Any chance at AUSA?

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Anonymous User
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Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 11, 2012 8:53 pm

Top 60 school, barely top half of class, no LR or moot court, and am now lucky enough to be clerking for a federal magistrate. I externed in the same district for two different judges, so that was the kicker for me even being remotely qualified. Spent a year as a DA prior to the clerkship. Do I have any chance at AUSA after I finish?

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Fri May 11, 2012 9:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Top 60 school, barely top half of class, no LR or moot court, and am now lucky enough to be clerking for a federal magistrate. I externed in the same district for two different judges, so that was the kicker for me even being remotely qualified. Spent a year as a DA prior to the clerkship. Do I have any chance at AUSA after I finish?


Are you wanting to go straight to AUSA after clerking? My impression has been that most either do biglaw or DA for a few years. I think it's pretty rare to go straight through law school + clerkship to AUSA.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 11, 2012 9:37 pm

Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Top 60 school, barely top half of class, no LR or moot court, and am now lucky enough to be clerking for a federal magistrate. I externed in the same district for two different judges, so that was the kicker for me even being remotely qualified. Spent a year as a DA prior to the clerkship. Do I have any chance at AUSA after I finish?


Are you wanting to go straight to AUSA after clerking? My impression has been that most either do biglaw or DA for a few years. I think it's pretty rare to go straight through law school + clerkship to AUSA.


Yeah, straight after. I already spent 1 yr. as a DA. I'm curious because of how GPA/LR/School conscious DOJ has become over the past decade...Will my work experience (DA + Clerkship) overcome my lackluster performance in law school?

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Fri May 11, 2012 9:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Richie Tenenbaum wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Top 60 school, barely top half of class, no LR or moot court, and am now lucky enough to be clerking for a federal magistrate. I externed in the same district for two different judges, so that was the kicker for me even being remotely qualified. Spent a year as a DA prior to the clerkship. Do I have any chance at AUSA after I finish?


Are you wanting to go straight to AUSA after clerking? My impression has been that most either do biglaw or DA for a few years. I think it's pretty rare to go straight through law school + clerkship to AUSA.


Yeah, straight after. I already spent 1 yr. as a DA. I'm curious because of how GPA/LR/School conscious DOJ has become over the past decade...Will my work experience (DA + Clerkship) overcome my lackluster performance in law school?


Oh, missed that. I would think the lack of experience would still be an obstacle with only a year at the DA (unless you just got tons of great trial experience). I'm probably not going to be your best source of info since I'm only a 2L, but I would think you are lacking in both work experience and law school credentials.

ETA: I would love to hear from someone who has more knowledge about this stuff, since this is relevant to my interests later in life.

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Detrox
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Detrox » Fri May 11, 2012 10:02 pm

I think (ignorant 2L as well) that AUSA hiring requirements may vary from district to district, but all of them will require strong grades (maybe overcome by significant WE), a strong clerkship, and demonstrated interest.

But yes, any real substantive info on AUSA qualifications/prerequisites would be nice to have on this board.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 11, 2012 10:36 pm

My sense is that if it's a major market, you're pretty far from being competitive. I think big city AUSAs tend to only come straight from appellate clerkships. If you get a couple of years of biglaw under your belt, this could all change, but the sort of people who go straight to the USAO are relatively high in their class at HYS (or top of their class at a T14) + clerkship.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby kalvano » Fri May 11, 2012 10:40 pm

I just finished externing at the USAO Dallas office. DOJ is on a hiring freeze right now, no one is being hired permanently.

Aside from that, I was told the only way to go straight from school to AUSA is through Honors. Other than that, pretty much every office requires between two and seven years legal work experience. The bigger, more prestigious offices have the more stringent requirements. The places that only want two years are the offices in places like th Texas / Mexico border where it's a war zone and no one wants to work there.

It's very rare to go from school straight to AUSA. Your odds of Biglaw are much better, purely as a numbers game. Far more Biglaw than AUSA spots, and the AUSA spots are highly, highly coveted.

Candidates with strong litigation or super-prestigious firms, or with felony-level ADA experience are who they look for. Obviously, the #1 kid at H/Y/S who was EIC of law review and is a SCOTUS clerk candidate can probably get a job there straight out, but for mere mortals, you shouldn't plan on going into the USAO straight out of school, because it likely won't happen.

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Glock
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Glock » Sat May 12, 2012 12:08 am

They don't hire out of law school and to the extent they might make an exception it isn't going to be for median at ~60. Not realistic. They like biglaw refugees and hotshot DAs.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 12, 2012 12:22 am

Not to hijack, but the responses here all seem to be saying that "You can't get AUSA directly out of law school," but OP's original question was about AUSA out of his magistrate clerkship. How common is it to get AUSA out of clerkships or very shortly thereafter (< 2 years)? Is Fed. COA de facto required or would Fed. district not be more valuable due to greater relevance to litigation?

