Former AUSA taking questions

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Anonymous User
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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:21 pm

I have worked at the USAO as a student (part-time) for 4 years and post-grad (full-time) for just around 2 years; 6 years in total. How valuable do you believe this work experience is in trying to land a job at the USAO?

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dowu
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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby dowu » Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:34 pm

Have you worked with anyone who was picked for the DOJ honors program? If so, what do you think set them apart from the other applicants? That is to say, was it their school, grades, connections, work experience, etc...?

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TatteredDignity
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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby TatteredDignity » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:16 pm

If it's not too personal, do you mind sharing why you left?

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have worked at the USAO as a student (part-time) for 4 years and post-grad (full-time) for just around 2 years; 6 years in total. How valuable do you believe this work experience is in trying to land a job at the USAO?


What did you do as a student? Were you a clerk?

What about post-grad work?

It really depends on the type of work you were doing. If it's not law-related, it won't matter much.

But still the connections you made with the people in the office will mean something, and may get you an interview.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:06 pm

nmop_apisdn wrote:Have you worked with anyone who was picked for the DOJ honors program? If so, what do you think set them apart from the other applicants? That is to say, was it their school, grades, connections, work experience, etc...?


Yes, I have.

Let me say this first about the 75% of the DOJ Honors attorneys that I have met. DOJ Honors looks at not only your grades, but they really focus on your application materials (e.g. essays) and letters of recommendation. And a good part of who they select depends on regions and law schools. They try to get a good mix and not just end up have a 95% Ivy league grads. I don't believe prior work experience matters much (it might, but not really).

I've seen people from T2 law schools, and known those from Stanford with sparkling creds not get a sniff.

So got grades are a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:07 pm

TatteredDignity wrote:If it's not too personal, do you mind sharing why you left?


It was just time.

I've never seen myself as a career prosecutor. I wanted to go to the office to get some experience, make some connections and then move on. I did that. And now I'm moving on.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:14 pm

anon168 wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:If it's not too personal, do you mind sharing why you left?


It was just time.

I've never seen myself as a career prosecutor. I wanted to go to the office to get some experience, make some connections and then move on. I did that. And now I'm moving on.

Where to? (generally, but more specific than "private practice")

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:08 pm

patrickd139 wrote:
anon168 wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:If it's not too personal, do you mind sharing why you left?


It was just time.

I've never seen myself as a career prosecutor. I wanted to go to the office to get some experience, make some connections and then move on. I did that. And now I'm moving on.

Where to? (generally, but more specific than "private practice")


Plaintiff's firm.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:27 pm

Do you have any sense of how competitive Appellate Division spots tend to be, perhaps compared to non-appellate spots? I have a COA clerkship coming up in the circuit I'd like to work in and am curious how tough such a position would be to land.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Do you have any sense of how competitive Appellate Division spots tend to be, perhaps compared to non-appellate spots? I have a COA clerkship coming up in the circuit I'd like to work in and am curious how tough such a position would be to land.


For appellate positions in USAO, it is tough because very few slots ever open up. And there are few spots to begin with.

And to be honest with you, the real sexy work in appeals is at the SGO.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby patrickd139 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:22 am

patrickd139 wrote:Where to? (generally, but more specific than "private practice")


Plaintiff's firm.

Sweet.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:31 am

I don't think you mentioned this, but how many years were you in private practice originally? I'm wondering how many years in private practice is enough to become a good lawyer before moving on to government work. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to shed light on this!

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby patrickd139 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:I don't think you mentioned this, but how many years were you in private practice originally? I'm wondering how many years in private practice is enough to become a good lawyer before moving on to government work. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to shed light on this!

:lol: I know you probably didn't mean it this way, but the implication that private practice is your last chance to become a good attorney made me chuckle.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I don't think you mentioned this, but how many years were you in private practice originally? I'm wondering how many years in private practice is enough to become a good lawyer before moving on to government work. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to shed light on this!


Clerked for 2 years, then 5+ years in private practice.

And like that poster above, I don't believe there is a correlation between private practice and practicing law well.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:55 pm

patrickd139 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:Where to? (generally, but more specific than "private practice")


Plaintiff's firm.

Sweet.


I would never go back to biglaw.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby RSterling » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:00 pm

I'm a ways from applying for a AUSA position, but I've heard that you're much better off taking a District Court clerkship (esp. if a prestigious one) than a more prestigious appellate clerkship since the experience you'd get as a district court clerk is better suited to what you'd be doing as an AUSA. Any truth to this?

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby fatduck » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:11 pm

anon168 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:Where to? (generally, but more specific than "private practice")


Plaintiff's firm.

