How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:50 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Tanicius wrote:Most of the time in my jurisdiction, losing at trial for a misdemeanor will still get you a better sentence than the sentence asked for the prosecutor as part of a plea deal.

I know this is just a tiny part of your post, but this is so weird to me.


The offer that was made before trial is usually a relevant component of a misdemeanor sentence after conviction at trial. If the prosecutor was offering something light, then why are they now asking for something worse at trial? If it doesn't have anything to do with new information that came out during trial that paints the defendant in a worse light, then the judges here take seriously their constitutional obligation to avoid taxing the defendant for taking his case to trial.

Half the time the prosecutors' offers are bad anyway, so the judges perfectly understand why someone took the case to trial even when they expected to lose.

It's a completely different world with felonies and the mandatory minimums that come into play for trial convictions but not plea agreements, so the prosecutor has discretion to offer something before trial that is lower than the mandatory minimum. If you take a felony to trial here, you're looking at more time, typically.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:02 pm

It's just such a huge contrast with the federal system, because the sentencing guidelines include government savings as grounds for a departure. So if you get a plea offer, it's basically always going to be better than going to trial - you get a benefit for saving government resources by not making the government go to trial. Even if you don't get a plea offer (uncommon but possible), if you plead, you get levels off for accepting responsibility, whereas if you go to trial you may not (if your defense was "the government can't prove it" you may be able to get acceptance after a trial, but if your defense was innocence, you can't). So basically you usually get a higher sentence if you go to trial, and that's pretty much accepted.

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It's just such a huge contrast with the federal system, because the sentencing guidelines include government savings as grounds for a departure. So if you get a plea offer, it's basically always going to be better than going to trial - you get a benefit for saving government resources by not making the government go to trial. Even if you don't get a plea offer (uncommon but possible), if you plead, you get levels off for accepting responsibility, whereas if you go to trial you may not (if your defense was "the government can't prove it" you may be able to get acceptance after a trial, but if your defense was innocence, you can't). So basically you usually get a higher sentence if you go to trial, and that's pretty much accepted.


I don't know if saving the State money is something that our felony guidelines contemplate, but the felony guidelines in my state do often make trials very dangerous. When we're talking about the 7-minute-a-case, meet-'em-and-plead-'em issue, it's primarily misdemeanors, where there are no sentencing matrixes and where the judges hate the fact that half the cases are even charged because it's petty chicken shit that prosecutors are overzealous with to begin with. The time-crunch causes public defenders like myself to subconsciously behave a way that encourages clients to plead guilty. We don't fight them when they say things like "Well, I just want to get it over with," cause we just don't have the energy to convince a guy that it's really in his best interest to use up 20 more hours of our precious time and take a losing case to trial just so he can get five fewer days of community service or $300 on an unreasonable fine.

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FlanAl
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:27 pm

What's crazy is how jurisdiction dependent the reaction to this is. I figured Orleans PD would be kinda pissed about it but apparently they've been on a little bit of a media campaign showcasing how they just can't get the job done. I guess what I didn't like was that he didn't point to a jurisdiction or a program that is working. It probably would have been Bronx if they hadn't done their music video thing. I'm with anon sequiter and anon y mouse, in my jurisdiction you almost never do better on sentencing after trial.

There were two things that I really didn't like. Even though time was limited, a few seconds could have been given to mandatory minimums and the role that prosecutors play in this. I could have all the time in the world, but if the prosecutor isn't going to step off the minimums and the case is clunker there's really not much I can do. The other thing I didn't like was the insinuation that you'll get better representation if you go private. In my jurisdiction, if you can afford a private lawyer, you probably also possess a lot of characteristics that will be mitigating factors in your sentence.

We have more people incarcerated than China. Public Defenders are certainly overworked and under appreciated but even if you gave us unlimited funding and resources we'd still be stuck in the dysfunctional system that causes those kind of numbers. Hell, if everyone had Gerry Spence or whatever in every case we'd still have the depressing numbers.

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Displeased
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:22 pm

Tanicius wrote:The time-crunch causes public defenders like myself to subconsciously behave a way that encourages clients to plead guilty. We don't fight them when they say things like "Well, I just want to get it over with," cause we just don't have the energy to convince a guy that it's really in his best interest to use up 20 more hours of our precious time and take a losing case to trial just so he can get five fewer days of community service or $300 on an unreasonable fine.


