One of the Ingredients of a Successful Private Law Career: Start in Public Law

One of the departments we include in our magazines is called "Word for Word" in which we ask attorneys one question and run their verbatim responses. This year one of the questions we asked was, "What advice do you have for young lawyers?" Among the most popular answers we received was to get experience in the local district attorney's office.

Mikal Watts, a personal injury attorney at Watts Guerra Craft in Texas, told us this:

"There are very few opportunities for young lawyers to try a lot of cases in the first four or five years of their practice. As a result, if I had to do it all over again, I would take a job with the district attorney and try a bunch of misdemeanor and felony cases for the first three or four years of my career to learn how to talk to a jury."

And an example of an attorney who did exactly this and how it helped him is Marsh Halberg of Halberg Criminal Defense in Minnesota. We profiled him in 2010 and here is an excerpt:

Halberg got his first taste working as the assistant county attorney for Carver County in 1979. Within weeks of his arrival, two of the staff's five attorneys left. He and another prosecutor with six months of experience were thrown into the fire. "Back then it was great because we would try an average of two jury trials a month," he says. "I remember doing a closing argument in one case, walking out, picking up a briefcase and doing an opening statement five minutes later."