Public Interest vs. Private Practice: S&G is the Third Way

More conference. More distinctions between lawyers.

The State Bar conference is comprised mainly of private practice, large firm lawyers. When you hear about starting salaries of $150,000 fresh out of law school, this is what you think of. (However, few of those starting associates are at this conference. It’s hard to do anything else when you have to bill 80 – 100 hours a week). Most of private practice is representing businesses in litigation against other businesses. It is a subtle form of wealth redistribution amongst the already wealthy: Company A sues Company B; Company A’s law firm and Company B’s law firm battle about what money goes where between the four of them.

Public interest lawyers represent people. Typically, poor, under-served, and unpopular people. Public interest lawyers work for nonprofits, government entities, and for interest groups and causes (i.e. environmental, open government, free speech).

Sumpter & Gonzalez has always struggled with our place in these two worlds. From the very beginning, Corinne and I knew that our goal had nothing to do with profits, although without profit, we can’t survive. We also knew that we didn’t want all the restrictions that come with grant funding and government contracts that mandate who you can and can’t represent. We wanted to do good work that we choose to do.

Sumpter & Gonzalez is a public interest for profit law firm. There are a handful of them across the United States, and we believe more and more lawyers will follow. There are too many wealthy lawyers who are personally unhappy and professionally unfulfilled. Almost every public interest lawyer is underpaid, which often leans to professional happiness but personal conflict. Our Firm attempts to blend the best of both worlds: do good work for good people that we choose to represent and earn a profit that allows us to be self-sustaining.

For now, this is the Third Way. With any luck, we won’t be the only ones in Texas.

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