For the Legal Intelligencer’s Young Lawyer series, Constangy attorney Amir Goodarzi authored an article for the December 7, 2023 issue sharing insight for younger attorneys based on his experience transitioning from government attorney to private practice.
Specifically, the article dove into the many benefits public sector legal work can provide young lawyers looking to build their skills and experience. However, the transition from public practice to private requires adaptability. Goodarzi shared one of the first challenges was “adapting to the pace and demands of private practice,” adding, “Work in the public sector often follows a more structured schedule with consistency in the working hours. Private practice, on the other hand, requires longer working hours and more flexibility to provide legal service.”
The most significant adjustments Goodarzi detailed was meeting billable hour requirements and suddenly managing client expectations. Going from a fixed, regular government salary to an often higher but more varied salary in private practice takes some getting used to. Complementing that opportunity is the requirement to master billing practices and fee structures, along with myriad soft skills, which take time.
With private practice, “Developing effective communication skills and client management techniques is as important as developing legal acumen,” Goodarzi explained. Government attorneys don’t have the same advocacy relationship with their clients, as the government or the public often serve as the clients. In contrast, private practice considers the client-first mindset a top requirement in effective counsel.
While there are challenges in the transition, there are also many opportunities, Goodarzi pointed out. With greater career autonomy, private practice lawyers can choose what types of clients and cases they want to take on. Private practice attorneys also have more leadership opportunities without the restrictions government attorneys can face. The right “mindset, preparation and time” are the keys to a smooth transition and rewarding career, said Goodarzi.
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