Sweet.


I would never go back to biglaw.

if you could do it all over again, would you still start in biglaw?

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:04 am

What sorts of things do they typically look at in a background check? There has been much speculation on these boards before but I'd love to hear directly from someone who would know, re: past record, background check, drug use, etc.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:What sorts of things do they typically look at in a background check? There has been much speculation on these boards before but I'd love to hear directly from someone who would know, re: past record, background check, drug use, etc.


Well I've never done a background check, only have passed one.

So from what I know there are basically two auto dings: (1) defaulting on student loans and (2) criminal convictions.

Experimental drug use, esp marijuana will not get you dinged, but you have to disclose; don't let the FBI discover through seconday sources.

Bankruptcies are bad, as are DUIs.

Psychological counseling is also an issue they look at or ask about from what I recall.

But generally the statute of limitations is 10 years. And the older the issue the less relevant it is.

Sometimes if you know the USA or FAUSA they can get a waiver for you on certain things.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:34 am

Hi anon168,

Thanks for the info in this thread! I am not sure if you are still taking questions, but I have a few if you are.

I am COA clerk, going to Biglaw afterwards. My firm has a lot of former AUSAs. My goal has always to become an AUSA. I am wondering how I position myself at a firm to make a transition. Obviously try to get as much trial experience as possible.

As a summer, I had lunch with a partner who said being an AUSA was one of the best jobs he had and that he thinks all young lawyers should start their career there. Should I be forthright with the partner and tell him my intentions? I want to leave my development at the firm open and I ideally want to stay at the firm for 4-5 years. What would you recommend?

Also, when you moved to an AUSA were you targeting a particular office? How did you figure out that there were openings? And what's the application process like?

Thanks again for your help!

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:57 am

I have no idea what it's like to work at the AG's office, California or anywhere else. I'd imagine the cases you'd be prosecuting, investigating, defending will be different.


I'm OP's state AG doppelganger -- US district court clerkship, 5+ years biglaw, several years at state AG (medium-sized state with a secondary market city -- think like Washington or Minnesota), now back to private practice (though I'm going back to biglaw as a non-equity partner/counsel). I'm going back for two reasons. First and foremost, the savings from the first biglaw stint are mostly gone, so we need more $$$. Second, the path to advancement at the AG was clogged. Both my boss and my boss's boss looked to be entrenched for the foreseeable future, so I'd have to either wait 5+ years (not an option) or switch sections (thus losing my accumulated goodwill and field-specific expertise) in order to move up the chain.

In any event, what I'd say about the USAO vs. state AG is this. On the criminal side, you're going to get much more complicated and interesting stuff with the USAO [oops, fixed typo]. One reason is just the nature of federal vs. state court. Another reason is that a lot of the sexy health care fraud stuff is actually going to be overlapping Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and the feds get first dibs at it. So they tend to take the sexy cases. The one exception to all of this is appellate work. Most state AGs handle the criminal appellate work -- so if you want to be an appellate lawyer (and can handle the crappy pay), it's not a bad place to go.

The civil side is completely the opposite. USAOs tend to handle fairly boring stuff. Employment disputes, foreclosures, that sort of thing (this is an overgeneralization -- they also do fun civil fraud stuff, but I'm speaking broadly here). The real sexy civil stuff is often picked up by main DOJ. State AGs, on the other hand, get a lot of really fun cases involving challenges to various state programs. So lots of admin/regulatory litigation involving unsettled issues at the state level, a good bit of constitutional issues, that sort of thing. You also are much more likely to develop field- or industry-specific expertise -- like education law, or health law, or insurance law. Obviously this can be beneficial for post-government employment vis a vis a AUSA general litigator.

What else? The feds pay a lot better. Probably 50-100% better. At least in my office, experienced state AG attorneys were usually in the $65k-75k range, and you'd need to move up to a supervisory position before you could even think of six figures. My understanding is that state AG hours are better. I usually worked 8:30-5:30, and weekends/nights only when in trial or in the middle of a huge brief, maybe a handful of times a year. You get a lot more variance in the quality/credentials of state AG attorneys. I worked with attorneys who went to the top schools with COA clerkships (one who interviewed with SCOTUS) on the same case as attorneys who probably had middling grades from the local second tier school. For that reason, I think that exit opportunities are not nearly as good -- a lot of the state AG attorneys just don't have the resume to land with a big firm. (In my experience, firms will consider you as a senior associate/counsel/non-equity partner even without business from government if you have a great-for-biglaw resume.)

I think that's about it...

