Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

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elransfo

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Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby elransfo » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:19 pm

Hi,

I am looking for general advice/ info on what different career paths in criminal law look like. What internships do aspiring DAs get for the summer after 1L? What path should you take for becoming a white collar criminal defense attorney? What about public defense? What's the difference in paths between state and DOJ/AUSA/Federal defender? What other options are there besides these?

If anyone is pursuing one of these paths and has already done internships: what is the day-to-day like?

I'd also love any sites/ resources that explain in detail these different paths.

Thanks for your input!

(also, because people are insanely mean on this forum: please do not join this discussion to shit on my lack of knowledge. If you know of a place where I can find this info by myself, I'd love that.)

Civilservant

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby Civilservant » Sat Feb 10, 2018 6:01 pm

I don't think it is any different than the path for any litigator, target firms or agencies that interest you. Also, clerking can also benefit you greatly. Federal positions are generally more difficult to obtain. I would suggest figuring out which side speaks to you more, as soon as you can, so you can narrow the scope of your search.

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RCSOB657

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby RCSOB657 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:25 am

Do you speak Spanish?

elransfo

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby elransfo » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:02 am

RCSOB657 wrote:Do you speak Spanish?


I do, yeah.

shantideva

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby shantideva » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:31 am

elransfo wrote:
RCSOB657 wrote:Do you speak Spanish?


I do, yeah.


This should be a major boost for public defender applications.

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WinterComing

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby WinterComing » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:56 am

Civilservant wrote:I don't think it is any different than the path for any litigator, target firms or agencies that interest you. Also, clerking can also benefit you greatly. Federal positions are generally more difficult to obtain. I would suggest figuring out which side speaks to you more, as soon as you can, so you can narrow the scope of your search.


This is bad advice. OP, the jobs you're talking about all have very different paths. For AUSA in major markets, people often work in Big Law first, although some AUSA offices hire from state DA offices. For state DA gigs, it's usually a good idea to intern at the office during law school; big offices in places like New York often hire large classes each year, with a standard application process. If you want to be a public defender, you need to show commitment to that cause during law school. Culturally, there is a strong divide between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and public defender offices especially will be very hesitant to hire someone who has interned for a prosecutor. So you might think about your values and decide which side you want to work on now, because switching sides later can be difficult. I would encourage you to reach out to people at your school who are on these different paths, because they can give you more specific advice about your interests.

elransfo

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby elransfo » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:29 pm

WinterComing wrote:
Civilservant wrote:I don't think it is any different than the path for any litigator, target firms or agencies that interest you. Also, clerking can also benefit you greatly. Federal positions are generally more difficult to obtain. I would suggest figuring out which side speaks to you more, as soon as you can, so you can narrow the scope of your search.


This is bad advice. OP, the jobs you're talking about all have very different paths. For AUSA in major markets, people often work in Big Law first, although some AUSA offices hire from state DA offices. For state DA gigs, it's usually a good idea to intern at the office during law school; big offices in places like New York often hire large classes each year, with a standard application process. If you want to be a public defender, you need to show commitment to that cause during law school. Culturally, there is a strong divide between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and public defender offices especially will be very hesitant to hire someone who has interned for a prosecutor. So you might think about your values and decide which side you want to work on now, because switching sides later can be difficult. I would encourage you to reach out to people at your school who are on these different paths, because they can give you more specific advice about your interests.


Thanks, this is really helpful.

When you say that people often work in big law first, is there an average amount of time they spend there?

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RCSOB657

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby RCSOB657 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:22 pm

elransfo wrote:
RCSOB657 wrote:Do you speak Spanish?


I do, yeah.



Well, several jobs, including some federal public defender offices require Spanish.

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WinterComing

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby WinterComing » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:17 am

elransfo wrote:
WinterComing wrote:
Civilservant wrote:I don't think it is any different than the path for any litigator, target firms or agencies that interest you. Also, clerking can also benefit you greatly. Federal positions are generally more difficult to obtain. I would suggest figuring out which side speaks to you more, as soon as you can, so you can narrow the scope of your search.


This is bad advice. OP, the jobs you're talking about all have very different paths. For AUSA in major markets, people often work in Big Law first, although some AUSA offices hire from state DA offices. For state DA gigs, it's usually a good idea to intern at the office during law school; big offices in places like New York often hire large classes each year, with a standard application process. If you want to be a public defender, you need to show commitment to that cause during law school. Culturally, there is a strong divide between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and public defender offices especially will be very hesitant to hire someone who has interned for a prosecutor. So you might think about your values and decide which side you want to work on now, because switching sides later can be difficult. I would encourage you to reach out to people at your school who are on these different paths, because they can give you more specific advice about your interests.


Thanks, this is really helpful.

When you say that people often work in big law first, is there an average amount of time they spend there?


I think it really varies. In the USAO office in the northeast where I worked my 1L summer, probably 3/4 of the lawyers had spent 3+ years in Big Law, while maybe 1/4 had spent around a decade or so as a state-level prosecutor.

pineappletoday

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby pineappletoday » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:44 pm

3L here who will be an ADA post-grad.

