At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

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At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:31 am

I'm a first year working in biglaw in one of the major cities (NY/LA), but want to switch over to crim law practice (mainly prosecution). I like what I do, but don't see myself staying here long term. I've always loved crim law classes and would like to work as a prosecutor. Are there any suggestions on how I can make the transition? I'm currently doing corporate work, but could switch over to litigation if I try hard enough. Does the DA/USA office hire people who've recently graduated?

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:15 am

The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:55 am

OP here. Thanks! What about ADA positions? Assuming i get to switch over to litigation, would those positions be easier to get (don't require 3-4 years of experience)?

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:16 pm

I know Manhattan DA hires straight out of law school, but almost all people who worked for a summer there. But it does indicate that in general they're willing to hire more junior people. If you can get an ADA job there, combined with the biglaw year, USAOs might take notice.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:46 am

Tagging bc I'm broadly in a similar spot (except lit/midlaw).

OP, i think it might be an uphill climb unless you've previously demonstrated some interest in prosecution.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:58 am

OP here. Yeah, I realized it's pretty much impossible to go directly from where I am to prosecution. I was thinking of maybe going into criminal defense first and then making the switch, but not sure if once I do criminal defense I'm done with prosecution.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:03 pm

No, I know of a number of prosecutors who did criminal defense first. It's often harder to go from prosecution to defense, but not so much the other way around.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:49 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.


I don't know much about the EDNY/SDNY USAOs, but do they really hire criminal prosecutors from biglaw? Isn't it much more typical for them to hire civil AUSAs from biglaw litigation? (And by typical, I mean you have a cunt hair's shot at it as a typical biglaw lit associate.) Civil practice is very different from criminal practice, so not very many of the skills you'd acquire within the first few years as a biglaw lit associate would be very transferable.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby grand inquisitor » Tue Jun 16, 2015 1:53 pm

I would recommend you do an SDNY clerkship and then do a number of years at the Justice Department before trying to lateral out to a US Attorney's Office of your choosing.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby krads153 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:19 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.


I don't know much about the EDNY/SDNY USAOs, but do they really hire criminal prosecutors from biglaw? Isn't it much more typical for them to hire civil AUSAs from biglaw litigation? (And by typical, I mean you have a cunt hair's shot at it as a typical biglaw lit associate.) Civil practice is very different from criminal practice, so not very many of the skills you'd acquire within the first few years as a biglaw lit associate would be very transferable.


Yes, you're going to be doing civil stuff out of biglaw.

To answer the OP, you have no shot with no prosecution or other criminal background.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:46 pm

I clerk in a large city that is not NY. Almost every criminal AUSA that appears before us came from biglaw. I also know a number of criminal AUSAs in NY that started in biglaw. Since this is relevant to my aspirations as well, everyone I've spoken to about transitioning says that a resume that gives the impression of an interest in prosecution (DA internship or summer, other various criminal-related activities) and a healthy dose of networking with current or former AUSAs can get you in the door. The information about the time frame for the NY offices also matches what I've heard. I don't see how you would be able to transition from corporate though.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby krads153 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I clerk in a large city that is not NY. Almost every criminal AUSA that appears before us came from biglaw. I also know a number of criminal AUSAs in NY that started in biglaw. Since this is relevant to my aspirations as well, everyone I've spoken to about transitioning says that a resume that gives the impression of an interest in prosecution (DA internship or summer, other various criminal-related activities) and a healthy dose of networking with current or former AUSAs can get you in the door. The information about the time frame for the NY offices also matches what I've heard. I don't see how you would be able to transition from corporate though.


How old are these people? It's a lot more competitive these days.

Granted, I have experience only in a big city, but my spouse (who applied to be a prosecutor) got denied explicitly because they had no crim prosecution experience (even coming from a litigation heavy PI background). They pretty much point blank told them this.
Last edited by krads153 on Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:40 pm

krads153 wrote:
XxSpyKEx wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.


