So you want to do PI?

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:32 pm

Tanicius wrote:
midwest17 wrote:Do the federal defenders ever hire right out of law school, or do you have to get trial experience elsewhere first?


They rarely do, not necessarily because of lack of trial skills, but actually research skills. A fed defender's job involves much less oral argument time, be it in front of a judge or jury, than a local PD does. They are in some respects more closely related to the work you do as an associate at a law firm.

Also, nowadays, there's also been the whole sequestration thing, which has effectively destroyed the ability of any fed PD's anywhere in the country to hire, even the ones that have hired graduates in the past, like San Diego Fed PD.


The one exception might be DC PDs, who are technically federal defenders but act more like PDs. I think they still hire new grads.

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Tanicius
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Tanicius » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:37 pm

worldtraveler wrote:
Tanicius wrote:
midwest17 wrote:Do the federal defenders ever hire right out of law school, or do you have to get trial experience elsewhere first?


They rarely do, not necessarily because of lack of trial skills, but actually research skills. A fed defender's job involves much less oral argument time, be it in front of a judge or jury, than a local PD does. They are in some respects more closely related to the work you do as an associate at a law firm.

Also, nowadays, there's also been the whole sequestration thing, which has effectively destroyed the ability of any fed PD's anywhere in the country to hire, even the ones that have hired graduates in the past, like San Diego Fed PD.


The one exception might be DC PDs, who are technically federal defenders but act more like PDs. I think they still hire new grads.


As a matter of practice yes, but they have no money this year and are not hiring anyone. Hopefully it will be different next year.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:09 am

Tanicius wrote:
midwest17 wrote:Do the federal defenders ever hire right out of law school, or do you have to get trial experience elsewhere first?


They rarely do, not necessarily because of lack of trial skills, but actually research skills. A fed defender's job involves much less oral argument time, be it in front of a judge or jury, than a local PD does. They are in some respects more closely related to the work you do as an associate at a law firm.

Also, nowadays, there's also been the whole sequestration thing, which has effectively destroyed the ability of any fed PD's anywhere in the country to hire, even the ones that have hired graduates in the past, like San Diego Fed PD.

Also, in some parts of the country, they won't hire you unless you're fluent in Spanish.

(Meant to say this is a great thread, thanks for starting it, twentypercentmore.)

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koalacity
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby koalacity » Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:41 am

This thread is relevant to my interests.

Thanks, twenty!

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TheJanitor6203
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby TheJanitor6203 » Wed Nov 27, 2013 5:46 pm

For those already in PI, what made you choose PI? When did you know that it was what you wanted to do? I feel like there is a lot of pressure to know before I start law school so I can take all the right classes/clinics and avoid the corporate law classes as someone already mentioned taking lots of stuff like that could keep you from getting hired. I'm torn between wanting to make $$$ and wanting to help people. Some days I'm all about wanting to be a PD some days I'm not. I'm interviewing for an 0L internship with my local PD office soon and I'm hoping I get it. I think that experience may help me figure it out.

Side note: if anyone knows what to expect in said interview I'd love to discuss that in PM.

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midwest17
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby midwest17 » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:33 pm

TheJanitor6203 wrote:For those already in PI, what made you choose PI? When did you know that it was what you wanted to do? I feel like there is a lot of pressure to know before I start law school so I can take all the right classes/clinics and avoid the corporate law classes as someone already mentioned taking lots of stuff like that could keep you from getting hired. I'm torn between wanting to make $$$ and wanting to help people. Some days I'm all about wanting to be a PD some days I'm not. I'm interviewing for an 0L internship with my local PD office soon and I'm hoping I get it. I think that experience may help me figure it out.

Side note: if anyone knows what to expect in said interview I'd love to discuss that in PM.


Trying it out in an internship is definitely the way to go. My two cents is that if there are days when you don't want to do PI, you probably shouldn't do it -- those are likely to become more frequent once you start doing the job, and then you'll be stuck with a low salary and a position you don't enjoy. But if the summer internship convinces you that this is what you want to do, go for it. (Disclaimer: 0L).

