AUSA/USAO hiring

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:48 pm

Is it at all a plus to have taken numerous federal criminal law classes in law school? (Assuming clerkship, T14, biglaw etc.)

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Is it at all a plus to have taken numerous federal criminal law classes in law school? (Assuming clerkship, T14, biglaw etc.)


I can't imagine that coming up in an interview, and if it did, that means the interview is going badly. If you have to reference something you learned in law school, that means you're likely to need babysitting, which is the worst impression you can give. I could see a very small exception if your schtick is "I've done a billion felony jury trials, and you can trust me to learn white collar prosecution quickly because I have a degree in accounting." I've done multiple interviews for AUSA positions, including callbacks, and I don't think I talked about my law school experience at all beyond pleasantries.

Virtually nothing you learn from a top law school has any bearing on an actual job. On the off chance your prof goes over something directly applicable, the odds of it (1) staying the same in the time in between law school and application in the job, (2) being the same in your jurisdiction, and (3) being consonant with what your supervisor/judge wants is close to 0. Law school teaches you how to learn and gives you a feel for what a subject matter is. Professors hone in on what's interesting and vague, not what you can actually use in a job. And if "I really liked learning about federal criminal practice in law school" is your answer as to why USAO, you're in trouble. I can't speak to a more hands-on, practice-oriented law school experience, though.

It's also not necessarily true that top 14 law school+mega firm=ticket to the USAO. That might be true in EDNY, NDCA, or other elite districts; but in other jurisdictions Tulsa law + 60 felony jury trials trumps Cornell + 3 years in a big firm without ever handling your own deposition. Clerkships and trial experience from a big firm could be game changers, I'm sure, but I don't know how clerkship without any trial experience would come across.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:26 pm

I know people who've done clerkships and got hired at USAOs without trial experience. But it's very candidate/office specific.

I don't think it hurts to take a lot of federal criminal law stuff, but not because your interviewer will care. I actually took almost no criminal stuff in law school (what can I say, career goals change) and I kinda wish I had; I do feel like the little bit of pertinent stuff I did take made it more helpful to learn some of the legal stuff. It doesn't tell you how to run a case but it can help when you're facing sentencings or motions to suppress or the like. And if you're at a school that doesn't require evidence I can't imagine starting a criminal position without having had evidence (my school required it but I know some don't).

That said, I don't think it's going to give you an edge in getting a job and you may forget it all anyway.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby KingWolf72 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I know people who've done clerkships and got hired at USAOs without trial experience. But it's very candidate/office specific.

I don't think it hurts to take a lot of federal criminal law stuff, but not because your interviewer will care. I actually took almost no criminal stuff in law school (what can I say, career goals change) and I kinda wish I had; I do feel like the little bit of pertinent stuff I did take made it more helpful to learn some of the legal stuff. It doesn't tell you how to run a case but it can help when you're facing sentencings or motions to suppress or the like. And if you're at a school that doesn't require evidence I can't imagine starting a criminal position without having had evidence (my school required it but I know some don't).

That said, I don't think it's going to give you an edge in getting a job and you may forget it all anyway.


This is really helpful. Do people have insight as to what someone who is coming straight through law school would need to have a decent shot at an USAO? Obviously a clerkship (I'd imagine a district clerkship would be the most useful if you had to pick one) but, if you are coming from a good school, what kind of grades do you need to have? Is a journal preferable/deal-breaker? What kind of classes should you try and take? I am asking as a 1L who hopes to go to the USAO after graduation and a clerkship and wanted to know what I should be focusing on over the next two years to make myself the best candidate I can be. Thanks!

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby newlawgrad » Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:17 pm

KingWolf72 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know people who've done clerkships and got hired at USAOs without trial experience. But it's very candidate/office specific.

I don't think it hurts to take a lot of federal criminal law stuff, but not because your interviewer will care. I actually took almost no criminal stuff in law school (what can I say, career goals change) and I kinda wish I had; I do feel like the little bit of pertinent stuff I did take made it more helpful to learn some of the legal stuff. It doesn't tell you how to run a case but it can help when you're facing sentencings or motions to suppress or the like. And if you're at a school that doesn't require evidence I can't imagine starting a criminal position without having had evidence (my school required it but I know some don't).

That said, I don't think it's going to give you an edge in getting a job and you may forget it all anyway.


