Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

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Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 08, 2015 1:02 pm

Does anyone have any perspective on the value of an Assistant Attorney General position in a state attorney general's office?

Position would include civil litigation on tax issues, advising state agencies, and handling criminal appeals for the state. The job seems killer in terms of the experience (there is essentially a guarantee that you will argue a case before the state supreme court in the first 12-18 months), but I don't want to get pigeon-holed as a government attorney. Long-term, I'd like to work for a medium to large regional private firm (same region), although I wouldn't rule out long-term employment for the state.

How valuable does this experience sound, and would it transfer well regarding my long-term goals?

Thank you in advance for your insights and wisdom.

hiima3L
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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby hiima3L » Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:49 am

Seems killer in terms of experience.

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rpupkin
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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby rpupkin » Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:17 am

Sounds like great experience. As for your "long-term goals" question, you really need to talk to people in the regional law firms you're interested in. You should also talk to people in the state AG's office about how and whether folks lateral out to firms.

The advice you're looking for is going to turn on local/regional peculiarities. This isn't like asking: "What kind of grades do I need from Penn in order to be competitive for V20 firms in NYC at OCI?" There's not much TLS can do for you here.

sparty99
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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby sparty99 » Mon Mar 09, 2015 3:05 am

Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone have any perspective on the value of an Assistant Attorney General position in a state attorney general's office?

Position would include civil litigation on tax issues, advising state agencies, and handling criminal appeals for the state. The job seems killer in terms of the experience (there is essentially a guarantee that you will argue a case before the state supreme court in the first 12-18 months), but I don't want to get pigeon-holed as a government attorney. Long-term, I'd like to work for a medium to large regional private firm (same region), although I wouldn't rule out long-term employment for the state.

How valuable does this experience sound, and would it transfer well regarding my long-term goals?

Thank you in advance for your insights and wisdom.


These positions are not easy to get out of law school. Some places want at least 2 years of experience. Other states might hire entry level. But these are goods jobs. You do real litigation. And if you do civil work that could translate into private practice.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:30 pm

I was an AAG for about five years, sandwiched in between a stint as an associate at a V20 and my current gig as "of counsel" at a satellite office of a V100 (the first stint was in a major non-NYC market, the AAG job and current job are in a secondary market that we moved to for spousal job reasons). I left the state government because we had an unexpected kid (in addition to the expected ones), and the resulting child care costs basically blew through our savings and made a state government salary not feasible (i.e., we'd have to move and take a huge lifestyle hit on that salary).

Anyway, the job was pretty "sticky" in the sense that turnover isn't super high -- one, because they don't push you out like firms, and two, because the way the pension worked, once you made it passed about five years, it didn't make sense to leave. Most -- probably 2/3 -- who left went to other state government agencies. A few became judges or ALJs or hearing officers. A few went to the feds.

Probably a healthy minority went back into private practice. How easy this was -- and what sort of firm you ended up at -- depended on what you did at the AG's office. People who had desirable practice areas (securities, health care, antitrust/consumer protection, environmental, etc.) typically were able to walk into decent firms if they wanted. (I fall in this category.) The tip top of the market generally wasn't open, but that's mostly because you don't have a book of business coming straight from the government, and the super elite firms aren't interested in hiring someone with 5-10 years of experience but no business. That said, I've gotten calls from recruiters from the super elite firms, probably because they want to see if I've built a book (in which case they'd be interested).

On the down side, if you are on the criminal side, there's not a lot of portability. I think you'd probably have to try to trade up to the USAO before you'd be attractive to firms, though you'd be really attractive at that point. You could also try to switch to a part of the AG's office that does the more in-demand work.

Finally, setting aside career prospects, it's super fun. You get to do really sexy work from 9-5.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby XxSpyKEx » Mon Mar 09, 2015 4:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was an AAG for about five years, sandwiched in between a stint as an associate at a V20 and my current gig as "of counsel" at a satellite office of a V100 (the first stint was in a major non-NYC market, the AAG job and current job are in a secondary market that we moved to for spousal job reasons). I left the state government because we had an unexpected kid (in addition to the expected ones), and the resulting child care costs basically blew through our savings and made a state government salary not feasible (i.e., we'd have to move and take a huge lifestyle hit on that salary).

