Caitlin Bailey Slavin, Assistant Prosecutor for Berkeley County, West Virginia
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. Learn more about what being a government attorney is like in this profile of Caitlin Slavin.
1. Why did you decide to work as a government attorney?
I decided to move from a civil litigation firm to a government job because I wanted more in court experience. Given the nature of civil practice today, I felt I wasn't exposed enough to real time in the courtroom like the more senior attorneys at the firm were when they began their careers.
2. What is the best part of working as a government attorney?
The best part of working in the government for me is the exciting pace of the work. As a prosecutor, my cases move much faster than my civil cases did, and I love the experience of spending my day in the courtroom advocating the State's position. I also love working with law enforcement and helping victims of crime find justice through the court system.
3. What is the worst part of working as a government attorney?
I find the lack of resources to be the worst part of working in government. Working for the county means there simply will not be the type of resources available to attorneys that you would find at a successful law firm. A government office works off of a certain budget and there isn't much wiggle room inside that budget once it is set. This can be frustrating when you want to do your absolute best as an attorney, but you are constricted by strict budgetary concerns.
4. What advice would you give to others looking to become government attorneys?
I would advise others that are looking to become government attorneys to actively reach out to the elected official in whose office you want to work or to others working in the particular sector you want to work in to find out about upcoming job vacancies and to better understand the policies and objectives of the particular office. Understanding what policies or objectives that office is pursuing will let help you identify if you could see yourself working in that area of the government on a daily basis.
5. What is a typical day like for you as a government attorney?
In my position, a typical day starts in the office at 8 a.m. to prepare for Court at 9 am. I am generally in Court from 9-12, working through the docket of cases that the Prosecutor elect assigned to me. I often rotate courtrooms depending on which Judge has court scheduled for the day. Around noon the court breaks for lunch and I take an hour to eat or catch up on paperwork. If I don't have afternoon court as well, I will work on my assigned cases and schedule meetings with law enforcement officers and witnesses to prepare for upcoming hearings or trial. I am able to leave the office by 5:30 p.m. depending on how busy the day went.
6. How does your experience as a government attorney compare with your peers who chose other sorts of jobs?
I can truly say my experience as a government attorney is much better than some of my peers who are unhappy at big law firms. As a government attorney I don't have to worry about billable hours, so there is much more flexibility in my schedule than some of my peers. I've also gained the in court experience that I wanted, compared to many of my peers who have yet to try a case. On the flip side though, my salary as a government attorney is considerably less than that of my peers in the private sector and the politics of working for an elected official is a stressor that I hadn't considered when I made the jump from a firm to the government.
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