Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

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Cupidity
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Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby Cupidity » Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:50 pm

Several schools including BC and UCLA that I am interested in have the option of applying for full tuition three year scholarships if you guarantee both summer and post graduate work in public interest for 5-7 years. I have an interest in public interest, and making 50k a year for 5 years with 0 debt works out very simmilar to making 160k a year with 150k in debt, minus the stress and uncertainty of the current economy. My question is, whether after 5 years of working in public interest I have a reasonable chance of moving into big law or high paying private pactice if I decide to at the time, or is it impossible to get into the big firms unless its through OCI in law school?

amichig
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Re: Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby amichig » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:04 pm

I know what scholarships you speak of, and hope you will not apply. There are people out there, myself included, who have every intention of studying and practicing public interest law for the rest of their lives. We are the people who should be benefiting from such a scholarship, not you. We have shown a commitment and passion for bettering the world that surrounds us. We want to provide legal services to those who may have otherwise not had access and you siimply want to use this scholarship to scheme your way out of debt? These scholarships require that you be an active member of your respective law school's public interest program. They expect you to be an ambassador for public interest law - you really think this is you?

Actually you know what, please apply. Apply and then decide upon graduating that you don't want to practice public interest. You will be forced to pay back the $150,000 scholarship you received with no big law prospects because you spent the last year three years focusing your life on public interest law. How unethical can you really be?

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Cavalier
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Re: Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby Cavalier » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:10 pm

amichig wrote:I know what scholarships you speak of, and hope you will not apply. There are people out there, myself included, who have every intention of studying and practicing public interest law for the rest of their lives. We are the people who should be benefiting from such a scholarship, not you. We have shown a commitment and passion for bettering the world that surrounds us. We want to provide legal services to those who may have otherwise not had access and you siimply want to use this scholarship to scheme your way out of debt? These scholarships require that you be an active member of your respective law school's public interest program. They expect you to be an ambassador for public interest law - you really think this is you?

Actually you know what, please apply. Apply and then decide upon graduating that you don't want to practice public interest. You will be forced to pay back the $150,000 scholarship you received with no big law prospects because you spent the last year three years focusing your life on public interest law. How unethical can you really be?

This is ridiculous. The school requires a guarantee that you will do public interest work for 5-7 years, not that you will do it for the rest of your life. If someone intends to work in public interest for 5-7 years, then they are just as entitled to apply for the scholarship as someone who wants to do it for the rest of his life. Otherwise, the school would have required a lifetime commitment to public service.

To answer the question, it seems like a tough transition to make. If your grades are good and you take a nice clerkship after law school I'm sure you could get big law somewhere, but it seems like people who go in to big law other than directly from law school (or from clerkships) go from prestigious government positions or something.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby vanwinkle » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:28 pm

I want to do PI work, but I disagree with the above poster trying to say it's unethical to do what you're suggesting. If you meet the terms of the scholarship it's perfectly ethical, you're meeting the obligation they set, they want at least 5 years of PI and you're willing to give that, so go ahead.

That said, I believe it's going to be fairly hard to effectively transfer from PI to BigLaw. There are people who go into criminal law, which starts getting them actual trial litigation experience quickly, and then after several years of experience and success, use that to get hired as a litigator for a law firm. That may not always be a "BigLaw" firm though, it may be a boutique firm or midsize firm, but still the move is possible.

The thing to keep in mind is that there you're competing with other lawyers who have several years of litigation experience for the same jobs, and there's an awful lot of those unemployed right now. The only way that could have any real success is to really be the best at what you do when you graduate, and to be honest you can't know for sure you can do that right now.

This is a path that Sonia Sotomayor took. She started out as a prosecutor for NYC for five years, and then went into private practice and became an associate. However, she also graduated from Yale and was on law review there. Like I said, this is possible, but you'll be competing with the best of the best for this, both in terms of education and work experience.

articulably suspect
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Re: Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:31 pm

Cavalier wrote:
amichig wrote:I know what scholarships you speak of, and hope you will not apply. There are people out there, myself included, who have every intention of studying and practicing public interest law for the rest of their lives. We are the people who should be benefiting from such a scholarship, not you. We have shown a commitment and passion for bettering the world that surrounds us. We want to provide legal services to those who may have otherwise not had access and you siimply want to use this scholarship to scheme your way out of debt? These scholarships require that you be an active member of your respective law school's public interest program. They expect you to be an ambassador for public interest law - you really think this is you?

Actually you know what, please apply. Apply and then decide upon graduating that you don't want to practice public interest. You will be forced to pay back the $150,000 scholarship you received with no big law prospects because you spent the last year three years focusing your life on public interest law. How unethical can you really be?

This is ridiculous. The school requires a guarantee that you will do public interest work for 5-7 years, not that you will do it for the rest of your life. If someone intends to work in public interest for 5-7 years, then they are just as entitled to apply for the scholarship as someone who wants to do it for the rest of his life. Otherwise, the school would have required a lifetime commitment to public service.

To answer the question, it seems like a tough transition to make. If your grades are good and you take a nice clerkship after law school I'm sure you could get big law somewhere, but it seems like people who go in to big law other than directly from law school (or from clerkships) go from prestigious government positions or something.


Pretty sure clerkships would not qualify, at least they don't qualify as PI for most LRAPs.

OP-These type of scholarships are very competitive and given to applicants who've displayed a passion and interest for public service related work. If you are lacking a documented history/commitment to public service and extensive volunteer experience, you will have virtually no shot at said scholarships. In other words, you can't just walk in and grab these scholarships because your #'s blow everyone else's away.

RE: PI-Biglaw, I suggest a position that will give you a lot of litigation experience.

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Sobriquet
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Re: Public Interest to Big Law? Is it possible?

Postby Sobriquet » Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:04 am

I don't think it will be hard if you choose the right practice area that does not pigeonhole you. If you have a strong resume from working as a litigator for the DA's office, I can't imagine a firm not wanting to hire you for their litigation department. Same if you are a strong public defender, a firm may want you for their white collar defense practice. Some of my attorney mentors have told me that you have a lot more high level experience sometimes at PI jobs than at firms - so I wouldn't discount the opportunity to trade "up" if you are confident in your skills.




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