Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Brave or Stupid: Government to Plaintiff's Firm

I decided a month ago to leave my agency. Many reasons, but, passportfan307/10/17
Stupid. I don't glorify government jobs like a lot of the re trickydick07/10/17
What type of cases is he taking? What do you know of the rel vohod07/10/17
If I were single with no plans of marriage on the horizon, o themapmaster07/10/17
I left law practice to go be a contract negotiator for a fed flyer1407/10/17
I don't know if it is brave but I would do it as long as you tcpaul07/10/17
You can probably make more money as a personal injury lawyer fettywap07/10/17
Personal injury is very top heavy. Those at the top make big nighthawk07/10/17
This is a close call. You already have one foot out the door defectoantesto07/10/17
How can you resist double the pay? jeffm07/10/17
So you can pay a bunch of taxes now and work twice as hard? karlmarx07/10/17
I dunno what the OP should do, but from just an $ standpoint wolfman07/10/17
I left the plaintiff's gig when faced with a similar decisio 2breedbares07/10/17
govt. defensivelawyer07/10/17
It is hard to say without knowing where you are. Many people downwardslope07/10/17
All of this. It's a little surprising to me how many peop pauperesq07/10/17
Expected a Coco thread triplesix07/10/17
Clarification from the OP: The firm specializes in bringi passportfan307/10/17
It comes down to your personality and what you feel comforta trickydick07/10/17
I'm also looking toward the next opportunity as I figure the tcpaul07/11/17
Its up to you but you will likely be much more stressed and mtbislife07/10/17
This not necessarily the case. I am under zero pressure to g tcpaul07/11/17
OP - how much longer do you need to work in govt until your ti8307/10/17
When they are offering to double your salary, are we talking molawmo07/10/17
Further clarifications from the OP: 1. The base salary passportfan307/11/17
"all you need to do is advertise until you find one named re onehell07/11/17
You're not being stupid IMHO, but you are taking a pretty bi onehell07/11/17
Pretty sure TWBB did this kind of work and said it was stres karlfarbman07/11/17
You sound like you're trying to convince yourself to take th trickydick07/11/17
A few thoughts: 1) "Double" is a pretty big number. 2 anothernjlawyer07/11/17
I'd say do it and save as much of the extra income as you ca molawmo07/11/17
Can you take a Leave from your government job? If in a few m vohod07/11/17
silly question-could you do both jobs (i.e., part-time with legaleagle22307/11/17
This would be an easy decision for me but I can understand w tcpaul07/12/17
It sounds worth the risk. If I'm correct, it also sounds lik 2breedbares07/12/17
If you've checked it out and the offer is legit, take it. T toooldtocare07/12/17
I knew a guy who left his government job after 9 years and 1 shuiz07/12/17
OP read this thread: http://www.jdunderground.com/all/th read vohod07/14/17

passportfan3 (Jul 10, 2017 - 12:24 am)

I decided a month ago to leave my agency. Many reasons, but, briefly, not enough court time, can't stand the boss, and the idea of 21 more years of this just to nab the pension seems a very long time indeed.

So I was going to transfer to another agency.

Out of nowhere, a fairly high-profile plaintiff's attorney offered me a job. We know each other and, over the years, I have done contract work for him when he was busy.

His practice is successful, if I can judge by his house, cars and general circumstances. But he wants to focus more on finding and creating the cases, and he wants me to focus on the courtroom and discovery work.

He offered me a base that's double my government salary and a percentage of collections. The idea is that, after a few years of a high base and small percentage, those adjectives would flip -- a chance for a big score.

I am extremely tempted.

Am I being an idiot?

A greedy idiot, specifically.

The government job is great but (1) wage growth is slow and capped, and (2) the big benny -- the pension -- requires investing most of the rest of my life.

On the other hand, any plaintiff-side contingency firm can make like A Civil Action and fall apart if too many cases refuse to settle. Then I'd be an out-of-work late middle-aged attorney, and we all know how employable those are.

