55 minutes | Nov 19th 2020

Episode 50-A Late Career Shift to Public Service

Many lawyers choose public service early in their careers.  In a public agency, attorneys may find that they are getting more responsibility than they might get at the same stage in private practice.  Assistant district attorneys, for example, find themselves trying cases almost from day one.  Lawyers working for agencies that regulate industry may be given a lot more responsibility for crafting policy than they might otherwise be exposed to as an associate at a law firm.

But salaries in the public sector generally lag far behind salaries in private practice and for many lawyers, the career path often runs from government into the private sector.

In truth, there are many opportunities for lawyers who are further along in their careers to move in the other direction.  At the highest levels of government, politicians often turn to the most successful attorneys in private practice to head agencies or craft policy later in their career.  For these senior lawyers, it is a win-win.  It is a chance to give back and find another burst of career satisfaction at a time in life when the economics are less important.

My guest in this episode, Rich Johnston, did just that in 2015.  After a long and successful career as a litigator at Wilmer Hale (a firm that was Hale and Dorr for most of his professional life), Rich was brought on by Maura Healey, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, to be her Chief Legal Counsel.

In this episode, I speak with Rich about his path to the Attorney General’s Office, what he loves about public service, and advice he has for lawyers thinking about making a move like this after a lengthy law firm career.

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