Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

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foxytrot

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Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby foxytrot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:35 pm

I'm in a bit of a different situation than a lot of people in terms of my goals, the schools I'm deciding between and my financial situation, so I figured I could use some specific advice.

LSAT 169, GPA 3.5

Goal: Work as a Public Defender in a major city in the northeast, ideally Boston, as that's where I'm from. At any rate, I definitely want to do criminal defense work for the indigent. Working for the Feds sounds awesome as well, but I know that's something that wouldn't be possible as a first job out of law school. No other type of law interests me as of right now, but I'm conscious that my feelings might change.

I've been admitted to Northeastern with a 40K scholarship per year and Georgetown. I don't know if I'll get a discount from Georgetown, but I'm aware that they have a reputation for being stingy. I'm pretty much a median student for them with a better than average LSAT and below average GPA.

I've also applied and am waiting to hear back from Harvard, BC, BU, NYU, Columbia.

Financially: My family has money (I'm a lucky shit, I know). I have no debt from undergrad and can pay full price at any law school. However, $250K is still a lot of money (I'm not Bill Gates's kid), and I know that Public Defenders don't make very much, so spending waaay less on law school has serious appeal.

In terms of the schools, If I get into Harvard, I'd probably go there, but that seems unlikely given my stats.

It seems like Northeastern is fantastic for PI work. Their emphasis on clinics and internships really pays off. Looking at PD's offices in Boston, a TON of them went to Northeastern, more than any other school, it seems. Given my goal, it seems like the place to be.

However, I know among T14 schools Georgetown is known for PI stuff and has fantastic clinics. I've also heard that the DC public defenders office is really highly regarded. And then there is the whole prestige factor -- going to Georgetown will open doors that would be closed to me if I went to Northeastern. And if I decide down the road to do some other kind of law (which I DON'T anticipate), then I'd be much better off at Georgetown. In addition, I went to a extremely liberal school for undergrad, so I kind of want a different experience. I'm afraid Northeastern will feel too similar. I also don't think I like the idea of not getting graded -- the ambiguity sounds unsatisfying.

I guess my overall question is: How much does going to a prestigious law school matter in the criminal defense world? Could Georegtown really put me on a better career trajectory in terms of criminal defense than Northeastern? Is it worth the money?

Thanks ahead of time.

goldenbear2020

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby goldenbear2020 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:58 pm

Have you applied to any other schools? Your 169 should get you into multiple T13s, possibly with money too.

foxytrot

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby foxytrot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:59 pm

Yes, I've applied to Harvard, NYU and Columbia.

GreenEggs

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby GreenEggs » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:21 pm

foxytrot wrote:I guess my overall question is: How much does going to a prestigious law school matter in the criminal defense world?

Somewhat. Especially getting your foot in the door. Though I doubt it matters all that much for CPCS
Could Georegtown really put me on a better career trajectory in terms of criminal defense than Northeastern?

Yes
Is it worth the money?

No
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

cavalier1138

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:07 pm

foxytrot wrote:Yes, I've applied to Harvard, NYU and Columbia.


And why not the rest of the T13? I think BC/BU are your ideal choices, but if you get good money at Cornell, that's a fantastic option.

foxytrot

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby foxytrot » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:29 pm

I wanted to be somewhere more urban. I've been living in non-urban environments the last few years, and I miss living in a city real bad. Plus I've heard to go to school somewhere you'd want to practice. Might still apply to Penn, but it seems like Georgetown would be a better fit for what I want to do. Why would Cornell be better than Georgetown?

NoDayButToday

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby NoDayButToday » Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:47 pm

I went to BC for 1L and I loved it there. My classmates were wonderful, there was a small but plucky public interest community, and BC places really well in most fields in the Boston area.

That said, I transferred to NYU because I felt like institutionally BC did not put enough resources toward clinic opportunities (options and spots were limited), funding summer PI interns (I think they only raised enough for 2 or 3 small PILF stipends the year I was there), funding post-graduate fellowships (when I was there, there were only 2-3), and offering enough courses geared toward PI-interested students. There were a handful of aspiring public defenders in my class, and at least one of them did get hired by the Boston area PD office, but I would guess they place more prosecutors than PDs.

BC is getting better in defense areas, and their Jesuit roots do tend to attract a public service minded student body and faculty, overall. My crim professor headed the Innocence Project clinic (3Ls only, I think), and she was awesome. They also appear to have a new "criminal justice" clinic catering to BOTH SIDES of the "v." The school held a large, well-attended conference last year bringing in policymakers, practitioners, judges, and more dedicated to criminal justice reform. I happened to be in Boston for the day, so I went, and it was very well done.

