So you want to do PI?

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Pragmatic Gun
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Pragmatic Gun » Wed May 21, 2014 7:25 pm

twenty wrote:Here's what they say:

Selections are made based on many elements of a candidate’s background including a demonstrated commitment to government service, academic achievement, leadership, law review or moot court experience, legal aid and clinical experience, past employment, and extracurricular activities that relate to the work of Justice and the relevant component.


Here are the things that are most important, based on anecdata and insight from a former hiring official over there:

Reinstatement (this is super rare) > Veteran's Preference*/Serious past DOJ WE >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Grades > School name > Quality/length/relevance of prior WE > Law review/Moot Court/Clinical Experience > "Leadership" and "Commitment" demonstrated through club participation/management, for example.


*They don't give straight-up points like other agencies, but it's still a huge factor.


So you're saying that one time I volunteered to clean up my local park won't impress them? Dang. I was thinking that after law school, one could find work at a Big Law firm that has a white collar crime practice then lateral to the DOJ.

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JustHawkin
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JustHawkin » Wed May 21, 2014 8:57 pm

twenty wrote:

To answer your question more directly, you absolutely must gun for a job in a federal agency. How you go about "gunning" for it is largely contingent on the agency, but you must gun nonetheless.

In short, if you have any real hesitation about passing up a 2L SA, treat your 0L/1L years as if you were going for biglaw.

Thanks for the insight Twenty! Quick question to you or Nony Mouse:
Many on this site reiterate the notion that if you truly want to "gun for PI" or open you options up, you need to minimize debt. I believe I've minimized but I am curious as to what is the threshold of maximum debt that one can be comfortable gunning for Gov jobs?

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Wed May 21, 2014 9:17 pm

quijotesca1011 wrote:Any thoughts of the utility of JD/MPP dual degrees? (thinking particularly of HLS/HKS, particularly for IHR/nonprofit organizations)

Could it theoretically be useful? (Obviously it would depend on the price increase and what of it was debt, I'm going to meet with financial services to figure that out well before considering applying).

It just seems theoretically appealing because you get two degrees in four years instead of five, you presumably get added skills, and I imagine it would be good for networking (especially for international careers).

How would a MPP rank up v. a LMM in international law later on in the career (potentially in another country)?


I posted about the pros and cons of a dual degree in the IHR thread.

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

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed May 21, 2014 9:44 pm

JustHawkin wrote:Many on this site reiterate the notion that if you truly want to "gun for PI" or open you options up, you need to minimize debt. I believe I've minimized but I am curious as to what is the threshold of maximum debt that one can be comfortable gunning for Gov jobs?

I will fully admit I didn't minimize debt (beyond going to a state school at in-state tuition, rather than to a private school), and am not terribly debt-averse, so I'm not the best person to ask about this. My impression is that your options are a free-ride somewhere (I know there's COL to address, but that seems to me a tolerable amount of debt, depending on where you are), or relying on a good LRAP program or on IBR/PAYE and PSLF (you have to be willing/able to stay in government for 10 years, and the program has to stick around). But really, I think the maximum debt threshold is really a personal decision. Take a look at student loan payment calculators for sticker/whatever debt you face, and compare with the federal salaries for your region (google GS payscale). Do the math and decide what you're comfortable with.

The Dark Shepard
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby The Dark Shepard » Wed May 21, 2014 9:46 pm

twenty wrote:
I have always wonderd about PI vs public service (government work). I see they often get lumped together, but I think of them as distinct. PI being non-profit and maybe PD/DA, and then public service would be any other governent legal work (BigFed right down to state).


There is a noticeable difference between PI (non-profits) and government -- there's no real difference between "PI and public interest" especially if you throw DA/PD in that group (arbitrarily?). The biggest distinction is between high-prestige and low-prestige groups, because that completely changes what you should do to achieve those ends.

I've mentioned a couple times throughout this thread that 90%+ of government/PI gigs are what would qualify as "low-prestige." That's going to include every DA/PD position, about 70% of fedgov honors, JAG, and any non-profit that you could tell some layperson you work at who would respond "oh cool, what do they do?" The "high-prestige" jobs include State, Justice, elite public interest law firms, ACLU, Innocence, etc.

When you're talking about firms or 2L summers, etc. you may not be understanding just how difficult it is to get into PI. If you don't have fantastic grades + hopefully flagship law review at HYSCCN, your chances of getting high-prestige PI are basically zilch. If you haven't been gunning for a specific position since your first semester of 1L, are willing to volunteer for free for a year after you pass the bar exam, etc. your chances of getting low-prestige PI are basically zilch. You can't just assume that because you did your 2L summer at an organization rather than a firm that you're "gunning" for PI/govt, it has to be a lifestyle kind of a thing.