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:32 pm

fatduck wrote:
anon168 wrote:Plaintiff's firm.
Sweet

I would never go back to biglaw.

if you could do it all over again, would you still start in biglaw?


this question. also, why don't you want to go back to biglaw?

finally:

I like the idea of plaintiffs' work, but it sort of scares me how it's feast and famine. Mandatory arbitration clauses and anti-class action decisions from S. Ct. make me think that the pool of money for plaintiffs' lawyers is sort of drying up. is it? what can/are they doing to adapt?

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
As a summer, I had lunch with a partner who said being an AUSA was one of the best jobs he had and that he thinks all young lawyers should start their career there. Should I be forthright with the partner and tell him my intentions?


Yes. You should have no worries. As a former AUSA, and every former AUSA I know or have spoken to, will always be supportive of anyone who wants to join DOJ or the USAO. No one will hold that against you. If they do, then they're not someone you want to associate with anyway.

Anonymous User wrote:I want to leave my development at the firm open and I ideally want to stay at the firm for 4-5 years. What would you recommend?


I wouldn't broadcast the fact that your ultimate goal is the USAO. Rather, I would find former AUSAs in your office and make your intentions known. This is important for a variety of reason, incl. the questions you pose below. The best, and sometimes only, way to get into a USAO is through connections. Yes, you need sufficient credentials (which you apparenlty have), but knowing when and who to apply to probably more important than what your credentials are. This is where alums come in handy. Most likely the partners in your office who were former AUSAs still have friends who work in the office, and probably are pretty high up in the food-chain, those former AUSAs will know when a slot opens up, and who to direct your resume/application to.

Anonymous User wrote:Also, when you moved to an AUSA were you targeting a particular office? How did you figure out that there were openings? And what's the application process like?


See above.

Sometimes, which office to target depends on lots of factors, incl. which office has openings. If you have no family ties and are mobile, then I would apply to every office in cities where you wouldn't mind hanging out for 4 years or so, or even setting roots. As to figure out when there are openings, you can check the OARM website, but the best way is what I mentioned up above -- talking to people who have the "in" at the office you are targeting.

The application process varies somewhat from USAO to USAO, but generally it's submit cover letter, resume, writing sample and maybe your transcript. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. There can be several rounds of interviews. Usually, an initial screening with some line AUSAs, then a round with some of the section chiefs, and then a final round with the FAUSA and USA.


Anonymous User wrote:Thanks again for your help!


You're welcome. Let me know if you have other questions. Feel free to pm if it's confidential stuff. Good luck.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby anon168 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
fatduck wrote:
anon168 wrote:Plaintiff's firm.
Sweet

I would never go back to biglaw.

if you could do it all over again, would you still start in biglaw?


this question. also, why don't you want to go back to biglaw?

finally:

I like the idea of plaintiffs' work, but it sort of scares me how it's feast and famine. Mandatory arbitration clauses and anti-class action decisions from S. Ct. make me think that the pool of money for plaintiffs' lawyers is sort of drying up. is it? what can/are they doing to adapt?


Yes, I would still start in biglaw.

I don't want to go back to biglaw b/c I don't want to live my life on 1/10th increments of an hour. And, I don't want to work for clients who will always have more money than me.

Your last batch of questions is probably beyond the scope of a simple response on this board. But the bottom line is this: your question basically reaches the heart of what separates good and bad plaintiffs' lawyers. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

And lets not kid ourselves here. As harder as it has gotten recently (thank you SCOTUS), the plaintiffs bar is still made up of bunch of dumbfucks who couldn't litigate their way out of traffic court, and yet they still make good money. Trust me it's not that hard to make a decent living working about 2/3 of the hours of your biglaw counterparts. Now, if you want to reach the stratosphere of plainitffs' $$$, then it is harder and then you really do need to be a good lawyer.

But the feast or famine aspect of plaintiffs work is, to me, what makes it much more exciting than biglaw. If you've got the gonads and the self-confidence and gumption, then you will far outpace your biglaw counterparts without working nearly half has hard as defense side lawyers. Plaintiffs' work is like buying into the Google IPO, or taking a gander on Apple stock way back when the Newton was still on store shelves. Going to a firm like Skadden is like buying a T-bill. Anyone can buy a T-bill and make 4%. That's not hard, and it's really not fun. Figuring out the next big thing, now that's kind of fun.

But that's just me.

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Re: Former AUSA taking questions

Postby Ness Lee » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:29 pm

How did you decide to do plaintiff's work? If I want to work at one of the "elite/prestigious" plaintiff's firms, like Susman Godfrey, what should I do? Does past government work help to get my foot in the door?




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