The mission is a wonderful one -- you get to help those less fortunate every day. You have many opportunities to literally change the world. As a lawyer, you will get to challenge state and federal bureaucracies, which is great fun. You will learn amazing things from your colleagues, your opponents and also from your clients as they manage to keep their dignity while struggling with terrible adversity. Competition among attorneys is non-existent, because no one is trying to make partner. You can develop a specialty and pursue it as far as you choose. Once you prove yourself as a hard worker dedicated to the mission, you will enjoy great autonomy and limitless opportunities to be creative. Casual atmosphere, terrific Union, family friendly, lots of support from colleagues and co-workers. Generous vacation and sick leave. I love my job.
Long-time managers (many of 30 years' tenure) lack professional management experience and skills, and receive no training. They can be overbearing, rude or completely ineffectual. Management structure needs serious changing. Frustrating internal bureaucracy at times. Many decisions are made by non-practicing attorneys who have been promoted to management positions and haven't seen a client in 15 years. There is a large disconnect between those decision-makers and reality on the ground. Salary issues abound -- comes with the non-profit territory. Virtually no chance to move up in the ranks because of static manager population. Offices are spread out across state and colleagues don't get to interact very often. Each office has a different personality and some are quite dysfunctional. Not enough respect for the actual workers, including legal assistants/support staff.
Advice to Management
Ask those who practice law and deal with clients for input before you make decisions about applying for grants and structuring the workload. Take time to visit the offices often. Take on a case or two and learn how it feels to deal with clients and the real world of lawyering for the poor. Trust staff to do their jobs and don't micromanage. Above all, be respectful of the staff.
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