This is really helpful. Do people have insight as to what someone who is coming straight through law school would need to have a decent shot at an USAO? Obviously a clerkship (I'd imagine a district clerkship would be the most useful if you had to pick one) but, if you are coming from a good school, what kind of grades do you need to have? Is a journal preferable/deal-breaker? What kind of classes should you try and take? I am asking as a 1L who hopes to go to the USAO after graduation and a clerkship and wanted to know what I should be focusing on over the next two years to make myself the best candidate I can be. Thanks!


This is very very very rare outside of Honors. Which is a whole thing in and of itself and I'd just recommend doing research on DOJ Honors. Extremely complex but is populated largely by people straight from law school to clerkships (pretty sure you have to be within 2 years of law school to be eligible). Grades are number one (obviously) as the are a pre-req for clerkships AND honors. Top 1/3d at a minimum, I would guess.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 6:04 pm

Yeah, going straight from law school--> clerkship --> USAO is going to be very very difficult. I know one person who did it, by clerking in the district that hired him, going to an office in an undesirable location that has a hard time keeping people, and having a very political judge who likes to help out his clerks and knows people. Everyone else I know who went that route did so through Honors (you can't have any practice experience to be eligible for honors but you can apply from a clerkship; the honors USAO gigs all require that you have a federal clerkship and yes, I would highly recommend district court over COA). The people I know who got AUSA gigs not through honors all also had at least one year of practice, usually more, though 1 year is possible. They're also mostly in very secondary markets - major city USAOs will probably want more experience. (Some USAOs list at least one year of practice experience in their job ads, more commonly I see three years. Clerking counts for this but it's still going to be tough if you've only clerked.)

I haven't ever had anyone bring up my LR experience at all and I don't think USAOs care directly about that. They care about writing, but they'll look at your writing sample and assume that if you clerked you can write. (However some judges care about LR so it may be instrumental in getting you a clerkship.) I also haven't had anyone ever comment on my grades (which were pretty good but not absolutely stellar), so I think once you're above a certain rank you're probably fine. (But again grades are important for clerkships.) Practical courses like trial advocacy are good, not necessarily because USAOs want to see them, but if you can do well and get the prof as a reference that prof can comment on skills USAOs want to see (speaking ability, thinking on your feet, courtroom presence, that kind of thing). Also I think they help you get a little bit of a sense of what litigating is like and whether you'll like it.

Getting relevant experience in law school is important. Do clinics, externships, etc. A firm job isn't a deal killer at all (I did a 2L SA) but getting criminal experience and/or having public sector-type stuff on your resume is key. Anecdotally, I know a ton of AUSAs who interned for USAOs during law school, often the one that ultimately hired them. State prosecution gigs can be good too, especially if you can get a student license to appear in court.

And frankly get to know people in USAOs and use connections. The guy I know who went straight LS-->clerkship-->AUSA had his judge advocating him, and he also had a very close relative who had worked for a nearby USAO for years. He also interned for the local USAO and did a criminal defense clinic (and was on LR and had good grades - I don't think he was Coif but if he wasn't he was close).

(I also think people need to think kind of hard about why they want AUSA. It's a wonderful gig in many ways but it's also really hard in a lot of ways and it's not really anything like anything you do in law school, and it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby gregfootball2001 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 6:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby andythefir » Thu Jan 19, 2017 6:49 pm

I would never want to go straight from law school to the USAO, that's a recipe for flunking out. Everyone's 1st job out of law school is a real eye-opener, there's so much you don't know that you don't know. If you're making rookie mistakes because you're a rookie when everyone else has 3-5 years of high level experience, that's just begging to be labeled a screwup. I get the feeling DOJ honors is completely different because there's an expectation that you will be learning/getting baby attorney experience. But if you're hired onto the varsity team and you're not ready, that's not going to go well for you.

I've come across only 1 person who got hired into the USAO straight from law school, and he got that job because his dad was the chief of the office. And he had to leave after a few years due to some very public failings.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:10 pm

gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.

I should preface this by saying I don't work at SDNY or in a major major metro, so those offices are probably different. And I suppose it's prestigious in that they're hard jobs to get, and you get to stand up in federal court and say you represent the United States (and don't get me wrong, that actually really matters to me).

But a lot of the work (in many offices) is pretty routine, low-level stuff - still interesting and an opportunity to learn a ton, still valuable and worth doing, but it's not prestigious work in itself. Like, a dumb alcoholic defendant buying her scumbag felon ex-boyfriend a gun can be a really fun case to try, but it's not the slightest bit fancy. In my office, even the white collar stuff is often more depressing than prestigious (small time real estate dude committing mortgage fraud locally isn't a headline-grabber).

Don't get me wrong - I, personally, find this work important and valuable. It just seems kind of removed from what a lot of people here seem to be envisioning when they talk in reverent tones about AUSA gigs. Maybe I'm misreading them?