This is so incredibly true. When you've got ten cases in one morning, the clients know it. They see you bouncing from courtroom to courtroom and client to client, and so they act accordingly. Some days, you just don't have the heart or time to tell them to fight the charge.

Clients also have an irrational fear of trial. I've had cases where a client is looking at discretionary guidelines that call for 3 years and they take a plea with still discretionary guidelines that call for 2 years 10 months. They really think there are unspoken punishments for going to trial.

When it comes to trial work, PDs do the best. You can't do 10 cases a day without learning a thing or two about trial. Its in the non-trial aspect of it that PDs suffer. PDs tend to have less time to prep, much less time to investigate, and just no time to hold the client's hand.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:37 pm

Hey guys, I got a phone interview for a 2L internship with Alaska PD on Monday. Any tips to help a brotha out?

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:15 pm

2L Ak:

1. Have the standard why pd and why Alaska
2. Research the communities and be willing to consider cities other than Juneau or anchorage
3. There's a blog by a guy who works / worked for AK pd if I can find link I'll post it here

tehwetbandit
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby tehwetbandit » Sun Sep 27, 2015 6:57 pm

Hello,

I'm a 3L and I would like to eventually work at the big city PD that I clerk at now. But this office starts new attorneys in traffic and misdemeanors for a few years, is pretty well resourced, and I've heard of attorneys here who did like one jury trial in two years. So I really want to just go somewhere and get a bunch of felony trial experience first. I know someone posted here about going rural southwest and putting up some amazing numbers, but I think that was for ADAs. Does anyone have any advice for where to go if I just want to do as many jury trials as possible from the defense side for a year or two? Is the South a good option?

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Sun Sep 27, 2015 7:14 pm

tehwetbandit wrote:Hello,

I'm a 3L and I would like to eventually work at the big city PD that I clerk at now. But this office starts new attorneys in traffic and misdemeanors for a few years, is pretty well resourced, and I've heard of attorneys here who did like one jury trial in two years. So I really want to just go somewhere and get a bunch of felony trial experience first. I know someone posted here about going rural southwest and putting up some amazing numbers, but I think that was for ADAs. Does anyone have any advice for where to go if I just want to do as many jury trials as possible from the defense side for a year or two? Is the South a good option?


I don't think you can really afford to be this picky. If you get an offer in the city you want to work, fucking take it. The tough jobs in the South are primarily tough because of lack of staffing, which means it is hard to land a job there in the first place due to budget shortfalls. And if you get a job in the South, you could experience an impossible time getting out. Don't view Alabama public defense as a Teach for America opportunity, because it ain't that.

I also think the denigration of misdemeanors and a well-resourced office is short-sighted, and all too commonplace among budding attorneys. Don't mean any offense to you -- I had and to some extent still have the same feeling about misdemeanors both before and during my representation of people charged with them. What you're not realizing is that you get good experience handling a million misdemeanors. It teaches you to shoot from the hip in an environment where your clients aren't suffering catastrophic consequences for your inevitable time-constrained fuck-ups. It teaches you to be mindful of collateral consequences so that you're appreciative of different angles to a client's life before you go off into the big leagues and start advising people to agree to do years and years of prison time or register as a sex offender. Yes, it's true that a lot of misdemeanor clients don't care enough about their case to try for a trial, but a lot of your clients also don't stand to lose a lot taking a misdemeanor to trial, so if you encourage them towards a trial you will sometimes get them to come around.

Having a well-resourced office is a double-edged sword. Sure, one might grow complacent in their cushy office with their hoity-toity access to -- gasp! -- an investigator or expert witness. But it also teaches you to appropriately handle a case. If you are trying Life Without Parole cases your first year out of law school, you will be committing nothing short of legit malpractice on almost every case. You'll learn how to handle serious felonies with only five minutes to look at the file. And then, if you get what you want and move back to the flashy big city, you won't have a clue how to spend an appropriate amount of time and energy on a case. A case that took you five minutes in the South might take months of your time at your cushier job. Where are you getting the experience that will teach you how to handle a case the way you're expected to at the new city job?