My friends have mostly said take it, especially my corporate defense friend who said "sooner or later, my clients always instruct me to settle these."

What say you, JDU?

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trickydick (Jul 10, 2017 - 1:03 am)

Stupid. I don't glorify government jobs like a lot of the regulars here. The pay and bureaucracy suck and the benefits take years to really get any good.

But one thing you can say about government work, there's job security. I run into so many attorneys that work for the state or government agencies and they are among the laziest and most incompetent. But the raises come regularly and I've yet to even hear of one getting fired outright. Even when the layoffs happen the pay outs are still better than anything you'll ever see in the private sector.

I'm not the sort of person who looks at a government position as being one with a lot of appeal, but once in such a position I sure wouldn't think of leaving it lightly given how volatile the legal job market is these days. Yeah, with the right connections and the right angles, you can make a killing out there. But a few missteps and you're filing for bankruptcy.

My two cents: stay where you are.

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vohod (Jul 10, 2017 - 1:11 am)

What type of cases is he taking? What do you know of the relevant law? If he is offering 2x your current gov't salary you will need to deliver ASAP or you will be unemployed. Profitable P's firms don't keep on competent non-performers, like a small garbage law firm would.

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themapmaster (Jul 10, 2017 - 1:38 am)

If I were single with no plans of marriage on the horizon, or had a wife that had a good paying and stable job or at least in a stable field, I'd be inclined to take the job offer.

If I had dependents, I'd be inclined to stay put. The risk of failing and having my dependents suffer is just too great to justify taking the job offer.

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flyer14 (Jul 10, 2017 - 2:58 am)

I left law practice to go be a contract negotiator for a federal agency... I have no regrets whatsoever. I will never go back to law.

Stupid.

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tcpaul (Jul 10, 2017 - 6:57 am)

I don't know if it is brave but I would do it as long as you think you'll get along with this guy.

PI cases settle themselves as long as you're diligent and push them forward. Defendants want to settle them just as much as plaintiffs do. And if the defendants refuse to settle (which only happens in the worst of cases), take it to trial and have some fun.

Yeah, I'd definitely do it if I thought I'd get along with the guy. It's not often in this life that we get any reward without some degree of risk.

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fettywap (Jul 10, 2017 - 10:41 am)

You can probably make more money as a personal injury lawyer. If you think you hate your boss, just wait until you have to deal with insurance adjusters and some of the trashiest people who are faking injuries. It will be a lot different and you have to be motivated to be successful at it.

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nighthawk (Jul 10, 2017 - 10:53 am)

Personal injury is very top heavy. Those at the top make big bucks while everyone else are just a bunch of grunts. You need to start somewhere to make it in PI but don't expect anything to happen in the immediate future. Government jobs tend to have a nice office environment; PI attracts a lot of the sleeze. Your gamble may pay off in the long run, but if you were doing ok in government not sure if this is the right move. You can go from government into corporate; tough to go from PI into corporate.

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defectoantesto (Jul 10, 2017 - 11:17 am)

This is a close call. You already have one foot out the door at your current agency. Therefore the question is not whether you will stay, but rather where you will go.

As noted already, PI can be a Hotel California path--you can check out anytime but you can't leave. Practicing PI can make it harder to go in house or, perhaps, even back into government, especially if the PI work is not early in your career. On the other hand, you don't want to be sitting in a government office somewhere 5 years down the line regretting that you did not take the opportunty to do something potentially more interesting and lucrative. Job security is very nice, but the government treadmill can really wear a person down too.

I guess my only advice would be to carefully consider whether you are the personality type to enjoy PI work--and continue enjoying it over the long term if need be. Don't count on being able to transition in and out of PI. But if you think it might be a better fit for you, then do it.

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jeffm (Jul 10, 2017 - 11:21 am)

How can you resist double the pay?

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karlmarx (Jul 10, 2017 - 12:00 pm)

So you can pay a bunch of taxes now and work twice as hard? A pension is superior in so far as it's deferred and guaranteed compensation that you receive when you are in a lower tax bracket. The present value of such am arrangement is much higher than standard w2 income.

