On June 18, at Phillips Lytle, LLP in New York City, the Filipino-American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-NY) hosted a continuing legal education (CLE) presentation entitled: “Changing Gears: Moving from Public Service to Private Service.” Esteemed panelists Anna Mercado Clark (Associate at Phillips Lytle LLP), William Lopez (Associate at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP), and Concepcion A. Montoya (Partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP) led a discussion on the challenges and benefits of a career transition from public service to the private sector in the legal profession. The panel was moderated by FALA-NY member and Associate of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy Patricia Astorga. The evening included a discussion and presentation on the ethical considerations for lawyers moving from public to private practice. Attendees were invited to dinner after the event.     

The CLE began with the panelists sharing their stories of transitioning from public service into the private sector. After graduating from Fordham University, Ms. Clark began her career with the District Attorneys Office in Queens County. Her previous experiences in the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association coupled with encouragement by AABANY members inspired her to take the position at the District Attorneys office. After three years as an Assistant District Attorney, Ms. Clark transitioned to private practice. She wanted the new challenges that private practice would bring.

Panelist Ms. Montoya began her legal career with the Division of the Office of the Assistant Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, where she defended the City and its municipal employees in federal civil actions. Initially, she had no goals to enter the private sector. Instead, Ms. Montoya entered into public service to milk the experience and gain the best skill set and trial experience possible. After five years of litigation experience at the Corporation Counsel office, Ms. Montoya decided to transition into private practice to avoid being “pigeon-holed” into public service. 

Both panelists expressed their decision for a career change was motivated by a personal goal to increase their skill set in various types of law. Furthermore, an additional benefit for such a career transition was the undeniably increase in wages. Ms. Montoya stated that she enjoys the amount of control over her daily schedule as a law firm Partner. Her flexible schedule gives her the opportunity to leave work and assist her elderly parents whenever necessary.

As with all benefits, the panelists expressed the difficulties they faced in the initial stages of transitioning into the private sector. As a new associate, Ms. Clark was expected to prove her intellect and lawyering skills to her colleagues. For Ms. Montoya, it was acclimating to the “cost conscious” relationship with the clients of her firm. Both panelists stated that billable hours were a big hurdle to overcome in private practice. By the end of the hour, the panelists did not express any remorse in their decisions to transition from the public to the private sector. Instead, they each provided advice to attendees. 

Ms. Clark advised young attorneys at the District Attorney’s offices especially to focus and strengthen their writing skills. Ms. Montoya wished she would have tried to explore other opportunities at the Division of the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. 

The evening included a presentation by Mr. Lopez on the ethical considerations for lawyers who seek to transition from public to private practice. His overview of the ethical considerations included a forewarning to attendees to disclose any and all cases that an attorney has worked on upon transitioning to a law firm. He expressed that law firms are expected to screen all interested applicants transitioning from the private sector before hiring begins. Mr. Lopez informed the attendees about the relevant New York Rules of Professional Conduct that applied to a successful transition into the private sector. 

AABANY is pleased to support and congratulate FALA-NY in its first CLE! 

Write-up by Intern Chris Arcitio. See below for the AABANY live-feed of the event:

These are the @falanewyork rockstars presenting the ethics of moving from public service to private practice! pic.twitter.com/IQNmv83K6R

Connie Montoya & Anna Clark on making the switch to the private sector: They wanted to acquire as many skills as possible. @falanewyork

Connie Montoya on choosing government first: In my first year at the Corporation Counsel, I got to work on two federal trials. @falanewyork

Anna Clark on choosing the DA’s office: I realized I liked being in front of judges and trying cases. I learned so much. @falanewyork

Anna Clark on what shocked her moving from government to law firm life: I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to do my own copying! @falanewyork

Anna Clark: It’s not just how much you bill but how well you bill. At a law firm, you have to account for every moment. @falanewyork

Connie Montoya: In private practice, the idea of malpractice suddenly became real. Clients can fire you if they weren’t happy. @falanewyork

Connie Montoya: To this day, the people at the Corp Counsel are still my mentors & friends. They believed, “Help me help you.” @falanewyork

Anna Clark: My government training taught me to always litigate with the trial in mind, even though most won’t go there. @falanewyork

Anna Clark: I missed saying my name, followed by “for the people.” @falanewyork #publicservice

Connie Montoya: I miss the trials. Private clients are risk-averse. @falanewyork

Connie Montoya: Joining a law firm ironically gave me more freedom. I made partner and I can choose my own schedule. @falanewyork

Anna Clark: If I had known that I would I go into private practice, I would have focused more on my writing. @falanewyork

Good question for the @falanewyork panel: How much more severely did you feel sexism in private practice?

Patricia Astorga, Connie Montoya and Anna Clark along with William Lopez at tonight’s @falanewyork roundtable pic.twitter.com/kFFRfFa8de

Why do ethics matter in a public to private transition? William Lopez shares his tips on avoiding disqualification. @falanewyork @aabany