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby andythefir » Sun Sep 27, 2015 7:25 pm

tehwetbandit wrote:Hello,

I'm a 3L and I would like to eventually work at the big city PD that I clerk at now. But this office starts new attorneys in traffic and misdemeanors for a few years, is pretty well resourced, and I've heard of attorneys here who did like one jury trial in two years. So I really want to just go somewhere and get a bunch of felony trial experience first. I know someone posted here about going rural southwest and putting up some amazing numbers, but I think that was for ADAs. Does anyone have any advice for where to go if I just want to do as many jury trials as possible from the defense side for a year or two? Is the South a good option?


The Deep South would be horrific. Mississippi is actually the most over-lawyered state in the country (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/arc ... ds/276463/). I would also bet that most of the true horror stories re under-staffed PDs come from that region.

The Mountain West, on the other hand, is completely different. Southeastern New Mexico is a different universe from what I thought I was facing out of law school. I spent around 15 months in the 5th Judicial District and the district was fully staffed for a total of 1 week. And at the end of that week, there were 3 resignations. I don't doubt the PD's offices are the same way.

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Displeased
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:02 pm

Tanicus is right, as (s)he almost always is.

In the course of racking up as many felony jury trials as possible, you are going to make mistakes and people will go to jail. Now that's a necessary part of the job, but maybe you shouldnt be so dismissive about handling misdemeanors for a year. Indigent Southerners are real people too, just like New Yorkers. They aren't just practice clients so you can move up in the (largely imaginary) public defender rankings.

Do you want as much experience as possible? Of course. But don't dismiss a job because it's only misdemeanors at first. It takes years to be "good" at indigent defense. And quite frankly it's a good sign of your employer recognizes that your clients will suffer if you do felonies from day one.

Not to be too condescending (too late!). But there are enough practicing public defenders who are dismissive of misdos as is. I personally did do felonies from day 1, and God knows people suffered for my inexperience.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:33 pm

Displeased wrote:Not to be too condescending (too late!). But there are enough practicing public defenders who are dismissive of misdos as is. I personally did do felonies from day 1, and God knows people suffered for my inexperience.


I came into this job with a resume full of trial-specific accomplishments and work experience, and it helped to prepare me about 5% for the real job. I've been doing this a year, stuck doing misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors only, and the very idea of handling felony cases with their complicated sentencing guidelines and the time hanging over peoples' heads, all the expert testimony and chemical and psychological evaluations, the sheer amount of witnesses and crime scenes to investigate... is terrifying to me. I don't know how I would even start managing my time effectively for issues that take longer than a week to research. I've screwed up so many misdemeanor cases that I don't even want to think about what I would have done to someone's life if I'd represented them on a felony first year out of law school.

I've got friends at Orleans and Miami who are just a year fresh and they're representing people who are eligible to go to prison for the rest of their lives. Those friends are not happy that they are doing that, and I can guarantee none of them feel adequately prepared to be doing that.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:53 pm

Tanicius wrote:. I've screwed up so many misdemeanor cases that I don't even want to think about what I would have done to someone's life if I'd represented them on a felony first year out of law school.

I've got friends at Orleans and Miami who are just a year fresh and they're representing people who are eligible to go to prison for the rest of their lives. Those friends are not happy that they are doing that, and I can guarantee none of them feel adequately prepared to be doing that.


Honestly, its horrifying. There's no other way to describe it.

I don't know if its possible to get adequately prepared. I've done dozens of DUI trials, but felony DUIs still spook me. A malicious wounding is really just a more successful assault, but assaults rarely get more than a ten minute once over before court while malicious woundings scare the bejesus out of me. Its just the escalation of punishment. If I screw up an assault trial, its not the end of the world. A guy gets a few days in jail and a minor conviction on his record. If I screw up a malicious wounding trial, a guys life is basically over. And considering there's so many ways to screw up as a public defender...Fear just eats away at your psyche.

On a more practical note, I will say that felonies do get more investigation than misdemeanors, but just barely. There's only so much investigation that goes into a felony check fraud or a felony larceny, or even most burglaries/robberies. 75% of the time, the more investigation you do, the more evidence of guilt you unearth. So, most of my cases get little to no proper investigation aside from just looking at the Commonwealth's subpoena list, calling them up, and seeing if they'll chat. Sex cases are the notable exception, and of course certain cases are just fact intensive in a way that requires significant investigation.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Mon Sep 28, 2015 8:10 pm

chalky, 0Ls aren't allowed to post questions in this forum.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Mon Sep 28, 2015 8:31 pm

Displeased wrote:
Tanicius wrote:. And considering there's so many ways to screw up as a public defender...Fear just eats away at your psyche.



