From Gov't To Firm, Happily: Changing Careers Midstream

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Attorneys & Professionals

David Edelstein, an associate in the Vorys Cincinnati office and member of the environmental group, authored an article for Environmental Law360 titled "From Gov't To Firm, Happily: Changing Careers Midstream." 

The full text of the article is included below.


From Gov't To Firm, Happily: Changing Careers Midstream

Before making the transition to private practice, I’d been a government attorney at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for nearly a decade. I enjoyed my job and being in a leadership position, but even though I found our work satisfying and my colleagues diligent, I soon realized that my career was at a standstill. In the federal government, I wouldn’t be able to take the next step in the career process for 10 or 15 years.

Starting a job search when you work in the federal government is different from the way you’d approach it in the private sector. Everything has to be totally aboveboard to avoid the appearance of impropriety. You should notify ethics that you’re looking for new employment — a notification that’s best made in a face-to-face meeting with the agency’s ethics counsel. It’s also a good idea to further secure administrative approval before accepting anything, be it: an interview, lunch, dinner or a flight to a different city to meet with a firm. And be sure to work closely with ethics when providing information for conflicts checks that private firms require.

The next step is to find a recruiter — since I hadn’t interviewed for a job outside of the EPA in nearly a decade, I needed help. Get to know your recruiter well, and make it your business to work for him, to take his advice and let him point you in the right direction. He can help you rework your resume and cover letter from scratch, prepare for interviews, and even discuss which firms will most value your skills.

Throughout the interview process, be forthright and honest about your values, weaknesses and strengths. I used the interviews as an opportunity to learn about the firm and its culture, not just answer questions. I knew I found a good fit after I interviewed with the Cincinnati team at Vorys. The rest is history.

As I walked into the lobby on my first day, I knew I was beginning a whole new career, with new challenges and new opportunities. And I loved it.

What I learned in my job search and transition not only applies to attorneys considering a jump from government work to private practice, but also to anyone considering a midstream career change.

Here are the top takeaways that I had from this experience: