Getting the opportunity to serve as outside counsel for a government entity is highly sought after. For the firms that get the opportunity, it can equate to a big payday. As a recent AP article showed, states like Florida are just hemorrhaging money on legal battles, and losing, and paying even more.
Whether your firm focuses on representing entities or individuals, there are government outside counsel opportunities that you can pursue. For attorneys at all levels of experience, there are conflicts panels that can, in some areas, produce a relatively steady stream of individual clients that the government cannot represent. However, getting an assignment from a conflict panel pales in comparison to being selected as private outside counsel for an entity.
How to Reel in a Government Fish
Convincing an individual client to hire your firm is a different process than convincing a business, or a government entity. While individuals and businesses might just go for the most aggressive pricing, government entities can limit fees and expenses, and have a much stronger position from which to negotiate. This means that experience, reputation, and past results, will have a significant impact.
Some states will publicly post the outside counsel vacancies and accept proposals from firms. Others might just allow the state attorney general, or other agency, the authority to appoint. In those locales, it could literally pay to get to know the right people. Unfortunately, that means you might have to engage in some public figuring sleuthing and high-priced networking.
Give and You Shall Receive, Maybe
Getting your foot in the door without having a personal connection, or having pried open that door with heaps of political contributions, can be tricky, but is still possible. Getting involved in the community, speaking at public meetings, and becoming known in the community as an attorney with expertise in certain issues, can lead to future work down the road (if not from the government, then at least from the community).
Some firms will offer services on a pro bono basis in order to develop a relationship with the entity in hopes of landing future work. Larger firms can assign several junior associates to the pro bono matters in order to minimize their losses, while providing an opportunity to train the young associates on handling public entity matters.
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