And I guess I don't know what prestige gets you on a day to day basis - defense attorneys don't care, judges don't care, defendants don't care, and your own agents don't really care. I do honestly look at the nameplate on my door and am periodically amazed that I'm an AUSA. But someone who's in it for some kind of prestige as most people here seem to define prestige might be disappointed.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:42 pm

I think the prestige thing is a function of the fact that most people on this site are really only considering big city AUSA gigs which tend to lead into biglaw partnership etc.

For example, I really want to be an AUSA, but would only consider EDNY/SDNY/CDCA/NDCA/EDVA for personal reasons, and I assume many people are similar. And, I suppose, those offices tend to get very high profile "prestigious" cases, whatever that means.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:55 pm

Yeah, I kind of think that "I really want to be an AUSA" and "I would only work in [the 5 most PREFTIGIOUS offices]" are mutually exclusive, though. The vast majority of AUSAs don't work in those offices. (And I'm sure those offices have a lot of routine cases as well as the fancy ones.)

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby andythefir » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:06 pm

gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.


Prestigious because the job is desirable, desirable because the job is cool compared to other legal jobs. Trials once in awhile, working in the public interest, no billing. Doesn't hurt that in the market I'm most familiar with AUSAs make roughly 2X what top DA/AG employees make. I also don't buy prestigious defined as fun or interesting all the time. How many firms, especially top firms, fit that definition?

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby MrT » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:14 pm

andythefir wrote:
gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.


Prestigious because the job is desirable, desirable because the job is cool compared to other legal jobs. Trials once in awhile, working in the public interest, no billing. Doesn't hurt that in the market I'm most familiar with AUSAs make roughly 2X what top DA/AG employees make. I also don't buy prestigious defined as fun or interesting all the time. How many firms, especially top firms, fit that definition?

I'm not buying the 2x salary claim... It's unlikely "top DA/AG"s are making $35,000-$40,000.

https://www.justice.gov/usao/career-center/salary-information/administratively-determined-pay-plan-charts

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby andythefir » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:24 pm

[quote="MrT"
I'm not buying the 2x salary claim... It's unlikely "top DA/AG"s are making $35,000-$40,000.

https://www.justice.gov/usao/career-center/salary-information/administratively-determined-pay-plan-charts[/quote]

http://sunshineportalnm.com/sample/#section=Employee

Higher end of the DA pay scale is $80-90, where the higher end of the supervisory USAO pay scale is $160 or so.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:25 pm

andythefir wrote:
gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.


Prestigious because the job is desirable, desirable because the job is cool compared to other legal jobs. Trials once in awhile, working in the public interest, no billing. Doesn't hurt that in the market I'm most familiar with AUSAs make roughly 2X what top DA/AG employees make. I also don't buy prestigious defined as fun or interesting all the time. How many firms, especially top firms, fit that definition?

Anon who said "not as prestigious as TLSers think" - I agree with all those things and they're absolutely reasons why it's a good gig. I don't think any of those things are what your average TLSer thinks about when they say "prestigious." I don't think prestige has anything to do with being fun or interesting - biglaw is considered one of the most prestigious gigs and for most people it's neither of those things. Prestige is about money and fancy offices and big names on your cases and complex matters and being a "professional" and a certain kind of signaling to other lawyers. (I also think biglaw is generally prestigious to the average person even though they will tend to think all firms are biglaw.)

To be clear, I agree that being an AUSA a really good job. I nonetheless think there are TLSers who imbue it with an exaggerated sense of prestige.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:most people on this site are really only considering big city AUSA gigs which tend to lead into biglaw partnership etc.


You could also just say they're striver assholes and I hope they tend to get weeded out in the process in favor of people that actually want to serve the public.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 4:14 am

MrT wrote:
andythefir wrote:
gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.


Prestigious because the job is desirable, desirable because the job is cool compared to other legal jobs. Trials once in awhile, working in the public interest, no billing. Doesn't hurt that in the market I'm most familiar with AUSAs make roughly 2X what top DA/AG employees make. I also don't buy prestigious defined as fun or interesting all the time. How many firms, especially top firms, fit that definition?

I'm not buying the 2x salary claim... It's unlikely "top DA/AG"s are making $35,000-$40,000.

https://www.justice.gov/usao/career-center/salary-information/administratively-determined-pay-plan-charts


Former state prosecutor, current AUSA. I make almost double what i made as a state prosecutor. 45k-->88k

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.

