Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:21 am

I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices. So far as I can tell, there are no "feeder" firms, and law firm prestige matters only in a very general way -- there is a large range of firms that seem to be acceptable. The Southern District has also hired a few SD-based JAG attorneys who did not go to T14 schools, clerk, or work in biglaw. Both offices have also recently hired a few very senior attorneys, with 10+ years of experience.

It's not clear to me what, if anything, separates the recent hires from the hundreds of other applicants with similar credentials. Some of them probably had strong recommendations from alumni or current AUSAs, but it's hard to imagine that was a requirement for hiring.

As far as moving between offices, I've seen a fair amount of movement of AUSAs between SF, LA, and SD. The moves seem to have been facilitated by the fact that the supervisors in those offices know each other. I don't mean to suggest that the Eastern District is left out or has less mobility; I just don't know of anyone who has moved to or from that office.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:51 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices. So far as I can tell, there are no "feeder" firms, and law firm prestige matters only in a very general way -- there is a large range of firms that seem to be acceptable. The Southern District has also hired a few SD-based JAG attorneys who did not go to T14 schools, clerk, or work in biglaw. Both offices have also recently hired a few very senior attorneys, with 10+ years of experience.

It's not clear to me what, if anything, separates the recent hires from the hundreds of other applicants with similar credentials. Some of them probably had strong recommendations from alumni or current AUSAs, but it's hard to imagine that was a requirement for hiring.

As far as moving between offices, I've seen a fair amount of movement of AUSAs between SF, LA, and SD. The moves seem to have been facilitated by the fact that the supervisors in those offices know each other. I don't mean to suggest that the Eastern District is left out or has less mobility; I just don't know of anyone who has moved to or from that office.


This is was very very helpful. Any thoughts on SAUSA positions?

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices. So far as I can tell, there are no "feeder" firms, and law firm prestige matters only in a very general way -- there is a large range of firms that seem to be acceptable. The Southern District has also hired a few SD-based JAG attorneys who did not go to T14 schools, clerk, or work in biglaw. Both offices have also recently hired a few very senior attorneys, with 10+ years of experience.

It's not clear to me what, if anything, separates the recent hires from the hundreds of other applicants with similar credentials. Some of them probably had strong recommendations from alumni or current AUSAs, but it's hard to imagine that was a requirement for hiring.

As far as moving between offices, I've seen a fair amount of movement of AUSAs between SF, LA, and SD. The moves seem to have been facilitated by the fact that the supervisors in those offices know each other. I don't mean to suggest that the Eastern District is left out or has less mobility; I just don't know of anyone who has moved to or from that office.


This is was very very helpful. Any thoughts on SAUSA positions?


SAUSAs are treated pretty well. My office does its best to get them at least 1 trial during their 1-year term. I don't think, however, working as a SAUSA is a huge plus to the hiring committee. We don't have a policy against hiring SAUSAs full-time, but generally do not.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:SAUSAs are treated pretty well. My office does its best to get them at least 1 trial during their 1-year term. I don't think, however, working as a SAUSA is a huge plus to the hiring committee. We don't have a policy against hiring SAUSAs full-time, but generally do not.


Thanks very much. If I'm choosing between SAUSA in the 9th circuit or a D. Ct. Clerkship in a secondary market major city, with AUSA in CA as the eventual goal: I'm guessing from this and your previous post, that the clerkship would be more valuable?

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:SAUSAs are treated pretty well. My office does its best to get them at least 1 trial during their 1-year term. I don't think, however, working as a SAUSA is a huge plus to the hiring committee. We don't have a policy against hiring SAUSAs full-time, but generally do not.


Thanks very much. If I'm choosing between SAUSA in the 9th circuit or a D. Ct. Clerkship in a secondary market major city, with AUSA in CA as the eventual goal: I'm guessing from this and your previous post, that the clerkship would be more valuable?


Yes.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices.

Thanks, Anon.

I am a different Anon, but have a few follow-up questions if you do not mind sharing:
- Do you know how many years of Biglaw experience the recent CD Cal or SD Cal hires had? Even a rough average would be helpful.
- Do you have any sense of what trial/courtroom experience these big law associates had? Are we talking about associates who may have taken a few witnesses across 1 or 2 trials, or seasoned trial lawyers who have been to 10+ trials, taken numerous witnesses, argued dispositive motions, etc.?
- How many attorneys does CD Cal tend to hire every year?

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:50 am

Anonymous User wrote:- Do you know how many years of Biglaw experience the recent CD Cal or SD Cal hires had? Even a rough average would be helpful.


Generally, 3 - 5. Some have significantly more.

Anonymous User wrote:- Do you have any sense of what trial/courtroom experience these big law associates had? Are we talking about associates who may have taken a few witnesses across 1 or 2 trials, or seasoned trial lawyers who have been to 10+ trials, taken numerous witnesses, argued dispositive motions, etc.?


