which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

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Anonymous User
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which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 7:01 am

I hear AUSA is more prestigious and extremely hard to get (impossible in SDNY) but that DAs actually get more trial exposure. This is interesting given that becoming ADA is far easier than landing AUSA spot.

What's the big deal about AUSA then? Complex case management expertise? Can't you get that at a firm? What's left? Prestige? If I don't give a shit about white collar creds and only want to get trial experience, shouldn't I just go work at a DAs office?

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Cupidity
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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Cupidity » Tue May 01, 2012 7:15 am

AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 7:22 am

Cupidity wrote:AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $


I think you're mistaken about AUSAs going to court nearly every day. An AUSA gave a talk at my LS. He said he'd consider it a pretty lucky year if he got two trials. He was in his 7th year as AUSA.

CanadianWolf
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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 01, 2012 7:31 am

DAs & Ass't DAs get much more trial exposure than those working in the Federal system. Not even close in terms of time spent in court.

Citizen Genet
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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Citizen Genet » Tue May 01, 2012 8:14 am

Cupidity wrote:AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $


You have the wrong perception for the most part. While there may be some AUSAs who average that routine of a court load, most do not. Instead, they invest more time in single trials while many to most ADAs will be in court much more often, trying smaller crimes more quickly. As for the subject matter, it will depend on the office, but even in the smaller officers were the AUSAs are handling every case type, they won't necessarily be exposed to a wider range. As a federal office, it is necessarily limited to typical federal subject matter (drug crimes, white collar, cyber crimes, public corruption, and a hodge-podge of others). State DAs will see many of these same subject matters and much more other traditional crimes like violent crimes (single murders, rapes, etc.) So while any single individual AUSA might see more than other ADAs, I don't think they're pre-disposed to seeing more.

Finally, whether an AUSA makes more money or not depends on the DAs office. Many of the ADAs in California with similar experience make more than the AUSAs there.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 8:52 am

Citizen Guest or whoever: Can you please comment on why AUSA is considered more prestigious?

Seems like from a trial-value-added perspective, you get to simply do more "reps" as an ADA. You take more witnesses and deliver more openings and closings - in terms of the sheer numbers - as ADA versus AUSA.

So what the hell is the big deal about AUSA? Is it purely white-collar substantive criminal law, which is helpful when you're on the defense side in a big firm's white-collar practice?

Or is it the usual bullshit prestige drug that the legal profession seems irrationally addicted to?

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 8:55 am

It is more prestigious because you are representing the interests of the United States Federal Government. Additionally, the quality of practice is generally higher in federal court.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 8:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:It is more prestigious because you are representing the interests of the United States Federal Government.

Why is that more prestigious?
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue May 01, 2012 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

nymario
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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby nymario » Tue May 01, 2012 8:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Cupidity wrote:AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $


I think you're mistaken about AUSAs going to court nearly every day. An AUSA gave a talk at my LS. He said he'd consider it a pretty lucky year if he got two trials. He was in his 7th year as AUSA.


Being in court is not the same thing as being on trial...

Even though the AUSAs may not be on trial very often, they have a ton of status conferences, arraignments, pleas, and sentencings that do, in fact, put them in court most days.

I also talked to a former AUSA last week who was on trial for something like seven months out of his first year, but that was certainly an aberration...(it was one trial, and it was obviously a pretty big deal)
Last edited by nymario on Tue May 01, 2012 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2012 8:57 am

nymario wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Cupidity wrote:AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $


I think you're mistaken about AUSAs going to court nearly every day. An AUSA gave a talk at my LS. He said he'd consider it a pretty lucky year if he got two trials. He was in his 7th year as AUSA.


Being in court is not the same thing as being on trial...

Even though the AUSAs may not be on trial very often, they have a ton of status conferences, arraignments, pleas, and sentencings that do, in fact, put them in court most days.


So are you making the case for or against AUSA-to-get-trial-chops?

If for, what exactly is the value-added from "pleas and sentencings" if one is purely interested in extracting trial skills from the AUSA experience?

If against, is ADA > AUSA for trial in your opinion?

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Citizen Genet » Tue May 01, 2012 9:22 am

1. Really, AUSA and ADA are both fantastic for trial work (including motions, witness prep, etc.). But as a matter of time spent, ADAs just spend more time in the courtroom than AUSAs do. There will be exceptions at the tails, but the median ADA will be doing trial prep work more than an AUSA.

2a. As for prestige... it probably goes back to the New Deal (don't worry, this isn't a joke....) when the federal government started expanding wildly. Academics at Harvard and Yale started to encourage their students to go get jobs at the Department of Justice as a means of executing better policy. Since then, having a federal job has been considered more prestigious (I don't know how to do the meme spelling, sorry) than a state counterpart. The perception is that you are working with higher stakes on more important matters.