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wolfman (Jul 10, 2017 - 12:07 pm)

I dunno what the OP should do, but from just an $ standpoint, if the higher salaried position gets you canned after a few months, that is a consideration... I made almost twice what I make now (in a govt. job) doing FL doc review, on an hourly basis... however, since I could only get FL review work for 4-5 months a year (and that was a good year), with all kinds of stoppages and projects going belly up between, and doing lower-paying jobs or collecting UI for the rest of the year, I actually make more $ now on an annual basis.

However, I think the "right" answer will ultimately depend on whether the OP will feel like a loser for passing up this opportunity, and only he can answer that.

OP, if you want more "action," but don't want the risk, what about trying to jump to a law enforcement-oriented agency or the feds in ICE or something?

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2breedbares (Jul 10, 2017 - 12:10 pm)

I left the plaintiff's gig when faced with a similar decision, but the positions were equal pay. When you say double the salary, what numbers are we talking here?

Also, not sure how used you are to the government pace, but be prepared to work very hard if you want to succeed meaningfully in plaintiffs' work. You have to out work the defense side. I left it and have some regrets, but not enough to go back. Granted I went from six figure private job to six figure govt job. For double the pay I would go back to private.

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defensivelawyer (Jul 10, 2017 - 1:36 pm)

govt.

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downwardslope (Jul 10, 2017 - 2:00 pm)

It is hard to say without knowing where you are. Many people here glorify government positions without realizing that some come without meaningful raises or promotion opportunities, others have pension systems that are broke and unlikely to pay out when you reach retirement age, and others just have hours that are comparable to the private sector without the pay to back it up.

If you can transfer to a govt job that doesn't have these three issues, then I think you should do that. If those are not an option, then it may be time to move to a different line of work. I have a friend who moved to plaintiff's work suing the government and I do not think he regrets it. He works for a fairly big firm, however.

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pauperesq (Jul 10, 2017 - 3:48 pm)

All of this.

It's a little surprising to me how many people are saying "government" and not giving it a second thought. The fact that this firm can double your salary tells me they advertise heavily, or have a strong referral network, or both. Either way, it's a firm that gets a fair share of high value cases.

Unless you're in heavy debt and relying on PSLF, I would strongly consider making the jump.

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triplesix (Jul 10, 2017 - 6:04 pm)

Expected a Coco thread

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passportfan3 (Jul 10, 2017 - 6:49 pm)

Clarification from the OP:

The firm specializes in bringing aggregate claims, which can be anything from a wage-and-hour class action to a mass tort claim resulting from a train wreck. The firm does not represent individual clients.

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trickydick (Jul 10, 2017 - 7:19 pm)

It comes down to your personality and what you feel comfortable with.

PI is a lot like poker in that, generally, the bigger the risks, the bigger the rewards.

Your government job seems to be low risk, low return.

The offered position appears to be high risk, high return.

In the private sector, you could go from high six figure salary to Chapter 13 bankruptcy in no time. In government, the biggest fear you have is massive budget cuts that result in lay offs. Then again, you'll never come close to making the sort of money in the government position that you could see working at a PI firm. "Could" being the operative word.

I work for a PI mill and the available government positions don't really appeal to me. But I'm mindful that at this point I'm on shifting sands and in ten years I may not recognize this field. I spend most of my time contemplating my available outs.

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tcpaul (Jul 11, 2017 - 8:45 am)

I'm also looking toward the next opportunity as I figure the car accident gravy train will eventually end with improving technology. Probably have about 10 more years. (Which is a great thing; I'll gladly trade my line of work for safer roads.) Will probably try to transition to products liability and class action type work. Or go in a completely different direction and become a prosecutor to finish out my career.

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mtbislife (Jul 10, 2017 - 9:15 pm)

Its up to you but you will likely be much more stressed and also be pressured into finding clients in addition to working well over 40 hours a week. As others mentioned PI is all about generating business. Everyone in PI thinks that any day now they will land a 3 million dollar case and retire but most end up litigating embarassing trip and fall bs and the like for years on end.