I didn't have any. A few of my colleagues did pro-bono type programs for the local DA's/PD's office, where they did a few trials. At the big USAOs that regularly hire from biglaw firms, trial experience is a great bonus, but not necessary.

This is a relatively recent change. I think even 5 years ago, my office placed a much greater premium on trial experience.

Anonymous User wrote:- How many attorneys does CD Cal tend to hire every year?


Roughly 15 people in the last 2 years. I don't know if that's typical.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby JakeTappers » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices. So far as I can tell, there are no "feeder" firms, and law firm prestige matters only in a very general way -- there is a large range of firms that seem to be acceptable. The Southern District has also hired a few SD-based JAG attorneys who did not go to T14 schools, clerk, or work in biglaw. Both offices have also recently hired a few very senior attorneys, with 10+ years of experience.

It's not clear to me what, if anything, separates the recent hires from the hundreds of other applicants with similar credentials. Some of them probably had strong recommendations from alumni or current AUSAs, but it's hard to imagine that was a requirement for hiring.

As far as moving between offices, I've seen a fair amount of movement of AUSAs between SF, LA, and SD. The moves seem to have been facilitated by the fact that the supervisors in those offices know each other. I don't mean to suggest that the Eastern District is left out or has less mobility; I just don't know of anyone who has moved to or from that office.


Straight forward question: does SD only hire for 2-3 year terms. Close by AUSA told me they explicitly only hire for a certain period of time (can't remember precisely but 2-4 years) and then only a percentage make a career out of it. Person is very in the know but may be outdated knowledge. LinkedIn seemed to confirm a bit, but there wasn't much to go on.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:48 am

Different anon here: unless it's a SAUSA position I don't know of any USAO that hires only for short terms (though I can't swear SD doesn't due to lack of familiarity with the office. That would just seem really weird to me, based on the offices I do know). SAUSA positions are usually term positions, though, and don't guarantee a permanent job, if that's what they were referring to.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:08 am

JakeTappers wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I am familiar with the recent hires in both the Southern and Central districts. I work in one of those two offices, but am not on the hiring committee myself.

The standard credentials for the recent hires are T14 + clerkship (in any court) + reputable biglaw firm. Of those that clerked, the majority did not clerk in the district or even the Ninth circuit. Many of the hires also did not come from law firms with significant white collar practices. So far as I can tell, there are no "feeder" firms, and law firm prestige matters only in a very general way -- there is a large range of firms that seem to be acceptable. The Southern District has also hired a few SD-based JAG attorneys who did not go to T14 schools, clerk, or work in biglaw. Both offices have also recently hired a few very senior attorneys, with 10+ years of experience.

It's not clear to me what, if anything, separates the recent hires from the hundreds of other applicants with similar credentials. Some of them probably had strong recommendations from alumni or current AUSAs, but it's hard to imagine that was a requirement for hiring.

As far as moving between offices, I've seen a fair amount of movement of AUSAs between SF, LA, and SD. The moves seem to have been facilitated by the fact that the supervisors in those offices know each other. I don't mean to suggest that the Eastern District is left out or has less mobility; I just don't know of anyone who has moved to or from that office.


Straight forward question: does SD only hire for 2-3 year terms. Close by AUSA told me they explicitly only hire for a certain period of time (can't remember precisely but 2-4 years) and then only a percentage make a career out of it. Person is very in the know but may be outdated knowledge. LinkedIn seemed to confirm a bit, but there wasn't much to go on.



Both LA and SD used to do this (SD more recently than LA), but do not anymore.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 11, 2017 10:44 pm

Does smoking weed after bar admission = no AUSA job ever? I would be aiming for civil, nothing national security related or anything.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Does smoking weed after bar admission = no AUSA job ever? I would be aiming for civil, nothing national security related or anything.

For a criminal position, I was told that post-bar drug use was a per se bar, but this was for an entry-level position - I don't know if there's a time after which that changes. I also honestly don't know whether the background check for civil AUSAs is different from that for criminal ones, but I'm not sure why it would be. (But like I said, I really don't know.)

