BigLaw to Public Interest

(Issue areas, International Law, International Public Interest, Public Service in the private sector, Non-Profits, Public Interest Organizations, Government/ government agencies, employment settings)
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BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:53 pm

I’m currently a second year associate in a BigLaw firm. I don’t feel fulfilled in my work, and I think I would like to eventually go into public service. The problem is that I don’t really have anything that I can put on my resume to signal this to potential employers and I gather that they would want to know that I’m a “true believer” in their cause before they would even talk to me (and even if they did my best pitch would only be that I care about the issue/have a similar ideological position to them).

My question is basically what should I do to make this move a possibility at this point? Has anyone in my position made this transition? Any advice is appreciated. Also, if this is too general a question let me know and I’ll add more info if I can. I’m in a litigation role if that helps.

64Fl

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby 64Fl » Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:23 pm

I have no experience here, but I would imagine taking on pro bono projects with local organizations would be very helpful to get a lay of the land and build contacts.

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kkdk

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby kkdk » Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:57 am

OP, depends on the type of public interest you want to do. I transitioned from big law to PI after 1.5 years. I didn't have any specific post-LS experience to demonstrate my commitment, although I did have that 'experience' during LS through clinics, 1L summer, coursework, etc. Usually LS credentials don't count for as much as you start real work, but it was sufficient in my case.

I don't know this for sure, but I would say that if you want to join an impact lit group or an NGO with a specialized focus (Earthjustice, or a labor law firm, etc.) then you may be at a disadvantage. But if you're looking to go to a plaintiff's side firm, they take big law laterals all the time.

Most of the public interest places where I interviewed gave me the impression that the longer you wait in Big Law, the harder it gets to transition out. That is, you're less attractive as a candidate to the public interest world. So, doing more pro bono might help, but only to a certain extent. If you leave earlier, it's more believable that you want out and are committed to PI.

I wouldn't be too concerned about your possible lack of demonstrated commitment, unless you're aiming for a niche impact lit group in which you have no real background.

JOThompson

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby JOThompson » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:09 pm

I work in one of the larger prosecutor offices on the west coast. We typically hire people who have interned/externed for a government agency previously. However, BigLaw people do still make the transition. You'll want at least a couple items on your resume that can show an affinity for public interest work. See if your firm has any pro bono or law fellow program with a local agency (latter is ideal so that you can get trial or practical experience). Alternatively, you might get some experience volunteering for legal aid or a community law clinic in your area.

Start thinking now about how you can craft your resume, cover letter, and interview answers to show both relevant experience and a desire to work in public interest. Then start seeking out items that allow you to authentically talk about those things. It may take you a few months or a year, or even two years, but be persistent. It took me a couple years to transition from private practice to government work, even though my skills were directly translatable (private criminal defense). Apply broadly and don't be too married to the idea of any particular market, be flexible about what your first public interest job may look like.

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HillandHollow

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby HillandHollow » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I’m currently a second year associate in a BigLaw firm. I don’t feel fulfilled in my work, and I think I would like to eventually go into public service. The problem is that I don’t really have anything that I can put on my resume to signal this to potential employers and I gather that they would want to know that I’m a “true believer” in their cause before they would even talk to me (and even if they did my best pitch would only be that I care about the issue/have a similar ideological position to them).

My question is basically what should I do to make this move a possibility at this point? Has anyone in my position made this transition? Any advice is appreciated. Also, if this is too general a question let me know and I’ll add more info if I can. I’m in a litigation role if that helps.



Are you on a lit or regulatory team or corporate?

janereacher

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby janereacher » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:51 pm

Anticipating this possibility in the future, I asked someone well-positioned about how best to make the transition. I was given this advice regarding getting into the non-profit PI world:

1)Do as much pro bono as possible, especially any work that allows you to network with local non-profits
2)Take part in any sort of law firm associate fundraising campaigns local non-profits run
3)Craft a compelling narrative about why you want to make the jump and/or why you chose biglaw in the first place

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logical seasoning

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Re: BigLaw to Public Interest

Postby logical seasoning » Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:01 pm

I work as an attorney for large state agency. We take folks from firms all the time-- you just have to cast a wide net and apply every where



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