To answer your question more directly, you absolutely must gun for a job in a federal agency. How you go about "gunning" for it is largely contingent on the agency, but you must gun nonetheless.

In short, if you have any real hesitation about passing up a 2L SA, treat your 0L/1L years as if you were going for biglaw.


The last line basically sums up my conflict. I want to gun, I'm just scared to death of failing and then having nothing when I may or may not have had other options that I didn't take

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twenty
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Wed May 21, 2014 10:32 pm

The Dark Shepard wrote:The last line basically sums up my conflict. I want to gun, I'm just scared to death of failing and then having nothing when I may or may not have had other options that I didn't take


This is a huge conundrum, and probably the single-biggest reason people go from full-force interest in PI/govt, and then switch to biglaw when presented with the opportunity. And the reality is, much like how the amount of debt you can comfortably take out for PI/govt, it's a very personal decision. There are some objectively wrong answers like, "I would go for biglaw, but then if I struck out, PI amirite?" just like there are objectively wrong answers for the level of debt you should take out, but in the end, a lot of it relies on how comfortable you feel.

I think having post-graduate funding is really helpful if you need a steady paycheck for a year (even if that steady paycheck is terrible). Hence a unique advantage for more highly-ranked schools that, more often than not, provide them. A lot of people aren't prepared to ask to live on a friend's couch (or have no friends), get in line with homeless people for the free food, etc. (at one point my dad took my dog to donate blood for money. I was super upset about it, still not sure if he actually followed through.) Basically, being poor sucks.

An MPA can be "oh, demonstrated interest, that's nice" at one organization/agency, and "HOMG" at another. Some DA offices like Masters in Criminal Justice, but those people tend to be TTT wipeouts trying to bail themselves out of unemployment with more school. Usually, much like with a JD/MBA, the MPA is most helpful if it's clear you're using it as a mid-level career step from preexisting organizational ties rather than K-JD/MPA. The perfect scenario for a JD/MPA is someone who has 2-3 years with the military/government/specific non-profit, wants to be an attorney, and can go to the law school portion on a full ride. Outside of that, you're probably better off spending the extra year/money volunteering at the office you want to work at.

quijotesca1011
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby quijotesca1011 » Wed May 21, 2014 11:28 pm

worldtraveler wrote:
I posted about the pros and cons of a dual degree in the IHR thread.


Thanks! sorry, probably read that a while ago when I was less serious about considering a dual degree. I'll reread and possibly post some more questions. Thanks!

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coldshoulder
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby coldshoulder » Thu May 22, 2014 1:20 am

twenty wrote:
When you're talking about firms or 2L summers, etc. you may not be understanding just how difficult it is to get into PI. If you don't have fantastic grades + hopefully flagship law review at HYSCCN, your chances of getting high-prestige PI are basically zilch. If you haven't been gunning for a specific position since your first semester of 1L, are willing to volunteer for free for a year after you pass the bar exam, etc. your chances of getting low-prestige PI are basically zilch. You can't just assume that because you did your 2L summer at an organization rather than a firm that you're "gunning" for PI/govt, it has to be a lifestyle kind of a thing.

In short, if you have any real hesitation about passing up a 2L SA, treat your 0L/1L years as if you were going for biglaw.


I just want to emphasize this because of how much I'm seeing it. There are currently three law clerks in my office (DA) that passed the bar a year ago and have been working there since the summer after 1L. Job openings are hard to come by in this economy, since new ones aren't popping up and you're just hoping you get lucky and someone retires or takes a different job (because almost nobody ever gets fired). And those clerks who are working for $14/hr are the only people with chances at getting those DA jobs when they actually pop up. You have to go all in if you want it, and even then there's no guarantee (though eventually they'll all probably get jobs somewhere within the state, it just might take a COUPLE YEARS).

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:15 am

How is being an RA looked at by PI employers?

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girlmonster
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby girlmonster » Tue Oct 07, 2014 1:58 pm

Hope it's okay that I'm kind of necro-ing this thread for a potentially stupid question. How important is it to spend a lot of money on a suit if we're set on PI? Should I treat it the same as the big law kids? Context: I'm a 1L. Don't know if I'll have any in-person interviews soon (plan on interning abroad over the summer), but I am going to EJW to participate in table talks.

Thanks!

