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Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:41 pm
by TheEngineer
Are there certain areas in criminal law where it is a significant advantage to have attended a T14 law school?

It's clear to me that prestige matters for BigLaw because partners like to sell associate pedigree to clients.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:00 pm
by ExperssioUnius
I'd say yes for at least these five subsets of criminal law

(1) USAO
(2) State appellate division
(3) Federal Public Defender depending on how quickly you want to get there out of law school
(4) White Collar defense at mid level or boutique firm
(5) Criminal law based on SEC violations

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:42 am
by TheEngineer
TheEngineer wrote:Are there certain areas in criminal law where it is a significant advantage to have attended a T14 law school?

It's clear to me that prestige matters for BigLaw because partners like to sell associate pedigree to clients.


Sorry guys just noticed that the poll question is a bit confusing and probably won't be useful... but looks like there is no way to edit the question.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:20 am
by nixy
ExperssioUnius wrote:(2) State appellate division

This is going to depend a lot on the state. Where I went to law school (not a coast), the state appellate division was full of local school grads who'd done state COA clerkships.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:00 am
by Lawworld19
Most criminal law firms are small in nature (If you are not going govt).

They care if you are good in Trials/Pretrials. Can you win and convince a jury? Cool you will make more than the Harvard guy who sucks in court and is awkward. Criminal law is much more about who you are, court room swag, etc. I work currently in a criminal court as a law clerk to the judge (opinion drafting etc). The big guys in my city (decent size midwestern city with high crime rate) went to normal state schools. Really it does not seem to correlate in private practice.

I guess if you want to work for the Feds it might make a difference. Still, the big private federal crim guys in my area all went to normal schools as well.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:01 am
by Lawworld19
Most criminal law firms are small in nature (If you are not going govt).

They care if you are good in Trials/Pretrials. Can you win and convince a jury? Cool you will make more than the Harvard guy who sucks in court and is awkward. Criminal law is much more about who you are, court room swag, etc. I work currently in a criminal court as a law clerk to the judge (opinion drafting etc). The big guys in my city (decent size midwestern city with high crime rate) went to normal state schools. Really it does not seem to correlate in private practice.

I guess if you want to work for the Feds it might make a difference. Still, the big private federal crim guys in my area all went to normal schools as well.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:37 am
by nealric
Biggest difference will probably be if you want to do white collar criminal work, which is often done by biglaw due to the need for lawyers who have a deep understanding of the underlying business deal, and need for more manpower to deal with all the documents. Also, some DA's offices can be very competitive to get into- especially Manhattan.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:23 am
by TheEngineer
Thanks everyone for your insight.

ExperssioUnius wrote:I'd say yes for at least these five subsets of criminal law

(1) USAO
(2) State appellate division
(3) Federal Public Defender depending on how quickly you want to get there out of law school
(4) White Collar defense at mid level or boutique firm
(5) Criminal law based on SEC violations


Does school prestige significantly impact chances for these jobs as a lateral? I understand that the answer could be "it always depends". So let's assume that one attends a T1, clerks at state criminal court, and then spends a few years working as a state prosecutor before trying to get a job as an AUSA, etc.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:05 am
by objctnyrhnr
TheEngineer wrote:Thanks everyone for your insight.

ExperssioUnius wrote:I'd say yes for at least these five subsets of criminal law

(1) USAO
(2) State appellate division
(3) Federal Public Defender depending on how quickly you want to get there out of law school
(4) White Collar defense at mid level or boutique firm
(5) Criminal law based on SEC violations


Does school prestige significantly impact chances for these jobs as a lateral? I understand that the answer could be "it always depends". So let's assume that one attends a T1, clerks at state criminal court, and then spends a few years working as a state prosecutor before trying to get a job as an AUSA, etc.


Unless your mom is the US attorney for target district, you’re going to need to do a bit more than go to a mediocre school, do a state trial court clerkship and work for a state prosecutor’s office for “a few years” to become an ausa. Not sure what the etc means

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:49 pm
by snowball2
"Settling" for something before you've even entered law school is a poor plan for a number of reasons. You may be 110% certain of your career path today but law school will give you exposure to a broad spectrum of opportunity, so you can never be sure what your goals will be in a few years. It's always best to aim as high as possible because you never know what opportunity may be out there

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:37 pm
by TheEngineer
objctnyrhnr wrote:
TheEngineer wrote:Thanks everyone for your insight.

ExperssioUnius wrote:I'd say yes for at least these five subsets of criminal law

(1) USAO
(2) State appellate division
(3) Federal Public Defender depending on how quickly you want to get there out of law school
(4) White Collar defense at mid level or boutique firm
(5) Criminal law based on SEC violations


Does school prestige significantly impact chances for these jobs as a lateral? I understand that the answer could be "it always depends". So let's assume that one attends a T1, clerks at state criminal court, and then spends a few years working as a state prosecutor before trying to get a job as an AUSA, etc.


Unless your mom is the US attorney for target district, you’re going to need to do a bit more than go to a mediocre school, do a state trial court clerkship and work for a state prosecutor’s office for “a few years” to become an ausa. Not sure what the etc means


Thanks, the "etc" was simply referring to items #2 thru #5 in the quoted list.

snowball2 wrote:"Settling" for something before you've even entered law school is a poor plan for a number of reasons. You may be 110% certain of your career path today but law school will give you exposure to a broad spectrum of opportunity, so you can never be sure what your goals will be in a few years. It's always best to aim as high as possible because you never know what opportunity may be out there


To be frank I am not so sure of my legal career path (although I'd like to practice law). Hence I'm scoping out what's generally achievable if I were to stay in my home state where a T14 does not exist. I am married and own several rental properties in the city. So the decision to quit my cushy job at a FANG company and move cross-country for a T14 is something I'd like to evaluate alongside some cheaper alternatives.

I think it's fair to say that attending a T14 opens a lot of doors or makes the journey a lot easier, so I don't have as many questions there. There just doesn't seem to be as much literature about paths/options for those who are considering T1s.

Re: Does school prestige matter for criminal law?

Posted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:25 pm
by nixy
objctnyrhnr wrote:
TheEngineer wrote:Thanks everyone for your insight.

ExperssioUnius wrote:I'd say yes for at least these five subsets of criminal law

(1) USAO
(2) State appellate division
(3) Federal Public Defender depending on how quickly you want to get there out of law school
(4) White Collar defense at mid level or boutique firm
(5) Criminal law based on SEC violations


Does school prestige significantly impact chances for these jobs as a lateral? I understand that the answer could be "it always depends". So let's assume that one attends a T1, clerks at state criminal court, and then spends a few years working as a state prosecutor before trying to get a job as an AUSA, etc.


Unless your mom is the US attorney for target district, you’re going to need to do a bit more than go to a mediocre school, do a state trial court clerkship and work for a state prosecutor’s office for “a few years” to become an ausa. Not sure what the etc means

There are districts where if you do good work as a state prosecutor for a few years (say 3-7) you can get hired in a USAO, although clerking in state court won’t really do anything for you. State appellate will depend on getting appellate experience, either in practice or doing a state appellate clerkship. A lot of FPD offices won’t hire someone who’s been a prosecutor but like the USAO in some districts you can get there from state PD (you will likely need to speak Spanish). I don’t think state work will get you to white-collar or the SEC as they will want to see federal experience, but it might depend on what state experience you can get.