Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw? Forum

(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: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 15, 2022 6:55 am

So for context, I am a 3L at HYS and accepted my big law offer for next year. I'll be working on a niche area of regulatory law that I am excited about!

However, I also know that I want to end up doing gov work. Applications for the PMF are out, and part of me thinks it's worth applying. On the chance I get it, is it worth it to forego the big law money/opportunities? Is lateraling back to big law an option after the fellowship concludes? Thoughts on whether the firm will allow me to defer? Will I have the same opportunities if I stick it out at the firm?

I guess my central question is if I'm "wasting" the opportunities and money (got lots of loans) that come with an HYS degree and big law if I were to pursue this fellowship?

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 15, 2022 7:34 am

What kind of government work do you want to do? It’s been a while since I looked into this, but my impression is that the PMF program, while great in many ways, isn’t really designed to place lawyers into legal jobs, and so people could have pretty varied outcomes.

I also believe that the goal of the PMF program is to get people into permanent government jobs, so it would be a little weird to go into it intending to go back to biglaw. I think the description does mention people going back to the private sector after, so I may be overstating this, but it still seems odd. Also am not sure how a firm would respond. I think whether they’d hold your spot depends a lot on what you’d end up doing as a PMF and whether that work would be at all relevant/valuable to them, which you wouldn’t know for quite a while since you get your placement very late in the process.

There’s no real harm in applying and seeing what happens. But lateraling from biglaw to government work is very common and you could easily get into government work that way. If you want to do biglaw *and* government, I think the conventional path of starting in biglaw and lateraling is the way to go. Going to biglaw after PMF is much more unusual, and therefore less certain. Getting into biglaw outside the OCI route can be done, but is often harder.

You could of course ditch biglaw and go straight into government work (although I think clerking + honors is a clearer path for lawyers than the PMF). There’s no reason you have to do biglaw, and if you imagine making a career in government you’ve got both PSLF and your school’s LRAP to address loans. But a lot of people will tell you it’s best to get biglaw experience and have it on your resume as a foundation for future work. It certainly won’t hurt you in going to government work, and would most likely help you a lot.

Last thought is that if you’re not super enchanted by law and think you might want to move into government work that isn’t purely legal, the PMF could actually be a good option, but it would be a less certain path.

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 15, 2022 9:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Sep 15, 2022 7:34 am
What kind of government work do you want to do? It’s been a while since I looked into this, but my impression is that the PMF program, while great in many ways, isn’t really designed to place lawyers into legal jobs, and so people could have pretty varied outcomes.

I also believe that the goal of the PMF program is to get people into permanent government jobs, so it would be a little weird to go into it intending to go back to biglaw. I think the description does mention people going back to the private sector after, so I may be overstating this, but it still seems odd. Also am not sure how a firm would respond. I think whether they’d hold your spot depends a lot on what you’d end up doing as a PMF and whether that work would be at all relevant/valuable to them, which you wouldn’t know for quite a while since you get your placement very late in the process.

There’s no real harm in applying and seeing what happens. But lateraling from biglaw to government work is very common and you could easily get into government work that way. If you want to do biglaw *and* government, I think the conventional path of starting in biglaw and lateraling is the way to go. Going to biglaw after PMF is much more unusual, and therefore less certain. Getting into biglaw outside the OCI route can be done, but is often harder.

You could of course ditch biglaw and go straight into government work (although I think clerking + honors is a clearer path for lawyers than the PMF). There’s no reason you have to do biglaw, and if you imagine making a career in government you’ve got both PSLF and your school’s LRAP to address loans. But a lot of people will tell you it’s best to get biglaw experience and have it on your resume as a foundation for future work. It certainly won’t hurt you in going to government work, and would most likely help you a lot.

Last thought is that if you’re not super enchanted by law and think you might want to move into government work that isn’t purely legal, the PMF could actually be a good option, but it would be a less certain path.
Thank you for this thoughtful response. It would ideally be for State or Commerce, and ideally in some sort of legal/regulatory adjacent position. I would have the option of being picky, as going back to the firm would be an option.

I am worried that it would be a less certain path certainly, but I am not at all enchanted with legal work at least in a big law context. I also have little interest in litigation, so honors/clerkship is less enticing. I'm not confident in my ability to get L given my approximate class ranking. Finally, I guess my thought process about going to big law has a lot more to do with keeping doors open and having a "fallback plan" that pays well and offers strong exit options.