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby quiver » Sat May 12, 2012 4:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:Not to hijack, but the responses here all seem to be saying that "You can't get AUSA directly out of law school," but OP's original question was about AUSA out of his magistrate clerkship. How common is it to get AUSA out of clerkships or very shortly thereafter (< 2 years)? Is Fed. COA de facto required or would Fed. district not be more valuable due to greater relevance to litigation?
Yeah, OP's path was law school, DA for a year, now magistrate clerkship for a year and s/he is wondering about going into AUSA post-clerkship. From what I've heard, it will depend heavily on which district but I will of course defer to others with more info. I'd also be interested in hearing about a law school, federal clerkship(s), AUSA path.

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kalvano
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby kalvano » Sat May 12, 2012 10:21 am

From my understanding, a clerkship is basically a year of work experience. They'd rather have someone with five years at the DA's than someone with a clerkship.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 12, 2012 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not to hijack, but the responses here all seem to be saying that "You can't get AUSA directly out of law school," but OP's original question was about AUSA out of his magistrate clerkship. How common is it to get AUSA out of clerkships or very shortly thereafter (< 2 years)? Is Fed. COA de facto required or would Fed. district not be more valuable due to greater relevance to litigation?


Federal District Court clerkship in either the district that you want to work as an AUSA or in one of the top districts (SDNY, EDNY, NDIL, CDCA, NDCA, EDVA, DDC) would be more useful that your average COA. AUSA's aren't doing appellate work, they're doing trial work.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 12, 2012 2:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:AUSA's aren't doing appellate work, they're doing trial work.

I think you might be wrong but could easily be right.

Fed public defenders in Oakland seem to handle own appeals.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 12, 2012 2:40 pm

kalvano wrote:From my understanding, a clerkship is basically a year of work experience. They'd rather have someone with five years at the DA's than someone with a clerkship.

Kalvano, I think you mentioned that you interned with an AUSA, so your experience may very well be true about your office. In my experience, now having met and worked with several AUSAs, this is not really how it works. You have created somewhat of a false dichotomy. Sure, like you said, some people apply to work at AUSA gigs immediately following their fed. clerkship (or two). These people almost invariably will not even get an interview. Some people in some office also get hired having done no clerkships and worked at a DA's office for five years.

However, in this economy, most AUSA offices can pick the both option. That is, they can pick people who have a federal clerking and then done 3 or 4 years of DA work (or 3-4 years of biglaw). Between the candidate who has 5 years of no DA experience and a candidate who has done a fed. d. ct. clerkship and 4 years of DA experience, I think all else equal, the latter candidate has better odds of getting that interview. You will certainly see many older AUSAs who were not necessarily as qualified but almost all of the recent hires are insanely qualified (if any offices are still even hiring . . . ). In the office I interned with, my division's supervisor told me they got something like 1000 applications for their single opening. (This is essentially what you said above, which I agree with completely.)

Federal District Court clerkship in either the district that you want to work as an AUSA or in one of the top districts (SDNY, EDNY, NDIL, CDCA, NDCA, EDVA, DDC) would be more useful that your average COA. AUSA's aren't doing appellate work, they're doing trial work.

I agree with this in spirit but there are a few caveats I would add: (1) If you clerk for a Circuit Judge who was an AUSA or has connections to the DOJ, this may outweigh any advantage of a non-connected D.Ct. judge. (2) Most AUSA offices have their own small appellate division that handles bigger cases. So if you want to work in that division, obviously having an appellate clerkship is helpful. In the office I worked for, assuming it was not a big case, all the AUSAs handled the direct appeal for all of their own cases. So again, while the probability your case goes on appeal is limited (given that most of the time defendants enter into guilty pleas and there is only very limited things you can appeal once you enter into a guilty plea), it still can be useful. (3) US Attorney's Offices are just as prestige focused as any other legal employer. So in so far as Circuit Courts add prestige, I think they still value them. (4) Candidates are increasingly doing both clerkships to capture the benefits of both. A successful candidate is not required to, of course, but I think it likely helps a bit to have both over just a D.Ct. Now whether that's worth giving up a year at a firm or the DA's office is a closer call; but if you have the option and depending on the judge, it very well may be worth it.

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kalvano
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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby kalvano » Sat May 12, 2012 5:39 pm

I agree. I should have been more clear. School --->> clerkship -->> AUSA is not a viable option for any but the best of the best. I meant that working a year at the DA then clerking won't be enough either. They'd rather have someone with several years of real trial experience, as that's what AUSA's mainly do. Now clerkship + 4-5 years of practical experience is definitely a more likely candidate than pure work experience. I was more trying to say that a clerkship will help your chances quite a bit, but will not substitute for real work experience.


Also, regarding what AUSA's do, the Dallas office has an appellate division that handles appeals. The line prosecutors do not, although they work closely with the appellate division on motions and briefs to make them as good as possible.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 12, 2012 6:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kalvano wrote:From my understanding, a clerkship is basically a year of work experience. They'd rather have someone with five years at the DA's than someone with a clerkship.