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dresden doll
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby dresden doll » Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:02 pm

BlueLotus wrote:How is being an RA looked at by PI employers?


No strong feelings one way or the other. Make sure you pick up a good rec from the professor, of course.

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Oct 07, 2014 4:52 pm

girlmonster wrote:Hope it's okay that I'm kind of necro-ing this thread for a potentially stupid question. How important is it to spend a lot of money on a suit if we're set on PI? Should I treat it the same as the big law kids? Context: I'm a 1L. Don't know if I'll have any in-person interviews soon (plan on interning abroad over the summer), but I am going to EJW to participate in table talks.

Thanks!


Definitely get one good, sharp tailored suit. PI places, particularly Legal Aid and direct services work, are a pretty casual environment save for court appearances, however.

GL with table talks! I hope you get the PalestineWorks internship--it would be *perfect* for your background.

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Tue Oct 07, 2014 10:41 pm

girlmonster wrote:Hope it's okay that I'm kind of necro-ing this thread for a potentially stupid question. How important is it to spend a lot of money on a suit if we're set on PI? Should I treat it the same as the big law kids? Context: I'm a 1L. Don't know if I'll have any in-person interviews soon (plan on interning abroad over the summer), but I am going to EJW to participate in table talks.

Thanks!


I think having one good suit is always important, but you shouldn't need more than that for interning abroad. Just get one suit on sale, get it tailored, and then decide which business casual clothes you are going to destroy working in a developing country.

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JCougar
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JCougar » Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:33 pm

BlueLotus wrote:How is being an RA looked at by PI employers?


I don't see how it could hurt. It's obviously better than a blank space. And depending on the professor, it could help.

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JustHawkin
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JustHawkin » Wed Oct 08, 2014 3:44 pm

JCougar wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:How is being an RA looked at by PI employers?


I don't see how it could hurt. It's obviously better than a blank space. And depending on the professor, it could help.


Tangentially, is it common practice/feasible to be an RA for a professor one didn't have during 1L?

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JCougar
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JCougar » Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:06 pm

JustHawkin wrote:Tangentially, is it common practice/feasible to be an RA for a professor one didn't have during 1L?


Definitely feasible. I think it's pretty regular.

Being an RA is pretty good. I know people who did that for their 1L summer and work at V10 firms in NYC (I realize this thread is about PI/Gov, but I have no reason to believe RA-ships are seen any differently between the two). Of course, they got to these firms because of their grades, not because of their RA-ship. But the RA position certainly didn't bring them down.

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JustHawkin
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JustHawkin » Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:24 pm

JCougar wrote:
JustHawkin wrote:Tangentially, is it common practice/feasible to be an RA for a professor one didn't have during 1L?


Definitely feasible. I think it's pretty regular.

Being an RA is pretty good. I know people who did that for their 1L summer and work at V10 firms in NYC (I realize this thread is about PI/Gov, but I have no reason to believe RA-ships are seen any differently between the two). Of course, they got to these firms because of their grades, not because of their RA-ship. But the RA position certainly didn't bring them down.


Much appreciated. I've heard through some PI networking that RA, if not anything else, is one of the best ways to develop substantive research and writing skills over 1L summer.

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:28 pm

JustHawkin wrote:
JCougar wrote:
JustHawkin wrote:Tangentially, is it common practice/feasible to be an RA for a professor one didn't have during 1L?


Definitely feasible. I think it's pretty regular.

Being an RA is pretty good. I know people who did that for their 1L summer and work at V10 firms in NYC (I realize this thread is about PI/Gov, but I have no reason to believe RA-ships are seen any differently between the two). Of course, they got to these firms because of their grades, not because of their RA-ship. But the RA position certainly didn't bring them down.


Much appreciated. I've heard through some PI networking that RA, if not anything else, is one of the best ways to develop substantive research and writing skills over 1L summer.


If you wanna do PI, you could always split your summer and do RA + volunteer at PD/DA/Legal Aid/Non-profit. You get the best of both worlds--$$ and good rapport with a prof who can go to bat for you plus client experience that is so valued by PI employers. Plenty of folks at my school did RA work on top of an internship; it is doable if you have good time management skills.

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girlmonster
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby girlmonster » Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:59 pm

BlueLotus wrote:Definitely get one good, sharp tailored suit. PI places, particularly Legal Aid and direct services work, are a pretty casual environment save for court appearances, however.

GL with table talks! I hope you get the PalestineWorks internship--it would be *perfect* for your background.


