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Career Story: Enforcement Attorney For A State Agency

Enforcement Attorney For A State Agency

Job Title: Enforcement Attorney

Type of Company: I work for a Massachusetts state agency which is part of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Education: BA, History, State University of New York at Binghamton •• JD, Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Previous Experience: I worked in a corporate law firm and did some securities work there.

Job Tasks: I supervise investigations of suspected violations of state securities laws. I also bring legal action again those who we believe have violated those laws. Most of those actions are brought administratively, only a few are brought in civil court. Sometimes we refer matters which may have criminal components to the Attorney General's office. In those cases, we cooperate with the AG's office in their prosecution.

I work with several other attorneys and a group of investigators whom we supervise. The investigators do the preliminary work: running background checks, doing preliminary interviews with victims and witnesses, etc. In some cases, he investigator's work is enough to tell us that we will not be able to take action. If we decide to continue the investigation, the attorney often re-does that work to make sure it is done correctly and because he's responsible for the matter.

About a third of the job involves case investigation -- interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, etc. -- a third is taken up with writing legal complaints and responses, and a third goes into resolving smaller matters. Sometimes we can resolve 'consumer complaints' without taking any action as companies and brokerage firms do not like being under investigation. However, we only pursue a complaint if we feel it has merit.

Every two weeks, in addition to our regular duties, we are responsible for answering questions from the general public. This can be tedious but it gives us the opportunity to keep up with any new laws and ensures that we interpret and apply the laws accurately.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best part of the job: It's more interesting than most legal jobs as you can get out of the office to interview victims, speak with police officers, etc. It is more varied than many other legal jobs. Also, I feel like I am truly helping the public by getting rid of the 'bad guys,' or bringing actions against them, at least: having their licenses revoked and occasionally sending them to jail. It is satisfying to get money back for a victim. I also have a lot of autonomy.

Worst part of the job: First, the pay - it's not much in state government and raises are rare. Also, you don't get a lot of respect working for the state; you may be just as skilled as someone in private practice or the federal government, but often people don't respect your skills or the extent of your contribution to society.

Job Tips:
1. Decide on what particular field of law you want to go into before you graduate, and preferably before you apply to law school.

2. Law school grades really do matter!

3. You need to balance work and personal life. You can make a lot of money in a large private firm, but you will be working 60-plus hour weeks. I don't make nearly as much money or receive as much respect in my current position, but it is more interesting, less stressful, and requires fewer hours. Overall, I am much happier.

Additional Thoughts: There are many different types of law and many different roles and positions that are suitable for an attorney; if one thing doesn't work then try another. Try to get practical experience in law before entering law school to see if you like it.

Don't get sucked into the 'big firm' mentality if you're not interested in the type of work they do. (Some people are and that's great, but it's not for everyone).

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