Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

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sjb1220
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Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby sjb1220 » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:16 pm

Hey guys, longtime lurker here posting for the first time looking for a little insight.

I am a 2L at a regional law school. I have had a longstanding interest in pursuing a career in criminal prosecution. During 1L year, I applied to a bunch of DA's offices and made it to the final round of interviews in two different ones but didn't end up getting an offer so I ended up working at a small civil lit firm 1L summer doing substantive work. I applied for some paid internships for 2L summer this year at both DA offices I got to the final interview with last year. I was just offered a position as an intern in one of their appellate units. I was excited to get the offer, but appellate wasn't my first choice and I am not entirely sure what exactly I would do 9-5 every day. The HR person and job posting list the generic duties as research, brief writing, and the occasional oral argument. Has anyone worked in the appellate unit of a DA's office? If so, do you think it would be possible to transition to trial work at some point and use this to get my foot in the door? The internship is paid, I would definitely be interested in working in this office postgrad, and they do hire a significant portion of their interns as DPAs. Thanks guys. Any insight is greatly appreciated.

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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:31 pm

I had similar experience with an appellate unit, and it will be appellate - research, writing, maybe an oral argument. The appellate people aren't involved with trials.

Now, this doesn't mean that working as a student for the appellate unit shuts you out of trial work in the long run. Once you get to know people in the office you can use that to your advantage in the long run, I think you can spin appellate intern--> trial work ("I found appellate work fascinating, but I particularly enjoyed going through the record to establish what happened at trial, and it made me realize that I really want to be in the courtroom," "my appellate internship introduced me to the importance of making a record as well as showed me things to avoid at trial," that kind of thing). So I think getting your foot in the door at the office will help you.

But interning for an appellate unit means you will get very routine appeals and you will research/draft reply briefs, basically.

sjb1220
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Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:08 pm

Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby sjb1220 » Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I had similar experience with an appellate unit, and it will be appellate - research, writing, maybe an oral argument. The appellate people aren't involved with trials.

Now, this doesn't mean that working as a student for the appellate unit shuts you out of trial work in the long run. Once you get to know people in the office you can use that to your advantage in the long run, I think you can spin appellate intern--> trial work ("I found appellate work fascinating, but I particularly enjoyed going through the record to establish what happened at trial, and it made me realize that I really want to be in the courtroom," "my appellate internship introduced me to the importance of making a record as well as showed me things to avoid at trial," that kind of thing). So I think getting your foot in the door at the office will help you.

But interning for an appellate unit means you will get very routine appeals and you will research/draft reply briefs, basically.


This is great, thank you. How many oral arguments did you get to do or how often did they come up? I enjoy criminal law (and am burnt out on civil lit, some of that stuff is really boring) and was hoping to take this opportunity to get a little courtroom experience but I understand that would be far less in the appellate unit than say, the misdemeanor one.

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encore1101
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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby encore1101 » Sat Feb 21, 2015 12:13 am

Are you in NYC?

I interned my 3L summer at the appeals bureau of my current office. After I got hired, I asked to go straight into appeals, instead of Intake/ECAB/Misdemeanor/Criminal Court.

What I did as an intern:

Wrote responses to defendant's postconviction motions. Every state has some procedure that allows a defendant to file a postconviction motion, separate from their direct appeal. Some states are more lenient than others, but things like newly discovered evidence, new constitutional ruling that works retroactively, etc.
Wrote briefs. I started with typical, "cookie-cutter" briefs like excessive sentence, invalid plea, and waiver of right to appeal. Towards the end, I worked on more substantive briefs, including a few search and seizure/suppression ones.
Response to habeas petitions.
Research projects. Projects related to padilla v. kentucky, and a few others.

I observed some of the senior ADAs do oral argument when I got there. However, the appellate division of my jurisdiction doesn't do oral arguments in the summer time. I heard interns during the school year get to argue. New York also has the appellate term, which interns get to argue in, but no cases came up during my time there.

Personally, I loved it. Speaking with other interns, I feel like I got a lot of my internship. Other interns, especially ones in investigations bureaus or divisions, would spend hours just listening to prisoner phone calls, or observing court proceedings. Neither are bad, but I feel like I got a lot of substantive experience.

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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:27 am

sjb1220 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I had similar experience with an appellate unit, and it will be appellate - research, writing, maybe an oral argument. The appellate people aren't involved with trials.

Now, this doesn't mean that working as a student for the appellate unit shuts you out of trial work in the long run. Once you get to know people in the office you can use that to your advantage in the long run, I think you can spin appellate intern--> trial work ("I found appellate work fascinating, but I particularly enjoyed going through the record to establish what happened at trial, and it made me realize that I really want to be in the courtroom," "my appellate internship introduced me to the importance of making a record as well as showed me things to avoid at trial," that kind of thing). So I think getting your foot in the door at the office will help you.