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Sep 15, 2022 9:56 am

I think one step would be to track down as many PMFs as you can and talk to them about their experience and placement. I would think your school has to have information about relevant alumni (but also LinkedIn stalking for your school + PMF in its various permutations should be helpful). Because I think the biggest unknown about PMF is how exactly you get placed and how much control you have over where and what kind of position. (Hopefully there will some PMF people here who can provide more info.)

I think the extent to which you can go back to biglaw will depend on how competitive a candidate you are overall and, again, how your PMF work relates to the biglaw practice. The problem would be coming in as a 3rd (presumably) year without firm experience - some government work will be very relevant and some very much not. I don’t know enough about regulatory practices to know how that would work, so the other suggestion would be to find alumni working in your regulatory niche or close to it, and ask them about government experience, PMF, and how their firms would treat someone in your shoes.

(You may well be reaching out to these kinds of alumni already, of course, just that if not, I think they’re going to be able to provide better info.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Sep 16, 2022 9:37 am

This is good advice, thank you

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


User avatar
jbagelboy

Diamond
Posts: 10350
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:57 pm

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by jbagelboy » Sat Sep 17, 2022 2:02 pm

If I were in your shoes and money was no object, I would do the PMF (if you actually get selected, which is not easy) because it will be much more interesting and rewarding than biglaw and easier to do on the front end than after several years of law practice. That being said, I know a lot of PMFs, and one thing I would consider is that most of them had recently completed a less intense and less costly and time-consuming graduate degree (typically a policy degree, but sometimes an MPH or a masters in another discipline) than a JD. They also tend to be slightly younger. Some of them have gone on to obtain JDs later in their career after some government service, and those that do not go to law school spend years at lower levels of GS and Schedule C than, for example, someone entering a federal government job as a lawyer out of a clerkship. Having already gone through law school, you have a certain amount of sunk cost and career advancement built in that the PMF program would not fully credit.

Which brings me to the key consideration for most people, which would be that you'll make next to nothing as a PMF compared to the starting salary at a law firm. If you have debt or real life costs (e.g., a family to support), PMF likely isn't a realistic option. So again, if you can afford it, who cares -- its a cool opportunity and why not apply.

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Sep 18, 2022 10:51 pm

I'd much rather be a PMF than in BigLaw, but that's also because I loathe the idea of being a lawyer. If you go PMF you won't be an attorney.

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:06 am

OP here. I think the general problem is I would also much rather work for the federal government than be a big law attorney but I have the full debt load. I guess a primary consideration is whether I can leverage PMF into an attorney position after those 2 years and get on the attorney-level pay scale? Or if not, whether it is possible, if not very possible, to transition to big law or in-house (compliance)?

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:06 am
OP here. I think the general problem is I would also much rather work for the federal government than be a big law attorney but I have the full debt load. I guess a primary consideration is whether I can leverage PMF into an attorney position after those 2 years and get on the attorney-level pay scale? Or if not, whether it is possible, if not very possible, to transition to big law or in-house (compliance)?
So again, if you work for the federal government for 10 years you get your loans forgiven, and HYS have excellent, comprehensive LRAPs. Thus if you're committed to government work, the debt shouldn't really be a consideration. If by debt load you really mean you want biglaw income for a while, that's fine and understandable, but not really what you've been saying.

I think it's always going to be more difficult to pivot back to law if you spend the first couple of years out of school not practicing (or clerking or similar). That doesn't mean it's necessarily impossible, I think it's just hard to predict because there are so many unknowns that will affect your chances. Whether you can pivot into a government attorney position will depend on what you spend your fellowship doing. Ditto biglaw or in-house. The criteria for hiring new grads right out of school tend to be pretty predictable. Once you deviate from the standard path, it doesn't mean you're doomed - you might well have a great outcome that makes you much happier! - but it may mean that you're going to have to take a leap of faith at some point.

Want to continue reading?

Register for access!

Did I mention it was FREE ?


Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Sep 19, 2022 9:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:49 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 8:06 am
OP here. I think the general problem is I would also much rather work for the federal government than be a big law attorney but I have the full debt load. I guess a primary consideration is whether I can leverage PMF into an attorney position after those 2 years and get on the attorney-level pay scale? Or if not, whether it is possible, if not very possible, to transition to big law or in-house (compliance)?
So again, if you work for the federal government for 10 years you get your loans forgiven, and HYS have excellent, comprehensive LRAPs. Thus if you're committed to government work, the debt shouldn't really be a consideration. If by debt load you really mean you want biglaw income for a while, that's fine and understandable, but not really what you've been saying.