I don't know much about the EDNY/SDNY USAOs, but do they really hire criminal prosecutors from biglaw? Isn't it much more typical for them to hire civil AUSAs from biglaw litigation? (And by typical, I mean you have a cunt hair's shot at it as a typical biglaw lit associate.) Civil practice is very different from criminal practice, so not very many of the skills you'd acquire within the first few years as a biglaw lit associate would be very transferable.


Yes, you're going to be doing civil stuff out of biglaw.

To answer the OP, you have no shot with no prosecution or other criminal background.



This is an outright mistake. I work/have worked directly with numerous AUSAs in major districts (think SF/NYC) and criminal prosecution hires out of biglaw. Not even up for debate.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby krads153 » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:42 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:
krads153 wrote:
XxSpyKEx wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.


I don't know much about the EDNY/SDNY USAOs, but do they really hire criminal prosecutors from biglaw? Isn't it much more typical for them to hire civil AUSAs from biglaw litigation? (And by typical, I mean you have a cunt hair's shot at it as a typical biglaw lit associate.) Civil practice is very different from criminal practice, so not very many of the skills you'd acquire within the first few years as a biglaw lit associate would be very transferable.


Yes, you're going to be doing civil stuff out of biglaw.

To answer the OP, you have no shot with no prosecution or other criminal background.



This is an outright mistake. I work/have worked directly with numerous AUSAs in major districts (think SF/NYC) and criminal prosecution hires out of biglaw. Not even up for debate.


Even if they have no prior experience whatsoever in crim? Or really any legit demonstrated interest? Or are you talking about people who summered for a prosecutor or whatever and then went to biglaw

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:49 pm

OP here. Thanks for all the responses! Yes, I realize my chance of going directly to prosecution from corporation is pretty much zero, so my plan is to switch to litigation (and I can since I'm just a first year), and then try going to criminal defense if I can't go to prosecution from there.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:52 pm

Demonstrated commitment is a must, naturally. Most of these guys were summer law clerks at the USAO before they came back full time, but that's only because they get 1000+ applications per position (literally) and they need some way to cull the herd.

But SDNY Crim, for instance, hires pretty much exclusively out of Biglaw litigation departments.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Omerta » Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:53 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:
krads153 wrote:
XxSpyKEx wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:The NY USAOs (EDNY/SDNY) will only hire people 3-5 years out. For SDNY clerkship is mandatory. Big law litigation is also mandatory. If your app is coming from a transactional practice they'll trash it without thinking twice.


I don't know much about the EDNY/SDNY USAOs, but do they really hire criminal prosecutors from biglaw? Isn't it much more typical for them to hire civil AUSAs from biglaw litigation? (And by typical, I mean you have a cunt hair's shot at it as a typical biglaw lit associate.) Civil practice is very different from criminal practice, so not very many of the skills you'd acquire within the first few years as a biglaw lit associate would be very transferable.


Yes, you're going to be doing civil stuff out of biglaw.

To answer the OP, you have no shot with no prosecution or other criminal background.



This is an outright mistake. I work/have worked directly with numerous AUSAs in major districts (think SF/NYC) and criminal prosecution hires out of biglaw. Not even up for debate.


Agreed. I'm a clerk and basically every AUSA who has appeared in a case in front of my judge or who I know did one of the following:
biglaw or lit boutique --> AUSA
DOJ --> AUSA
biglaw or lit boutique --> DOJ --> AUSA

One dude who works in narcotics went biglaw --> DA --> AUSA.

I've heard that if you want to go AUSA, you should try to get some crim experience by pro bono stuff--something to show interest and more than a passing familiarity. There's litigation that's moderately applicable (any kind of fraud, civil RICO, etc.) and you can sell that.

edit: to be clear, I have no experience in NY. Just wanted to pop in and say that I don't believe it's true that you don't have a shot without prosecution or other criminal background. At least that's what I was told by an AUSA on the hiring committee in my district.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:02 pm

Yeah, I know plenty of criminal AUSAs who came out of biglaw civil litigation, though they probably have some kind of relevant experience from law school (relevant for showing interest, that is). Also they often clerked. But offices differ in their hiring practices, so I'm sure it's possible to be dinged with no criminal experience (though I wouldn't be surprised if it was at least in part that there was an equally qualified candidate who did have criminal experience and it ended up a tiebreaker).

