Appellate Defender information

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Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:04 pm

What up, y'all?

Any appellate defenders on the forums? How often are new assistant appellate defenders hired, and what does the career arc look like for the most successful appellate defenders? I’m interested in doing appellate work after graduation (in 2018). My hope is that I’ll lock down a state appellate court clerkship for the first year or two (T1—top school in the state, Top 10%, journal, moot court). However, my perception is that very few young attorneys get to do much appellate work (partially because so few civil cases get that far), so I’m wondering if anybody can shed some light on what life is like as an Assistant Appellate Defender.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:36 pm

OP here--if that was a super ignorant question, and those are jobs that people only get after 5 years in practice, or something, don't hesitate to tell me that. Thanks!

acr

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby acr » Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What up, y'all?

Any appellate defenders on the forums? How often are new assistant appellate defenders hired, and what does the career arc look like for the most successful appellate defenders? I’m interested in doing appellate work after graduation (in 2018). My hope is that I’ll lock down a state appellate court clerkship for the first year or two (T1—top school in the state, Top 10%, journal, moot court). However, my perception is that very few young attorneys get to do much appellate work (partially because so few civil cases get that far), so I’m wondering if anybody can shed some light on what life is like as an Assistant Appellate Defender.


I assume that by appellate defense you mean federal public defense? If so, getting hired is extremely difficult. The reason is because federal public defenders are paid as much as AUSA's, the positions come with great benefits, the work is interesting/fulfilling, and there are very few openings. The federal public defenders I know are extremely dedicated to their work and kind of obsess over it to a certain degree. What I understand is that even getting an interview for a federal public defender position requires demonstrated commitment to defense (e.g. summer internships with defense orgs, participating in defense clinics, volunteer work, etc.) and good experience. Most of these defenders spent literally decades in the state defense system before moving up to the federal level. The others who became federal defenders somehow found a way to get into the office. For instance, one of my friends started as a research assistant (non-attorney position) and was eventually considered for the federal defender position when it opened. You should check out this site: it lists all the current openings for federal defenders. Ultimately, it will take great academic performance, demonstrated commitment to defense, the right contacts, and frankly a lot of luck.

https://www.fd.org/employment/view-vacancies

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 6:18 am

I am responding to this a year late just because the only other response is just... wrong. Appellate defense is awesome. Stable and reasonable hours, fascinating issues, closed universe of facts, few court appearances, brilliant coworkers, (mostly) smart judges, PSLF-eligibility, minimal travel, all while fighting the good fight and (occasionally) affecting change on a much broader scale than just your client's life. It's also a low-ego job... you don't get far in the world of appeals by being loud, brash, or narcissistic. There are no bros. It's pretty much just you, Word, and Westlaw. Remote working and flexible hours are increasingly common, and will hopefully soon be the norm.

At my agency, a state appellate clerkship is the most routine path to a job. Close second is coming in as a trial level PD. We don't hire out of law school. The key thing is to have one or two quality crim-related writing samples. Know what an Anders brief is and familiarize yourself with the common standards of review.

As far as career arc, I personally plan on sticking with this job until I retire. Of the two coworkers I've seen leave, one became a judge and the other a stay at home parent. The bench is a pretty common aspiration for the more politically savvy. Government jobs are pretty common as well. I've never heard of someone going to a firm.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 9:57 am

Recently became an appellate defender (less than 1 year), and so far I totally agree with the above fellow AD, except that we use WordPerfect. I came from a fast-moving plaintiffs firm, and the best part about appeals is having a few days with the door closed, focused solely on one client, one case, one issue, and being able to write and edit well, get good feedback, and produce a polished product I'm proud of that the client can feel good about too. Being surrounded by a bunch of criminal and appellate nerds is awesome. Anytime I have a question about, say, a precedential or recent appellate case, I can probably just walk to the person who argued the case and talk with them about it.

At my agency, there does not seem to be a common path here - there are some former state appellate clerks, but there are also public defenders, civil litigators, legal aid folks. Common denominator seems to be decent credentials - any combo of school, grades, work experience or commitment to the cause. As for interview, I found the ability to talk about the field generally, client relations, constitutional law, related experiences, etc., to be helpful. Experience is helpful inasmuch as you have a real sense of what trial courts are like and how to think holistically about what has happened below. The office I'm in hires at irregular intervals, so getting a job right at graduation is unlikely, but the new batch of hires runs from 1-5 years experience.


I've seen folks go everywhere - PD, AG, private firms, etc. My plan is to stay here as long as I can stand the institutional nature of everything. But the only work I would want to do outside here is federal criminal appeals, and some of the plaintiffs work I was doing before.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu May 03, 2018 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 10:58 am

And, as it's relevant, one of the Appellate Defenders in NYC is hiring right now, with positions closing on May 15 (although I think they are looking for more experienced candidates).

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 04, 2018 8:00 am

Junior Appellate prosecutor here in large metropolitan area.

My adversaries (at around my class year) have absurd resumes (ie Federal Distict and COA Clerkships, State Supreme Clerkships, former Biglaw, mostly T14, etc.) compared to my co-workers and I (Mostly T3s, some intermediate level state clerkships, maybe a Federal magistrate gig prior, etc.). The more experienced defenders seem to come from other appellate orgs through trial level.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 04, 2018 10:59 am

Echoed. I'm at an appellate defender practice at the moment. About half of the attorneys here have the kinds of backgrounds you'd more commonly associate with public defense: a wide variety of law schools plus local public/family defense. Dedication rather than credentials.

The other half are T13 grads with multiple federal clerkships, with one or two actually feeder level (HLS + SDNY/DDC/CDCA + 2/9/DC).

It's . . . pretty stark.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 05, 2018 11:59 am

Anonymous User wrote:Echoed. I'm at an appellate defender practice at the moment. About half of the attorneys here have the kinds of backgrounds you'd more commonly associate with public defense: a wide variety of law schools plus local public/family defense. Dedication rather than credentials.

The other half are T13 grads with multiple federal clerkships, with one or two actually feeder level (HLS + SDNY/DDC/CDCA + 2/9/DC).

It's . . . pretty stark.


Same appellate prosecutor from above.

Just wanted to also add that background is absolutely not an indicator of effectiveness.
On paper I'm a T3 trial dummy, but I've still bamboozled HYS grads in footnotes ("that's not even the relief you're entitled too") and oral argument ("did you not even read the record?").

If you're passionate about crim law and like legal research/writing, you're good. I've seen a lot of people attempt to use Appellate defending as a "fall back" and it just doesn't work.

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Re: Appellate Defender information

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 11, 2018 12:26 pm

Bumping this to add a shoutout to the Georgia Appellate Review podcast -- https://thelockefirm.com/georgia-appellate-review/

It's not just about Georgia law, and any nerdy criminal appellate defender can enjoy the interview discussions of fonts, parentheticals, standards of review, and all the minutae of appellate work. Worth listening to. I found it when I was applying to my current AD position, and it helped get me excited.



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