Job Title: Associate Chief Legal Counsel
Type of Company: My company is an independent state transportation agency that manages airports, seaports, and a toll bridge. The company strives to enhance transportation and business development in New England.
Education: BA in Economics with a concentration in Environmental Studies, William College JD, Boston College Law School
Previous Experience: After law school, I clerked for the New Hampshire Superior Court for two years, then worked in a 100 lawyer law firm doing insurance defense for three years, then worked as a lawyer for a major City Police Department for six years, now in current job for five years as lawyer for a quasi-public transportation agency.
Job Tasks: I am a lawyer for a quasi-public agency. My focus is on employment law, internal investigations, privacy matters, ethics compliance, and public records. In this role, I advise the Human Resources Department on all legal matters they encounter. I also advise the agency on ethics law and responses to request for public records.
Much of my day involves consulting with managers on how to handle employee complaints and employee conflict. I go to many meetings and spend a lot of time on the phone. I also draft letters to employees. When the agency is sued by an employee, I draft the written response and coordinate the legal strategy to defend the case. When the agency receives a public records request, I work with the other employees to coordinate the gathering of documents and the determination of what can be released to the public. When the agency or an employee has concerns that a specific course of conduct might violate the state's ethics laws, I review the situation and advise them on an appropriate course of action. Whenever the agency is involved in changes to policies or benefits, I am consulted as to whether the intended course of action could lead to a lawsuit or is legally unsupportable.
I have no typical day, but I spend a lot of time communicating one on one, by e-mail, and by telephone. I provide legal advice to ensure the agency's actions related to employees are within the bounds of the law.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being involved with running a major state agency at a high level, working with executive level managers, and advising on questions that have great significance to our employees.
The worst part of the job is the fact that, while it is easy to make legal decisions, it is difficult to apply those decisions to people. While a termination might be the correct course of action, it is not easy to tell someone they are out of a job. In addition, it is often difficult to force managers to consistently follow my advice.
Job Tips: To be a lawyer:
1. You need to be a very good writer in order to get your ideas across on paper.
2. You need to have good oral advocacy skills in order to convince people of your point of view while making them think they thought of it.
3. You must be very comfortable with reading, so read a lot of complicated stuff.
4. Do internships to get experience. Too many lawyers have no idea how to practice law when they get out of law school.
Additional Thoughts: If you become a lawyer, you should have a clear idea why you are doing it. Don't do it for the money. You can make lots of money and still be very unhappy. There should be something about the law that excites you. Maybe you want to challenge the government, maybe you want to put criminals in jail, maybe you like helping people out of difficult situations, maybe you like working on business deals; but there must be something that you really want to do as a lawyer.
Many, many lawyers are very unhappy in their jobs. This is because law is a tough business and people go into it for the wrong reasons. It's not like on TV. You work very hard to help people and sometimes those people are very upset at needing a lawyer. They take this anger out on you. If they have a bad case, no matter how great you are, you can't win with bad facts. Working for a law firm is the worst part of being a lawyer. Working in-house for a company, working for the government, or working for a non-profit is much better.
I think employment law is great because it is all about human dynamics. However, you need to be able to distance yourself from some of the emotions and provide clear guidance to your clients. You can't ever let things get personal, you need to stay calm and do what is best for your client.
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