Transition from government to private practice — part one

LegalJob answered the following question in Monday's Mailbag series concerning planning for transition to the private sector from government:

"Since you have experience in both the private and public sector, do you have advice for someone beginning their legal career in government to eventually transition to a firm? What things should/shouldn't I be doing now to make the leap in a few years?"

Great question.  There are several items to keep in mind:

1. Heavy lifting is good.
Make the most of your government time each day by working on projects, which involve heavy responsibility and get you deep into the substance of the law (in the weeds as they say).  Future employers will want you to demonstrate that you have significant expertise in xyz area and that you are able to work in a fast paced, high-pressured work environment with multiple deadlines and competing priorities.  Many government jobs offer employees the opportunity to handle projects that junior associates at big firms do not get to handle (at least not alone).  Hopefully that is the case for you and your docket of experience becomes your number one selling point when you leave.  If it is not, you may want to consider something else.

2. Develop a niche preferably in a marketable area of law.
Your specialty area should be something you like but you should also think about who your future clients will be.  If you are interested in tax, for example, you may consider international tax or more specifically transfer pricing.  That area is specialized and will also involve clients that have the means to pay your big fees (large corporations).

3. Write down what you do on a regular basis.
This tip is important.  You want to catalogue your successes and you also want to note the legal issues you are resolving.  When you interview, employers want to see that you can articulate clearly and concisely the matters you worked on and they want you to explain your specific contribution.  These details should also be provided (to some extent) on your resume.

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