Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:15 pm

seizmaar wrote:if you had the choice, given what you know now, do you think you would have gone DOJ honors or do you value the experience/$$$ of biglaw?


I applied for DOJ Honors and was not selected. At the time, I definitely would have taken DOJ Honors if I got it. The way things worked out, I actually am glad that I started in Biglaw not in DOJ Honors. Obviously, the pay over the last 5 years has been great. I also think having started at Biglaw may help me if I ever want to return to private practice. Plus, if I started at DOJ and never did private practice, I might have always had the "what ifs" hanging over me, wondering what I had missed out on. As it is, I know exactly what I am walking away from and why.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:26 pm

hairbear7 wrote:How feasible is it to go from biglaw to DOJ? What would you recommend to someone wanting to take this route (what should they do to increase their chances of getting into the DOJ).

Thanks for taking questions!


My pleasure. I think it's pretty feasible, especially right now. DOJ has been stepping up its hiring to make up for attrition during the hiring freeze. But it is very competitive. It seems like the prime years to move to DOJ are after 4-6 years at a firm, but that's not a hard set timeline. My recommendation would be to do something to demonstrate a commitment to public service (through pro bono work, or government internships/clerkships during law school). DOJ wants to see that you're not merely personally ambitious. Also, try to think about your career strategically and focus your experiences and skills in a way that makes sense and tells a story. This might be a challenge, depending on your practice group, but at some point you'll need to explain what you did for 4-6 years at a firm and how those experiences have equipped you so that you're immediately an asset to the specific DOJ component you're targeting. Also, it's good to keep a running list of significant or interesting work that you've done. Not as in, I worked on a (e.g.,) FCPA case, but what specifically did you do? E.g., I drafted a motion to dismiss and argued it before the court. Or, I coordinated an internal investigation of a potential violation, interviewed witnesses and reviewed internal documents, etc.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:41 pm

JohannDeMann wrote:
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:congratulations OP! This is a very solid exit option. Also it is encouraging to hear from mid-level+ big law people with stories other than "don't do this, I want to kill myself every day."


but for real how many days doing it did you like or not like your job?

Also, my partnership comment is more to get a grasp on how hard partnership really is. Selfish question. I wasn't trying to say that should be everyone's goal. In fact, I think it should not be anyone's goal.

Do you have a family? Do you have hobbies that you are able to spend time on? How much time do you spend on family/hobbies?


I think "liking" my job is a tricky question. What does that mean? Enjoy every minute? There were probably few or zero days where I enjoyed every minute. But, that is a lot to ask. There is a reason you are paid to do it; if it were truly enjoyable, people would do it for free. I think overall, I had a great degree of job satisfaction. Especially during the first 3 years, where I was constantly learning new things and progressing and developing as a lawyer. The past year or so, I have felt a little more of a plateau professionally, which is frustrating. There have been times where I've been overworked (80 hour billable weeks were my max, and my biggest month was about 270 billable, a pace which is, to me, unsustainable). There have been times where I've been overstressed (can't sleep for fear I messed something up). But, overall, those times were not too common. I think a lot of the negatives of Biglaw are overhyped, and in general I was happy that I had the job that I did.

My point about partnership isn't that it's a good goal or a bad goal. My point is it's sort of an incomplete goal. There is sometimes a sense among junior attorneys that being "made" partner means you have "made it." But it's really not the case. Being made partner really just means that the firm is betting that you will make it, but you still haven't yet. I think a more complete goal is to develop yourself into an excellent lawyer, one who is an expert in your chosen area, and who people could trust to handle a certain type of legal problem. That expertise and ability is what I'm aiming for.

I don't have kids yet, but I have a wife and hobbies and a life outside work. Sometimes that life has to take a back seat to work, but I am able to balance it pretty well, on the whole.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby los blancos » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:51 pm

Thanks again OP. This is a great thread with some concrete advice.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby runinthefront » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:59 pm

May I ask how much you were putting towards loans every year? Do you have any existing assets (car, house, etc..) and savings?