One year in. Does this ever get better? This is the impossible thing to learn as an intern. Also, you usually do work with more seasoned attorneys. This first year has been tougher than I could have ever expected.

To the earlier poster about the big city job. If you plan to be in the big city for a while just take the job if it is offered to you. If you feel like you aren't getting enough trial experience people will let you hop on their trials. If you plan is to be a PD in one geographic area and the then move in a couple of years then the calculus may be different. OR if the goal is to get a bunch of experience and then go private, you might actually be better served going the prosecution route. (You'll get a million more trials that way and clients always think that a former prosecutor is the best thing ever)

My office gives us what they call felony lite cases probably like 6 months in. Cases that given the charge and the persons criminal history will most likely resolve as misdemeanors or felonies with no time and county not state hanging over the person's head. The main reason for this is because the practice in district court, where misdos are handled, is completely different than in superior where our felonies go. None of mine have gone to trial yet, but once one does the expectation is that I will get a more experienced co-counsel to jump on to make sure I don't fuck up too bad.

The thought of starting out with serious felonies is pretty terrifying but I know that a few of the big city offices don't even let you touch a felony until you are like 3 years in, regardless of the need and your ability.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:02 pm

FlanAl wrote:
Displeased wrote:
Tanicius wrote:. And considering there's so many ways to screw up as a public defender...Fear just eats away at your psyche.



One year in. Does this ever get better? This is the impossible thing to learn as an intern. Also, you usually do work with more seasoned attorneys. This first year has been tougher than I could have ever expected.


I'm roughly 3 years in.

In court nerves tend to go away. I still remember being an intern and feeling a sense of absolute dread while waiting for my cases to be called. I don't have that anymore, except when I'm about to do something very unusual (appellate arguments, odd motions, or the occasional insane client). Its just a function of experience. More time in court = less fear. Familiarity with court personnel actually goes a long way in this regard. A judge you've never seen before can make the simplest drive on suspended into a nightmare.

Clients used to be the scariest part of the job for me. Not like they were physically scary or I feared for my safety, I mostly just feared that they could see my inexperience and would ask me a question I didn't know the answer to. To some extent, clients are like sharks, they can smell fear. Now, client interviews are practically fun. After a certain point, you just kind of know what to say. I have a speech I give for DUIs, a speech for assaults, a speech for young clients, a speech for 30+ year old clients who still need mommy to come with them to visit their lawyer, etc.

The fear I'm talking about is more pervasive. A constant sense that if you prepped more, or read the evidence book more, or investigated more, or asked an additional question, a man would be free right now. A fear that you'll forget to update a case with the new date and will miss a court date. Or that you'll just plain forget about a case and a man will rot in jail without being seen for months. A fear that you'll stand up to give a sentencing argument and you won't be able to think of a good word to say about your client.

I guess, above all, the fear that comes from seeing dozens of people every day processed through a system that ends with them being locked in cages, and knowing that you ultimately had very little effect, or actively made it worse through incompetence.

That's more morbid than I intended. Basically, the immediate fear of going to court will go away. Exposure therapy, just keep going to court and eventually you'll develop a "seen it all" kinda attitude.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:Hey guys, I got a phone interview for a 2L internship with Alaska PD on Monday. Any tips to help a brotha out?


Here's some links for you to look at:

http://northernpd.blogspot.com/

http://blogs.law.nyu.edu/lifeatnyulaw/o ... -division/

HTH

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:10 pm

Has anyone been a student-lawyer in Washtenaw County? I might be heading there this summer and I'm wondering what it will be like.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:45 pm

Displeased wrote:
FlanAl wrote:
Displeased wrote:
Tanicius wrote:. And considering there's so many ways to screw up as a public defender...Fear just eats away at your psyche.



One year in. Does this ever get better? This is the impossible thing to learn as an intern. Also, you usually do work with more seasoned attorneys. This first year has been tougher than I could have ever expected.


I'm roughly 3 years in.