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:58 pm

TheJanitor6203 wrote:For those already in PI, what made you choose PI? When did you know that it was what you wanted to do? I feel like there is a lot of pressure to know before I start law school so I can take all the right classes/clinics and avoid the corporate law classes as someone already mentioned taking lots of stuff like that could keep you from getting hired. I'm torn between wanting to make $$$ and wanting to help people. Some days I'm all about wanting to be a PD some days I'm not. I'm interviewing for an 0L internship with my local PD office soon and I'm hoping I get it. I think that experience may help me figure it out.

Side note: if anyone knows what to expect in said interview I'd love to discuss that in PM.


I am probably more harsh than most but I think that if you don't know what you want to do, don't go to law school. You have far less time than you think to figure out what you want. The 1L curriculum is chosen for you, and then you get one summer. After that you have OCI and you need to know by that point if you want a firm or not. It's incredibly frustrating to be a 2L or 3L and still figuring out what you want.

Also, don't believe the hype about firms offering pro bono opportunities. My school, and I bet a lot of others, really tried to sell this to PI students and convince people to go to a firm for a few years, do pro bono, and then jump back to PI. 90% of your work or more would still be non-pro bono, and given the hours firm lawyers work, it's not like they get to devote themselves anything but their work. Some people want to do that and it works for them, but if you absolutely 100% want a PI job, don't fall for it.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 27, 2013 8:35 pm

I pretty much agree with worldtraveler, though I kind of embody the opposite (I'm doing criminal law now but originally had no intention of doing criminal law and did extremely little criminal law throughout law school). The people I know who were most successful in PI-type jobs were those who came to law school with relevant experience, not so much because that experience looked good to employers, though I'm sure it helped, but because it helped them focus their LS experience from the start on the things that made them competitive candidates in their fields.

(I was able to make the switch mostly because I did 2 clerkships which gave me the time/opportunity to market myself in different ways, but that's not always possible because clerkship hiring is idiosyncratic - evidence of which being that I actually could do 2 clerkships.)

Jay2716
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Jay2716 » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:31 pm

Great thread. Does anyone have any idea how state gov hiring differs from fed?

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mr. wednesday
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby mr. wednesday » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:32 pm

The only thing I would disagree with is that your school doesn't matter. I'm sure that's true in some places, but my agency doesn't look at anyone outside of the T14 (essentially) anymore because the economy is so bad, they don't have to. If you want to be in state/local gov't, though, the best local school with a near or full ride is your best bet.

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midwest17
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby midwest17 » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:53 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I pretty much agree with worldtraveler, though I kind of embody the opposite (I'm doing criminal law now but originally had no intention of doing criminal law and did extremely little criminal law throughout law school). The people I know who were most successful in PI-type jobs were those who came to law school with relevant experience, not so much because that experience looked good to employers, though I'm sure it helped, but because it helped them focus their LS experience from the start on the things that made them competitive candidates in their fields.

(I was able to make the switch mostly because I did 2 clerkships which gave me the time/opportunity to market myself in different ways, but that's not always possible because clerkship hiring is idiosyncratic - evidence of which being that I actually could do 2 clerkships.)


So you would say that clerkships are helpful for PI hiring? I've seen it suggested elsewhere that they aren't.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:07 am

Depends on the PI and the clerkship. I meant mostly that for me, clerking exposed me to a lot of areas of law so I could figure out that I actually enjoyed criminal law in practice, and when I did, gave me semi-relevant experience and time to figure out how to best spin my experience.

More broadly, the state where I went to law school has dedicated appellate divisions in both the AG's office and the PD's office; a lot of people who work in those divisions are former state appellate clerks. I also know a number of former state appellate clerks working in various other divisions of the AG's office (areas like tax/environmental/public utilities rather than criminal). You'd have to check whether this holds true in states you'd like to practice in, though.

