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Published by: Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Originally published in: 2019
Version: 16 December 2019

Abstract

Around the globe, red tape, budget cuts, and falling public trust eroded civil servants' engagement with their work. Issues of low morale and disengagement not only cost governments billions in lost productivity and higher operational costs, but also provoked questions of how to build more effective public-service organisations, particularly as governments were setting up new agencies to tackle complex problems. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) was one public organisation to have seemingly escaped the trends of disengagement. With its reputation for excellence and independence, the SDNY attracted top-tier talent despite relatively low pay, and earnt enduring adoration from its strong alumni network. Its high-calibre employees, who adhered to a deeply shared mission of 'doing the right thing', delivered long hours and achieved high success rates in trial. Many SDNY employees went on to secure elite positions in private firms before returning to the public sector. Drawing on the observations and insights of several former SDNY prosecutors, this note explores the maverick practices and norms contributing to the SDNY's apparent success as a public-service organisation.

Teaching and learning

This item is suitable for postgraduate courses.

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2019.

Geographical setting

Region:
Americas
Country:
United States
Location:
New York

About

Abstract

Around the globe, red tape, budget cuts, and falling public trust eroded civil servants' engagement with their work. Issues of low morale and disengagement not only cost governments billions in lost productivity and higher operational costs, but also provoked questions of how to build more effective public-service organisations, particularly as governments were setting up new agencies to tackle complex problems. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) was one public organisation to have seemingly escaped the trends of disengagement. With its reputation for excellence and independence, the SDNY attracted top-tier talent despite relatively low pay, and earnt enduring adoration from its strong alumni network. Its high-calibre employees, who adhered to a deeply shared mission of 'doing the right thing', delivered long hours and achieved high success rates in trial. Many SDNY employees went on to secure elite positions in private firms before returning to the public sector. Drawing on the observations and insights of several former SDNY prosecutors, this note explores the maverick practices and norms contributing to the SDNY's apparent success as a public-service organisation.

Teaching and learning

This item is suitable for postgraduate courses.

Settings

Time period

The events covered by this case took place in 2019.

Geographical setting

Region:
Americas
Country:
United States
Location:
New York

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