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Legal Awards: Public vs. Private

Many decisions face young attorneys just starting out in the legal world, and figuring out what kind of legal work is right for you can be a real challenge. To help, we turned to our legal professionals to find out how they handle some of these questions. We asked them about the differences between working publicly or privately as an attorney, and how they decided which was right for them. They had some insightful things to say, which can hopefully help young lawyers just starting out who are debating which route is right for them.

How did you decide whether to work publicly or privately?

What are the pros of being a public attorney? How about the cons?

What are the advantages to working privately? Disadvantages?

Which sector do you work in? Have you worked in the other?

Should new attorneys start out in public or private firms?

Most Inspiring

New attorneys should take any job out there. However, best case scenario is to work in the public sector for a couple of years, learn as much as possible and then take that with you to the private sector. read more

We loved Kalish's comment because it found a good middle ground between public and private work. Starting out in the public sphere has a lot of advantages for a new lawyer, but in the long term it may not be in your best interests. It is not only possible to switch between the two, but actually a pretty smart plan for many lawyers.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Insightful

...public attorneys get trial experience more quickly. Moreover, public attorneys have a better opportunity to learn and be mentored. Also there can be a big difference in the resources available to handling cases. In some cases private attorneys have the advantage (think clients with deep pockets), while in other cases public attorneys have the advantage (think prosecutors who have a distinct advantage given the pubic resources). read more

As Bahrawy explains, when you're just starting out, you have to decide what is more important to you: money, or experience? Working as a public attorney means you are going into a pre-existing system where you can get help and resources from more established attorneys. Going into private practice right off the bat might mean more salary, but it also often means going it alone, with fewer resources.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Informative

The biggest advantages of being a public attorney are the more regular hours (although some public attorneys, such as prosecutors, still work the longer hours) and better health benefits. However, on the downside, the pay often is no where near what you can ultimately make in the private sector. The hours are rigid and you often have little flexibility to adjust your schedule as needed without cutting through a lot of red tape. read more

Carr gets to the heart of the matter with this informative comment. Working as a public attorney means regular hours and regular pay, but the ultimate payoff isn't as high and you lose the flexibility of working privately. If you want to work a 9-5 and then go home, public work is probably your best match. If you care more about having a higher salary, and don't mind often having to work outside regular working hours, private may be better for you.

eLocal Expert Network

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