US Attorney

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blackacre
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US Attorney

Postby blackacre » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:26 pm

How does one become a Federal Prosecutor? Or Federal PD? Do people normally do their time as DAs first or are there instances in which people go into these positions right out of law school? Any other knowledge about these positions is appreciated!

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vanwinkle
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Re: US Attorney

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:34 pm

The DOJ has an honors program in which you can graduate law school and go directly into practice into the Criminal Division. That's highly competitive though; you need both a good (Tier 1, or better) law school and very solid grades. DOJ Honors is one of the most competitive public interest positions out there. There are one or two US Attorney's offices that hire out of the DOJ Honors program, but that's it.

DOJ also hires experienced attorneys. What your qualifications need to be depends on where you're trying to get hired. Criminal or Civil Rights will favor prosecutors, and possibly public defenders. They'll also want some people who've done BigLaw and are familiar with corporate law, for white-collar crime. Civil Division will prefer people with corporate law experience.

Most US Attorney's offices only hire experienced lawyers. You need to either be experienced as a DA or PD, or (for offices that handle a lot of white-collar crime) as an associate at a corporate law firm. Here, both your degree/grades and the prestige of your post-school employment matter.

Federal Public Defenders are a different animal. They're often much smaller offices than US Attorney's offices, so there are fewer positions to go around. Many of them are brand new (it was only within the last decade that FPD offices were finally established for all federal districts), and not nearly as well-funded, so it's just simply unrealistic to keep one of these as your goal. The jobs aren't really there.

DC's Public Defender Service is older and well-established, but intensely competitive. Apart from maybe Legal Aid in NY, it's likely the most prestigious public defense work you can do in the country. Good school and good grades, ties to DC, and a strong interest in PD work all matter here.

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blackacre
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Re: US Attorney

Postby blackacre » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:45 pm

vanwinkle wrote:The DOJ has an honors program in which you can graduate law school and go directly into practice into the Criminal Division. That's highly competitive though; you need both a good (Tier 1, or better) law school and very solid grades. DOJ Honors is one of the most competitive public interest positions out there. There are one or two US Attorney's offices that hire out of the DOJ Honors program, but that's it.

DOJ also hires experienced attorneys. What your qualifications need to be depends on where you're trying to get hired. Criminal or Civil Rights will favor prosecutors, and possibly public defenders. They'll also want some people who've done BigLaw and are familiar with corporate law, for white-collar crime. Civil Division will prefer people with corporate law experience.

Most US Attorney's offices only hire experienced lawyers. You need to either be experienced as a DA or PD, or (for offices that handle a lot of white-collar crime) as an associate at a corporate law firm. Here, both your degree/grades and the prestige of your post-school employment matter.

Federal Public Defenders are a different animal. They're often much smaller offices than US Attorney's offices, so there are fewer positions to go around. Many of them are brand new (it was only within the last decade that FPD offices were finally established for all federal districts), and not nearly as well-funded, so it's just simply unrealistic to keep one of these as your goal. The jobs aren't really there.

DC's Public Defender Service is older and well-established, but intensely competitive. Apart from maybe Legal Aid in NY, it's likely the most prestigious public defense work you can do in the country. Good school and good grades, ties to DC, and a strong interest in PD work all matter here.



Thanks a lot for all the info!

Flanker1067
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Flanker1067 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:46 pm

Thanks Vanwinkle, great info.

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 30, 2010 3:28 pm

Anyone have info on ability to jump from AUSA position after a few years to biglaw?

mcdsa
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Re: US Attorney

Postby mcdsa » Wed Jun 30, 2010 3:40 pm

yeah, you need to work for a biglaw v20 with an established white-collar defense department, and you need to have great grades and make law review and clerk for a district court judge.

Voyager
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Voyager » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:06 pm

To go biglaw-->AUSA:

You need a federal clerkship. It is a huge help if you have former AUSAs at your firm. Can make the move after a few years. Also, some U.S. Attorney offices are more difficult to get into than others. SDNY is the most difficult.

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jdstl
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Re: US Attorney

Postby jdstl » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:11 pm

Also, has anyone heard of folks working at Main Justice for a few years (via Honors program) and then transferring to an AUSA position? I would love to spend a few years working in DC, but wouldn't want my entire career to be there.

I'm assuming experience at Main Justice would be highly desirable for USAO hiring, but maybe not?