I'm also pretty sure there are a lot more criminal AUSAs than civil (though that may also vary by office), so it's not like all the biglaw people are going civil. In a lot of districts civil AUSA work is also not that interesting.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:23 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:But SDNY Crim, for instance, hires pretty much exclusively out of Biglaw litigation departments.


Why is this? The stuff you do in your first few years as a biglaw associate is pretty different than the work criminal AUSAs do. The only possible exception I can think of is white collar, and that largely depends on the firm's practice (i.e. imagine FCPA violations aren't what you're likely to be doing as a criminal AUSA). Why not just hire DAs/people in boutique firms that practice federal criminal law?

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:34 pm

After your first year in general crimes and the follow up year in narcotics, you get assigned to one of the major crimes units. These cases take an extremely long time to come to trial, and are often based on FBI investigations that last a year or more. During that entire time you're doing motions practice/research and writing. Biglaw experience is much more relevant for this than ADA stuff putting violent offenders behind bars in shoot from the hip trials.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:09 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:After your first year in general crimes and the follow up year in narcotics, you get assigned to one of the major crimes units. These cases take an extremely long time to come to trial, and are often based on FBI investigations that last a year or more. During that entire time you're doing motions practice/research and writing. Biglaw experience is much more relevant for this than ADA stuff putting violent offenders behind bars in shoot from the hip trials.


OP here. Interesting. If it makes any difference, I'm actually more interested in the stuff ADA does.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby los blancos » Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:38 pm

Truth is that neither DA nor biglaw experience is all that relevant, but (1) preftige; and (2) they probably figure your average biglawyer can learn & adapt. Though I bet DAs have little problem walking right into general crimes and hitting the ground running. Many of them probably can't write for shit tho.

I'd bet DA/JAG is a better route for most districts especially assuming ties and/or t14 bolstered fancy resume, but biglaw refugee (ideally w/ a3 clerkship) seems to be more common in the bigger districts that naturally have more turnover.

Biggest problem is that these are sweet jobs to begin with that are made that much more competitive by how much private practice sucks, so it's easy to get shut out. Like biglaw sucks so much that there is CUTTHROAT competition for taking a $100k+ paycut to work in a job that really isn't easy at all hours-wise. That's a hilarious indictment of how badly the model is messed up and how much people hate their jobs that once they can figure a way out of their indentured servitude they do it asap.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Wed Jun 17, 2015 3:06 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:After your first year in general crimes and the follow up year in narcotics, you get assigned to one of the major crimes units. These cases take an extremely long time to come to trial, and are often based on FBI investigations that last a year or more. During that entire time you're doing motions practice/research and writing.


I still don't really see how prosecuting child porn (which is a large percentage of fed cases in any district) is similar to representing corporations in, e.g., breach of contract cases.

FascinatedWanderer wrote:Biglaw experience is much more relevant for this than ADA stuff putting violent offenders behind bars in shoot from the hip trials.


The percentage of cases that go to trial in state cases aren't really that much higher than the percentage of cases that go to trial in federal cases. I mean it's no doubt higher in state cases (largely related to the federal sentencing guidelines), but the reason why it seems like ADAs do a ton of trials is because 95% of all criminal filings are in state court, whereas only 5% are in federal court. So while each court in most jurisdictions probably only tries around 3-5% of all cases, the actual number of trials is higher in state court (due the volume of criminal cases filed in state court). But the feds run their investigations as if every case was going to trial, and many of them actually do wind up going to trial (3-5% isn't insignificant when you're talking about thousands of indictments). Seems like it would make more sense to have someone who is ready and capable of trying cases than just some schmuck who doesn't know shit about criminal practice. But, hey, I'm not an AUSA (or even a prosecutor generally), so who the fuck am I to tell USAOs how to run their offices.

los blancos wrote: Though I bet DAs have little problem walking right into general crimes and hitting the ground running.


