Tag Archives: law firm transition

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 . Your next career move awaits, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Lateral Search Dos and Don’ts: Tips from Both Sides of the Lateral Coin

Moving firms is a laborious and time-consuming task. Without assistance, your search may sputter and stall. Legal recruiters were instrumental in my two lateral moves, each significantly boosting my compensation and firm prestige. Trying to make these moves independently proved fruitless, underlining the importance of a skilled recruiter.

Choosing the Right Legal Recruiter

As a practicing attorney, I responded to recruiter emails based primarily on the opportunities they presented, often lured by promises of higher compensation, better hours, or work in fields like entertainment, sports, or cyber law. My criteria were simple: (a) an appealing opportunity, and (b) the recruiter graduated law school. Beyond that, I did minimal research.

This approach was too simplistic. A good recruiter acts as your agent, providing practical advice and actively advancing your career goals, rather than merely seeking a quick placement. Essentially, recruiters are brokers, introducing you to firms potentially interested in hiring you. This is a crucial perspective to maintain.

Recruiters sometimes need to temper your unrealistic goals, while other times, they make your dreams a reality, depending on the situation.

Dos and Don’ts from My Experiences

From my journey as an associate using recruiters and now being one, here are some key dos and don’ts:

  • Do review your recruiter’s LinkedIn, website, and articles. A quick check can reveal much about their resources and approach.
  • Don’t choose a recruiter solely for their pedigree. While pedigree can indicate industry knowledge and competence, some of the best recruiters at Lateral Link, for example, don’t have a law school background.
  • Do collaborate with recruiters who align with your career aspirations yet remain realistic about your goals. They should be knowledgeable about the market and provide insightful guidance. That means knowing when to go for it and when to ground expectations in reality. 
  • Don’t work with recruiters who are not solution-focused or try to push you into roles they’re trying to fill. Your lateral search should be a collaborative effort with a recruiter who supports your journey and guides you through the process.
  • Do be judicious about sharing your application materials. A reliable recruiter only submits your application to firms you’ve approved, avoiding potential issues and application conflicts.
  • Don’t engage with too many recruiters simultaneously. This can lead to confusion and difficulties in managing submissions, as well as weakening your position in offer negotiations.
  • Do choose a responsive recruiter who keeps you regularly updated. Navigating job changes is challenging, and a good recruiter will ensure you’re well informed throughout the process.
  • Do work with recruiters who take the time to understand your practice area, history, and preferences, and who prepare you effectively for interviews.
  • Do ask recruiters about their motivations. Some are genuinely passionate about their work, while others may be primarily driven by financial gain. Make your choice accordingly.

Having been both a lateral associate and a recruiter, I’ve gained valuable insights into the process. Moving firms is challenging and stressful, but with the right recruiter, it can be as seamless and stress-free as possible.