Voyager
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Voyager » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:14 pm

jdstl wrote:Also, has anyone heard of folks working at Main Justice for a few years (via Honors program) and then transferring to an AUSA position? I would love to spend a few years working in DC, but wouldn't want my entire career to be there.

I'm assuming experience at Main Justice would be highly desirable for USAO hiring, but maybe not?


Absolutely. In fact, I worked for a guy last year in my internship who did the DOJ honors program for tax and is now a 1st year AUSA.

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:16 pm

Voyager wrote:To go biglaw-->AUSA:

You need a federal clerkship. It is a huge help if you have former AUSAs at your firm. Can make the move after a few years. Also, some U.S. Attorney offices are more difficult to get into than others. SDNY is the most difficult.


Are saying to get to biglaw from an AUSA position I would need a federal clerkship? Or are you saying to go from Biglaw to an AUSA position?

Voyager
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Voyager » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Voyager wrote:To go biglaw-->AUSA:

You need a federal clerkship. It is a huge help if you have former AUSAs at your firm. Can make the move after a few years. Also, some U.S. Attorney offices are more difficult to get into than others. SDNY is the most difficult.


Are saying to get to biglaw from an AUSA position I would need a federal clerkship? Or are you saying to go from Biglaw to an AUSA position?


very few AUSAs do not have federal clerkship. In fact, in SDNY, I heard of 1 guy who did it who did not come from the DOJ honors program.

I mean to go from biglaw-->AUSA.

Other way around? Hell, you will be in high demand coming out of an AUSA position with or without a clerkship. But, of course, you need to get the AUSA position.

roofles
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Re: US Attorney

Postby roofles » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:27 pm

I know a guy who just started as a federal prosecutor and he has a pretty stout resume. T-14, law review, 2 federal clerkships followed by a few years of biglaw litigation.

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:40 pm

Voyager wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Voyager wrote:To go biglaw-->AUSA:

You need a federal clerkship. It is a huge help if you have former AUSAs at your firm. Can make the move after a few years. Also, some U.S. Attorney offices are more difficult to get into than others. SDNY is the most difficult.


Are saying to get to biglaw from an AUSA position I would need a federal clerkship? Or are you saying to go from Biglaw to an AUSA position?


very few AUSAs do not have federal clerkship. In fact, in SDNY, I heard of 1 guy who did it who did not come from the DOJ honors program.

I mean to go from biglaw-->AUSA.

Other way around? Hell, you will be in high demand coming out of an AUSA position with or without a clerkship. But, of course, you need to get the AUSA position.


So is generally the Honors program as competitive as say V20? Or more?

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:42 pm

Way more

You can get V20 by being top 40% at CCN. You don't have a prayer at DOJ Honors with that

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enygma
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Re: US Attorney

Postby enygma » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:00 pm

from my research vanwinkle places too much emphasis on local prosecution experience. i've talked with a lot of people who say that if you can get a very solid biglaw litigation gig (obviously a big if), that will be far better for you than going local prosecution. a lot of biglaw offices have partners who are former AUSAs or DOJ attorneys, and they will have the connections to put you in the office.

Voyager
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Voyager » Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:53 pm

Just to add to that:

SDNY very rarely hires state prosecutors. I was repeatedly told that the two jobs are nothing alike. After working for a bit in an internship at a state prosecutor's office where I actually got to prosecute misdemeanor cases, I have to say I agree.

Other U.S. Attorney's offices may be more open to hiring state prosecutors, but it is definitely not an easy route. To do it, you need 7+ years of experience.

Again, the most common routes are federal clerkship-->biglaw-->USAO Or DOJ-->USAO

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:02 am

I think i'm confused, is there a difference between AUSA and the honors program? Or a US attorney and an AUSA?

Anonymous User
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:38 am

Anonymous User wrote:I think i'm confused, is there a difference between AUSA and the honors program? Or a US attorney and an AUSA?


I work for the US Attorneys office as a student. AUSA and US attorney are used in the same way. AUSA simply means, Assistant United States Attorney.

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BunkMoreland
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Re: US Attorney

Postby BunkMoreland » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:39 am

ugh, so you HAVE to have the federal clerkship? X_X another year in debt

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enygma
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Re: US Attorney

Postby enygma » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:41 am

Anonymous User wrote:I think i'm confused, is there a difference between AUSA and the honors program? Or a US attorney and an AUSA?


US attorney is a political appointment. all the career people who work underneath him/her in a district are AUSAs - Assistant US Attorneys.