Anyway, the job was pretty "sticky" in the sense that turnover isn't super high -- one, because they don't push you out like firms, and two, because the way the pension worked, once you made it passed about five years, it didn't make sense to leave. Most -- probably 2/3 -- who left went to other state government agencies. A few became judges or ALJs or hearing officers. A few went to the feds.

Probably a healthy minority went back into private practice. How easy this was -- and what sort of firm you ended up at -- depended on what you did at the AG's office. People who had desirable practice areas (securities, health care, antitrust/consumer protection, environmental, etc.) typically were able to walk into decent firms if they wanted. (I fall in this category.) The tip top of the market generally wasn't open, but that's mostly because you don't have a book of business coming straight from the government, and the super elite firms aren't interested in hiring someone with 5-10 years of experience but no business. That said, I've gotten calls from recruiters from the super elite firms, probably because they want to see if I've built a book (in which case they'd be interested).

On the down side, if you are on the criminal side, there's not a lot of portability. I think you'd probably have to try to trade up to the USAO before you'd be attractive to firms, though you'd be really attractive at that point. You could also try to switch to a part of the AG's office that does the more in-demand work.

Finally, setting aside career prospects, it's super fun. You get to do really sexy work from 9-5.


This. A criminal AAG won't have many places to go in terms of firm work (since midlaw and biglaw don't practice blue collar criminal law, and you won't get the white collar experience midlaw and biglaw want). If you want to work in biglaw, your best bet is to go to biglaw now. AAG to AUSA is possible, but it's not easy (USAOs are very competitive). Then to get biglaw, you'd need to get into that USAO's white collar practice (i.e. the group that handles the major white collar criminal cases) AND develop a reputation nationally or at least locally before biglaw firms will hire you. Most of whether you're able to get the right promotions at the USAOs office largely depends on luck. If you develop a reputation nationally or at least locally in white collar work, biglaw will probably hire you as a partner, or if they aren't sure about your ability to generate business, as an of counsel attorney. Another practice area in the AG's office would be more marketable to firms. It's mostly just about lining up your practice experience with what the firm you're applying to does and is hiring for (although, I still don't think you'll get into top biglaw firms coming out of an AG's office unless you somehow have a book of business). FWIW, many attorney general's office pay pretty terribly (since they're funded by the state), so that's another consideration if you're trying to decide between accepting a biglaw offer or an AG offer. (On the other hand, AG's office will be a lot better of an experience and could potentially lead to a long-term career in a way that biglaw probably won't.)

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:56 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I was an AAG for about five years, sandwiched in between a stint as an associate at a V20 and my current gig as "of counsel" at a satellite office of a V100 (the first stint was in a major non-NYC market, the AAG job and current job are in a secondary market that we moved to for spousal job reasons). I left the state government because we had an unexpected kid (in addition to the expected ones), and the resulting child care costs basically blew through our savings and made a state government salary not feasible (i.e., we'd have to move and take a huge lifestyle hit on that salary).

Anyway, the job was pretty "sticky" in the sense that turnover isn't super high -- one, because they don't push you out like firms, and two, because the way the pension worked, once you made it passed about five years, it didn't make sense to leave. Most -- probably 2/3 -- who left went to other state government agencies. A few became judges or ALJs or hearing officers. A few went to the feds.

Probably a healthy minority went back into private practice. How easy this was -- and what sort of firm you ended up at -- depended on what you did at the AG's office. People who had desirable practice areas (securities, health care, antitrust/consumer protection, environmental, etc.) typically were able to walk into decent firms if they wanted. (I fall in this category.) The tip top of the market generally wasn't open, but that's mostly because you don't have a book of business coming straight from the government, and the super elite firms aren't interested in hiring someone with 5-10 years of experience but no business. That said, I've gotten calls from recruiters from the super elite firms, probably because they want to see if I've built a book (in which case they'd be interested).

On the down side, if you are on the criminal side, there's not a lot of portability. I think you'd probably have to try to trade up to the USAO before you'd be attractive to firms, though you'd be really attractive at that point. You could also try to switch to a part of the AG's office that does the more in-demand work.

Finally, setting aside career prospects, it's super fun. You get to do really sexy work from 9-5.