I think it's always going to be more difficult to pivot back to law if you spend the first couple of years out of school not practicing (or clerking or similar). That doesn't mean it's necessarily impossible, I think it's just hard to predict because there are so many unknowns that will affect your chances. Whether you can pivot into a government attorney position will depend on what you spend your fellowship doing. Ditto biglaw or in-house. The criteria for hiring new grads right out of school tend to be pretty predictable. Once you deviate from the standard path, it doesn't mean you're doomed - you might well have a great outcome that makes you much happier! - but it may mean that you're going to have to take a leap of faith at some point.
You're 100% right, I've been using debt load as a fill-in for the financial cushion big law provides. I guess it comes down to the age-old question: setting aside moral considerations and the like, is the money worth the personal freedom/happiness sacrifice. So hard to know as a law student with no extensive career pre-law school.

Really like the leap of faith point. I guess the accredited answer is that it doesn't hurt to apply and see a) if I even get it and b) what the position will ultimately be. Once those variables are known, I have more information to think through and seek more applicable advice about the bigger questions re:finance and career flexibility. Thanks for your help!

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:00 pm

I know a couple of people who did PMF after law school. One of 'm did get a lawyer job afterwards, albeit at a state agency, rather than in the federal government; the other became a permanent non-laywer employee at the same federal agency where they did the PMF. If you don't really want to be a lawyer, I think doing PMF can make a lot of sense, but as others have mentioned, it can be difficult to get a legal job after two years of doing non-lawyer work.

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Sep 24, 2022 3:13 am

I was a PMF some years ago, so I have experience with the program. Just being a PMF finalist doesn't mean much. What will matter for your decision is the actual placement that you get. Placements vary widely from positions where you get to work on high level policy to much more routine jobs such as contract negotiations or even HR type positions. There are a number of placements that it makes sense to pick over big law, but there are also many that won't provide you with particularly interesting work or opportunities. Also, there are rarely any legal placements for PMFs, so you should only do the fellowship if you are interested in policy or not purely legal work. In the past, there were some attorney placements and many attorney rotations available, but unfortunately they started cracking down on this around 2013 since the program wasn't intended to include attorney positions.

Also, while nothing is stopping you from going back to private sector after the conclusion of the fellowship, that's not the design or goal of the PMF program. The biggest rewards of the PMF program actually tend to happen after the fellowship, because the fellowship serves as a kind of fast track to a manager or other senior role at an agency. If you are planning to leave after finishing the fellowship in two years I don't think you will get a lot out of it.

My own path was PMF in a policy role at an agency, then did an attorney rotation at that agency (this was pre-2013), then was converted into a permanent attorney position at that agency after the fellowship. After a few years I moved into an attorney role in a different federal agency where I am now in a senior leadership position (having the PMF on my resume has definitely helped).

Anonymous User
Posts: 410853
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Presidential Management Fellow or BigLaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Sep 25, 2022 3:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Sep 24, 2022 3:13 am
I was a PMF some years ago, so I have experience with the program. Just being a PMF finalist doesn't mean much. What will matter for your decision is the actual placement that you get. Placements vary widely from positions where you get to work on high level policy to much more routine jobs such as contract negotiations or even HR type positions. There are a number of placements that it makes sense to pick over big law, but there are also many that won't provide you with particularly interesting work or opportunities. Also, there are rarely any legal placements for PMFs, so you should only do the fellowship if you are interested in policy or not purely legal work. In the past, there were some attorney placements and many attorney rotations available, but unfortunately they started cracking down on this around 2013 since the program wasn't intended to include attorney positions.

Also, while nothing is stopping you from going back to private sector after the conclusion of the fellowship, that's not the design or goal of the PMF program. The biggest rewards of the PMF program actually tend to happen after the fellowship, because the fellowship serves as a kind of fast track to a manager or other senior role at an agency. If you are planning to leave after finishing the fellowship in two years I don't think you will get a lot out of it.

My own path was PMF in a policy role at an agency, then did an attorney rotation at that agency (this was pre-2013), then was converted into a permanent attorney position at that agency after the fellowship. After a few years I moved into an attorney role in a different federal agency where I am now in a senior leadership position (having the PMF on my resume has definitely helped).
Any chance I can reach out to you in some capacity at some point? This was super helpful! I'm definitely interested in policy work, more so than legal work -- though regulatory work seems to straddle both. Main question is- What placements would you say make sense to pick over BL and how do you figure that?

Register now!

Resources to assist law school applicants, students & graduates.

It's still FREE!


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”