I worked in my school's Title IX investigation office 1L summer, the public defenders office 2L spring, US Attorney's Office 2L summer, and DA 3L spring.

If you want to do DA work, get as much crim experience as possible.
If you want to be a PD, only do defense crim work. PD's generally frown on prosecution experience.

arose928

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby arose928 » Sun Dec 09, 2018 4:00 pm

PD here.

From my experience, if you want to be a PD, work in PD offices as much as you can during law school and get as much court experience/oral advocacy experience (mock trial, etc) as you can. You could maybe explain away working in a DA's office your 1L summer but most likely not your 2L summer. In many markets where people want to live, it's pretty competitive, so why they would hire someone who is maybe wishy washy about the work as opposed to the true believer who has done 5 PD internships.

Yet from my understanding, DA's are more willing to entertain people who have worked on the PD side. DA's are still telling me it's not too late to come over...

There's a big difference between state and federal offices. (And by state, I generally mean county-level offices, which is what most states have). State offices are more fast-paced, there's more court/trial happening, they're not quite as formal/elitist. They tend to hire more out of the local schools. In comparison, there's less trials in federal offices, things move slower, there's more writing/briefing, and its more formal. Federal offices hire more out of biglaw than state offices do, and I don't think they generally hire entry level attorneys. I think they care more about schools/grades.

I can just speak to what the day to day is like in a state PD office. It depends on what assignment you're on (i.e. trials, arraignments, prelims, pleas, etc) and how the office is organized (horizontally - different lawyer at each stage of the proceedings; or vertically - one lawyer handles a case from beginning to end). You might spend half the day in court. Which really means half the day sitting around waiting for the judge to call your case just so you can get a new court date because you don't actually have any updates to the case. Or maybe you have a hearing on a motion you wrote. Then you go back to the office and dash off some emails - follow up with the investigator; return that call from your client's mom; request some discovery; etc - and then perhaps in the afternoon you go visit some clients in jail who have upcoming court dates and give them updates. It can be a little different each day but is some combination of court/office/jail. Which is why I like it - I hate just sitting in an office doing nothing but writing from 9-5.

I gather that a state-level DA office would be pretty similar - obviously its the same amount of court time, but they're not visiting the jails. I don't know what they do with all the time that would free up..

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby objctnyrhnr » Sun Dec 09, 2018 5:00 pm

PD poster “doesn’t know what adas do with all the freer time?!?” Lol try that adas have many many more cases than PDs. Of course it’s all office court and attorney dependent, but anecdotally I can tell you that most lower level adas have something like 200-300 cases when ramped up and PDs have told me their loads are closer to 40, maybe 50-60.

Assuming ada is goal, you’ll want to target a few offices and intern there as much as you possibly can. During these internships, try to make at least one “friend” in each court/unit/rotation. Friend = somebody who likes your work enough that they’ll specifically go out of their way to vouch for you when it comes to hiring.

Ada won’t hold pd internship against you, but I’d worry that pd might hold ada internship against you.

If ausa is the goal, you should be shooting for the standard clerk/biglaw track. While there are certainly adas that become ausas straight through, it’s a considerably more difficult road that’ll take considerably longer.

Don’t know much about becoming a federal defender.

Bingo_Bongo

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Re: Narrowing down an interest in criminal law

Postby Bingo_Bongo » Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:21 am

Maybe it's a jurisdictional thing, but in the SoCal area clerking for the DA won't be that big of a scar on your PD application. Around here all the students interested in criminal law clerk at a DA's Office (or a City Attorney's Office that does criminal prosecutions) because they want to get a bunch of court appearances under their belts since court appearances are a huge factor in getting hired (the applicant who is middle of his class at a third tier school, but has done 25 prelims and 2 jury trials will be hired over the guy who was top of his class at a T13 with no courtroom experience - 100% guaranteed everytime).

The DA's Office is the one place where law students can get court experience doing suppression motions, preliminary hearings, helping with the arraignment and pre-trial calendars... Sometimes they'll even let law students second-chair trials, or even do trials by themselves (with their supervisor sitting next to them, of course).

The Public Defender's Office can't offer this same experience, because the PD's Office needs to get their client's permission before they can let an inexperienced law student potentially royally screw up their case. That's just not going to happen, and most PD's aren't even going to ask. The DA's Office will literally just throw clerks a file in the morning and tell them, "You've got a prelim going at 1:30 in Department x. I've called your officer in, he's your only witness. Read the report and I'll review your questions at 1:15. Have fun." This isn't even an exaggeration. It's not uncommon to hear, "Hey, I've got a DUI trial starting. Want to do jury selection before you go to your afternoon class?"

A PD representing an actual client is not going to have such a cavalier attitude with letting law students do stuff like that.

So, PDs (around here at least) understand that the reason students clerk for prosecutors is so they can get valuable court experience. Not because they don't like public defenders. Also, around here, there's always like 40-50 openings for law student clerks at the DAs Office and like just a couple opening for the public defender's.



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