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby PlanetExpress » Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:44 am

I'm really interested in one day working in CDCA, mostly for personal reasons (I grew up in LA, went to college out there, my family is there). Right now I'm a 1L at Penn. I'm going to try to clerk somewhere, ideally in CDCA of course, but I'd clerk anywhere. I'm not sure biglaw is for me, so I'm looking more at JAG for right after law school - good or bad idea? While I am partly interested in JAG for its own sake, I'll admit I'm also interested in it as a springboard to becoming an AUSA. I've spoken to several AUSAs and JAGs who've said this is a common career path, but I guess I'm concerned that because CDCA is so competitive, it'd be better to do biglaw in LA and build the right connections. Any advice on connecting these dots is appreciated.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:04 am

PlanetExpress wrote:I'm really interested in one day working in CDCA, mostly for personal reasons (I grew up in LA, went to college out there, my family is there). Right now I'm a 1L at Penn. I'm going to try to clerk somewhere, ideally in CDCA of course, but I'd clerk anywhere. I'm not sure biglaw is for me, so I'm looking more at JAG for right after law school - good or bad idea? While I am partly interested in JAG for its own sake, I'll admit I'm also interested in it as a springboard to becoming an AUSA. I've spoken to several AUSAs and JAGs who've said this is a common career path, but I guess I'm concerned that because CDCA is so competitive, it'd be better to do biglaw in LA and build the right connections. Any advice on connecting these dots is appreciated.



As a practical matter, you should know that there's no such thing as "connecting the dots." Biglaw standards don't evolve over time. They will always want people from certain schools with certain grades. Federal Clerkship standards won't evolve over time. Judges will generally want students at the top of the class. AUSA positions - even in "prestige" districts - are largely dependent on who the U.S. Attorney is at the time. A U.S. Attorney might value biglaw experience; another might value trial experience; another might have military ties so is receptive to folks from there. As a result, I can't tell you what the U.S. Attorney is going to want 8 years from now when you'll be ready to make the move.

I would say that places with higher military presence would probably be more of a fit with a former JAG getting an AUSA position than in a place where there is no military bases or economy.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:19 pm

FWIW, I know quite a few JAG --> AUSAs, but the above anon is right that it's going to depend on a given office's hiring priorities at a given time, and those will change as the people doing the hiring change, even where there are circumstances (location/caseload) that tend to make a particular background more/less valuable. This is especially the case if you're looking for a specific office - by which I mean, whether you're a JAG, ADA, or biglaw associate, there is probably some office out there that favors one of those in hiring, but you can't guarantee it's going to be the office you want to go to. So whatever route you pick, make sure it's something you can be happy with in and of itself (so re: JAG, you would have to want to do JAG independent of whether it will get you to a USAO, especially since that's quite a commitment).

Personally I think getting experience in any USAO and then trying to move to the office where you'd really like to be is the best way to go, but that may just how the offices I know have operated.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 12, 2017 3:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Personally I think getting experience in any USAO and then trying to move to the office where you'd really like to be is the best way to go, but that may just how the offices I know have operated.

Do you know how much experience you generally need in a different USAO before a SoCal office would consider that experience a significant plus? I've been in a busy, but flyover, USAO for one and a half years now, and I'm from SoCal. I'd happily go to LA, SD, Santa Ana, Riverside, or any other branch offices I may be missing. It feels too early to apply (though I have gotten a ton of experience in my eighteen months), but I also heard that some offices don't like to hire AUSAs who are at, like, AD-8 or above because they're too expensive. Is that right when it comes to SoCal offices?

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:- Do you know how many years of Biglaw experience the recent CD Cal or SD Cal hires had? Even a rough average would be helpful.


Generally, 3 - 5. Some have significantly more.

Anonymous User wrote:- Do you have any sense of what trial/courtroom experience these big law associates had? Are we talking about associates who may have taken a few witnesses across 1 or 2 trials, or seasoned trial lawyers who have been to 10+ trials, taken numerous witnesses, argued dispositive motions, etc.?


I didn't have any. A few of my colleagues did pro-bono type programs for the local DA's/PD's office, where they did a few trials. At the big USAOs that regularly hire from biglaw firms, trial experience is a great bonus, but not necessary.

This is a relatively recent change. I think even 5 years ago, my office placed a much greater premium on trial experience.

Anonymous User wrote:- How many attorneys does CD Cal tend to hire every year?


Roughly 15 people in the last 2 years. I don't know if that's typical.


Thanks very much. A few more questions if you don't mind:

1. What salary would someone with 3-5 years of big law experience make as an AUSA in CD Cal? Is there any room for negotiation (so you come in a year higher than your experience, for example)? What are the benefits like?
2. It sounds like you work as an AUSA. What motivated you to make the jump? I personally have a few reasons I might want to make the jump in a few years: (i) I have long wanted to be a prosecutor (out of a sense of doing justice, among other reasons); and (ii) have a strong interest in criminal law; (iii) love trial work (while still working on complex, interesting, and sophisticated matters).
3. Could you describe the types of work you do on a day-to-day basis?

Thanks again -- appreciate all the information.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:30 pm

Can anyone speak on going from main justice (a civil or criminal litigating section) to a USAO? I'm going to have to move at some point to follow my partner

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 13, 2017 5:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Personally I think getting experience in any USAO and then trying to move to the office where you'd really like to be is the best way to go, but that may just how the offices I know have operated.