This. A criminal AAG won't have many places to go in terms of firm work (since midlaw and biglaw don't practice blue collar criminal law, and you won't get the white collar experience midlaw and biglaw want). If you want to work in biglaw, your best bet is to go to biglaw now. AAG to AUSA is possible, but it's not easy (USAOs are very competitive). Then to get biglaw, you'd need to get into that USAO's white collar practice (i.e. the group that handles the major white collar criminal cases) AND develop a reputation nationally or at least locally before biglaw firms will hire you. Most of whether you're able to get the right promotions at the USAOs office largely depends on luck. If you develop a reputation nationally or at least locally in white collar work, biglaw will probably hire you as a partner, or if they aren't sure about your ability to generate business, as an of counsel attorney. Another practice area in the AG's office would be more marketable to firms. It's mostly just about lining up your practice experience with what the firm you're applying to does and is hiring for (although, I still don't think you'll get into top biglaw firms coming out of an AG's office unless you somehow have a book of business). FWIW, many attorney general's office pay pretty terribly (since they're funded by the state), so that's another consideration if you're trying to decide between accepting a biglaw offer or an AG offer. (On the other hand, AG's office will be a lot better of an experience and could potentially lead to a long-term career in a way that biglaw probably won't.)


Thank you both for your insights. To just clarify my career hopes: I never planned a career in Biglaw (it just didn't seem realistic). I'm graduating top 5% from my T2, won a few trial competitions, serve on my school's Law Review Executive Board, and interned with a state supreme court justice. Even still, the whole Biglaw thing feels too impossible to achieve. And my market is really pretty screwed up for employment right now, it seems, Biglaw or otherwise.

My real goal is just to have a fruitful career locally. Reading between the lines of what you guys are saying, it sounds like this is a pretty awesome opportunity. I'll learn to try a case, litigate, and if I want to leave two to three years out, it sounds like I'll be marketable to a strong regional firm. Does that seem about right?

Neither of the divisions the AG is considering placing me in is pure criminal appeals. That said, I am told I will at least handle a few. Instead, I'll litigate tax disputes with energy companies or contract disputes between the state and government contractors.

I don't know, I think I'm going to do it. It seems like the experience will make me marketable *if* I want to leave. If I seem like I'm wrong, please let me know.

Thank you again! Your insights have been really, really helpful.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 09, 2015 7:22 pm

Instead, I'll litigate tax disputes with energy companies or contract disputes between the state and government contractors.


The former AAG from above. Both of those fields are pretty desirable for future employers. (In fact, I'm taking a break from a big government contract dispute in my specialized practice area to post this -- I now know the difference between a contractor and a subrecipient!) Make sure that you develop a good relationship with the firm(s) that do a lot of this work from the private practice side while at the AG's office. They're very likely to be the ones that give you a post-AG job if you go that route.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Mar 09, 2015 7:54 pm

Among my peers it's seen as kind of a "who do you know" fallback entry-level position. In other words, there's a sense, at least in my state, that these positions go to K-JD types who couldn't find a job in the field they wanted but happened to have a politically-connected mommy or daddy. Deputy AG positions, on the other hand, are completely legitimate.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:20 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:Among my peers it's seen as kind of a "who do you know" fallback entry-level position. In other words, there's a sense, at least in my state, that these positions go to K-JD types who couldn't find a job in the field they wanted but happened to have a politically-connected mommy or daddy. Deputy AG positions, on the other hand, are completely legitimate.


That's cool, I appreciate your perspective.

I'm not sure if your post requires me to defend my situation to at least clear clouds. On the chance it does, I'll say: This doesn't sound like my situation; I have several years of experience before law school, my mommy and daddy don't live in the state, and deputy positions are extremely, extremely rare. What I'm saying is, I'd be giving up a lot and moving out of state to take this position, so I don't think they fill them with local royalty.

I am kind of surprised to hear about your view of it being a "fall back, who do you know position." For the states around me, the AAG positions tend to go to--as mentioned earlier--people with experience. It's more about a choice of life/work balance than talent or connections.

Anyway, thanks again for your perspective.

hiima3L
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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby hiima3L » Mon Mar 09, 2015 9:05 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:Among my peers it's seen as kind of a "who do you know" fallback entry-level position. In other words, there's a sense, at least in my state, that these positions go to K-JD types who couldn't find a job in the field they wanted but happened to have a politically-connected mommy or daddy. Deputy AG positions, on the other hand, are completely legitimate.


