Former BigLaw Associates on Rewards, Balance from Careers in Civil Rights

Jennifer Klar had only been out of law school for about a year when, as part of a legal team, she helped free 12 people wrongly convicted of drug charges in Texas.

Even though she’d been on a BigLaw track, she tells the Washington Post that the case opened up a whole new career path for her.

She decided to leave Hogan Lovells (then Hogan & Hartson) for the ACLU and later to a small firm, where she handles civil rights litigation.

“It is an incredibly amazing thing, and even decadent, to do what you love and care about in your job,” Klar tells the Post. “I think it’s rare.”

And Klar says there are civil rights jobs in the Beltway for those who want them.

Former Latham & Watkins lawyer Heather Maria Johnson shared a similar experience. Johnson, who practiced environmental law and litigation for corporate clients, decided to make the shift after taking a pro bono assignment with the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

After becoming “engaged in the work the law center is doing” because the work is “more vital, much more interesting,” she began planning her move into the nonprofit, civil rights world, a transition she completed about six months ago.

The downside, in addition to lower pay, is burnout, the Post notes. One lawyer discussed cutting work hours, and getting involved in sports and cooking classes to add balance.

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