As for the feds, at least through honors programs, a lot of litigating components really want people to have a federal clerkship. But this will depend on the kind of work that the agency does, and I think direct hiring is sort of different from honors programs (I think clerkships are more helpful in what twenty calls the "black box" hiring?).

If you're going straight for PD/DA, though, clerking may not help as much as diving into stuff that will give you trial experience.

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midwest17
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby midwest17 » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:50 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Depends on the PI and the clerkship. I meant mostly that for me, clerking exposed me to a lot of areas of law so I could figure out that I actually enjoyed criminal law in practice, and when I did, gave me semi-relevant experience and time to figure out how to best spin my experience.

More broadly, the state where I went to law school has dedicated appellate divisions in both the AG's office and the PD's office; a lot of people who work in those divisions are former state appellate clerks. I also know a number of former state appellate clerks working in various other divisions of the AG's office (areas like tax/environmental/public utilities rather than criminal). You'd have to check whether this holds true in states you'd like to practice in, though.

As for the feds, at least through honors programs, a lot of litigating components really want people to have a federal clerkship. But this will depend on the kind of work that the agency does, and I think direct hiring is sort of different from honors programs (I think clerkships are more helpful in what twenty calls the "black box" hiring?).

If you're going straight for PD/DA, though, clerking may not help as much as diving into stuff that will give you trial experience.


Thanks!

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Ti Malice » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:03 am

twentypercentmore wrote:Your grades do not matter. Your school ranking on USNWR does not matter. This is the hardest part for people to overcome -- all that work you did on the LSAT, all that debt you took out to go to a T14 school, and all those sleepless nights you put in during 1L to get decent grades are now wasted. The good news is, if you're a 0L, your grades/law school ranking/etc. don't really matter! Obviously you can't get Cs at a TTTT and expect to go work for the SEC, but there is very, very little difference between a A- average student at Cornell and a B student at Mercer in terms of PI hiring.

The biggest thing you have to do to get into PI law is hustle.


I agree with most of this post. However, I think you'd do better to draw very clear distinctions between "prestigious PI"/most prestigious federal government jobs and the rest of the PI and government hiring world. I realize that you hint at a caveat at the end of the post, but there's no hint of it in your primary description of what matters in PI hiring. Then I think it's also very important to distinguish between the requirements for recent law school graduates versus those for attorneys who have accumulated a long record of success and influence in a given PI area.

If you want a job at the ACLU in NYC, DC, or SF and you don't have much work experience, you are virtually certain to not get a job with a degree from Mercer, regardless of your "hustle." Entry-level hires are overwhelmingly filled by graduates of top law schools. There are more than enough graduates from top law schools who have shown sustained commitment to a cause to fill these positions. Many divisions/projects of the national and top state ACLU offices, for example, essentially have a de facto requirement that recent graduates have completed a federal clerkship. That obviously skews the pool dramatically toward graduates of the top schools. If you get a federal clerkship out of Brooklyn Law, then yes, you certainly have a non-zero shot. But you don't have a good shot.

Requirements are very different for mid-career hires. If you have distinguished yourself in your field, it doesn't matter whether your degree is from Yale or Hofstra. But this doesn't have any relevance for people on this site, because no one is at such a stage in their legal career.

The above goes for positions like federal PD in NYC, positions in the most coveted government agencies, or other ultra-prestigious organizations like HRW. You want to start your career in the DoJ? You want to be a young gun in the OLC? Your chances are infinitesimal at best if you don't go to a top school.

