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Passion Forward: An Interview with Sherry Williams

Editor's Note: Ms. JD's Annual Conference, Passion Forward, will take place February 21st-22nd in Austin, Texas.  In the months before the conference, we are pleased to be bringing you posts from our conference speakers.  To learn more about Passion Forward or to register for the conference yourself, click here. We look forward to seeing you in Austin!If there is one word I would use to describe Sherry Williams, it would be, well, impossible because there are too many superlatives to choose from, but I think I would start with “refreshing.” It was refreshing (and inspiring and motivational and enlightening) to speak with someone…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Year in Review

It’s been a pretty incredible year, hasn’t it? We started the year off talking about what it would take to make the move from Big Law to a public interest job and we’ve learned so much along the way! Planning is clearly the key to making any transition work, but especially when the transition is one in which you suddenly earn 75% less money. Although the money situation can be tricky, the psychological reward of doing work that you really believe in can take the edge off living frugally.That doesn’t mean that you can’t have any fun while you’re doing…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Big Law is About More Than Just the Money

I split my 2L summer between a firm and government work. I thought that it would help me decide which route that I wanted to go, but it only made me more confused. I really enjoyed the people that I worked with at the firm, but felt more connected to the work that I did at the government and various non-profits. I was scared about making a bad decision, so I made the decision on the most objective criteria I could find – the money. The “show me the money” technique is not really a technique at all, though. It’s…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Building Your Community

Have you ever seen the show Community?  It’s hilarious, and, for bonus points, the lead character is a lawyer (well, used to be one). If you haven’t seen the show, here’s a two-sentence summary of the relevant points: Jeff Winger, esquire extraordinaire, is forced to university when it is discovered that he lied about completing his degree. Once he gets there, he forms a ragtag study group and learns the importance of working with others. Hilarity ensues. The show provides some key lessons for anyone who is thinking about leaving the cushy world of Big Law for other pastures. Starting…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Oh, You Fancy, Huh?

Pro bono and government attorneys have a reputation for being, how would you say, aesthetically challenged. Do you remember that terrible show that Mark-Paul Gosselaar did “Raising the Bar,” where he played a public defender? Basically, no one cared about the show and just complained about his hair for the entire first season to the extent that he cut it all off for the second (and final) season. Beyond the fact that it made him look ridiculous, it was an affront to public defenders everywhere – why do you have to look terrible to prove that you’re committed to the…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I’m from the South – Georgia to be exact – where big trucks and fast cars are not only symbols of success, but also symbols of patriotism and masculinity (although I’m sure we could all do with a little less of this). Getting your license and getting a car were essential rites of passage – akin to bar/bat mitzvahs – turning 16 was the point at which you were an adult. I had a late birthday, so I didn’t turn 16 until my senior year. Luckily, I had an older sister to drive me around starting in my sophomore year…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Home is Where the Heart Is

I have moved about 16 times since I left my parents house. They weren’t all “big” moves – some were just for the summers during college and law school – but, when it came to filling out my address for the last five years on my character and fitness application for the bar exam, they all clearly mattered. The 75% pay cut that came with my new job meant that another move was on the horizon. I loved my old apartment and probably would have sacrificed a lot to keep it, but there was no amount of ramen that would…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I am currently completing a year-long fellowship at a nonprofit. My term comes to an end at the end of the summer, and I already find myself looking back on the last eight months and feeling grateful, but also a little excited about the fellowship ending.  I am grateful for many reasons that I probably cannot even accurately describe: this job has opened up my mind and heart to a lot of issues that I had never seriously considered before. Professionally, I have worked with some amazing people and have acquired skills that I would never have learned at a…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Spring Cleaning Edition

I have a confession: I have yet to spend less than I make since I started at a non-profit seven months ago. I’ve had some help along the way (gotta get those tax returns in early!), and I have found ways to scrimp and save, but I am always, chronically, over budget. Given the state of the budget debate in Congress, I doubt they could even figure out a way to balance mine at this point. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. Here’s the thing – as I’m sure you all know – you have your fixed expenses and your variable…

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Trading in the Expense Account: Transitioning from Big Law to Public Interest: Budget Is As Budget Does

The depths of winter are upon us. While you may be tempted to think about a beach vacation, I would like for you to channel the great Suze and ask yourself, can I afford it? On a law firm salary, chances are the answer is most definitely yes. On a public interest salary, the answer is: it depends - let me see if there’s room in the budget. Like all things we love to hate (and hate to love), it comes from the French, bougette. Last month, we talked about preparing your finances for a decrease in funding. Specifically, loan…

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