I can. :D

Anonymous User
Posts: 324799
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Local/Municipal Government Megathread

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:42 pm

Hoping to get this megathread going again! Thanks a ton for getting it started! I'm constantly surprised at how many jobs in the nyc area pop up that would fall into local/municipal government that aren't under the law department. The department of sanitation has it's own team of counsel that apparently liaisons with the law department. I'm guessing most of the other local agencies do something similar? Also, there was this article in the times the other day: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyre ... s-now.html. After digging through their website it looks like they have full time positions in addition to the per diem hearing officers.

Now that I'm in the 3-5 years experience bracket it seems like I'm "qualified" for a lot more of these jobs than a few years ago. However, I keep feeling like I'm late to the game finding the job postings especially for the lesser known agencies. Anyone have any tips for the best way to find these types of jobs? Also, any thoughts on how a few years public defender experience and a few years at a civil non-profit would look for chances at landing one of these jobs?

Thanks!



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.