Now, you want to be a federal PD in Cincinnati? Or a legal aid lawyer in Tucson? Or a trial attorney for ICE (curse your soul)? Or an attorney in state government? Yeah, you certainly don't need a JD from a top school to make that happen. These are the jobs for which the advice in the original post is much more apt.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Ti Malice » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:19 am

midwest17 wrote:
TheJanitor6203 wrote:For those already in PI, what made you choose PI? When did you know that it was what you wanted to do? I feel like there is a lot of pressure to know before I start law school so I can take all the right classes/clinics and avoid the corporate law classes as someone already mentioned taking lots of stuff like that could keep you from getting hired. I'm torn between wanting to make $$$ and wanting to help people. Some days I'm all about wanting to be a PD some days I'm not. I'm interviewing for an 0L internship with my local PD office soon and I'm hoping I get it. I think that experience may help me figure it out.

Side note: if anyone knows what to expect in said interview I'd love to discuss that in PM.


Trying it out in an internship is definitely the way to go. My two cents is that if there are days when you don't want to do PI, you probably shouldn't do it -- those are likely to become more frequent once you start doing the job, and then you'll be stuck with a low salary and a position you don't enjoy. But if the summer internship convinces you that this is what you want to do, go for it. (Disclaimer: 0L).


This 2L agrees. See if your internship leads you to any clear career goals.

As for the question about what made me choose PI, it was extended work experience prior to law school. I already had pretty defined career goals in mind (and I was absolutely clear as to the area of law I wanted to practice in) before I applied. I find that most of the people who didn't enter with similar goals and motivations end up in the FIP (our OCI) breadline because it's just so easy (here). If you have doubts before law school, you're likely not going to end up pursuing PI. In that case, make sure that you really want to attend law school for another defined purpose, and then make sure that's attainable before going deep into debt.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:39 am

A couple people have mentioned that -- I did touch on that a little, but I think it's important to realize that the vast, vast majority (I'd venture 90%+?) of PI jobs are going to be obtained through connections and hustle rather than school name and grades. However, even for those top PI jobs (DOJ, ACLU, etc.) one can't just expect to go to a top school and get a great PI gig like you can going to a top law school and getting a biglaw gig.

Here are the schools where a student was selected for DOJ Honors last round. Notably, UChicago is missing, and more than a couple T2s and TTTs are on it. I think you'd be fairly unlikely to see this kind of spread on a V5 associate page (though, in fairness, I am fairly detached from biglaw hiring, so I may be wrong.)

Ti Malice wrote:(and I was absolutely clear as to the area of law I wanted to practice in)


This is critical.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:00 pm

I think for DOJ honors, grades are often more important than the school - great grades at a T6 are great, but great grades at a T1 are likely to be better than median at a T6. (EOIR a little less so - they seem to want immigration experience/commitment mostly with less emphasis on grades or school - but in part because they hire the greatest number of people. If Tax is hiring 4 people total they can afford to require demonstrated experience/commitment AND great grades.)

But I also think hiring for DOJ honors is probably different from and atypical of direct federal hiring, and relevant to a small group of people.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby desiballa21 » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:35 pm

thanks for this!

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:54 pm

I think this is a fantastic thread overall. I would also quibble with the "school doesn't matter" notion for non-government jobs. For many non-PD, non-gov jobs you'll probably want a fellowship, and fellowships seem to go disproportionately to T14 (and even more so to YHS) grads. Going to Brooklyn or Cardozo over CLS or NYU, for instance, is less of a disadvantage in PI than in big law, but still strikes me as a major disadvantage.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:03 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:I think this is a fantastic thread overall. I would also quibble with the "school doesn't matter" notion for non-government jobs. For many non-PD, non-gov jobs you'll probably want a fellowship, and fellowships seem to go disproportionately to T14 (and even more so to YHS) grads. Going to Brooklyn or Cardozo over CLS or NYU, for instance, is less of a disadvantage in PI than in big law, but still strikes me as a major disadvantage.