In court nerves tend to go away. I still remember being an intern and feeling a sense of absolute dread while waiting for my cases to be called. I don't have that anymore, except when I'm about to do something very unusual (appellate arguments, odd motions, or the occasional insane client). Its just a function of experience. More time in court = less fear. Familiarity with court personnel actually goes a long way in this regard. A judge you've never seen before can make the simplest drive on suspended into a nightmare.

Clients used to be the scariest part of the job for me. Not like they were physically scary or I feared for my safety, I mostly just feared that they could see my inexperience and would ask me a question I didn't know the answer to. To some extent, clients are like sharks, they can smell fear. Now, client interviews are practically fun. After a certain point, you just kind of know what to say. I have a speech I give for DUIs, a speech for assaults, a speech for young clients, a speech for 30+ year old clients who still need mommy to come with them to visit their lawyer, etc.

The fear I'm talking about is more pervasive. A constant sense that if you prepped more, or read the evidence book more, or investigated more, or asked an additional question, a man would be free right now. A fear that you'll forget to update a case with the new date and will miss a court date. Or that you'll just plain forget about a case and a man will rot in jail without being seen for months. A fear that you'll stand up to give a sentencing argument and you won't be able to think of a good word to say about your client.

I guess, above all, the fear that comes from seeing dozens of people every day processed through a system that ends with them being locked in cages, and knowing that you ultimately had very little effect, or actively made it worse through incompetence.

That's more morbid than I intended. Basically, the immediate fear of going to court will go away. Exposure therapy, just keep going to court and eventually you'll develop a "seen it all" kinda attitude.


I was talking about the second fear you listed. The fear of court went away pretty quickly for me just given the nature of our courts here. Judges taking the bench an hour and a half late, clerk forgetting the court file, client not being transported from jail. I certainly still get nervous, but no dread. The dread I have is from the feeling like I should have done more dread. Or the inexperience and maybe screwing something up dread.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby UnamSanctam » Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone been a student-lawyer in Washtenaw County? I might be heading there this summer and I'm wondering what it will be like.


Had a friend who summered at the PD there. What do you want to know specifically?

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:38 pm

UnamSanctam wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Has anyone been a student-lawyer in Washtenaw County? I might be heading there this summer and I'm wondering what it will be like.


Had a friend who summered at the PD there. What do you want to know specifically?


Did they give your friend plenty of chances to appear on the record? I'm really looking to get some in-court time this summer.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby carmensandiego » Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:49 am

Not sure else where I could put this question, so I thought I'd ask you wonderful folk. Anyways, 2L here wanting to be a PD. Several interviews with PD offices for the upcoming summer. I'm currently working for a Judge, but for next semester I'm trying to decide if I should do my school's criminal defense clinic or work at a PD office in my city?

If you have any insight, let me have it.

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:11 am

carmensandiego wrote:Not sure else where I could put this question, so I thought I'd ask you wonderful folk. Anyways, 2L here wanting to be a PD. Several interviews with PD offices for the upcoming summer. I'm currently working for a Judge, but for next semester I'm trying to decide if I should do my school's criminal defense clinic or work at a PD office in my city?

If you have any insight, let me have it.


Ask around for opinions about how good the crimdef clinic is. If it sounds good, then try it. They might teach some good stuff. If it sounds mezzo-mezzo, then extern instead.

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carmensandiego
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby carmensandiego » Wed Sep 30, 2015 12:33 pm

Tanicius wrote:
carmensandiego wrote:Not sure else where I could put this question, so I thought I'd ask you wonderful folk. Anyways, 2L here wanting to be a PD. Several interviews with PD offices for the upcoming summer. I'm currently working for a Judge, but for next semester I'm trying to decide if I should do my school's criminal defense clinic or work at a PD office in my city?

If you have any insight, let me have it.


Ask around for opinions about how good the crimdef clinic is. If it sounds good, then try it. They might teach some good stuff. If it sounds mezzo-mezzo, then extern instead.


My school has two criminal defense clinics, both lead by very reputable defense attorneys in my city (chicago). From what I've heard they are both hands-on and many students get their 711 and talk in court (even on an appellate level.) I'm more curious to see what PD offices think about one or the other. I know they're both favorable, but are there serious pros/cons to one or the other during 2L year?




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