Below: The author on a frustrating day at the office. Above: A fun day at the office!
if they were right? What if transitioning
from public to private practice was a bad
idea? Did I in fact need to turn back? After some painful critical thinking about
myself and my relative strengths and
weaknesses, I determined that I was not
going to go back, but I was also not going to be able to continue forward on the
large-firm private-sector trajectory. The
constant stress was taking a toll on my
health, my emotional well-being, my family, and ultimately my work product.
As a wise woman once said to me,
“You can’t put a sunny plant on the shady
side of the house and expect it to thrive.”
At this point, it was clear that public ser-
vice was too shady. However, it was also
abundantly clear that private practice in
a large firm was far too sunny. I needed
to find the right spot for me. I considered
various in-house positions and, of course,
I thought about dropping out of law alto-
gether. Maybe it was time to pursue that
teaching career I always dreamed of? De-
ciding I was not happy was the easy part.
The much more difficult questions for me
were, “Where do I want to go now?” and,
“How do I get there?”
The answers ultimately came in the
form of a phone call. An attorney in Olym-
pia, whom I had actually litigated against,
called and told me he was looking to re-
tire and wanted to hire his replacement. I
jumped at the chance to interview. I was
hired that same day, and four years later
I own the firm and could not be happier.
So what have I learned in my transition from public to private practice? It
comes down to three main things:
• Transition can be difficult and painful, but that does not mean it is a bad
• When transitioning out of public practice, take care to select your private
firm option. A big firm might not necessarily be the right fit, but that does
not mean private practice as a whole is
not going to work out.
• Transition with your happiness,
rather than money, in mind. If you
are doing what you love you will be
happy. If you are happy, you will do
good work. And if you do good work,
the money will come.
Transitions of any kind can be scary.
Going from the relative safety and comfort of the public sector to the volatility
and uncertainty of the private sector can
be especially daunting. However, if you
are in a public sector job and you are not
happy, you have to ask yourself how much
you are willing to risk for your happiness.
For me, the answer was … everything. N WL
Elijah Forde is the WSBA governor for the 9th District. He is the
Board liaison to the WSBA Editorial
Advisory Committee. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MONEY, IN MIND.