A part of this reason is because of the framework of the analysis. If a new law grad told you they "ended up in a law firm", that might mean they ended up in a 3-person divorce law shop in Tulsa making less money than the paralegal, or it might mean they ended up at Perkins Coie. One of those outcomes is a "bad outcome" and a waste of three years of a legal education, while the other made the legal education a very good investment. On the other hand, if a new law grad told you they were "in PI" that might mean being with the Stockton DA's office, or it might mean the DC chapter of the ACLU. The difference is, while one is inherently more prestigious, neither is inherently a "bad outcome." In fact, someone targeting criminal law as a PI career from law school would do far better taking the spot with the Stockton DA's office than the ACLU gig.

Therefore, when TLS talks to people who are looking at law schools, the idea is to avoid the bad outcome of s**tlaw by going to a top school. On the other hand, since very few PI outcomes are objectively bad for the person who got the spot to begin with, the school name is quite a bit less important. Also, consider that these less prestigious PI gigs probably make up 95%+ of all PI jobs, similarly to how a vast majority of all private sector legal jobs are non-biglaw.

So in short, I agree with you -- if you're exclusively interested in a niche brand of super-prestigious PI (which, in fairness, most people aren't), then sure, the fellowships available to you from H and Y especially will be a huge help to you. That said, if you're part of the "everyone else" crowd that's targeting legal aid/criminal law/clinics/government/etc. it's really very much overkill, and doesn't make that much more of a difference in getting you one of those jobs to begin with.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:51 pm

I guess it seems to me that even a lot of your run of the mill PI jobs require fellowships due to the funding situation at most orgs these days. This could be a sort of selection bias like you suggest. This is my impression from having gone to a T6 and knowing people there doing PI so perhaps it is different elsewhere.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:21 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:I guess it seems to me that even a lot of your run of the mill PI jobs require fellowships due to the funding situation at most orgs these days. This could be a sort of selection bias like you suggest. This is my impression from having gone to a T6 and knowing people there doing PI so perhaps it is different elsewhere.


That was my experience as well. I think I know 1 or 2 people with non-fellowship PI jobs. (not including gov)

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby FlanAl » Sat Nov 30, 2013 1:57 pm

This is a really good primer for 0L's for sure but I just wanted to do a few quick bullet points.

Going to a t14 has some distinct advantages some have been mentioned others haven't but I'll just point out a few:

- Network: PI isn't the usual route for most t14ers but those that took it are eager to help out students at their alma mater.

- Guaranteed funding for summer internships: hustling is really important and a lot of it comes from meeting people from you summer internships. If you don't get an internship in your hometown and don't have funding to go somewhere else you can miss out. (I know people at lower ranked schools who had to take a regular job 1L summer because they couldn't afford to work for free.)

- Hustling: when you are networking etc. people ask you where you go to school. A lot of the people you'll talk to are older and of the mindset that t14 kids can just walk into a firm, to them you are hustling for the job because you want it and are dedicated to their cause, not because you need a job.

- Funding for callbacks: PI orgs do not pay for you to go to a second interview post EJW etc. but I know that many t14 schools have funding to help their students fly from Ann Arbor to SF for an interview etc.

- Funding after graduation: a lot of t14s have a solid amount of funding for post-grad fellowships to keep their employment numbers high. Many PI places will not hire you until bar results come out and being able to work for free between the bar and bar results can be pretty crucial for eventually getting a full-time position.

- 1L and 2L summer internships: If you don't have previous PI experience, when you apply for that 1L internship all you will have is your school name and your cover letter. When you apply for 2L internships the crucial thing will be what you did at your 1L internship.

- Career Services: most t14's have an office dedicated to public interest careers. Most t14's don't have enough people wanting to do PI to really warrant an entire office dedicated to it so as a student you basically get a private career counselor.

- Full-time Externships: I'm not sure, but other than Northeastern, I can't think of many school's outside of the t30 or so that let you spend a semester away from campus working full-time for school credit. Having another 10 weeks of full time experience under your belt before you graduate is definitely helpful.

- Class rank: really doesn't seem to matter at all for t-14 students. I don't know if it matters for kids outside of the t20 but all of the ones I interned with had journals, moot-court etc. that would leave me to believe that they were highly ranked and most of the t20 kids did not.