But interning for an appellate unit means you will get very routine appeals and you will research/draft reply briefs, basically.


This is great, thank you. How many oral arguments did you get to do or how often did they come up? I enjoy criminal law (and am burnt out on civil lit, some of that stuff is really boring) and was hoping to take this opportunity to get a little courtroom experience but I understand that would be far less in the appellate unit than say, the misdemeanor one.

I interned during the school year, and the local SSC only hears arguments one week a month (I think it's about 12 cases), and I think I only went to a couple. (This is just to observe, I didn't get to argue any.) I think it was just luck of the draw depending on how many criminal cases the state had in any given session - sometimes there's plenty, sometimes there just aren't many. The thing about doing criminal appeals is that everyone gets one, so most of them have no merit and can be resolved without oral argument. (For some reason I don't remember going to the state COA? again, luck of the draw, I think.)

But it will probably depend on the volume going through your state's courts and what happens to be going on while you're there. Moot courting an oral argument is fun, if you get a chance to do that.

sjb1220
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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby sjb1220 » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:36 pm

encore1101 wrote:Are you in NYC?

I interned my 3L summer at the appeals bureau of my current office. After I got hired, I asked to go straight into appeals, instead of Intake/ECAB/Misdemeanor/Criminal Court.

What I did as an intern:

Wrote responses to defendant's postconviction motions. Every state has some procedure that allows a defendant to file a postconviction motion, separate from their direct appeal. Some states are more lenient than others, but things like newly discovered evidence, new constitutional ruling that works retroactively, etc.
Wrote briefs. I started with typical, "cookie-cutter" briefs like excessive sentence, invalid plea, and waiver of right to appeal. Towards the end, I worked on more substantive briefs, including a few search and seizure/suppression ones.
Response to habeas petitions.
Research projects. Projects related to padilla v. kentucky, and a few others.

I observed some of the senior ADAs do oral argument when I got there. However, the appellate division of my jurisdiction doesn't do oral arguments in the summer time. I heard interns during the school year get to argue. New York also has the appellate term, which interns get to argue in, but no cases came up during my time there.

Personally, I loved it. Speaking with other interns, I feel like I got a lot of my internship. Other interns, especially ones in investigations bureaus or divisions, would spend hours just listening to prisoner phone calls, or observing court proceedings. Neither are bad, but I feel like I got a lot of substantive experience.


This is great to hear, thank you. That all sounds interesting I don't mind legal writing and research, but was hoping to get a little exposure to the courtroom. This internship is full time during the summer and then part time (like 15 hours a week) during the school year so I would be there for more than the summer though only a couple days a week. So do you currently work at the office you interned with? In the appellate unit? And no I'm not in NYC.

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encore1101
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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby encore1101 » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:50 pm

sjb1220 wrote:This is great to hear, thank you. That all sounds interesting I don't mind legal writing and research, but was hoping to get a little exposure to the courtroom. This internship is full time during the summer and then part time (like 15 hours a week) during the school year so I would be there for more than the summer though only a couple days a week. So do you currently work at the office you interned with? In the appellate unit? And no I'm not in NYC.



Yes, I work at the office I interned with, in the appellate unit. I know that interning at the Appeals Bureau (as opposed to an investigations/trial bureau) was very valuable in getting me this job because it provided me an opportunity to submit material work.

You can always ask your office to allow you to observe trials/jury selection. You might be able to argue in the appellate court if there's a student practice order, or even conduct postconviction hearings in the trial court.

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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:56 pm

Probably lots of writing motions in opposition to habeas and new trials, probably based on ineffective assistance, insufficient evidence, etc. etc.

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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 22, 2015 5:10 pm

sjb1220 wrote:Hey guys, longtime lurker here posting for the first time looking for a little insight.

I am a 2L at a regional law school. I have had a longstanding interest in pursuing a career in criminal prosecution. During 1L year, I applied to a bunch of DA's offices and made it to the final round of interviews in two different ones but didn't end up getting an offer so I ended up working at a small civil lit firm 1L summer doing substantive work. I applied for some paid internships for 2L summer this year at both DA offices I got to the final interview with last year. I was just offered a position as an intern in one of their appellate units. I was excited to get the offer, but appellate wasn't my first choice and I am not entirely sure what exactly I would do 9-5 every day. The HR person and job posting list the generic duties as research, brief writing, and the occasional oral argument. Has anyone worked in the appellate unit of a DA's office? If so, do you think it would be possible to transition to trial work at some point and use this to get my foot in the door? The internship is paid, I would definitely be interested in working in this office postgrad, and they do hire a significant portion of their interns as DPAs. Thanks guys. Any insight is greatly appreciated.