2b. There's a self-reinforcing mechanism with the prestige factor. People perceive it as prestigious. Lots of people apply. USAO only hires the top of the applicants. You get a really high quality set of people working there. The prestige goes up. To work at a USAO, your grades matter and your work experience matters. USAOs hire really incredible candidates because lots of people want to work there and they have the luxury of hiring only the best.

2c. A very nice part about working in a USAO is that you are cherry picking cases a lot of the time. While a DAs office has to deal with the guy who got drunk and assaulted his girlfriend almost immediately after the police arrested him, a USAO will have the time to work through an investigation, build a significant case, and then arrest the individual. In other words, you don't have as many routine crimes and you have the luxury of waiting to arrest individuals. (Again, for the most part. There are times when an arrest will have to be executed for other concerns, like fleeing the country.)

3. If you're talking exit options into BigLaw, USAO > DA almost all of the time. USAOs handle a lot of the white collar work and even if you're not in a white collar unit, you'll be exposed to it. I am not aware of near as many DAs who go out into BigLaw private practice. (To be sure, many go into criminal defense, but I think that's a whole different scenario.)

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby nymario » Tue May 01, 2012 9:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:
nymario wrote:
Being in court is not the same thing as being on trial...

Even though the AUSAs may not be on trial very often, they have a ton of status conferences, arraignments, pleas, and sentencings that do, in fact, put them in court most days.


So are you making the case for or against AUSA-to-get-trial-chops?

If for, what exactly is the value-added from "pleas and sentencings" if one is purely interested in extracting trial skills from the AUSA experience?

If against, is ADA > AUSA for trial in your opinion?


No, I am not saying AUSAs go to trial more than ADAs. I was just correcting the statement that "in court" is the same as "on trial" at any level. It's all important stuff.

AUSAs get more opportunity for "career making" trials...However, that is admittedly the exception rather than the norm. If you want to build up some trial chops and then go become a trial lawyer for a small-medium sized firm, then by all means, go to the DA's office.

If you want to go [back] to BigLaw or work for BigGov, be a Federal judge, get into politics, or do anything "Big" then AUSA is a no-brainer. That being said, if you want to work in MidLaw, get into local/state politics, and the like, then ADA is a fine path for that.

None of this is to say that the AUSA path is objectively "better" - but it is undeniably more prestigious and it generally opens the same doors that would be open to a former-ADA. It just happens to open more...

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby FlanAl » Tue May 01, 2012 9:57 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:It is more prestigious because you are representing the interests of the United States Federal Government.

Why is that more prestigious?


I've found that trying to find an objective reason for why things are more prestigious in law school is not an easy thing to do. So much of it is the self perpetuating prestige that Citizen Genet was talking about. This is actually one of the things I hate about law school the most, people shooting for prestigious stuff strictly for its prestige.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Tue May 01, 2012 11:08 am

Citizen Guest or whoever: Can you please comment on why AUSA is considered more prestigious?


I think it's mostly a self-reinforcing deal. Most USAOs have super-selective hiring standards. Either T14 plus AIII clerkship plus 2+ years at biglaw, or 5+ years at a ADA or state AG office. In some of the more competitive districts (i.e., virtually any district in a major metropolitan area) these days, probably some combination of both. So you get offices that are staffed with absurdly credentialed attorneys with several years of experience -- and those tend to be very good (or at least smart) lawyers, so the quality of the work product is very high. Doesn't take long for that office to develop a "prestigious" reputation.

There are other factors too, though I think the first is by far the most important. The federal government tends to pay better than the state or local government. (Yes, there exceptions to this. They're exceptions to the general rule.) AUSAs practice almost exclusively in federal court, which is seen as more "prestigious" than state court. USAOs also have better resources, which make them a more comfortable place to work (and improves the quality of work product even more).

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby jkay » Tue May 01, 2012 11:39 am

Nobody goes to trial at the federal level anymore, because AUSA's have an institutional habit of overcharging, thereby forcing those charged to plead out.

Ergo, if you want trial experience, be a state-level prosecutor.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Cupidity » Tue May 01, 2012 3:01 pm

nymario wrote:Even though the AUSAs may not be on trial very often, they have a ton of status conferences, arraignments, pleas, and sentencings that do, in fact, put them in court most days.


I guess this is what I was getting at. I saw almost every AUSA in a courtroom everyday.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue May 01, 2012 3:19 pm

.
Last edited by JusticeJackson on Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 02, 2012 1:09 am

jkay wrote:Nobody goes to trial at the federal level anymore, because AUSA's have an institutional habit of overcharging, thereby forcing those charged to plead out.

Ergo, if you want trial experience, be a state-level prosecutor.


