Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

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Anonymous User
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Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:49 am

Back story- been out of law school for about 2 years, currently work as a law clerk for a litigating branch of a government agency, work is substantive and I pretty much do everything the lawyers here do, minus actual representation in court. But- I'm not "officially" an attorney there. And the question is- am I basically dooming myself at this point? Will law firms or government agencies basically look at my resume and say- eh, 2 years out of law school, still not an attorney, this guy sucks?

Any advice based on experience would be appreciated. I'm trying to figure out what to do with my "career" at this point.

Anonymous User
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:55 am

Have you applied to any attorney positions?

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Desert Fox
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Desert Fox » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:00 pm

Are you doing attorney work? Are you are licensed attorney? If you so you are an attorney no matter what your employers organizational chart says.

Or are you doing like paralegal work or something?

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JCougar
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby JCougar » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:05 pm

I'm basically doing exactly what you're doing, and at least I get to call myself an attorney. I mean, I get to go to court, too, but I basically just sit and watch.

How are they forced to call you a law clerk?

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JCougar
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby JCougar » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:And the question is- am I basically dooming myself at this point? Will law firms or government agencies basically look at my resume and say- eh, 2 years out of law school, still not an attorney, this guy sucks?


And the advice that I've gotten from multiple people on all sides (including multiple Biglaw partners who are the most prestige-obsessed) is that, even though the work is unpaid, because it's government and it's real litigation (not just administrative stuff), it's a lot better for your resume than paid shitlaw or doc review. Or even the paid FedGov "Attorney Advisor" positions, which are mostly just copy n' paste stuff.

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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:32 pm

OP here-

I'm basically doing exactly what you're doing, and at least I get to call myself an attorney. I mean, I get to go to court, too, but I basically just sit and watch.

How are they forced to call you a law clerk?


Probably because giving me that title sets me at a specific salary/pay scale etc...

Are you doing attorney work? Are you are licensed attorney? If you so you are an attorney no matter what your employers organizational chart says.

Or are you doing like paralegal work or something?


I am a licensed attorney. I'm doing attorney work- the section I'm at actually has paralegals so I'm not required to take on any "paralegal responsibilities"- but, as a law clerk, I can't represent myself as an attorney for the U.S. So, for example- if I draft anything in writing, I can't just send it out- an attorney has to sign off on it.

These law clerk positions are fairly common in the federal government and most of them require a J.D., some even requiring a bar license.

I think you're right about me being an attorney regardless of the organizational chart, but the problem is that I'm not sure employers I'm applying to see it that way. Every job out there requires "3-4 years of litigation experience"- at this point, I'm at "2 years," but, again, because I don't hold an attorney position here, I'm not able to do certain parts of the litigation process (e.g. actually conducting a trial in court, etc...).

Have you applied to any attorney positions?


I have. Tough job market :(. I'm also living in a high cost city and the current job, even though it's a law clerk position, pays very well, much higher than most small firms and many of the mid-size firms.

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JCougar
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby JCougar » Tue Mar 10, 2015 12:34 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention, I don't get paid at all.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here-

I'm basically doing exactly what you're doing, and at least I get to call myself an attorney. I mean, I get to go to court, too, but I basically just sit and watch.

How are they forced to call you a law clerk?


Probably because giving me that title sets me at a specific salary/pay scale etc...

Are you doing attorney work? Are you are licensed attorney? If you so you are an attorney no matter what your employers organizational chart says.

Or are you doing like paralegal work or something?


I am a licensed attorney. I'm doing attorney work- the section I'm at actually has paralegals so I'm not required to take on any "paralegal responsibilities"- but, as a law clerk, I can't represent myself as an attorney for the U.S. So, for example- if I draft anything in writing, I can't just send it out- an attorney has to sign off on it.

These law clerk positions are fairly common in the federal government and most of them require a J.D., some even requiring a bar license.

I think you're right about me being an attorney regardless of the organizational chart, but the problem is that I'm not sure employers I'm applying to see it that way. Every job out there requires "3-4 years of litigation experience"- at this point, I'm at "2 years," but, again, because I don't hold an attorney position here, I'm not able to do certain parts of the litigation process (e.g. actually conducting a trial in court, etc...).

Have you applied to any attorney positions?


I have. Tough job market :(. I'm also living in a high cost city and the current job, even though it's a law clerk position, pays very well, much higher than most small firms and many of the mid-size firms.


Just rock it man. It doesn't sound all that bad. I mean it sounds like you get to draft briefs, but you just can't sign them. Who cares? It's not all that different than being a law clerk for a judge where you prepare the opinions, but the judge's name goes on the opinion. Pay doesn't sound like it's all that bad. Will this eventually lead to an attorney position for the fed govt? If it will, I'd say just roll with it. I imagine a lot of recent grads would kill for your job (e.g. people at smaller shitlaw firms/in doc review making shitty money with no PSLF option). It honestly doesn't sound like your job is all that bad. Only negative seems to be that you can't list yourself as an attorney (although it sounds like your doing more substantive work than a lot of actual attorneys who recently graduated).

Anonymous User
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:58 pm

JCougar wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:And the question is- am I basically dooming myself at this point? Will law firms or government agencies basically look at my resume and say- eh, 2 years out of law school, still not an attorney, this guy sucks?


And the advice that I've gotten from multiple people on all sides (including multiple Biglaw partners who are the most prestige-obsessed) is that, even though the work is unpaid, because it's government and it's real litigation (not just administrative stuff), it's a lot better for your resume than paid shitlaw or doc review. Or even the paid FedGov "Attorney Advisor" positions, which are mostly just copy n' paste stuff.


Just to correct a misconception here, "Attorney Advisor" is the same exact thing as an attorney in most agencies. There's some agencies that only give the title to their regulatory review lawyers, but it is in no way below the regular "General Attorney" title in the government, and they're usually used interchangeably depending on agency/office preference.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: Will I ever be an attorney, or should I just give up?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:14 pm

I've never heard of a permanent law clerk type of position in a federal agency. In my agency, law clerks are the title that paid summer interns have as well as entry level attorneys who haven't passed the bar yet. Have you tried talking to your supervisors to see if they can convert your title to attorney? If you're doing regular attorney work, it seems only fair. Since attorneys are excepted service and you're already occupying an FTE, your supervisors can basically just change your title to attorney if they feel like it. Also, you may want to speak with your union rep because this keeping you as a law clerk while doing (most) attorney work and paying you less sounds like a shady practice.

Or is this a contractor position where you work for a private company that is hired by an agency and are not a federal employee? In that case, I think most people use the "contract attorney" title since law clerk just confuses everyone. You may want to apply for federal openings at your agency if that is your situation. We've had a few people make that transition at my agency.




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