I don't think you'd be doing yourself a disservice by going to BC or BU--they are both excellent schools--but I do think there's great value in going to a T14 school for public interest. Schools often talk the PI talk but don't have the resources or desire to actually invest in building those programs. T14 schools do. NYU, Georgetown, Berkeley, Yale, and Harvard in particular throw tons and tons of money at public interest opportunities for their students. I would imagine from those schools you'd have both better placement and alumni networking opportunities, but also more/better experiences in law school itself. Also, FWIW, I don't think you do need to go to school in the geographic area where you want to practice. I think it probably does help, but from T6 you can go just about anywhere. I went to NYU, summered in Boston biglaw both summers, and then went to South Carolina, my first choice location.

If you get into NYU, I seriously recommend it. NYU has Bryan Stevenson on the faculty, and he does a death penalty defense clinic in Alabama. Beloved Profs. Tony Thompson and Kim Taylor-Thompson do a year-long public defense internship placing students at the Bronx and Brooklyn Defenders. Chris Flood leads a year-long Federal Defenders Clinic. There are also other defense-oriented clinics like the appellate defender clinic and a partnership with the ACLU. Beyond the clinics, NYU offers more criminal law and procedure oriented courses and seminars than you can take in your 2L/3L years, and it has a thriving criminal defense and justice reform student life scene. We have a prisoner's rights and education project, a solitary confinement advocacy project, a politically active social change journal, a student-run charitable bail-fund, and a defender collective focused on training aspiring public defenders for that work. There's also a suspension representation project where you can get experience defending New York City public school students in their disciplinary hearings. NYU has a lot of alumni in public defense, especially in the New York area, but I would guess in Boston and DC, too. They have a dedicated public interest career office staffed by graduates of NYU and Harvard law school, some of whom worked at EJI and in public defense before going there.

I imagine Georgetown has solid placement at PDS, which you're right--it's easily one of the best PD offices in the country--and probably many opportunities like these, as well. (GULC also has a public interest career and fellowship center)

I know you wanna stay in a northeastern city, BUT just to put this on your radar now: Georgetown, NYU, Harvard, and BU also fund 1-3 Gideon's Promise Fellows per year. GP is mostly for people wanting to go to under-resourced offices in the South and the flyover states, but I'm a current student of the program and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a 3 year program where you attend trainings every 6 months, starting with a long two week summer institute after the bar. Your teachers are current and former PDs from offices like Bronx Defenders, PDS, Boston, Federal Defenders of New York, and beyond. Your law school pays your first year salary and the office where you're placed commits to hire you full time by the start of your second year, unlike in most fellowship situations. Worth keeping in mind! They do place in some Southern large and medium sized cities: Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville, Richmond, New Orleans. I know in the past they've also placed in Atlanta and Birmingham. I'm sure Boston, PDS, BX Defenders, etc. would be a great fit for you, but the South has a lot of work still to do and we need you more!
Last edited by NoDayButToday on Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bretby

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby bretby » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:37 pm

foxytrot wrote:I'm in a bit of a different situation than a lot of people in terms of my goals, the schools I'm deciding between and my financial situation, so I figured I could use some specific advice.

LSAT 169, GPA 3.5

Goal: Work as a Public Defender in a major city in the northeast, ideally Boston, as that's where I'm from. At any rate, I definitely want to do criminal defense work for the indigent. Working for the Feds sounds awesome as well, but I know that's something that wouldn't be possible as a first job out of law school. No other type of law interests me as of right now, but I'm conscious that my feelings might change.

I've been admitted to Northeastern with a 40K scholarship per year and Georgetown. I don't know if I'll get a discount from Georgetown, but I'm aware that they have a reputation for being stingy. I'm pretty much a median student for them with a better than average LSAT and below average GPA.

I've also applied and am waiting to hear back from Harvard, BC, BU, NYU, Columbia.

Financially: My family has money (I'm a lucky shit, I know). I have no debt from undergrad and can pay full price at any law school. However, $250K is still a lot of money (I'm not Bill Gates's kid), and I know that Public Defenders don't make very much, so spending waaay less on law school has serious appeal.

In terms of the schools, If I get into Harvard, I'd probably go there, but that seems unlikely given my stats.