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:11 pm

los blancos wrote:Thanks again OP. This is a great thread with some concrete advice.


My pleasure. I know that when I was a law student I found this kind of thing helpful, so I thought I'd pay it forward.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:17 pm

runinthefront wrote:May I ask how much you were putting towards loans every year? Do you have any existing assets (car, house, etc..) and savings?


Hmm, well I pay about $1100 per month on loans. And every now and then when I was feeling flush I'd pay a little extra down. But honestly, my loans are on low interest rates and it's not my top priority to pay them down quickly. I do better by saving and investing. My total loan balance was about $175k when I graduated and is about $130k now. I probably won't pay them down quicker than the 20 year term, unless something big changes.

Yes I have significant assets and savings. I don't want to parse it out too much, but more than double my loan balance.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby almondjoy » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:05 pm

Not sure if you're still doing this but if you are, have any general (or specific) advice for someone doing an SA this summer? Thanks!

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:50 pm

almondjoy wrote:Not sure if you're still doing this but if you are, have any general (or specific) advice for someone doing an SA this summer? Thanks!


Tip number one is horizontal mentoring. When people think of mentoring a lot of times they think about an older, more experienced mentor taking them under their wing. But equally valuable, maybe even more so, is having peer mentors, who are going through similar stuff at similar times, and you can generally learn a lot from each other. Try to really start this type of networking early, it will pay dividends down the line.

Number two, it's never too early to start thinking really strategically about your career and experiences vis-a-vis future marketability and business development. In ten years time, you want to be able to confidently and accurately say that you are an expert in X (or even better, that people would know it without you saying it). The right set of experiences to back that up isn't just going to happen, you have to make it happen. So, start thinking about what you will be an expert in and try to plan how to get from point a to point b.

But all that said, as a SA, just have fun and try to make relationships with folks.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Ron Don Volante » Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:08 pm

Thank you so much for doing this. I hope I'm lucky enough for my career to go down the same route.

No terribly important questions at this point, but regarding debt, are considering going on PSLF?

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:47 pm

Ron Don Volante wrote:Thank you so much for doing this. I hope I'm lucky enough for my career to go down the same route.

No terribly important questions at this point, but regarding debt, are considering going on PSLF?


My pleasure. I don't think I will qualify for pslf, but I am looking into my options.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 11, 2015 4:49 pm

Congrats on making it to the DOJ and thanks for doing this.

I have similar end goal in mind (DOJ or other BigFed) but am taking a different path (starting as NYC ADA rather than biglaw). During the application process/your general experience, have you learned anything about how candidates are treated differently depending on whether they're coming from state prosecution VS big fed? From what I've heard so far its different expectations (application reviewers assume the former come with more trial experience but less polish/intelligence VS the latter coming with great writing but not as much experience in court). I'm coming out of a T6 if that matters.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Congrats on making it to the DOJ and thanks for doing this.

I have similar end goal in mind (DOJ or other BigFed) but am taking a different path (starting as NYC ADA rather than biglaw). During the application process/your general experience, have you learned anything about how candidates are treated differently depending on whether they're coming from state prosecution VS big fed? From what I've heard so far its different expectations (application reviewers assume the former come with more trial experience but less polish/intelligence VS the latter coming with great writing but not as much experience in court). I'm coming out of a T6 if that matters.


I think that your characterization is right, or at least it's what I've heard as well. For what it's worth, I always felt a bit of a disadvantage coming from Biglaw as opposed to a DA's office. But, that might just be my insecurities magnifying my own weaknesses. In any event, the combination of T6 and NYC ADA will make you a very strong candidate. I am curious -- why do you want to move from DA's office to Feds? Is it it comp/bens, type of work, or some notion of prestige?

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby XxSpyKEx » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
bjohnsobf wrote:
I had a demonstrated commitment to public service and conveyed that I am not just jumping ship to build my resume.


