In the U.S., young lawyers are going public

Due to the changing work landscape, more young lawyers are taking becoming civil servants

By Todd Harrison

On Monday August 23rd, 2010

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Chalk it up to Obama’s career path, or the recession-bred change in the legal job market, or the shifting priorities of today’s law students. Whatever the reasons, a life (or, at least, a year) in public service is more attractive than ever for recent U.S. grads, according to a recent New York Times story.

The trend started in late 2008, when American firms began deferring the start dates for new associates due to the financial downturn. Many students accepted offers of a stipend in exchange for a year spent working in the public sector, at jobs ranging from public defenders offices to nonprofit organizations.

But the really interesting part of the story, the Times reports, is that some deferred associates said no to their delayed Biglaw job offers — citing work environment and the desire to “make a difference” as factors to mitigate the massive pay cut they had to swallow. The piece quotes David Stern of public sector legal recruiter Equal Justice Works as saying that lawyers who make this choice will likely take home $35,000 to $39,000 a year, instead of the $140,000 to $150,000 they would have earned at a private firm.