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Working as a government attorney has both pros and cons, just like any other attorney. Some of the pros include more freedom over what cases they work on and often having a more stable job than some other types of attorneys. Some of the cons include a lower average salary compared to private practice attorneys and less support staff to help you than you would have in private practice.
Government attorneys enjoy various benefits that private practice attorneys don't have. That being said, there are some downsides to becoming a government attorney. While they often have additional freedom over the cases they take on, and more job security, they also usually have less support staff and a lower average salary as compared to private practice attorneys. All in all, you should definitely consider becoming a government attorney if it looks like the right fit for you.
1. Why did you decide to work as a government attorney?
I come from a long line of public servants. I guess you can say it's in my blood. I love to help people, I have to feel passionate about my work. I have to feel like my work matters.
2. What is the best part of working as a government attorney?
It's the total package. I get to work with really smart attorneys. I have a very diverse portfolio and autonomy over my work product. I also have a work/home life balance and a great benefits package.
3. What is the worst part of working as a government attorney?
Your office may not have the resources to hire paraprofessional support staff. If this is the case, unlike a big law firm- you are responsible for all your filings, your copying, your legal research, your proofing, and your administrative tasks. Also, you will not make the kind of money your friends in big law are making. If you have large student loans, the government as an initial job may not be an option.
4. What advice would you give to others looking to become a government attorney?
When we recently advertised to fill an entry-level attorney position we had over 800 applications. You have to differentiate yourself. A good cover letter is a must. In your cover letter sell yourself. Why do you want THIS job, not just a government job. You may be one of 200 students from a top ten law school applying- what makes you the best? If you are applying for a job and your transcript does not demonstrate your interest, connect the dots in your cover letter. Don't wait for the interview. Check for typos! It's your first impression. If you have the opportunity to apply directly or through www.usajobs.gov do both. It never hurts. If you get the interview, come to the interview prepared. Send a thank you note.
5. What is a typical day like for you as a government attorney?
It varies. I am a list person so I typically start my Monday mornings by looking at my calendar for the week and see what deadlines are coming up. It may mean briefings with my clients, presentations or trainings for an office, facilitating a work group call, or working on litigation. It is never a dull day.
6. How does your experience as a government attorney compare with your peers who chose other sorts of jobs?
I came to the government right out of law school. I took a drastically lower salary than a lot of my classmates. However, within six months I had the opportunity to work on a case our office was taking up to the Supreme Court. As I mentioned earlier, the government may not have resources for paralegals or other litigation support so when something big comes up you get to work on it. I also think the autonomy over my work product so early on in my legal career is unique to government.
7. What was/is your title while working in the government?
8. How hard is it to get the sort of job you did?
The hiring process is very competitive. Recently, for each application we are receiving between 600-800 applications.