Yeah, this certainly does not apply among my peers or in CA. AG positions are very competitive.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby smallfirmassociate » Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Among my peers it's seen as kind of a "who do you know" fallback entry-level position. In other words, there's a sense, at least in my state, that these positions go to K-JD types who couldn't find a job in the field they wanted but happened to have a politically-connected mommy or daddy. Deputy AG positions, on the other hand, are completely legitimate.


That's cool, I appreciate your perspective.

I'm not sure if your post requires me to defend my situation to at least clear clouds. On the chance it does, I'll say: This doesn't sound like my situation; I have several years of experience before law school, my mommy and daddy don't live in the state, and deputy positions are extremely, extremely rare. What I'm saying is, I'd be giving up a lot and moving out of state to take this position, so I don't think they fill them with local royalty.

I am kind of surprised to hear about your view of it being a "fall back, who do you know position." For the states around me, the AAG positions tend to go to--as mentioned earlier--people with experience. It's more about a choice of life/work balance than talent or connections.

Anyway, thanks again for your perspective.


No, it doesn't require you to defend yourself. I specified that I was speaking only for my state (which is in flyover country). I'm sure it's different in states with larger (and higher-paying) governments and a higher population. We don't have any biglaw firms in my state, and the USAO offices are small, so it's not like there's a built-in conduit or local network to transition out of the AG's office into something else. A lot of the AG folks go into careers in the state bureaucracy, stay in the AG's office, or transition to firms as associates. Also, our asst. AG's who have to travel for the job (especially the criminal special prosecutors) have a particularly thankless job, as it is a six-hour round trip from the office to the corners of the state. They are constantly driving to the middle of nowhere on a pretty meager salary to handle some low-level felony sex offense when the county attorney has a conflict of interest or some shit like that.

It's probably a result of those above factors that it's not seen as a very good gig here, but people who want to get into gov't at all costs and believe they have the connections to back up that career path tend to go for the jobs.

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Re: Value of Assistant Attorney General Position

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:47 pm

smallfirmassociate wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
smallfirmassociate wrote:Among my peers it's seen as kind of a "who do you know" fallback entry-level position. In other words, there's a sense, at least in my state, that these positions go to K-JD types who couldn't find a job in the field they wanted but happened to have a politically-connected mommy or daddy. Deputy AG positions, on the other hand, are completely legitimate.


That's cool, I appreciate your perspective.

I'm not sure if your post requires me to defend my situation to at least clear clouds. On the chance it does, I'll say: This doesn't sound like my situation; I have several years of experience before law school, my mommy and daddy don't live in the state, and deputy positions are extremely, extremely rare. What I'm saying is, I'd be giving up a lot and moving out of state to take this position, so I don't think they fill them with local royalty.

I am kind of surprised to hear about your view of it being a "fall back, who do you know position." For the states around me, the AAG positions tend to go to--as mentioned earlier--people with experience. It's more about a choice of life/work balance than talent or connections.

Anyway, thanks again for your perspective.


No, it doesn't require you to defend yourself. I specified that I was speaking only for my state (which is in flyover country). I'm sure it's different in states with larger (and higher-paying) governments and a higher population. We don't have any biglaw firms in my state, and the USAO offices are small, so it's not like there's a built-in conduit or local network to transition out of the AG's office into something else. A lot of the AG folks go into careers in the state bureaucracy, stay in the AG's office, or transition to firms as associates. Also, our asst. AG's who have to travel for the job (especially the criminal special prosecutors) have a particularly thankless job, as it is a six-hour round trip from the office to the corners of the state. They are constantly driving to the middle of nowhere on a pretty meager salary to handle some low-level felony sex offense when the county attorney has a conflict of interest or some shit like that.

It's probably a result of those above factors that it's not seen as a very good gig here, but people who want to get into gov't at all costs and believe they have the connections to back up that career path tend to go for the jobs.


I think that this is probably true in most states where the AG's office handles criminal cases. Only possible exception I can think of is Cali, which might pay decently (although, I'm not sure, since that would be at the state level and Cali doesn't seem to be doing very well financially. Many CA counties def pay prosecutors, cops, and just about every civil service-ish job 6 figures with a few years of experience). I guess if you're in a place like DC, you won't need to drive as far. But the DC attorney general is pretty terrible.




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