Good news for government attorneys! Demand for your skills is off the charts. High-level government attorneys have recently joined Cravath, Sidley Austin, Skadden, Cleary, Kirkland, Jenner, Arnold & Porter, Mayer Brown, and Boies Schiller, among other firms. If you are a government attorney, now could be the time for you to make a lateral move to private practice.
The Surge in Hiring
Government attorneys are getting more traction with firms than at the same time last year. Here’s why:
- Client Demand: As companies grapple with recent changes to the regulatory landscape, they need attorneys with government expertise. That demand is fueling the current hiring boom.
- Strategic Timing for Attorneys: If you joined the government at the beginning of the term, you have accumulated significant experience with the current administration, which few attorneys at firms can offer. This translates into immediate value for a firm and their clients. Equally important, the third year of a presidential term is a golden period to leap into private practice. Attorneys who move in year three often secure better positions with more prestigious firms and higher guaranteed compensation than attorneys who join the crowd making a rush for the exit at the end of a term.
Government Attorneys Offer Valuable Expertise
The experience you have gained in government is a scarce and valuable resource. Specifically:
- Shapers of Policy: Whether as political appointees or career officials, recent government attorneys have played pivotal roles in shaping current policy shifts. Firms value your perspective on agency priorities and the nuances of fresh regulations.
- Guiding through Uncertainties: In an era when new rules have emerged but few cases set precedents, businesses are in unfamiliar territories. If you have just left a government role, your fresh insights are pivotal in helping companies understand and navigate this new regulatory environment, especially in sectors where regulatory history is sparse.
The Risk of Limiting Your Options
Too often government attorneys consider only one firm when they move to private practice – perhaps returning to their prior firm, or in response to a direct call from a law firm.
- Easier is Not Always Better: It is flattering to get the call asking you to return to your old firm, or when a practice chair reaches out to invite you to an interview. It can be efficient, but remind yourself of the potential cost. Saying “yes” might mean missing out on a better opportunity elsewhere.
- Keep Your Options Open: Another firm may provide a stronger platform for you, have a stronger track record of success with former government attorneys, offer more compensation, present a better title, or promise more powerful leadership opportunities.
How to Efficiently Navigate the Market
Transitioning from government to private practice presents distinct challenges.
- Unique Concerns: Government attorneys have different guidelines than law firm attorneys when it comes to issues like recusals, profit sharing when joining a firm, appearing before agencies following departure, aspects of confidentiality, and much more. You also need to understand how to develop a business plan while having no immediately portable business.
- The Right Recruiter: Find a respected recruiter known for working with government officials. The right recruiter will identify the firms interested in government attorneys in your practice area; and will also help you navigate issues unique to government attorneys, simplify the process, save you time, ensure a more effective search, and help you secure a better result than you can on your own.
If you are a government attorney contemplating a lateral move to the private sector, there’s no better time than now. Your expertise is a sought-after commodity, and with the right guidance, joining a law firm could help you take your practice to the next level. Navigating this transition, however, requires not just expertise but strategic guidance to ensure that the move aligns with both immediate goals and long-term career aspirations.
Looking to make a move? Connect with Amy Savage, Chair of our Government Enforcement & Regulatory Group, and the Lateral Link team to explore a brighter horizon and ensure your next step is the right one. Your potential, our expertise—let’s chart your future together.