Anonymous User wrote:
What allowed you to separate yourself from other applicants and get your current job? How important are local ties?
I think there were a number of things that separated me from other applicants. First, I worked for an appellate level Justice during a 2L externship. This Justice presides over the Department my office works in. The externship was only 5 weeks long and I didn't do anything of great importance there. However, the hiring committee gave the Justice an hour long interview shortly after talking with me. The Justice was the last recommendation on my list (A decent recommendation but nothing stellar). Over the past couple years I had maintained minimal contact with her. I sent her a postcard when I was studying abroad and kept her up to date on what I was doing. By chance I ran into her at the NY swearing in ceremony and talked with her for about 5 minutes. She ended up giving the hiring committee a stellar review over the phone. She contacted me immediately afterwards and told me that she had talked to them and they seemed very interested.
Second, during the same 2L summer I had done an internship at a local Legal Aid office. While it was clear from my resume that I wanted to become a public defender it was also clear that I didn't completely avoid legal aid. My internship with the Legal Aid office gave me a very good understanding of what type of cases new attorneys handle. It also gave me a good understanding of client interaction and intake. So now, even though I'm an attorney, I have a pretty good understanding of what the paralegals and secretaries do. I did almost everything they do in my past internship.
Third, ties were huge. I already mentioned the Justice. The attorney I interned for at the Legal Aid office also knows my current boss pretty well. It was obvious from my resume that my sole intention was working in Upstate, NY. I had no intention of working in NYC or a different state. That was really important to my employers because my current office is very rural. The closest large is city is Ottawa, Canada! It's basically just farmland and the occasional college where I work. They wanted someone who is comfortable working in this environment and (presumably) won't jet the moment a more metropolitan position becomes open. Also, when you look through their pay structure and benefits package, it really rewards tenure. We have a union here. If you stick around for more than 10 years you've got it made relative to most PI jobs. After I began my job I learned that the organization has experienced a tremendous amount of turnover in the past several years (mostly young attorneys).
Finally, a little bit of luck?
I didn't expect them to hire me. I was just some random guy who applied through PSJD.ORG. I went to a really good school but had a terrible GPA (and I explained why in the application). I didn't even get the position I was applying for. In the middle of the interview my current boss said, "Well, you may not get position X, would you be happy working in town Y?" I said, "Yes, absolutely. I would be happy to work there!" So I guess flexibility was also important?
In Upstate, NY, and I'm guessing most rural places, there are almost no job listings. Most counties might only have 2-4 attorneys working in a PD or Legal Aid office. That means there is very little turnover and preference goes to people with experience. I applied to the Legal Aid office where I interned and really wanted to get that job because it's close to where I grew up. They liked me and even let me apply past the due date. However, a person with more experience came in and I didn't get the job. It's tough and I know a lot of great candidates from the Class of 2014 who are still looking.