Public Services and Change—Insights from a Government Attorney

Illustration of a lawyer using a spyglass over a city

A government law practice is a rewarding and challenging career filled with wonderful opportunities to serve the public and our communities. Working in the government arena allows an attorney the chance to work with fellow public servants to advance the public’s interest and for the attorney to leave a lasting positive mark on the community.

To be successful, the government attorney should understand the mission and purpose of the local government or agency they serve so the attorney can help the organization achieve that mission in a legally compliant manner. For example, Washington state ports’ main statutory purpose is to provide economic development opportunities so the attorney can help the organization achieve that mission by ensuring its policies and procedures, procurement, infrastructure development, real estate portfolio, etc. are coordinated and synchronized with that mission. This means advising your government client in a manner that identifies and distinguishes the legal and business decisions and risks, mitigates those risks, and provides advice that aligns the legal and business aspects with the government client’s mission.

One of the questions I frequently receive involves the effect elections may have on a government practice. Elections can bring new elected officials (i.e., clients) and new laws through such things as initiatives and referendums. As colleagues in private practice know, new clients can mean new challenges, but also new and fun opportunities. The main challenge is to ensure the new officials understand the various open government laws such as rules governing open public meetings and public records. I have found that most elected officials are honorable individuals trying to do what they believe is the right thing, so it’s a matter of educating them and continuously reminding them of the various nuances so they can stay focused on the policy challenges affecting the organization, and know you have their legal “backs” covered.

I believe a government law practice is a great way to use your legal and problem-solving skills to better your community and would highly recommend new attorneys strongly consider such a practice!

For When the Times Are a Changin’

Maybe you’re thinking about pursuing a legal career in government, maybe you’re a government attorney who would like advice on navigating through transitions in government, or maybe you’re a government attorney with a headful of insights and knowledge to share with others. If any of those sound like you, considering attending the Nov. 15 MentorLink Mixer: Navigating Through Transitions in Government (*psst* you can even earn MCLE credit for an approved, structured mentorship program or individual mentorship relationship—find out how at this mixer). Both table coaches and coaches are encouraged to register by Nov. 1 to attend this mixer, to be held at Hotel RL in Olympia. Last year’s event sold out quickly, so register today!

Learn more about this MentorLink Mixer.