Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

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Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:56 pm

I'd like to hear from folks who work in the government sector (prosecutors, PD's, county counsel, DOJ, etc.) and switch to law firms. How is the transition? How did the hours compare for you? Do billables suck? Are the benefits comparable? Does the amount of money you make at your law firm compensate for the lack of pension? Did you transition into a small, mid, or big law firm?

I am currently contemplating the jump and would love to hear from folks who've already taken the leap.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:27 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'd like to hear from folks who work in the government sector (prosecutors, PD's, county counsel, DOJ, etc.) and switch to law firms. How is the transition? How did the hours compare for you? Do billables suck? Are the benefits comparable? Does the amount of money you make at your law firm compensate for the lack of pension? Did you transition into a small, mid, or big law firm?

I am currently contemplating the jump and would love to hear from folks who've already taken the leap.


Yes, billable suck.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:09 pm

I recently switched from gov to private practice (mid-size firm). So far, the hours aren't much different. We were understaffed at my previous local gov agency so I actually worked about the same hours per day with less pay. I also had to "bill" my time at my previous gov position for audit purposes, so transitioning into private practice billing hasn't been awful in terms of recording what you did and for how long each day. Benefits are different but largely comparable; vacation and other kinds of time off are not (a lot more time off allotted at gov position, obviously). Pay is substantially more, location is also better.

With that said, my goal has always been to transition back to gov when the opportunity presents itself. Working in-house for a gov entity is just not the same as working as retained outside counsel. Also, the marketing aspect of private firms and the concept of billable hours suck. When you take a vacation, you have to be worried about making up the hours you missed. I also don't want to be spending brain power on business development for the rest of my life. Also pension is great. So my plan is to transition back to the public sector eventually...even though the people at my firm are actually pretty nice and pleasant to work with.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I recently switched from gov to private practice (mid-size firm). So far, the hours aren't much different. We were understaffed at my previous local gov agency so I actually worked about the same hours per day with less pay. I also had to "bill" my time at my previous gov position for audit purposes, so transitioning into private practice billing hasn't been awful in terms of recording what you did and for how long each day. Benefits are different but largely comparable; vacation and other kinds of time off are not (a lot more time off allotted at gov position, obviously). Pay is substantially more, location is also better.

With that said, my goal has always been to transition back to gov when the opportunity presents itself. Working in-house for a gov entity is just not the same as working as retained outside counsel. Also, the marketing aspect of private firms and the concept of billable hours suck. When you take a vacation, you have to be worried about making up the hours you missed. I also don't want to be spending brain power on business development for the rest of my life. Also pension is great. So my plan is to transition back to the public sector eventually...even though the people at my firm are actually pretty nice and pleasant to work with.


It's surprising how on the law firm level, the people you work with are actually better than the people in government. I don't mean this as an insult, but most people in local government agencies are not T14 law review lawyers, they don't have the grades and end up in local government agencies because they usually don't have an option to work at a reputable firm. I think this puts a chip on their shoulder of always trying to prove themselves to their peers with this nestled insecurity. Coupled with the fact that government work doesn't incentivize effciency and hard work since after all, your pay doesn't change if you work longer and you have a constitutional property right to your government job that prevents at-will firings.

lolwat

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby lolwat » Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It's surprising how on the law firm level, the people you work with are actually better than the people in government. I don't mean this as an insult, but most people in local government agencies are not T14 law review lawyers, they don't have the grades and end up in local government agencies because they usually don't have an option to work at a reputable firm. I think this puts a chip on their shoulder of always trying to prove themselves to their peers with this nestled insecurity. Coupled with the fact that government work doesn't incentivize effciency and hard work since after all, your pay doesn't change if you work longer and you have a constitutional property right to your government job that prevents at-will firings.


Except for all the people who are currently in biglaw but actually want a local government job because they don't want to bill 2400 hours a year anymore...?

Seriously, though, how easy is it to get a job at a firm after you've been in local government? I'm always advocating and suggesting to people to jump ship into these better jobs and get the hell out of Biglaw, but now that there's an open local gov't position that I'm sort of interested in (it's in my niche practice area, somehow which is very rare), I'm actually hesitating as to whether I should even apply because it's a pay cut into an unknown. Scared I'll wind up in a dead end or the hours might be just as bad.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:38 pm

lolwat wrote:
Seriously, though, how easy is it to get a job at a firm after you've been in local government? I'm always advocating and suggesting to people to jump ship into these better jobs and get the hell out of Biglaw, but now that there's an open local gov't position that I'm sort of interested in (it's in my niche practice area, somehow which is very rare), I'm actually hesitating as to whether I should even apply because it's a pay cut into an unknown. Scared I'll wind up in a dead end or the hours might be just as bad.


