Job Title: Lawyer
Type of Company: I work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Education: JD Suffolk Law School; BA in English Literature Wheaton College, Norton MA
Previous Experience: My first jobs were in publishing and then briefly in the financial world, but at age 26 decided I wanted to work in politics and/or government - and since then I have worked for a state legislator, state cabinet secretaries, the EPA and the MBTA.
Job Tasks: I work now both as an attorney for a government agency and as a policy advisor in that agency. So I mix the law, from an administrative point, i.e. the workings of government, as opposed to going into court as either a litigator or a prosecutor. In my attorney role I do a lot of mediating disputes between government agencies with differing missions, for example between an environmental agency and a transportation agency.
In my policy role, I work on how the state and federal governments can set future policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. These policies could range from new restrictions on power plant and car emmisions, to land use controls to try to get people out of their cars. One of the ways government can provide incentives is through the way they help private development. For instance, an effort called Transit Oriented Development or TOD is designed to give incentives to home builders or businesses to site their developments near transit lines making it easier for the public to access their development via rail or bus or subway.
Many times when I work on an issue or a policy I need to make sure that it is not contrary to some other state or federal law or regulation. And if it is contrary to some other policy, I put my mediator hat back on and try to find common ground so that new poicies can be developed and succeed.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are working on exciting issues and working with highly intelligent and motivated people, both in government and in the advocacy communities. The worst parts of my job are the issues that linger and seem incapable of being resolved. The good parts definitely outweight the bad.
1. Be willing to start as a paid an unpaid volunteer, either at a government office, a legislators office, or on a campaign. If you are high energy and efficient it might lead to a, at first, low paying position. From there you can decide if the work is exciting to you and you can continue to pursue it. Or, you can seek out a job in the private sector, sometimes with a government focus.
Additional Thoughts: I think that one of the most important considerations when considering a job in government is the pay scale. Very few people in government make high salaries, so you need to realize that going in.
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