...
But a lot of the work (in many offices) is pretty routine, low-level stuff - still interesting and an opportunity to learn a ton, still valuable and worth doing, but it's not prestigious work in itself. Like, a dumb alcoholic defendant buying her scumbag felon ex-boyfriend a gun can be a really fun case to try, but it's not the slightest bit fancy. In my office, even the white collar stuff is often more depressing than prestigious (small time real estate dude committing mortgage fraud locally isn't a headline-grabber).
...

Totally agree with everything you said. But as an AUSA who does white-collar stuff in a flyover district, I'm surprised by the example you used. I'd give anything to have a case against a real-estate dude committing mortgage fraud when I'm arraigning the 60-year-old woman who failed to report that she remarried and continued to cash her social-security checks. So prestigious!

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
gregfootball2001 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:. . . it's often not as prestigious as people here seem to think.)

Care to elaborate? Seems like a pretty prestigious gig to me.

...
But a lot of the work (in many offices) is pretty routine, low-level stuff - still interesting and an opportunity to learn a ton, still valuable and worth doing, but it's not prestigious work in itself. Like, a dumb alcoholic defendant buying her scumbag felon ex-boyfriend a gun can be a really fun case to try, but it's not the slightest bit fancy. In my office, even the white collar stuff is often more depressing than prestigious (small time real estate dude committing mortgage fraud locally isn't a headline-grabber).
...

Totally agree with everything you said. But as an AUSA who does white-collar stuff in a flyover district, I'm surprised by the example you used. I'd give anything to have a case against a real-estate dude committing mortgage fraud when I'm arraigning the 60-year-old woman who failed to report that she remarried and continued to cash her social-security checks. So prestigious!

:lol: :lol: This mortgage fraud case has been going on since before I got into the office and finally went to trial recently. It's a DOOZY.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:03 pm

Dude, that's awesome. The only cases that seem to go to trial in our office are drugs and firearms. Was it a long one/did it go well? Also, no worries if you don't want to pierce the anon veil too much, but are you going to the NAC for the money laundering/financial investigations courses coming up?

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:10 pm

Long for this office - over 2 weeks.

And I really wanted to go to the money laundering course, but I'm actually changing offices, and when the deadline came around I knew I was leaving here but didn't know yet if I was going to get hired elsewhere, so didn't feel I could sign up. So I'm bummed because I suspect it'll take forever before that one will come round again.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:19 pm

Yeah, bummer, I think it's once a year or so. It's great that you were able to move, though. Back on the topic of the thread, I'm actually looking to move districts at some point (I'm from a really competitive district -- one that would have never hired me when I got hired in my office). How long were you at your office? Are you going from flyover to big city? What was the process like?

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 23, 2017 1:25 pm

any protocol for following up or should i let it ride? sent app Jan 1; on Jan 4, got email notifying me resumes for AUSA positions are being reviewed for interviews. not sure if hiring freeze applies to AUSAs...

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is it at all a plus to have taken numerous federal criminal law classes in law school? (Assuming clerkship, T14, biglaw etc.)


I can't imagine that coming up in an interview, and if it did, that means the interview is going badly. If you have to reference something you learned in law school, that means you're likely to need babysitting, which is the worst impression you can give. I could see a very small exception if your schtick is "I've done a billion felony jury trials, and you can trust me to learn white collar prosecution quickly because I have a degree in accounting." I've done multiple interviews for AUSA positions, including callbacks, and I don't think I talked about my law school experience at all beyond pleasantries.


YMMV, as always, and clearly it did with the previous poster, but I want to offer a counter to this. When I interviewed for USAO/DOJ jobs, law school federal criminal classes did come up. Once, it was specifically asked, along the lines of, "you say that you've been interested in this since law school, but you didn't take a clinic, so did you at least take classes relating to federal criminal law?" Another time, I brought it up in response to a question that seemed aimed at probing my commitment to becoming a prosecutor (since my biglaw experience was more in civil litigation).

That said, I would be careful to bring it up gently and not as the be-all and end-all of why you're qualified. It's only one piece of evidence of many, and some people think (fairly enough) that law school has nothing to do with anything. That said, if you're able to say, "starting in law school I took all of the electives I could in federal criminal law, and then at the firm, I continued to try to get onto the biggest white collar crime matters to continue to gain experience in criminal law...." it could be a good answer.

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Re: AUSA/USAO hiring

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:any protocol for following up or should i let it ride? sent app Jan 1; on Jan 4, got email notifying me resumes for AUSA positions are being reviewed for interviews. not sure if hiring freeze applies to AUSAs...


This is a joke right



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