When I got my firm job after working as a ADA, I was told that had I been an ADA longer I wouldn't have been considered. So it may depend on what type of position in the government, but not all government jobs are created equal in transitioning to a firm.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
lolwat wrote:
Seriously, though, how easy is it to get a job at a firm after you've been in local government? I'm always advocating and suggesting to people to jump ship into these better jobs and get the hell out of Biglaw, but now that there's an open local gov't position that I'm sort of interested in (it's in my niche practice area, somehow which is very rare), I'm actually hesitating as to whether I should even apply because it's a pay cut into an unknown. Scared I'll wind up in a dead end or the hours might be just as bad.


When I got my firm job after working as a ADA, I was told that had I been an ADA longer I wouldn't have been considered. So it may depend on what type of position in the government, but not all government jobs are created equal in transitioning to a firm.


Interesting anecdote. Approximately how long were you an ADA for?

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
lolwat wrote:
Seriously, though, how easy is it to get a job at a firm after you've been in local government? I'm always advocating and suggesting to people to jump ship into these better jobs and get the hell out of Biglaw, but now that there's an open local gov't position that I'm sort of interested in (it's in my niche practice area, somehow which is very rare), I'm actually hesitating as to whether I should even apply because it's a pay cut into an unknown. Scared I'll wind up in a dead end or the hours might be just as bad.


When I got my firm job after working as a ADA, I was told that had I been an ADA longer I wouldn't have been considered. So it may depend on what type of position in the government, but not all government jobs are created equal in transitioning to a firm.


Interesting anecdote. Approximately how long were you an ADA for?


Two years.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:56 am

I went from big city ADA-->small firm-->biglaw-->fed govt.

The hours at biglaw and even the small firm were significantly worse than government. Keeping track of billables was awful and the office environment was a lot less enjoyable when I was in private practice.

I'd never go back to biglaw, and probably not a small firm either because of the low pay. Federal government pay is decently close to what ex biglaw in-house attorneys make once you consider the whole pension benefit.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:09 am

Anonymous User wrote:I went from big city ADA-->small firm-->biglaw-->fed govt.

The hours at biglaw and even the small firm were significantly worse than government. Keeping track of billables was awful and the office environment was a lot less enjoyable when I was in private practice.

I'd never go back to biglaw, and probably not a small firm either because of the low pay. Federal government pay is decently close to what ex biglaw in-house attorneys make once you consider the whole pension benefit.


I am in the process of going from ADA to a small firm, I am curious how you were able to lateral into biglaw. Did you apply for an opening online or did you know someone?

There is another thread on here, titled Office Drama I think, where another prosecutor talks about hating the drama in their office. I agree, prosecutors are just backstabbers, and it's hard to make friends who won't just eat you alive over the mistakes you make when you are not there. Or who go to your supervisor first instead of letting you address them. I know these both have happened to be as a prosecutor, could very well happen in a small firm too, don't know yet.

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Re: Jumping from Govt. practice to a law firm

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I went from big city ADA-->small firm-->biglaw-->fed govt.

The hours at biglaw and even the small firm were significantly worse than government. Keeping track of billables was awful and the office environment was a lot less enjoyable when I was in private practice.

I'd never go back to biglaw, and probably not a small firm either because of the low pay. Federal government pay is decently close to what ex biglaw in-house attorneys make once you consider the whole pension benefit.


I am in the process of going from ADA to a small firm, I am curious how you were able to lateral into biglaw. Did you apply for an opening online or did you know someone?

There is another thread on here, titled Office Drama I think, where another prosecutor talks about hating the drama in their office. I agree, prosecutors are just backstabbers, and it's hard to make friends who won't just eat you alive over the mistakes you make when you are not there. Or who go to your supervisor first instead of letting you address them. I know these both have happened to be as a prosecutor, could very well happen in a small firm too, don't know yet.


The jump from the small firm to biglaw was very difficult. I applied online everywhere, but I ultimately only had two interviews (one ghosted me after the screener) despite well over 50, well-tailored applications to biglaw and midlaw firms. I also threw a few apps at firms where I had senior associate friends to no avail. While it was hard enough to get a small firm to look at me with just criminal law experience, my only guess is that biglaw firms just assumed a small firm associate couldn't handle biglaw.

I ultimately think I got lucky with my job transitions, but I also hussled a lot. If you think you might want to try for biglaw later, I think you should try to find a niche at a small firm, work it for a year, and then go for biglaw.



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