Tag Archives: Government Attorneys

Government Attorneys: Strategies to Elevate Your BigLaw Prospects

Government attorneys are in demand, and several prominent law firms have recently hired former government attorneys. If you are a government attorney considering a transition to the private sector, understanding how to leverage your background to strengthen your candidacy is crucial. Here are a few tips to strengthen your BigLaw prospects.

Develop High-Level Expertise

Many attorneys are drawn to government practice not just to serve the public, but also to take on high levels of responsibility earlier in their career than attorneys in private practice. The higher the level of responsibility you have handled, the more attractive you will be to most law firms. Seize opportunities to lead projects, appear in court, negotiate settlements, craft new rules, attend training sessions – your advanced skills will set you apart from the competition.

Also, seek out an experience that gives you a unique insight into government policies and priorities. Firms and clients appreciate that insight because you will be able to help them more effectively navigate (what seems to be constantly evolving) legal frameworks.

You may also be able to leverage your expertise to earn promotions, which may make you more appealing to potential firms, especially at the partner level. Senior positions also enhance your credibility with future clients.

Build Relationships

This is one of the most rewarding aspects of practicing law for many attorneys. It is also crucial for government attorneys who are interested in partnership options. Firms appreciate your relationships in part because they demonstrate that you are thinking ahead about developing business, and that you are honing the soft skills needed to build a successful practice. 

So where do you build these relationships as a government attorney? While you are not in a position to wine and dine potential clients, you still have a universe of options. Start by fostering relationships with your government colleagues. If your colleagues leave they may become clients if they move in house, or referral sources when they join other firms. You also have opportunities to build relationships with professionals you meet at government events, departmental training sessions, and conferences. Consider joining the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division to meet even more people. Even working across the table from opposing counsel presents the opportunity to get to know key players in your space.

Focus on Relevant Practice Areas

If your long-term goal is a move to private practice, focus on a practice area that not only inspires you but also aligns with the kind of firm you want to join. You will have more options if you are interested in areas where top firms have thriving practices. For 2024, we predict that litigation, antitrust, white-collar, corporate, energy, and intellectual property will continue to thrive. In contrast, specializing in niche areas like First Amendment law may limit the range of options available to you. That said, you will ultimately commit to one firm. Therefore, the volume of exit opportunities might be just one factor for you to consider.

Plan Ahead

Strategically planning ahead increases the likelihood of a successful search. Not only does it take time to craft persuasive application materials, but you also need to take the market for government attorneys into consideration. This year, for instance, it is important to be mindful of the electoral cycle. A surge of government candidates after elections can lead to heightened competition. Positions may also be limited at that point; historically, many firms complete their searches for government attorneys well before an election. 

You also need time to find the firms that align with your practice areas, work style, and personal and professional goals. A legal recruiter who has deep relationships with firms can help you on that front; they will know which practices are thriving, which firms are hiring, and can play a pivotal role in guiding you to the firms with platforms that best match your aspirations. The earlier you reach out to a recruiter, the better they will be able to help you with your search.

For personalized guidance and insights specific to your career path, connect with me, Amy Savage, at asavage@laterallink.com. Your next career move awaits, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Government Attorneys: You Owe It to Yourself to Test the Market

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. 

Next Steps

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.