Strategy for government employment

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Anonymous User
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Strategy for government employment

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 20, 2011 3:53 pm

I'm about to start 1L at a T10. After law school, I hope to start a career in government. From what I gather, it's important to show a commitment to public service from day one, so that's what I'm planning to do. However, I'm worried about employment prospects, especially with state and federal budget cuts and hiring freezes. I'm afraid that by focusing my resume entirely on PI (I already have two undergrad summer internships at my hometown USAO and hope to work at prosecutors' offices during the summers in law school), I'll shut myself out from private (i.e. biglaw, OCI) employment opportunities only to graduate and find no openings in the public sector.

First and foremost, my priority is to get a job that will allow me to pay back sticker debt. Secondary to that, my desired careers are, in order of preference:
1. DOJ/BigGov
2. Prosecutor's office in a large city (Chicago, SoCal, etc.)
3. Prosecutor's office in or around my home market (Midwestern city of around 2 million)
4. Coastal biglaw
5. Biglaw/midlaw in my home market
6. Prosecutor's office in a similarly-sized city, preferably in the Midwest

Given my preferences and the current employment prospects, would I be making a mistake to gear my experience, classes, and extracurriculars entirely toward PI? Would it be wiser to aim for the more typical biglaw-through-OCI path in the interest of getting something, anything to bring in a paycheck, and put my PI goals on ice?

frost
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby frost » Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:30 pm

I don't think you need to worry too much about this right now. You have yet to start school and your first year grades will be the most important factor that ANY employer will consider, whether government or private. I had substantial experience in government and PI fields before law school including working at a prosecutor's office for almost two years. I had no problem getting offers during OCI, but I have no doubt that was solely because I had strong grades as a 1L.

That said, I think it's fine to gear your extracurriculars towards PI, and if you land a biglaw gig, then you can convincingly tell potential PI employers that you always wanted to do PI, and your resume will reflect that. You certainly won't be the first person to switch from biglaw to government.

Anonymous User
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:02 pm

OP here.

Thanks for the input. I realize that I can't do a ton about this yet, but I am starting to gather info on places I might apply 1L summer, so I want to get as much of a head start as possible.

At least one of the law firm recruiters who posts on these boards had mentioned dinging anyone whose resume pegged them as an obvious PI person, so my concern was that doing a prosecution internship, combined with my USAO experience, might put me in that boat.

jml8756
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby jml8756 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:11 pm

Definitely do a government internship your 1L summer for the following reasons. 1) To see if you like it. 2) If you don't like it, you can do OCI in the fall, and they won't care what you did during your 1L summer as long as it was legal. 3) If you do like it, you have begun the process of demonstrating dedication to PI work, which is of the utmost importance if you want to be employed in that field.

FWIW, I don't think PI internships kill your chances in the private sector nearly as much as private sector internships kill your chances with PI.

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The Valkyrie
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby The Valkyrie » Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:13 pm

gov departments hire primarily from people they have worked with before who are with government contractors - in this climate, the best bet is to try to get a job with those contractors and lateral your way in.

Anonymous User
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:47 pm

jml8756 wrote:Definitely do a government internship your 1L summer for the following reasons. 1) To see if you like it. 2) If you don't like it, you can do OCI in the fall, and they won't care what you did during your 1L summer as long as it was legal. 3) If you do like it, you have begun the process of demonstrating dedication to PI work, which is of the utmost importance if you want to be employed in that field.

FWIW, I don't think PI internships kill your chances in the private sector nearly as much as private sector internships kill your chances with PI.

Thanks, this is exactly the kind of thing I was wondering.

The Valkyrie wrote:gov departments hire primarily from people they have worked with before who are with government contractors - in this climate, the best bet is to try to get a job with those contractors and lateral your way in.

I could be wrong, but I've never heard of this happening with government legal hiring, especially in prosecution. I do agree that this is often the case with other hiring (my USAO position was actually through a contractor, and the person who held my position previously went on to work for another federal agency).

-OP

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The Valkyrie
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby The Valkyrie » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
jml8756 wrote:Definitely do a government internship your 1L summer for the following reasons. 1) To see if you like it. 2) If you don't like it, you can do OCI in the fall, and they won't care what you did during your 1L summer as long as it was legal. 3) If you do like it, you have begun the process of demonstrating dedication to PI work, which is of the utmost importance if you want to be employed in that field.

FWIW, I don't think PI internships kill your chances in the private sector nearly as much as private sector internships kill your chances with PI.

Thanks, this is exactly the kind of thing I was wondering.

The Valkyrie wrote:gov departments hire primarily from people they have worked with before who are with government contractors - in this climate, the best bet is to try to get a job with those contractors and lateral your way in.

I could be wrong, but I've never heard of this happening with government legal hiring, especially in prosecution. I do agree that this is often the case with other hiring (my USAO position was actually through a contractor, and the person who held my position previously went on to work for another federal agency).

-OP



the advice that I got (that im passing on now) was from someone in DOJ who was giving me advice about jobs in government depts in general - not speciafically AUSA jobs.

Anonymous User
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Re: Strategy for government employment

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:11 pm

I definitely agree with trying government employment after your 1L year.

That being said, it's important to be aware that the federal, state, and county governments are all reducing hiring because of the budget cuts. Don't focus so much on government employers that you forget about law firm hiring.

If you really want to work in the government long-term, recognize that you could go to the private sector first. Look for those law firms that send people into government positions. This varies by region of the country.

For example, I know that Gibson Dunn LA sends a lot of people to the US Attorney's Office in LA. It helps, of course, that the former US Attorney for LA (actually Central District of CA) now works at Gibson Dunn LA.

In contrast, in DC, I've heard that WilmerHale and Covington send a lot of people to government. Again, it helps that Eric Holder used to be a partner at Covington.




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