The job is largely what the "generic duties" said it is. Research, writing, and some oral arguments. You'll basically be researching and drafting appellate briefs for the government. The realm of possibilities includes drafting government briefs for direct appeals, post-conviction appeals, and habeas appeals. Try it out for the summer; you might decide that you actually like it more than trial work. Appellate in in most DA/USAO offices tends to be a pretty chill 9-5 job without much of the crazy stuff that pops up for the trial level people. You'll rarely be in court or dealing with people (besides your co-workers), so your office might let you roll in wearing jeans and flip flops (obviously this entirely depends on what the head of your office/unit is like). Unless it's Cali, pay probably won't be great after graduation (but no worse than what the trial DAs make), but USAOs also have appellate only prosecutors, and those positions tend to pay pretty well, particularly since its one of the few jobs you'll find in this profession that are truly a 9-5 job almost every day. You'll probably be pretty competitive for those spots with a few years of experience.

sjb1220
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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby sjb1220 » Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
sjb1220 wrote:Hey guys, longtime lurker here posting for the first time looking for a little insight.

I am a 2L at a regional law school. I have had a longstanding interest in pursuing a career in criminal prosecution. During 1L year, I applied to a bunch of DA's offices and made it to the final round of interviews in two different ones but didn't end up getting an offer so I ended up working at a small civil lit firm 1L summer doing substantive work. I applied for some paid internships for 2L summer this year at both DA offices I got to the final interview with last year. I was just offered a position as an intern in one of their appellate units. I was excited to get the offer, but appellate wasn't my first choice and I am not entirely sure what exactly I would do 9-5 every day. The HR person and job posting list the generic duties as research, brief writing, and the occasional oral argument. Has anyone worked in the appellate unit of a DA's office? If so, do you think it would be possible to transition to trial work at some point and use this to get my foot in the door? The internship is paid, I would definitely be interested in working in this office postgrad, and they do hire a significant portion of their interns as DPAs. Thanks guys. Any insight is greatly appreciated.


The job is largely what the "generic duties" said it is. Research, writing, and some oral arguments. You'll basically be researching and drafting appellate briefs for the government. The realm of possibilities includes drafting government briefs for direct appeals, post-conviction appeals, and habeas appeals. Try it out for the summer; you might decide that you actually like it more than trial work. Appellate in in most DA/USAO offices tends to be a pretty chill 9-5 job without much of the crazy stuff that pops up for the trial level people. You'll rarely be in court or dealing with people (besides your co-workers), so your office might let you roll in wearing jeans and flip flops (obviously this entirely depends on what the head of your office/unit is like). Unless it's Cali, pay probably won't be great after graduation (but no worse than what the trial DAs make), but USAOs also have appellate only prosecutors, and those positions tend to pay pretty well, particularly since its one of the few jobs you'll find in this profession that are truly a 9-5 job almost every day. You'll probably be pretty competitive for those spots with a few years of experience.


A lot of this does sound appealing to me. I did the whole OCI dance and got one callback but wasn't too disappointed when I didn't get the offer as civil practice isn't where my true interest lies. I also don't care how much you pay me if I'm gonna be chained to my desk 10 hours a day and on Saturdays. Money is great but that whole lifestyle really isn't my thing. I am aware prosecutors don't make a ton right after school but I'm ok with that as long as I enjoy what I'm doing and make enough to live off of. I have about a 1/2 scholly and will have a decent amount of debt but nothing overwhelming and PSLF will (hopefully) still be a thing.

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Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:22 pm

sjb1220 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
sjb1220 wrote:Hey guys, longtime lurker here posting for the first time looking for a little insight.

I am a 2L at a regional law school. I have had a longstanding interest in pursuing a career in criminal prosecution. During 1L year, I applied to a bunch of DA's offices and made it to the final round of interviews in two different ones but didn't end up getting an offer so I ended up working at a small civil lit firm 1L summer doing substantive work. I applied for some paid internships for 2L summer this year at both DA offices I got to the final interview with last year. I was just offered a position as an intern in one of their appellate units. I was excited to get the offer, but appellate wasn't my first choice and I am not entirely sure what exactly I would do 9-5 every day. The HR person and job posting list the generic duties as research, brief writing, and the occasional oral argument. Has anyone worked in the appellate unit of a DA's office? If so, do you think it would be possible to transition to trial work at some point and use this to get my foot in the door? The internship is paid, I would definitely be interested in working in this office postgrad, and they do hire a significant portion of their interns as DPAs. Thanks guys. Any insight is greatly appreciated.


