Pro Bono Criminal Defense

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
User avatar
Lacepiece23
Posts: 835
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby Lacepiece23 » Tue Mar 31, 2015 4:08 pm

Saw something interesting in another thread. Do Biglaw firms allow associates to take on criminal defense matters pro bono? Its something that I would love to do--both because I have and interest and I think it would build a lot of skills. Is this at all possible?

User avatar
encore1101
Posts: 641
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:13 am

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby encore1101 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:09 am

I work in the Appeals Bureau of a prosecutor's office, and I've occasionally seen associates from Biglaw firms handle criminal appeals. I haven't seen/heard of any biglaw associates doing trial level work, but I also don't see that level too much.

User avatar
Lacepiece23
Posts: 835
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:15 am

encore1101 wrote:I work in the Appeals Bureau of a prosecutor's office, and I've occasionally seen associates from Biglaw firms handle criminal appeals. I haven't seen/heard of any biglaw associates doing trial level work, but I also don't see that level too much.


Thank you! Didn't think that I'd get a response on this topic. Do you think its that biglaw associates don't want to do criminal trial level stuff? I can imagine that it would take a great deal of work to get competent in this area. Perhaps even finding an attorney willing to help out outside of the firm. Do you think that this might be a reason why biglaw associates wouldn't want to do this type of stuff? Aside from the fact that they are insanely busy, and might not have time.

User avatar
encore1101
Posts: 641
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:13 am

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby encore1101 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:23 am

I think time would be the biggest factor, and there's also the fact you'd have to "pick up" the case after someone else has done some work on it (at the very least, arraignments).

Depending on the client, it may just be something simple, like plea negotiations (in which case you'd have to pick up another pro bono case if you're trying to satisfy a time requirement), or it could be something unforeseeably complex, with a ton of adjournments, hearings, etc. Even simple misdemeanor cases can, and often, have more complex issues than you initially thought, so there might be an unwillingness to commit to a project that could potentially take a lot of hours away from the firm.

Probably also has to do with unfamiliarity with the criminal procedure law (or your state's equivalent), as well as lack of courtroom experience, which can make someone feel like a fish out of water, whereas handling an appeal is fairly straightforward (research issues, write brief, oral argument, within a certain time).

Maybe you could second seat a public defender, to leech off his experience, but I haven't seen that either.

User avatar
encore1101
Posts: 641
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:13 am

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby encore1101 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:27 am

I can see someone from biglaw handling arraignments, which is reasonably simple (converse with accused, enter a guilty or not guilty plea, make a bail argument), but there's also stuff like jury selection, effective cross-examination, summation, etc., that someone who works in biglaw may not be familiar with.

User avatar
Lacepiece23
Posts: 835
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby Lacepiece23 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:30 am

encore1101 wrote:I think time would be the biggest factor, and there's also the fact you'd have to "pick up" the case after someone else has done some work on it (at the very least, arraignments).

Depending on the client, it may just be something simple, like plea negotiations (in which case you'd have to pick up another pro bono case if you're trying to satisfy a time requirement), or it could be something unforeseeably complex, with a ton of adjournments, hearings, etc. Even simple misdemeanor cases can, and often, have more complex issues than you initially thought, so there might be an unwillingness to commit to a project that could potentially take a lot of hours away from the firm.

Probably also has to do with unfamiliarity with the criminal procedure law (or your state's equivalent), as well as lack of courtroom experience, which can make someone feel like a fish out of water, whereas handling an appeal is fairly straightforward (research issues, write brief, oral argument, within a certain time).

Maybe you could second seat a public defender, to leech off his experience, but I haven't seen that either.


That is a really good suggestion. I really appreciate all your input. I know that something like this would be a huge time commitment. This was very helpful for me. If anyone else has any experience or feedback I'd appreciate that too.

dixiecupdrinking
Posts: 3139
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Pro Bono Criminal Defense

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:37 am

Biglaw associates definitely can work on pro bono criminal trials. There aren't a ton of opportunities, and you may be cocounsel to a PD and second chairing it, but it definitely happens.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.