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tcpaul (Jul 11, 2017 - 8:47 am)

This not necessarily the case. I am under zero pressure to generate business. It is neither expected nor encouraged.

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ti83 (Jul 10, 2017 - 10:00 pm)

OP - how much longer do you need to work in govt until your pension vests?

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molawmo (Jul 10, 2017 - 10:42 pm)

When they are offering to double your salary, are we talking $50k to $100k or more like $100k to $200k?

The difference is substantial. If you're making $50k, increasing to $100k may not be worth the risk of lower job security and the lost pension. But $100k to $200k with room to go even higher is a different story - you'd have enough to save a bunch of money and mac out all available retirement accounts.

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passportfan3 (Jul 11, 2017 - 12:48 pm)

Further clarifications from the OP:


1. The base salary would jump from about $100K to about $200K. I would stay in my medium cost-of-living city.


2. The firm is not a personal injury firm or a mill. The firm prosecutes aggregate litigation of any sort. Sometimes, the victims have been physically harmed in a mass accident, but they are more likely to be consumers or shareholders who have been defrauded or employees who have been shortchanged their wages or benefits. At any given time, the firm handles a relatively small number of large cases.


3. At my government job, I would need to invest at least 12 more years for the pension to be worthwhile and 21 more years to max it out. I am middle-aged.


4. I have this notion -- perhaps I am wrong -- that the aggregate litigation field is less ageist. As you know, in normal private practice, lawyers older than 35 are judged entirely on the size of their book of business.

But aggregate litigators don't really have clients. The class action and mass tort firms need (1) people who can find and create the litigation and (2) people with the specialized skills to handle complex cases.

I would never leave government for a firm where I would have to bring in new clients. But this field seems different. Identify a class, and all you need to do is advertise until you find one named rep and, presto, you now have thousands or millions of clients.

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onehell (Jul 11, 2017 - 1:42 pm)

"all you need to do is advertise until you find one named rep and, presto, you now have thousands or millions of clients."

True at least for now, and like you said it always settles. It seems as if the real hurdle is getting class certification and if you get that, then eventual settlement is all but assured.

But in the longer term, this kind of practice is squarely in the crosshairs of the "tort reform" crowd. You see more and more judges doing everything they can think of to deny class certification, scrutinize fees and where applicable, find class action waivers enforceable. With the current SCOTUS and DOJ, that trend will only continue. I remember reading somewhere that the solicitor general has already switched sides on the issue and some FLSA-related class action waiver cases are going to get heard this term, and the courts seem inclined lately to say that if you combine your class waiver with an arb clause, the FAA will prevent even the most liberal of states from refusing to enforce them.

Does not bode well. I could see a world where pretty soon every product you buy in the store has a class action waiver/arbitration provision printed on the box, every airline ticket has one printed on the back, every employee handbook, every parking garage, every bank or amusement park. Basically every voluntary relationship you could possibly undertake will have an arbitration clause and a class-action waiver slapped in the fine print somewhere.

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onehell (Jul 11, 2017 - 12:53 pm)

You're not being stupid IMHO, but you are taking a pretty big risk.

In your shoes, I'd want to come in as a partner, or at least with a contractual commitment to making you partner if whatever conditions you guys have agreed upon occur as planned, and I'd want a good look at the books. Assuming success based on the fancy cars he drives is obviously problematic as he could be in debt up to his eyeballs, pilfering from the trust account, etc etc. You never know. Lawyers can be very good at keeping up appearances.

You're giving up a pension that is likely worth well over a million bucks here, to say nothing of the job security. It's not necessarily stupid, since big reward always comes with big risk, but I might do a bit more due diligence first.

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karlfarbman (Jul 11, 2017 - 1:07 pm)

Pretty sure TWBB did this kind of work and said it was stressful. Focusing non-stop on procedural rules and deadlines might nerve-wracking, especially if you're the one doing all the legal work. I think some people thrive on that kind of thing and some hate it. If you are bored though and have no family to consider I see no reason not to try it out. Don't stay in your current job just for a pension at 55 or 60.