Kalvano, I think you mentioned that you interned with an AUSA, so your experience may very well be true about your office. In my experience, now having met and worked with several AUSAs, this is not really how it works. You have created somewhat of a false dichotomy. Sure, like you said, some people apply to work at AUSA gigs immediately following their fed. clerkship (or two). These people almost invariably will not even get an interview. Some people in some office also get hired having done no clerkships and worked at a DA's office for five years.

However, in this economy, most AUSA offices can pick the both option. That is, they can pick people who have a federal clerking and then done 3 or 4 years of DA work (or 3-4 years of biglaw). Between the candidate who has 5 years of no DA experience and a candidate who has done a fed. d. ct. clerkship and 4 years of DA experience, I think all else equal, the latter candidate has better odds of getting that interview. You will certainly see many older AUSAs who were not necessarily as qualified but almost all of the recent hires are insanely qualified (if any offices are still even hiring . . . ). In the office I interned with, my division's supervisor told me they got something like 1000 applications for their single opening. (This is essentially what you said above, which I agree with completely.)

Federal District Court clerkship in either the district that you want to work as an AUSA or in one of the top districts (SDNY, EDNY, NDIL, CDCA, NDCA, EDVA, DDC) would be more useful that your average COA. AUSA's aren't doing appellate work, they're doing trial work.

I agree with this in spirit but there are a few caveats I would add: (1) If you clerk for a Circuit Judge who was an AUSA or has connections to the DOJ, this may outweigh any advantage of a non-connected D.Ct. judge. (2) Most AUSA offices have their own small appellate division that handles bigger cases. So if you want to work in that division, obviously having an appellate clerkship is helpful. In the office I worked for, assuming it was not a big case, all the AUSAs handled the direct appeal for all of their own cases. So again, while the probability your case goes on appeal is limited (given that most of the time defendants enter into guilty pleas and there is only very limited things you can appeal once you enter into a guilty plea), it still can be useful. (3) US Attorney's Offices are just as prestige focused as any other legal employer. So in so far as Circuit Courts add prestige, I think they still value them. (4) Candidates are increasingly doing both clerkships to capture the benefits of both. A successful candidate is not required to, of course, but I think it likely helps a bit to have both over just a D.Ct. Now whether that's worth giving up a year at a firm or the DA's office is a closer call; but if you have the option and depending on the judge, it very well may be worth it.


Thanks to everyone for the insight on this! A CoA clerkship is pretty much out of the question for me. I think I'd be the only person in history to be in the 45th percentile of my class and no LR to land a CoA gig:) The follow up question is this: would it be better to try and land a Dist Ct gig after I finish with the magistrate? Or would it be more advantageous to go back to the DA? I did three jury trials (albeit, misdemeanors) during my year at the DA...

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 13, 2012 4:19 pm

Here are my two cents: Yes, the DOJ has become much more selective in their hiring practice. Yes, a clerkship will make you more competitive. But when it comes down to it, people still hire candidates they know and like. So start hustling and making connections around your courthouse! (Obviously be mindful of your ethical obligations as a law clerk...) Use your year with the mag judge get to know as many AUSAs as you can, and I guarantee you'll be as or more competitive as any other random applicant.

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby TheProsecutor » Mon May 14, 2012 1:08 pm

I think there are traditionally two paths to become an AUSA. The first path is to graduate from law school, complete a clerkship, and then do biglaw (or work at a well-regarded regional firm in secondary markets) for a couple of years. After getting sufficient legal experience 3-5 years, on average, you should be able to get an AUSA gig.

The second path is to graduate from law school and spend 5 years, on average, as an ADA. Then lateral over to a USAO.

The OP has graduated from law school, spent a year as an ADA and is now completing a magistrate judge clerkship. While magistrate judge clerkships are not as prestigious as district clerkships, magistrate judge clerks generally see a lot more of the nuts and bolts of the criminal process than district clerks. Magistrate judge clerks tend to handle 2255 motions, tend to work on arraignments, tend to handle much of the pre-trial work. Federal District Court clerks get to do the trials and sentencings however.

I would encourage the OP to apply to District Court clerkships, if possibe. As an alternative, apply to regional firms that practice in federal court and hype up your knowledge of discovery rules in the district. If these avenues are closed, return to your ADA position and wait another 2-3 years.

The competition to become an AUSA is fierce, but I don't see anything foreclosing the OP from becoming a line assistant. That being said, I don't see anything guaranteeing it either.

Finally, get to know the AUSAs in your area without being a brown nose. If they know you and like you, it can help on the margins especially if you score an interview (line AUSAs typically help with interviews).

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Re: Any chance at AUSA?

Postby Bucket » Mon May 14, 2012 6:37 pm

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