Band A Long wrote:Thanks to all, great answers. I have a few questions of my own:
1. Sort of a culture-related question, but is it possible to hunt for more entry-level lower-population prosecutorial spots right out of the gate of law school? I'm personally not a big city-person and would love to work in criminal law but with more reasonable hours and potentially with access to more outdoorsy type of stuff (as silly as it sounds). Are county offices and the like very skeptical of that sort of thing?
2. Is it better (with respect to the above Q) to try to get experience in a big city DA office first if one's end-goal is to live in a more moderately-sized town?
3. How important, in your experience, are moot/LR/SBA in law school?
4. Is it worth taking clinics/extra courses related to criminal law?
5. I know this is vague but I gotta ask it since it's constantly on my mind... when you were deciding between law schools, did you go (generally speaking) for the higher rank + higher debt or lower rank + bigger scholarship angle? Is that sort of discussion useful in this context (i.e. did/do a lot of your coworkers come from high-ranked schools with lots of debt or more regional schools on scholarships?)
Thanks so much for any insight you can share!
(Disclaimer: I'm only an intern and am still in law school, but I know a fair amount about these things anyway)
1. As far as I know, yes it is possible. It does, however, depend on the office. You'd have to ask around to figure out what each one's attitudes are. Some are skeptical, some aren't. Most don't hire pre-bar either way, though, so keep that in mind.
2. It depends on the office. Experience in the office you want to be in is usually best, but experience in big vs. smaller offices makes a difference and they have their own pluses and minuses. I think that working in an office that's similar in size/dealing with similar crimes to the one you want to work at is the best thing. Every single thing I mention depends on which particular office you're looking at, but big office experience can be good because you have to deal with a crazier environment, learn to be quicker on your feet, maybe deal with more interesting cases (if you're doing felony prelims), have the opportunity to observe or contribute to big cases (e.g. plenty of homicides or newspaper cases), maybe work in a specialized unit, and grow really thick skin. On the other hand, bigger offices tend to give interns the weeniest of cases, even in terms of felony prelims, because they don't trust you. This may result in you getting not many cases, depending on the office/unit you're in. Also, expect to receive a lot less help/feedback since the DAs/SAs won't have much time.
In smaller offices, they tend to trust the interns with more things and you may end up trying a wider variety of cases and take on things which bigger offices wouldn't dream of letting interns touch, like domestic violence cases with reluctant witnesses. They seem to want to give the interns more work since it is actually significantly beneficial for them to do so. Also, they will probably take more time to train you, give you more feedback, and be more willing to answer questions. On the other hand, you may just be doing DUIs all day if that's pretty much the only thing that happens in that district. Also, some smaller offices only trust you to do preliminary hearings (since you can re-file those if you screw up), but not misdemeanor trials or engage in negotiations.
Short answer: Maybe, maybe not...some offices might like that you were in a big office since they'll think if you can handle the craziness, you can handle their stuff. Some might like that you worked in a smaller office since you'll have a better idea of how they do business. I can tell you that you can't assume that you can jump into a new office knowing everything you need to because you've already worked in another office, big or small.
3. Not important at all unless you are in NYC or a few other gunner offices. There is a remote possibility that they could come in handy (moot court is the most likely to be useful, since you have to argue) or some nerd might care, but it's more likely they won't help you a damn bit in hiring or in doing the job. If you want to do appeals for the office they matter, but not if you want to do trials. I've gotten made fun of for bringing a Bluebook into a DA's office before.
4. Yes. Absolutely. Not taking clinicals is a dumb idea for prospective prosecutors. Also, there are some really good classes you should take that not only make you look good as a candidate, but are actually practical, like Crim Pro II, which is FAR more useful than Crim Pro I and Crim Law combined. Don't stop at Crim Pro I. It is mostly a bunch of dorkbaggery about search & seizure you will never use. Of course, you MUST know and will use the basics of 4th/6th amendment rights, but Crim Pro I wastes a lot time that would be better spent teaching a lot of what's taught in Crim Pro II (e.g. bail, preliminary hearings, discovery).
5. Me...no. I went to the school that has the best reputation for Trial Advocacy and clinical programs, knowing I wanted to be a prosecutor in the area my school is in. In most cases (NYC again is an exception), rank will not matter for the DA (still probably a good idea to avoid diploma mills, though). What will more likely matter is the work experience you can get during law school and if the school you go to is in the area of where you want to work.