The job is largely what the "generic duties" said it is. Research, writing, and some oral arguments. You'll basically be researching and drafting appellate briefs for the government. The realm of possibilities includes drafting government briefs for direct appeals, post-conviction appeals, and habeas appeals. Try it out for the summer; you might decide that you actually like it more than trial work. Appellate in in most DA/USAO offices tends to be a pretty chill 9-5 job without much of the crazy stuff that pops up for the trial level people. You'll rarely be in court or dealing with people (besides your co-workers), so your office might let you roll in wearing jeans and flip flops (obviously this entirely depends on what the head of your office/unit is like). Unless it's Cali, pay probably won't be great after graduation (but no worse than what the trial DAs make), but USAOs also have appellate only prosecutors, and those positions tend to pay pretty well, particularly since its one of the few jobs you'll find in this profession that are truly a 9-5 job almost every day. You'll probably be pretty competitive for those spots with a few years of experience.


A lot of this does sound appealing to me. I did the whole OCI dance and got one callback but wasn't too disappointed when I didn't get the offer as civil practice isn't where my true interest lies. I also don't care how much you pay me if I'm gonna be chained to my desk 10 hours a day and on Saturdays. Money is great but that whole lifestyle really isn't my thing. I am aware prosecutors don't make a ton right after school but I'm ok with that as long as I enjoy what I'm doing and make enough to live off of. I have about a 1/2 scholly and will have a decent amount of debt but nothing overwhelming and PSLF will (hopefully) still be a thing.


Depends on where you live, but living off a local DA salary can be difficult in some areas unless you have other sources of income/support (e.g. spouse who makes a lot more/family money, etc.). I mean across the board DA offices generally pay $40-60k/ year starting. Living off $50k /year in the Plano, Texas is not bad, but living off $50k /year in Manhattan is a struggle. But there's always the possibility of jumping ship after a few years and moving onto something that pays better (e.g. USAO, etc.)

sjb1220
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Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:08 pm

Re: Appellate unit of local DA's office. What will I do?

Postby sjb1220 » Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
sjb1220 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
sjb1220 wrote:Hey guys, longtime lurker here posting for the first time looking for a little insight.

I am a 2L at a regional law school. I have had a longstanding interest in pursuing a career in criminal prosecution. During 1L year, I applied to a bunch of DA's offices and made it to the final round of interviews in two different ones but didn't end up getting an offer so I ended up working at a small civil lit firm 1L summer doing substantive work. I applied for some paid internships for 2L summer this year at both DA offices I got to the final interview with last year. I was just offered a position as an intern in one of their appellate units. I was excited to get the offer, but appellate wasn't my first choice and I am not entirely sure what exactly I would do 9-5 every day. The HR person and job posting list the generic duties as research, brief writing, and the occasional oral argument. Has anyone worked in the appellate unit of a DA's office? If so, do you think it would be possible to transition to trial work at some point and use this to get my foot in the door? The internship is paid, I would definitely be interested in working in this office postgrad, and they do hire a significant portion of their interns as DPAs. Thanks guys. Any insight is greatly appreciated.


The job is largely what the "generic duties" said it is. Research, writing, and some oral arguments. You'll basically be researching and drafting appellate briefs for the government. The realm of possibilities includes drafting government briefs for direct appeals, post-conviction appeals, and habeas appeals. Try it out for the summer; you might decide that you actually like it more than trial work. Appellate in in most DA/USAO offices tends to be a pretty chill 9-5 job without much of the crazy stuff that pops up for the trial level people. You'll rarely be in court or dealing with people (besides your co-workers), so your office might let you roll in wearing jeans and flip flops (obviously this entirely depends on what the head of your office/unit is like). Unless it's Cali, pay probably won't be great after graduation (but no worse than what the trial DAs make), but USAOs also have appellate only prosecutors, and those positions tend to pay pretty well, particularly since its one of the few jobs you'll find in this profession that are truly a 9-5 job almost every day. You'll probably be pretty competitive for those spots with a few years of experience.


A lot of this does sound appealing to me. I did the whole OCI dance and got one callback but wasn't too disappointed when I didn't get the offer as civil practice isn't where my true interest lies. I also don't care how much you pay me if I'm gonna be chained to my desk 10 hours a day and on Saturdays. Money is great but that whole lifestyle really isn't my thing. I am aware prosecutors don't make a ton right after school but I'm ok with that as long as I enjoy what I'm doing and make enough to live off of. I have about a 1/2 scholly and will have a decent amount of debt but nothing overwhelming and PSLF will (hopefully) still be a thing.


Depends on where you live, but living off a local DA salary can be difficult in some areas unless you have other sources of income/support (e.g. spouse who makes a lot more/family money, etc.). I mean across the board DA offices generally pay $40-60k/ year starting. Living off $50k /year in the Plano, Texas is not bad, but living off $50k /year in Manhattan is a struggle. But there's always the possibility of jumping ship after a few years and moving onto something that pays better (e.g. USAO, etc.)


Fortunately I live in a market that doesn't have the COL of NYC, San Fran, Chicago, etc. It's not Plano, Texas, but its not on the level of those primary markets either. I have a general idea of what the salary would be entry level and I'm satisfied with it.




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