One oft-cited concern about government shutdowns is that they’ll send workers fleeing the public sector or dissuade future public servants—say, a federal agency lawyer—from a career in which a regular paycheck can’t be assumed.But at least for now, there’s little evidence that the longest-ever partial government shutdown had much effect on legal career trajectories in the nation’s capital.
Georgetown University Law Center’s office of career services indicated through a school spokesperson that it had not noticed any changes in terms of firms’ recruitment of students or the students’ career plans—be they focused on public interest or the private sector—due to the shutdown.
The uncertainty created by the last shutdown and the prospect of future ones could adversely affect the career planning of younger lawyers more than their veteran colleagues, but the impact is yet unknown, said James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, in an email.
Legislative gridlock and political backbiting may have mucked up the ambitions of elected officials, but legal experts say they haven’t seen it slow the whirl of the revolving door or dissuade young lawyers’ career plans. Jeffrey Lowe, Major, Lindsey & Africa’s managing partner in D.C., said the shutdown has not had a broad effect on the legal recruiting market in the city.
“We haven’t seen much of a slowdown in terms of recruiting lateral partners,” Lowe said. By contrast, he said, government officials that typically have trouble making time to meet with recruiters and firms suddenly had open schedules and more time to interview for private sector gigs.
Lowe said he thought many law students are far enough removed from employment that the shutdown’s impact on legal business does not immediately hit home. Lowe pointed to international trade and antitrust practices as among those he saw hampered by the shutdown. Some firms struggled to collect fees and others noticed a perceptible impact on deals.
Such problems could be compounded if another shutdown arrives in February and exacerbates uncertainty and delays in government-facing practices. In the meantime Lowe said the impact—at least for government attorneys—is more or less akin to snow days at school: a welcome break at first, but the longer it lasts the more you know you’ll pay for it in the end.