Aww, you remember! Appreciate all the advice you've given me. I really look forward to speaking with them.

worldtraveler wrote:I think having one good suit is always important, but you shouldn't need more than that for interning abroad. Just get one suit on sale, get it tailored, and then decide which business casual clothes you are going to destroy working in a developing country.


I guess it's a good thing I'm already too poor to afford anything better than H&M (very little to lose). Start the search through suit sales now. Thanks for the tips!

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:30 am

girlmonster wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:Definitely get one good, sharp tailored suit. PI places, particularly Legal Aid and direct services work, are a pretty casual environment save for court appearances, however.

GL with table talks! I hope you get the PalestineWorks internship--it would be *perfect* for your background.


Aww, you remember! Appreciate all the advice you've given me. I really look forward to speaking with them.

worldtraveler wrote:I think having one good suit is always important, but you shouldn't need more than that for interning abroad. Just get one suit on sale, get it tailored, and then decide which business casual clothes you are going to destroy working in a developing country.


I guess it's a good thing I'm already too poor to afford anything better than H&M (very little to lose). Start the search through suit sales now. Thanks for the tips!


Surprisingly, I've found good quality, affordable women's suits at Ross.

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middlebear
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby middlebear » Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:29 am

This was discussed a bit above, but for people that have gunned for FedGov--could you talk a bit more about your process, how you planned it, etc.? Particularly finding summer employment.

I'm also going to have a few extra months before LS (0L right now) in which I can volunteer, I'm leaving my job early for family reasons. I'm thinking I might try to intern part time--anyone have any other/better suggestions?

Thanks, bros.

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:35 am

middlebear wrote:This was discussed a bit above, but for people that have gunned for FedGov--could you talk a bit more about your process, how you planned it, etc.? Particularly finding summer employment.

I'm also going to have a few extra months before LS (0L right now) in which I can volunteer, I'm leaving my job early for family reasons. I'm thinking I might try to intern part time--anyone have any other/better suggestions?

Thanks, bros.


Interning part time at a public interest org and developing language skills are two of the best things you can be doing right now to make you a more attractive candidate for PI gigs.

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

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:11 am

Unless you're going to go into something international, I don't think fedgov actually cares very much about language skills. Don't get me wrong, they're always great to have just generally, but I don't think they're going to make a big difference for your average fedgov attorney position.

What would have helped me with fedgov stuff would have been to learn about the different agencies out there to help ID where I might want to work ("fedgov" is a huge umbrella that includes tons of different kinds of jobs), and maybe to research ways to get money to support volunteering in DC (I didn't do this, but wish I had) either or both summers. Although the latter is a little easier once you know where you're going to be in school and you can find out about school-specific programs.

And if you can volunteer/intern now, that's certainly a good thing.

Finding summer employment: I didn't do anything particularly fedgov-focused, though I wish I had; I applied for DOJ SLIP for 2L summer, but blew the interview, and ended up at a firm because OCI is just so simple and straightforward to do, and gives you results before many other employers will. I think if you go in to your CSO people once you can start talking to them, and say "I want to spend my summers working for the feds [in DC], how can you help me do that?" they will at least be able to tell you about what other people from your school have done. (If not many have done this, then you'll have to do more legwork on your own.)

The best resource that I know of is the Arizona Government/Honors Handbook (your career office can give you access once you enroll).

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:28 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Unless you're going to go into something international, I don't think fedgov actually cares very much about language skills. Don't get me wrong, they're always great to have just generally, but I don't think they're going to make a big difference for your average fedgov attorney position.



True, true. But given how much of a crapshoot Fedgov hiring is, it would behoove that 0L to acquire language skills--esp. Spanish--so he or she can be competitive for less prestigious and easier to get PI (i.e. PD/Legal Aid).

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JCougar
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby JCougar » Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:45 am

The best piece of advice I can give anyone about FedGov is you have to learn the bureaucracy of your particular agency. Figure out the hiring process inside and out. Even in the field/district offices, initial resumes can be screened in DC. So even if you know the people in a particular field office, they might not know you applied for a position if you simply submit your resume on USA Jobs. Also, DC will filter you out for purely technical reasons. They take the "minimum qualifications" pretty seriously. And the job postings are written in DC. So they might impose restrictions that don't matter to your field office ("You must have passed the bar in XX state" when working in Federal court makes this requirement effectively moot). You really have to find out who's in charge of hiring, the agency structure, and how to work around the layers of bureaucracy to get your application in the right hands.

And yes, these positions get hundreds if not thousands of applications, especially with PSLF being one of the only paths to future financial stability. So you really have to fight and network to stand out from the crowd.




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