Overall I think that Hustling is probably the most important thing but being able to hustle with a lot of support from your school is extremely helpful. My only experience is with a rural public defenders office, a big city non-profit and a big city public defender. I am only a 3L and in the public defender job hunt now and could probably be more helpful once I actually have a job. Although that school on the resume might not be the main decision making factor it sounds like we're in agreement that your experience will be. In my opinion the better ranked school just makes it easier to get more of the necessary experience, especially if you go to law school with no experience or ties to the PI world.

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mr. wednesday
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby mr. wednesday » Sat Nov 30, 2013 4:53 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:So in short, I agree with you -- if you're exclusively interested in a niche brand of super-prestigious PI (which, in fairness, most people aren't), then sure, the fellowships available to you from H and Y especially will be a huge help to you. That said, if you're part of the "everyone else" crowd that's targeting legal aid/criminal law/clinics/government/etc. it's really very much overkill, and doesn't make that much more of a difference in getting you one of those jobs to begin with.

I think this is pretty backwards. It's not just H and Y that offer post-grad fellowships in PI, and the most prestigious PI positions don't require you to take one because their organization has funding to hire a new 3L. It's the most normal, least prestigious PI positions that often rely on post-grad school funding (or force people without it to volunteer for free for months) because they can't afford to hire someone who they haven't seen work and already passed the bar.

The Manhattan DAs office hires a new class every year paid; your local DA in a smaller city doesn't have a new class, and often asks for volunteers to work for several months until a position comes up. The ACLU can afford a few 3L fellowships; an Iowa or Tennessee or whatever legal aid office can't. I know plenty of people who started out school funded and were later hired to organizations who never posted a job opening.

If you personally can't afford to have no income until after you've passed the bar, and to then volunteer for free for a few months due to family money or support, you should very seriously think about what summer and post-grad fellowships a school funds before going to that school.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sat Nov 30, 2013 7:01 pm

mr. wednesday wrote:
twentypercentmore wrote:So in short, I agree with you -- if you're exclusively interested in a niche brand of super-prestigious PI (which, in fairness, most people aren't), then sure, the fellowships available to you from H and Y especially will be a huge help to you. That said, if you're part of the "everyone else" crowd that's targeting legal aid/criminal law/clinics/government/etc. it's really very much overkill, and doesn't make that much more of a difference in getting you one of those jobs to begin with.

I think this is pretty backwards. It's not just H and Y that offer post-grad fellowships in PI, and the most prestigious PI positions don't require you to take one because their organization has funding to hire a new 3L. It's the most normal, least prestigious PI positions that often rely on post-grad school funding (or force people without it to volunteer for free for months) because they can't afford to hire someone who they haven't seen work and already passed the bar.

The Manhattan DAs office hires a new class every year paid; your local DA in a smaller city doesn't have a new class, and often asks for volunteers to work for several months until a position comes up. The ACLU can afford a few 3L fellowships; an Iowa or Tennessee or whatever legal aid office can't. I know plenty of people who started out school funded and were later hired to organizations who never posted a job opening.

If you personally can't afford to have no income until after you've passed the bar, and to then volunteer for free for a few months due to family money or support, you should very seriously think about what summer and post-grad fellowships a school funds before going to that school.

Good point. You're talking about the post-grad "launch" fellowships that T14 schools tend to offer. I was thinking of outside project fellowships (Skadden, EJW, etc.). But the ones you refer to are even more important.

Overall I am more and more firmly in the "go to a T14 and use LRAP" school of thought for people looking at public interest, especially if it's one of YHS, NYU, Michigan, or Berkeley, and probably CLS. Others could be good, too, but those are the ones I would personally feel comfortable recommending someone attend at significant cost to pursue PI. The exception would probably be if you want to be a prosecutor, and maybe also a public defender, not in a large city.




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