How I Got My Public Interest Job: Betsy Haws, Salt Lake Attorney’s Office

In this edition of ‘How I got my job,’ PDO continues to focus on lawyers who work in the public interest and government field.  Today we feature Betsy Haws, who left the law firm life to work at the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office.  Read below for Betsy’s advice on how building a solid reputation and networking worked to her advantage in her job search. 

What do you do? 

I’m a Senior City Attorney at the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office.

Where are you from and where did you go to law school?

I’m from Logan, Utah (also known as the cosmic center of the universe). I went to J. Reuben Clark School of Law (also known as BYU).

What kind of activities did you do in law school?

I was the president of the American Constitution Society, a board member of PILF (Public Interest Law Foundation), and the Lead Articles Editor for the Law Review. I also worked for a few professors.

How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?

 I found out about the position through an online posting. I got the job with some luck, hard work, and a lot of lobbying. I’d worked for private law firms for 5 years, and received excellent litigation training. I worked hard as an associate and I think it helped me gain a good reputation within my firm, which meant that my references were good when I was looking for a new position.  I wanted to work in the public sector eventually, and the City Attorney’s office seemed like a great fit for me, so I really lobbied for the position. I called everyone that I knew at the City and asked that they put in a good word at the Attorney’s Office. I told the partners at my firm that I was applying and several of them called the current City Attorney and Deputy Attorney to recommend me for the position.  I called a family friend in municipal law about the position, and he recommended me to the people he knew in the office. I also talked with former municipal lawyers so that I’d be well prepared for my interview.  

What does your typical day involve for you/your work?

I’m a litigator, so I spend most of my day drafting motions, investigating cases, developing discovery plans, taking depositions, attending hearings, reviewing and producing documents, interviewing clients and witnesses, researching the law, preparing for trial, and settling and mediating cases. I also work with the City on retaining documents when they receive notices of possible litigation.

What are the best (and worst, if you want) parts of your job?

I work on a wide variety of cases, which is fantastic. My first day on the job, I got handed an Extraordinary Writ to the Utah Supreme Court dealing with election law. I have civil rights cases, trip and fall cases, condemnation actions, GRAMA disputes, and employment actions. I really love the diversity of work. I also really love the autonomy I have to manage my cases. Finally, it’s great to work in the public sector with people actively thinking about how to improve their community. 

Written discovery is generally pretty horrible, regardless of where you practice.

What tips and advice do you have job-seeking students and/or alum? 

Use your network. If you really want a position, made that known and go for it!  Go to lunch with people in the sectors and at the firms you’re considering. Be mindful of your reputation; it is a very small town!  Think hard about what you want and be true to yourself.  If you’re first in your class, but you’ve always wanted to be a public defender, be a public defender, not a big firm associate. There are a lot of different paths in the law.