Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

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Anonymous User
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Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:49 pm

Hi,

I've got a standing interview offer with a judge at the trial court level in a fairly large city. I didn't know it, but in the interim, he's switched from civil trials to criminal trials. I want to work in civil litigation.

Would the type of work be too far outside what I want to do to be useful? And how much could I actually contribute? I've taken civil procedure, but won't have taken criminal procedure before this gig starts.

I also feel that in [light] of grades coming back (straight As), I think I might have better options than a civil or criminal trial court.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby BeautifulSW » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:46 pm

I've done both civil and (many, many) criminal jury trials myself and have clerked for judges doing both.

Civil litigation is far more complex than criminal litigation. Criminal trial work develops useful jury skills and (one would hope) a knowledge of the rules of evidence. These things do apply in the civil context but I sure wouldn't do criminal very long if my ultimate goal was to do civil litigation.

Because criminal procedure is pretty cut-and-dried, you could probably learn enough of it on the job to be doing useful work in a matter of weeks. More important in criminal work, really, is a solid grasp of evidence. That's harder to come by, I'm afraid.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:56 pm

Interesting post. Criminal discovery certainly is much easier, but federal criminal trials don't offer defendants much of a chance.
Is most, or all, of your work in the state court system ?

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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:31 pm

BeautifulSW wrote:I've done both civil and (many, many) criminal jury trials myself and have clerked for judges doing both.

Civil litigation is far more complex than criminal litigation. Criminal trial work develops useful jury skills and (one would hope) a knowledge of the rules of evidence. These things do apply in the civil context but I sure wouldn't do criminal very long if my ultimate goal was to do civil litigation.

Because criminal procedure is pretty cut-and-dried, you could probably learn enough of it on the job to be doing useful work in a matter of weeks. More important in criminal work, really, is a solid grasp of evidence. That's harder to come by, I'm afraid.

OP here:

So since I'm a 1L, having not taken Evidence, you are saying it might not be as valuable an experience for next summer?

Anonymous User
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:09 pm

The vast majority of my time has been spent at the state level.

As to taking evidence...well, (bitter?) experience is probably the best way to learn trial evidence. A class really doesn't give you the sense you will need in the courtroom. Having said that, however, a class in evidence would be very useful to an incoming law clerk. Clerks don't litigate and so have the leisure to look things up and analyze. I wouldn't let not having taken evidence keep me from taking any law job out there but if I had neither experience nor the law school class, I'd probably take one or another of the CLE programs out there in the subject. The Rules of Evidence are as technical and arbitrary as the rules of baseball and it takes a conscious effort to really learn both.

The biggest reason to take a state trial court clerkship isn't to burnish your resume. These appointments carry nothing like the weight of their federal counterparts. You should do a state clerkship because it is an invaluable lesson in the way Judges actually make decisions. You will learn what kinds of arguments actually pursuade Judges and what good legal writing looks like (something law schools seem to ignore or teach badly). This background will make you a much more efficient and effective litigator.

It is also increasingly possible to make an entire legal career working for a state court system. You'll never get rich but paid annual and sick leave is sure nice as are forty hour weeks and health insurance.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby BeautifulSW » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:14 pm

Sorry, I didn't intend to post that anonymously. I'm BeautifulSW.

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MrKappus
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby MrKappus » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:14 pm

Experience is experience, but w/ straight A's you've got half a shot at something paid.

Also, you need to learn what "in lieu" means.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:18 pm

@BeautifulSW: Curious as to an example of a rule of evidence that you find to be arbitrary.

BeautifulSW
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby BeautifulSW » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:20 pm

Well, take a look sometime at how we qualify scientific expert witnesses. Remember, the rules comprise more than the Rules. The case law also matters.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:22 pm

Evidence rules should be based on relevance & reliability.

Anonymous User
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Re: Civil versus Criminal Trial Court

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:01 pm

MrKappus wrote:Experience is experience, but w/ straight A's you've got half a shot at something paid.

Also, you need to learn what "in lieu" means.

OP here:

You got me. :lol:

Thanks for all the replies.




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