Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lesson 4: The good side of government work

Attorneys have been doing a lot of talking in the past few years about work-life balance. This idea was first introduced to me during my professional ethics class in law school, when we read this article. Written by a then-professor and former biglaw litigator, the article urged law students to consider a career in public service as an alternative to high-paying attorney gigs. The money is less, but what is your time with family, friends, and yourself worth to you?

At the time, I agreed with the article but didn't think I had much of a chance at actually landing a government job, let alone a career. I had failed at multiple applications to various positions, and I was convinced that I was going to have to take the first crappy, long-hour position that I managed to obtain.

So glad I was wrong!

I was very lucky to land my clerkship, and it has been a great position. I get to work with judges on real cases, I have reasonable hours and decent benefits, and I have made so many networking connections that I can't even count them. And my judge is the nicest man I have ever met. (Judges as a rule are pretty friendly and nice, but my judge really takes the cake.)

And every day, I realize how lucky I am compared to the attorneys I know who are unhappy in their law firm jobs. Maybe it has always been this way in the profession, but I feel that work-life balance is getting worse even as pay gets worse, simply because graduates have nowhere else to go. Even as my career gets better, I try vehemently to discourage law school hopefuls from actually matriculating.

I was lucky, many of my friends were not.

As a result of working in government, I have been able to have my evenings free, to take vacations when I want to, and have my work days free of the professional stress that billable hours and workplace competition can have on new attorneys. I appreciate that a great deal, and I think it's important if I'm going to maintain my relationship and life in the way it's been going.

And my job gave me the connections, experience, and mindset necessary to transition to my new job, which, again, I am lucky to have. I hope this post didn't come across as too braggy, I just mainly wanted to convey to the universe how grateful I am that my chips landed in the way that they did.

But, you know that there is no good without the bad. Tomorrow, the dark side of government work!

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