They could probably do the "major crimes" pretty easily as well. Most local prosecutors handle at least some cases that would fall into "major crimes" at the federal prosecutor's office (unless you're a novice and not at that level yet).

los blancos wrote: Many of them probably can't write for shit tho.


This is actually probably more true in the smaller districts than it is in places like the Manhattan DA's office. Offices like the Manhattan DA's office get some extremely high quality applicants, so imagine most of the people who they hire are capable of writing well (despite the fact that they probably don't regularly do much in writing). The odd thing is that it sounds like the smaller district USAOs are more willing/interested in hiring former ADAs than the larger districts, which doesn't make a lot of sense either.

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby bjohnsobf » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:41 pm

I interned at the Tallahassee USAO 3L year. There was a guy there from UVA who was working as an uncompensated Special AUSA on the criminal side. He was doing all the work of a normal AUSA. He said he saved money from biglaw for a few years which allowed him to work for free. They planned to hire him once they had funding for another position or when someone left.

I still see tons of these postings from offices around the country on the DOJ site, I'm sure they would take someone with your credentials if you can work for free. They are generally advertised as 1 year appointments. Even if they couldn't hire you after that I would think that would give you experience to compete for a state prosecutor job

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Re: At biglaw now; want to be a prosecutor - how do I get there?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:51 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:After your first year in general crimes and the follow up year in narcotics, you get assigned to one of the major crimes units. These cases take an extremely long time to come to trial, and are often based on FBI investigations that last a year or more. During that entire time you're doing motions practice/research and writing.


I still don't really see how prosecuting child porn (which is a large percentage of fed cases in any district) is similar to representing corporations in, e.g., breach of contract cases.

FascinatedWanderer wrote:Biglaw experience is much more relevant for this than ADA stuff putting violent offenders behind bars in shoot from the hip trials.


The percentage of cases that go to trial in state cases aren't really that much higher than the percentage of cases that go to trial in federal cases. I mean it's no doubt higher in state cases (largely related to the federal sentencing guidelines), but the reason why it seems like ADAs do a ton of trials is because 95% of all criminal filings are in state court, whereas only 5% are in federal court. So while each court in most jurisdictions probably only tries around 3-5% of all cases, the actual number of trials is higher in state court (due the volume of criminal cases filed in state court). But the feds run their investigations as if every case was going to trial, and many of them actually do wind up going to trial (3-5% isn't insignificant when you're talking about thousands of indictments). Seems like it would make more sense to have someone who is ready and capable of trying cases than just some schmuck who doesn't know shit about criminal practice. But, hey, I'm not an AUSA (or even a prosecutor generally), so who the fuck am I to tell USAOs how to run their offices.

los blancos wrote: Though I bet DAs have little problem walking right into general crimes and hitting the ground running.


They could probably do the "major crimes" pretty easily as well. Most local prosecutors handle at least some cases that would fall into "major crimes" at the federal prosecutor's office (unless you're a novice and not at that level yet).

los blancos wrote: Many of them probably can't write for shit tho.


This is actually probably more true in the smaller districts than it is in places like the Manhattan DA's office. Offices like the Manhattan DA's office get some extremely high quality applicants, so imagine most of the people who they hire are capable of writing well (despite the fact that they probably don't regularly do much in writing). The odd thing is that it sounds like the smaller district USAOs are more willing/interested in hiring former ADAs than the larger districts, which doesn't make a lot of sense either.

Everyone who becomes a criminal AUSA is going to have to learn a lot of shit because it's a different job. People who hire out of biglaw probably figure that to get biglaw, people had to be pretty smart, and so can learn what they need to learn (and they also probably care about pedigree). People who hire ADAs probably want to see demonstrated criminal/trial experience (and are less likely to care about pedigree). It's like there are different ways to evaluate candidates.

(smaller USAOs/districts likely have smaller biglaw markets and get to know the local prosecutors better than the local civil lit people, and are also less likely to have as many cases with any overlap with biglaw issues, which may explain why smaller places hire ADAs more. My understanding was that, for instance, SDNY hires out of biglaw because of the amount of securities work in the district. I don't think the Baton Rouge or Louisville USAOs are doing tons of complex white collar crime.)




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