Transition from private practice to government — part one

Are you thinking of leaving your law firm for a stint in government?  Here are some items to consider:

1. Plan ahead
  • It is never too early to start thinking about the next step in your career.  No one else will and even if you have a good mentor, you have to be proactive and make sure you leave on a high note.
  • It is preferable not to wait to consider leaving until you don't make partner or you have several years with low hours.
  • Leaving after two years may be too soon.  Leaving after eight years may be a bit late.
  • Perhaps you want to make partner first before you leave but leaving right after being admitted may be poor form.
  • A good rule a thumb would be to figure that it could take up to one year to secure the position you want.
2. Be discreet and sensitive (to the employer's needs) but try to obtain advice/assistance from multiple people
  • Obviously you do not want the word to get back to the partner in charge that you are thinking of leaving (without being the one to inform him or her).  You also want to be prepared for the fact that your supervisor may not want you to leave.  Demonstrate to that person that you have considered how your leaving will affect his or her practice and offer to be very flexible as far as timing so he or she is not left with no one to do their work, especially during a busy times with current deadlines.
  • Note that many at the firm could provide valuable suggestions about which places to investigate and perhaps help connect you with a decision maker in those places.  Your boss could also be helpful especially if you have a thoughtful approach and can articulate why your current move helps the firm.
  • Your practice area would be a logical start but other partners outside the area may be helpful too, especially if you are sensitive to the information leaking
  • Friends and contacts in areas of the government you are considering may be helpful (with the assumption that they can be discreet such that the information does not get back to your boss).

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