Lawrence
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Re: US Attorney

Postby Lawrence » Thu Jul 01, 2010 4:53 am

Voyager wrote:Just to add to that:

SDNY very rarely hires state prosecutors. I was repeatedly told that the two jobs are nothing alike. After working for a bit in an internship at a state prosecutor's office where I actually got to prosecute misdemeanor cases, I have to say I agree.

Other U.S. Attorney's offices may be more open to hiring state prosecutors, but it is definitely not an easy route. To do it, you need 7+ years of experience.

Again, the most common routes are federal clerkship-->biglaw-->USAO Or DOJ-->USAO


I know nothing about the SDNY, however I have some connections to an USAO office in a flyover state, and I don't think a federal clerkship is necessary. Not saying that it will ever hurt you, but having talked to 10+ attorneys from the office, most of them didn't do clerkships. Also, having talked to the hiring attorney, he never even mentioned clerkships as something they look for. He just said they like good experience like a DA position or Biglaw with trial experience. Now, I could see SDNY being more competitive so maybe its a whole different ballgame there, but it doesn't seem like that would be accurate all across the country.

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vanwinkle
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Re: US Attorney

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:17 am

Anonymous User wrote:I think i'm confused, is there a difference between AUSA and the honors program? Or a US attorney and an AUSA?

AUSA is Assistant US Attorney, meaning you work in a US Attorney's office under a US Attorney (who is a politically appointed head of that office). The DOJ Honors program typically does not hire AUSAs, but other DOJ positions (DOJ Civil Division, Criminal Division, Civil Rights Division, etc.), mostly for positions in Washington. Each US Attorney's office does its own hiring of AUSAs and last year only two of them took anyone through the DOJ Honors program; most only hire experienced attorneys.

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Re: US Attorney

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:19 pm

Ok so what is the difference between the other DOJ offices and AUSA? Then how hard is it to go from the other DOJ offices to an AUSA position or biglaw?

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vanwinkle
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Re: US Attorney

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Ok so what is the difference between the other DOJ offices and AUSA? Then how hard is it to go from the other DOJ offices to an AUSA position or biglaw?

Each US Attorney's office has a Criminal Division which is a prosecutor's office that prosecutes federal crimes that occur in their district. For instance, the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York is very likely responsible for prosecuting that guy that tried to blow up a truck bomb in Times Square and failed. He's being hit with federal terrorism charges, so I'm assuming the SDNY office is prosecuting him. There's only one US Attorney in charge of the office, so the case might be handled by one or more Assistant US Attorneys who would do the research on the facts and the law, build the case, and take it to trial.

There's also a Civil Division where the US Attorney's office represents the United States in various civil lawsuits, such as by defending the US and its employees when they are sued in that district. They also do other civil matters like suing people in their district who owe the US money and aren't paying it.

The DOJ is a large entity which includes the US Attorney's office. Its other branches are mostly centralized and located in Washington, DC. For example, the DOJ Criminal Division supports the various US Attorney's office and helps them in their prosecutions, but also runs a number of various nationwide federal law enforcement programs. For example, there's a part of the DOJ Criminal Division that specializes in prosecuting violations of federal drug trafficking laws, and another part that specializes in organized crime and racketeering laws.

There's also the DOJ Civil Rights Division, which prosecutes individuals who violate federal civil rights laws (they often target people who violate federal hate crimes laws, and police officers and departments that abuse their authority against innocent members of the public, and such cases). And the DOJ has the Antitrust Division, which enforces federal antitrust law through both civil and federal cases. Each of these divisions specializes in some aspect of federal law. They may investigate and bring a case themselves, they may work with the US Attorney's office in the district they're investigating, they may work with outside organizations like the FTC.

Essentially the biggest difference is that a US Attorney's office specializes in what is going on in its district, and people who work in DOJ divisions in Washington specialize in an area of law instead of a geographic region. There is some overlap and they often support each other. Working for the DOJ means you're based in Washington and working on things that happen all over the country in your field; working as an AUSA means you're working in that one district and focusing on activities involving the US or federal law inside that district.

I don't ever really hear of people moving between being an AUSA and in other DOJ divisions. Being an AUSA or working for the DOJ is competitive; the difference is that because AUSAs are geographically bound, some regions are more competitive than others. Good luck getting an AUSA job in SDNY, but if, say, you're from Montana and want to become an AUSA there, it's going to be much less competitive and you'll have a real chance as long as you have the degree and resume to support your application.




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