Monday, August 01, 2005

Summer lessons

I've spent the summer working for the City Law Department here in Cincinnati. They say that your first summer job goes a long way in helping you shape your legal career, so I just thought I'd share what I've learned so far -- namely, that working for the government is awesome. Here's why.

1) Sensible hours. The work day rarely starts before 9, and rarely extends past 5 o'clock. Unless you're going to court there's no need to be in and out with the sun. In all but the most extreme cases your only client -- the City -- can wait until tomorrow.

2) No billable hours requirement. When you only have one client, there's no need to stress over whether you're spending too much time (and therefore incurring too many fees) on one case.

3) Friendly people. Although I've been assured that I just missed more than one "grumpy old lawyer" in the office, the people there right now have been fantastic. Not at all what I expected, but I guess it makes sense -- see #s 1 and 2.

4) Great assignments. When you work for the city you'll see things that you'd never otherwise encounter. Where else can you write a motion for a tort case, attend oral arguments at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, put coke dealers in jail, research ancient Ohio case law, and draft municipal legislation, all in the same week?

5) You get to work in a building that looks like a castle. OK, obviously this one doesn't apply to everyone who works for the government, but Cincinnati's City Hall is pretty sweet.

6) Good contacts. Not only do you get to work with accomplished attorneys, but you get to meet local judges and attorneys or clerks from other firms. If you play your cards right you could get a reference not only from someone in your office, but someone in another office as well. That can be even more valuable.

7) Finally, you have a great bargaining position. When you represent the City, you always have a compelling public policy argument to make. Now, that's not to say that the City is never wrong, or that the City can get away with anything -- it just means that every case has an added dimension that most private cases don't. That means it's a great experience for anyone who's even thinking about going into politics or even some sort of administrative work. Even though one of the chief criticisms of today's law school environment is that too much time is spent discussing policy (to the exclusion of the law), there's no substitute for actually making decisions and researching issues that directly impact hundreds of thousands of lives.

Certainly there are advantages to working for firms. You'll almost certainly earn more money, and you'll have lots of different clients, which can be interesting. But if you get the chance, I definitely recommend spending a summer with a city solicitor or similar agency. You'll love it.

2 comments:

Apple Martini said...

glad you like your job. i worked for a city court and my favorite part was taking off early to watch my soaps.

i feel compelled to warn you guys: the bar sucks. it is horrible. start studying now.

that's all i have to say. until february. when i have to take it again because i failed... :(

anyhoo, good luck starting your second year! :)

Nye! said...

Wow, did you really fail it? That sucks.