It seems like Northeastern is fantastic for PI work. Their emphasis on clinics and internships really pays off. Looking at PD's offices in Boston, a TON of them went to Northeastern, more than any other school, it seems. Given my goal, it seems like the place to be.

However, I know among T14 schools Georgetown is known for PI stuff and has fantastic clinics. I've also heard that the DC public defenders office is really highly regarded. And then there is the whole prestige factor -- going to Georgetown will open doors that would be closed to me if I went to Northeastern. And if I decide down the road to do some other kind of law (which I DON'T anticipate), then I'd be much better off at Georgetown. In addition, I went to a extremely liberal school for undergrad, so I kind of want a different experience. I'm afraid Northeastern will feel too similar. I also don't think I like the idea of not getting graded -- the ambiguity sounds unsatisfying.

I guess my overall question is: How much does going to a prestigious law school matter in the criminal defense world? Could Georegtown really put me on a better career trajectory in terms of criminal defense than Northeastern? Is it worth the money?

Thanks ahead of time.


I'm a little surprised you didn't get closer to a full ride. I don't think taking on a lot of debt is advisable for someone with PI goals, but I agree with the others that there are other schools (like BC) that are better than Northeastern where you might get reasonable amounts of money and have the boost of slightly better portability in case you ever leave Boston. If your parents are willing to pay for you to go to law school, perhaps they would instead put the money you save by accepting a scholarship at a good school that works for your goals into a trust for you (or something similar). I would take this option every day of the week.

sui_juris

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby sui_juris » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:37 am

If you want to be a public defender, I wouldn't overlook Michigan either. There are tons of clinics for the PD-minded person - juvenile justice (you rep kids in a criminal setting), innocence clinic (learn about systemic issues in the criminal justice system and represent innocent people who are retried after their conviction is overturned), two clinics devoted to criminal appeals (one state, one federal), and the general clinic (my friend tried a criminal case in this clinic). (Clinics are an absolute must for any person who wants to be a PD.) There are also at least three professors (that I can think of) that are former public defenders. Michigan also has a relationship with Gideon's Promise and places at least one person a year at a PD office through this program. I believe there is also a student group exclusively for aspiring PDs. And they give financial support for 2L summer if you do a PI job.

CanadianWolf

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:26 pm

Might be better to wait until you know all of your law school options--including cost of attendance even though your parents are willing to cover your tuition & expenses.

Typically,the most important factor for becoming a public defender is demonstrated interest; second may be fluency or proficiency in a second language such as Spanish.

Because goals often change, it is important to know your reasons for wanting to become a PD. If more idealistic than realistic, then focus on a top ranked school which offers relevant clinical experience.

As an aside, are you willing to share the name of your undergraduate school & your major ?

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Dr. Nefario

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby Dr. Nefario » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:46 pm

foxytrot wrote: In addition, I went to a extremely liberal school for undergrad, so I kind of want a different experience. I'm afraid Northeastern will feel too similar.


FWIW: BC, BU, NYU, Columbia, Harvard are all going to be extremely liberal schools. You're probably not going to find many really good law schools that are middle of the road or lean conservative.

That said, if Boston PD is really your goal, I might lean towards trying to get as much money as you can out of BC/BU if you don't get into Harvard. Mainly because you can work with the local PD offices during the school year and try to put yourself in their purview.

arose928

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby arose928 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:57 am

foxytrot wrote:
I guess my overall question is: How much does going to a prestigious law school matter in the criminal defense world? Could Georegtown really put me on a better career trajectory in terms of criminal defense than Northeastern? Is it worth the money?


My experience is that prestige matters almost nothing in the criminal defense world, and TBH sometimes it feels like a liability. I went to a T14 and yet where I'm ending up post-grad, I'm the only person from my school and everyone else is from local schools. They care about what you do in school more than where you went to school. They care about why you want to be a PD and how much trial advocacy experience you can rack up.

I guess it might matter more if you want to go to an office with a national reputation like PDS or whatever, or the feds. But if it looks like the offices that you're looking at hire from Northeastern, seems like that should be fine. I've heard that Northeastern has a legit PI culture too.

CanadianWolf

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Re: Wannabe Public Defender needs advice

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:30 am

While demonstrated interest & exposure to trial practice are very important, and this type of experience can be had at local law schools, priorities & career goals of future law students change frequently so it is best to attend the best, affordable law school so that if your career goals change you will have realistic placement opportunities.



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