Do you know how much experience you generally need in a different USAO before a SoCal office would consider that experience a significant plus? I've been in a busy, but flyover, USAO for one and a half years now, and I'm from SoCal. I'd happily go to LA, SD, Santa Ana, Riverside, or any other branch offices I may be missing. It feels too early to apply (though I have gotten a ton of experience in my eighteen months), but I also heard that some offices don't like to hire AUSAs who are at, like, AD-8 or above because they're too expensive. Is that right when it comes to SoCal offices?

I'm the anon you quoted: I'm afraid I don't know. I've seen people move around with from 3 years of experience and up, but I dont know specifically what the CA offices want.

I've also seen lots of people with extensive experience (like 8+ years) get hired, so expense has never seemed to be an issue. (Do you mean AD-28 or something?) But again, I'm not sure about SoCal (and I realize this is a California thread, so I don't mean to be unhelpful; the questions seemed to get a little more general so I chimed in).

Re: main justice --> USAO, it's going to depend on your experience and who's hiring. It's certainly possible but I'm not sure that it changes the basic equation.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Personally I think getting experience in any USAO and then trying to move to the office where you'd really like to be is the best way to go, but that may just how the offices I know have operated.

Do you know how much experience you generally need in a different USAO before a SoCal office would consider that experience a significant plus? I've been in a busy, but flyover, USAO for one and a half years now, and I'm from SoCal. I'd happily go to LA, SD, Santa Ana, Riverside, or any other branch offices I may be missing. It feels too early to apply (though I have gotten a ton of experience in my eighteen months), but I also heard that some offices don't like to hire AUSAs who are at, like, AD-8 or above because they're too expensive. Is that right when it comes to SoCal offices?

I'm the anon you quoted: I'm afraid I don't know. I've seen people move around with from 3 years of experience and up, but I dont know specifically what the CA offices want.

I've also seen lots of people with extensive experience (like 8+ years) get hired, so expense has never seemed to be an issue. (Do you mean AD-28 or something?) But again, I'm not sure about SoCal (and I realize this is a California thread, so I don't mean to be unhelpful; the questions seemed to get a little more general so I chimed in).

Re: main justice --> USAO, it's going to depend on your experience and who's hiring. It's certainly possible but I'm not sure that it changes the basic equation.

Sorry, I did mean AD-28. And thanks for the input!

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby andythefir » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:08 am

PlanetExpress wrote:I'm really interested in one day working in CDCA, mostly for personal reasons (I grew up in LA, went to college out there, my family is there). Right now I'm a 1L at Penn. I'm going to try to clerk somewhere, ideally in CDCA of course, but I'd clerk anywhere. I'm not sure biglaw is for me, so I'm looking more at JAG for right after law school - good or bad idea? While I am partly interested in JAG for its own sake, I'll admit I'm also interested in it as a springboard to becoming an AUSA. I've spoken to several AUSAs and JAGs who've said this is a common career path, but I guess I'm concerned that because CDCA is so competitive, it'd be better to do biglaw in LA and build the right connections. Any advice on connecting these dots is appreciated.


I tried to do exactly this, but the JAG turned me down 9 times. Top 10% at a top 20 school, good shape, family in the military. Think about JAG like thinking about being a SCOTUS clerk. Not impossible, but not something you should plan on.

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Re: Is it hard to be an AUSA in California?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:37 am

andythefir wrote:
PlanetExpress wrote:I'm really interested in one day working in CDCA, mostly for personal reasons (I grew up in LA, went to college out there, my family is there). Right now I'm a 1L at Penn. I'm going to try to clerk somewhere, ideally in CDCA of course, but I'd clerk anywhere. I'm not sure biglaw is for me, so I'm looking more at JAG for right after law school - good or bad idea? While I am partly interested in JAG for its own sake, I'll admit I'm also interested in it as a springboard to becoming an AUSA. I've spoken to several AUSAs and JAGs who've said this is a common career path, but I guess I'm concerned that because CDCA is so competitive, it'd be better to do biglaw in LA and build the right connections. Any advice on connecting these dots is appreciated.


I tried to do exactly this, but the JAG turned me down 9 times. Top 10% at a top 20 school, good shape, family in the military. Think about JAG like thinking about being a SCOTUS clerk. Not impossible, but not something you should plan on.


JAG is weird like this though. Having good grades from a good school doesn't mean getting JAG; whereas, having okay grades at a bad school (e.g. t3) doesn't necessarily mean not getting JAG. It's pretty different than non-SCOTUS fed clerkships and biglaw in that way. I think AUSA and many other fed gov positions often have the randomness that JAG does (but likely for different reasons). Hiring is just more idiosyncratic and less rigid than clerkships and biglaw. So, yeah, I agree with your general point of not being able to plan on JAG.



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