How do you demonstrate a commitment to public service with 6 years of biglaw? lots of pro bono work? Would you be open to jumping back to biglaw partner after you're deputy attorney general for a couple years or are you planning to retire in gov?


Pro bono work and government internships/summer jobs that I had during law school. I don't have a clear 30 year plan, but I am definitely not looking to return to private practice anytime soon. But you never know and I wouldn't rule it out somewhere down the road.


Is 1L summer internship + "pro bono" work that you got paid for (via your biglaw salary, since it counted towards your required billable hours) really sufficient to demonstrate a commitment to public service? (I'm assuming you spent your second summer at the firm, which is how you got an offer there.) I was always under the impression that a "demonstrated commitment to public service" meant something more than that.

And congrats!

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:47 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
bjohnsobf wrote:
I had a demonstrated commitment to public service and conveyed that I am not just jumping ship to build my resume.


How do you demonstrate a commitment to public service with 6 years of biglaw? lots of pro bono work? Would you be open to jumping back to biglaw partner after you're deputy attorney general for a couple years or are you planning to retire in gov?


Pro bono work and government internships/summer jobs that I had during law school. I don't have a clear 30 year plan, but I am definitely not looking to return to private practice anytime soon. But you never know and I wouldn't rule it out somewhere down the road.


Is 1L summer internship + "pro bono" work that you got paid for (via your biglaw salary, since it counted towards your required billable hours) really sufficient to demonstrate a commitment to public service? (I'm assuming you spent your second summer at the firm, which is how you got an offer there.) I was always under the impression that a "demonstrated commitment to public service" meant something more than that.

And congrats!


I mean, it's a fair point. But really, all I meant was enough public service to differentiate yourself from legions of other Biglaw associates. There are a lot of ways to do that, during law school in summer or school-year internships or clinics, or as a Biglaw associate with pro bono work, or probably even experiences prior to law school or significant non-legal volunteer work. None of those things might rise to your high standards, but I think that when DOJ is hiring associates from Biglaw, it understands there are limitations to how much public service experience candidates would have.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby XxSpyKEx » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
I mean, it's a fair point. But really, all I meant was enough public service to differentiate yourself from legions of other Biglaw associates. There are a lot of ways to do that, during law school in summer or school-year internships or clinics, or as a Biglaw associate with pro bono work, or probably even experiences prior to law school or significant non-legal volunteer work. None of those things might rise to your high standards, but I think that when DOJ is hiring associates from Biglaw, it understands there are limitations to how much public service experience candidates would have.


Oh, I didn't mean to imply that there standards for "commitment to public service" are too low. I just meant that I was always under the impression that "demonstrated commitment to public service" meant something more than doing an internship or clinic during law school plus some "pro bono" work as an associate in biglaw. (That is, I was always under the impression it meant something like actually working in the public sector after graduation (even if only for a few months).) It's useful to know that it doesn't.

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Re: Mid-Level Biglaw Associate, Leaving for DOJ, Taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:27 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
I mean, it's a fair point. But really, all I meant was enough public service to differentiate yourself from legions of other Biglaw associates. There are a lot of ways to do that, during law school in summer or school-year internships or clinics, or as a Biglaw associate with pro bono work, or probably even experiences prior to law school or significant non-legal volunteer work. None of those things might rise to your high standards, but I think that when DOJ is hiring associates from Biglaw, it understands there are limitations to how much public service experience candidates would have.


Oh, I didn't mean to imply that there standards for "commitment to public service" are too low. I just meant that I was always under the impression that "demonstrated commitment to public service" meant something more than doing an internship or clinic during law school plus some "pro bono" work as an associate in biglaw. (That is, I was always under the impression it meant something like actually working in the public sector after graduation (even if only for a few months).) It's useful to know that it doesn't.


Of course, the more experience you have, the better your chances are. But I'm glad DOJ doesn't have such high standards as you, otherwise they would literally never hire anyone from Biglaw.




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