I'm not so sure that that isn't the case with many state prosecutors as well.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby nymario » Wed May 02, 2012 1:59 am

There's a lot to be said for:
AUSA: Here's the charge. How do you plead?
Def: Not guilty
AUSA: kk, heading over to the grand jury to supersede some really great stuff you'll love.
Def: Wait, I'll take opinion A please...
Sentencing in 60 days work for you?

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby rad lulz » Wed May 02, 2012 2:34 am

Level of practice tends to be higher, in my experience (worked in two firms that did about 75% state and 25% federal crimes, also interned with the USAO)

State court is a cattle call. Depending on the authority of PDs and DAs to make deals, you can have someone plead out in 30-45 mins for minor crimes. Literally the PD sees his dude in the box, talks to him, walks over to the DA, and makes a deal. Done. People tend not to seriously consider the briefs, or even read them. Lots of emphasis is placed on the oral argument. Judges and attorneys tend to give lip service to or just don't follow procedural rules.

Example from IRL: when I worked at a firm, I wrote a motion to suppress evidence. We submitted it right before trial. The attorney I worked for had reviewed it and was prepared to argue it, but just having the motion was enough. I don't think the DA read it. As soon as we showed up with the motion in hand, on the day of the trial, we got the plea deal we wanted. Easy as pie.

This kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants practice does NOT happen at the Federal level. People follow the rules, read the briefs, etc. It's serious business federal charges (the feds don't take no shit) with correspondingly serious treatment. State court tends to have a lot more wiggle room.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby kalvano » Wed May 02, 2012 2:41 am

To add to Rad, stuff does go to trial at the federal level quite a bit. When you're a 35-year-old 3-time loser staring down the barrel of 50+ years with no parole, what have you got to lose?

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Glock » Wed May 02, 2012 3:14 am

nymario wrote:
Being in court is not the same thing as being on trial...

Even though the AUSAs may not be on trial very often, they have a ton of status conferences, arraignments, pleas, and sentencings that do, in fact, put them in court most days.

I also talked to a former AUSA last week who was on trial for something like seven months out of his first year, but that was certainly an aberration...(it was one trial, and it was obviously a pretty big deal)




This. Especially at the federal level where everyone pleads because the costs are so high, rules are rigged, and sentences are so unfathomably stiff.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure?

Postby Tanicius » Wed May 02, 2012 3:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Cupidity wrote:AUSA's offices are often better staffed, so they are able to restrict new hires to writing and observation for several months, whereas at ADA offices, you may be in court your first day. However, while low level ADA's get more trial exposure immediately, the gap is closed within about a year, at which point AUSA's are in court nearly every day.

AUSA's are also generally exposed to a wider range of subject matter, if that factors into your evaluation. Also, trial experience at the federal level is much more formal than at the state level, which requires a more nuanced approach to prosecution.

Also, ASUA $$ > DA $


I think you're mistaken about AUSAs going to court nearly every day. An AUSA gave a talk at my LS. He said he'd consider it a pretty lucky year if he got two trials. He was in his 7th year as AUSA.



Holy crap. I'd be steaming if I was on my 7th year of almost any career track without getting more courtroom experience than that.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby lessthanjake » Wed May 02, 2012 6:10 am

I'm just an 0L, but here is the impression I've gotten from reading A LOT about this:

1. AUSAs tend to get paid a bit more than ADAs. It obviously depends on the DAs office in question, but I think the federal AD scale gets you higher than the scale used in DAs offices. AUSAs will quickly be making 100-150k a year; it is my impression that this is not true of ADAs.

2. AUSAs do get less trial experience. They simply have fewer cases given to them. However, the cases they have are, on average, bigger and more complex. I think this is part of where the prestige comes from; AUSAs try big, complex, and important cases a much greater percent of the time than ADAs do.

3. AUSAs get better training to be effective litigators. I have read repeatedly that ADAs have such an insane amount of cases on their plates that they really are forced to limit their preparation and "fly by the seat of their pants" a lot. AUSAs have fewer cases, and thus prepare much more rigorously and thoroughly for them. I think big firms and other exit options see this as better training/a better environment to have as a litigator. As a result, they'd rather have an AUSA than an ADA, despite the fact that the ADA has been to trial more. This preference gives AUSAs higher prestige.

4. There is, of course, the fact mentioned that AUSAs work for the federal government instead of the state/local government. For most people, there is something inherently more prestigious about that.


If your goal is simply to be a trial lawyer who argues in court as much as possible, you are probably best off going to an DAs office. AUSAs have better exit options, but those better options (lateral to partner at a firm, other federal government jobs, etc) do not provide a particularly large amount of trial exposure anyways. For pure trial experience, my sense is that DA -> solo practice is probably your best route.

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Re: which gets more trial exposure? DA or AUSA?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 02, 2012 9:42 am

An old saying: When the Feds indict, the case is already over; when the state indicts, the case is just beginning.

The Feds have tremendous resources available whereas most state & local governments are resource poor.




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