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trickydick (Jul 11, 2017 - 1:37 pm)

You sound like you're trying to convince yourself to take this position. A jump from $100k to $200k is hard to turn down, no matter the risk.

Do it but be careful with your money and keep an open mind about getting out of the profession. If you're frugal with your money, that kind of salary should give you enough liquid capital to invest in something that might let you get out of the profession altogether if you don't like the gig.

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anothernjlawyer (Jul 11, 2017 - 2:35 pm)

A few thoughts:

1) "Double" is a pretty big number.

2) 200K seems like a big number to pay someone to focus on "courtroom and discovery work," especially someone who "doesn't get enough court time" in their current position. If you were an experienced PI trial lawyer I'd understand, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. What about you justifies the high salary (i.e., what's in it for him?)

3) What's the workload comparison? Will you have a significantly heavier load in the new position?

4) "Court time" doesn't necessarily equal "more interesting" or "more fun." It can also mean more stressful and a lot more non-court time getting ready for the court time. Don't assume the grass is greener on that account.

5) If you don't take the new job, will you spend the next 10 years regretting it and wondering what could have been? I think that might be the most important question.

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molawmo (Jul 11, 2017 - 3:16 pm)

I'd say do it and save as much of the extra income as you can. If you can stash away $80K-$100k per year and it doesn't work out in three to five years you'd have a good cushion to try something else.

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vohod (Jul 11, 2017 - 3:30 pm)

Can you take a Leave from your government job? If in a few months this works, formally quit the government.

I think the fact $200,000 is being offered sounds nice but there will be incredible strings attached. No offense but you make it sound like you aren't an expert in this firm's practice area. That won't mean anything to them though. They will want their $200,000 generating them money immediately. Expect to be in court on motions and traveling for depositions or other business purposes your first week on the job.

Personally I would not last.

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legaleagle223 (Jul 11, 2017 - 7:31 pm)

silly question-could you do both jobs (i.e., part-time with the firm for a few hours a week and keep the govt gig?

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tcpaul (Jul 12, 2017 - 11:27 am)

This would be an easy decision for me but I can understand why it wouldn't be for others. I would do it, put every ounce of energy into it, and see what happens. The potential payoff is too big to pass up. I'm jealous you're getting this opportunity. Good luck with your decision. I hope you do what is best for you.

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2breedbares (Jul 12, 2017 - 2:46 pm)

It sounds worth the risk. If I'm correct, it also sounds like you are at a state agency with a state pension program, meaning if it doesn't work out, you can go back to government and keep your accrued years?

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toooldtocare (Jul 12, 2017 - 6:12 pm)

If you've checked it out and the offer is legit, take it. The key reason to leave: "can't stand the boss" in your government job.
Your boss isn't going anywhere-s/he's most likely got more time invested than you so the pension is the big thing now. And the boss most likely isn't getting promoted, either. And a bad relationship now is just going to get worse.
So take the money and go; 12 years to retirement-let alone 21 to maxing it out-is just too long when your relationship with your immediate supervisor is toxic. More likely than not, within a year or so you will be desperate to leave, and as you've pointed out, you've aged out of the market in most cases.

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shuiz (Jul 12, 2017 - 6:36 pm)

I knew a guy who left his government job after 9 years and 10 months to take a higher paying private gig. He could have vested for a pension at 55 after 10 years. I thought it should have been a red flag that the private firm wouldn't wait an extra two months, but I don't think he even lasted a year at the new place. To make matters worse, I later heard he cashed out his gov't. pension contributions when he left making a return pointless.

Good luck, OP.

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vohod (Jul 14, 2017 - 12:33 am)

OP read this thread: http://www.jdunderground.com/all/thread.php?threadId=136219#post10316726


At $200,000 guaranteed you will be on the more extreme end of the "no vacation " spectrum in the private sektor.

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