Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

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Anonymous User
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Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:25 am

For a long time I've wanted to share some of this info, and this anonymous feature/forum seems like the ideal way to do so. It's not that the information is terribly sensitive, but given the law school online world it certainly wouldn't have been ideal to have the information out and tied to my moniker.

It's also not especially profound or detailed information - but a lot of people ask about what the long-term career prospects in biglaw, and since my dad happens to have worked in biglaw, made partner, then lateraled to government I feel like it might be a useful 'case study' for people who wonder about such things.

Enough caveats: My dad graduated from GULC in the 80s and went to work for a V50 law firm in its Washington, DC office. As I wasn't entirely alive at the point and it hasn't come up much in conversation, I can't speak to his experience as a young attorney at all. What I do know is that he eventually made partner and worked with his practice group for several years afterward.

He described the environment in the firm as literally "you eat what you kill" - at least in the partnership, it was clear that compensation was directly tied to the ability to bring in clients (the so called 'book of business'). He worked in the environmental practice 'defending the bad guys' as I liked to say, but it obviously was never that cut and dry. Not every corporation is dumping gallons of toxins into the water like in Erin Brokovich - it certainly happens, and I'm sure my dad was there defending them - but for the most part the work was regulatory in nature, how to deal with superfunds, etc. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at things, his work in his practice area wound up actually 'finishing' a lot of the legal issues his clients had and closing up an area of the law to the point where there weren't many clients left who needed the kind of legal work he had worked on. This was about 16 years, give or take, after he started working for the law firm, and (though I'm not sure exactly how and don't recall much from our conversations at the time) it was made abundantly clear that his presence was no longer necessary at the firm.

Knowing him at the time, parts of his life definitely lived up to the insane stereotypical biglaw life style and parts of it did not. He has in fact been through...erm, several wives - and at various points several cars - but he always had time for his family, and to my knowledge basically never worked weekends. He was definitely financially well-off but even despite his success wasn't exactly living a models and bottles lifestyle - his home was in a distant and cheap suburb, etc. He stayed fairly physically fit, and entertained some really comical hobbies outside of the law firm (he road raced motor vehicles on the weekends). He always seemed fairly happy and enjoyed his work, and still keeps in touch with some of the people he worked with.

After being pushed out of the V50 firm, he investigated several possible career options. In fairly short order he wound up working in the general counsel's office of a (smallish) federal regulatory agency. In an interesting twist, the agency and his work was pretty explicitly 'good guy' compared to his prior work, though this time it had nothing to do with environmental law. I always found the idea of my dad working as a hired gun for corporations on environmental matters and then lateraling to defend the american public and fight non-compliant corporations with his government agency deliciously ironic. He wasn't The General Counsel, as that position is a political appointee and wouldn't have been an option (without serious connections) when he was pushed out of the V50 firm, but he worked in the general counsel's office. After a few years he eventually bounced around the agency - occasionally working as acting general counsel (when there was a vacancy) or as deputy executive director (the highest non-political-appointee job in the agency, not explicitly law related).

He really enjoyed his time with the government agency - the hours were as promised MUCH better, he often worked a flexible schedule that gave him 1 extra day off every two weeks, and it was pretty strictly 9-5 type work. That being said, the government is almost always outgunned in terms of resources, so when issues came up (much like in a law firm) there were times where hours ballooned significantly and it was 'all hands on deck'. I don't know what his compensation was, but my guess is that it was a huge paycut from the V50 but probably near the top of the GS payscale, so he was still able to live very comfortably - and prior work at the government before starting law school allowed him to accumulate a great government provided benefits package for when he retires. In terms of the work, a lot of it deals with the nuance of his agency authority, controlling legislation, and the rules the agency is tasked with monitoring/enforcing - but he also spent a lot of his time dealing with congress (be it for budget issues or the latest news-worthy item the agency was involved in) and the day to day operations of the agency.

As an interesting aside, he is totally ambivalent when I ask about his opinion about me going to work for a law firm or send him links to the latest gossip about his V50 from abovethelaw. He neither hated nor loved his time with his firm, or the firm world in general - so in turn he isn't cautioning me against it or encouraging the life decision, which I find kind of interesting.

Anyway, hopefully that was interesting or else useful to somebody wondering what CAN happen to people after the first few years of the associate grind at a biglaw firm. I'll pop back onto this thread now and then to take questions - but obviously I'm not my dad, and he's a fairly reserved person so I unfortunately don't have lots of details from the beginning of his career to share.

LjakW
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby LjakW » Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:19 am

Interesting.

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underdawg
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby underdawg » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:23 pm

zOMG WALL OF TEXT

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solotee
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby solotee » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:48 pm

Interesting, thnx!

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lawlover829
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby lawlover829 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:11 pm

coool story. thanks.

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Cole S. Law
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby Cole S. Law » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
He really enjoyed his time with the government agency - the hours were as promised MUCH better, he often worked a flexible schedule that gave him 1 extra day off every two weeks, and it was pretty strictly 9-5 type work. That being said, the government is almost always outgunned in terms of resources, so when issues came up (much like in a law firm) there were times where hours ballooned significantly and it was 'all hands on deck'.


:shock: :shock: .... :lol: :lol:

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etwake
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby etwake » Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:02 pm

good story. thx for posting!!

maap85
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby maap85 » Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:31 am

Yes, this was a great story. Thank you.

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SkiBumLawyer
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Re: Dad's story - biglaw partner to GC with government agency

Postby SkiBumLawyer » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:44 pm

Interesting, thank you.




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