Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

(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.
Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:03 pm

Hello all,

I have received an offer from USAO in a rural district (think AZ, OK, NM) doing criminal work (drugs/guns/aliens/fraud). I always wanted to become an AUSA and even eventually to manage an office. However, I am having second-thoughts about moving across the country (from DC) to the USAO's location. I am not married, but have a significant other. I have two weeks to accept or reject the offer.

Could some explain to me some of the benefits and skillsets I'd gain working at a rural USAO? I also am wondering about my chances of transferring offices in one to three years to a more desirable location (think NC, SC, GA, FL). I know transferring offices depends on the USA of each district, so I'd appreciate insight into how favorable my experience in rural USAO would be and perhaps the transferability of skills.

I have already looked through all the other USAO/AUSA threads on this website so I'm looking for new ideas, anecdotes and recommendations.

andythefir

Silver
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:56 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby andythefir » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:34 pm

The uncertainty in trumpland cuts both ways. In the last hiring freeze the people who got in just in time made out like bandits because new hires were frozen, but moving around got the green light. Problem with going to an office you don’t want to be in for awhile is nobody knows whether or when a given office will hire again. So you could be at the rural office a year, could be there 3 years.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:37 pm

I did basically this - started in a border district, went to another non-border district (fwiw, I’m not sure that any of the districts you want to get to are considered super competitive, as districts go, though I get that they’re more desirable to you). You will learn how to prosecute cases. That's absolutely transferable. The cases in my current district are completely different from the cases I used to work, but I learned the basics of how to pick up a file and work a case. And the basics of trial prep and discovery and the like also completely transfer. Another key is getting to know senior people in your office who will know lots of people in lots of other places and can vouch for your work as a prosecutor. Having the FAUSA get on the phone and pitch me to my new office was a huge plus. Finally, I think putting in the time in a rural district can be a good way to sell your dedication to the mission. There are definitely plenty of offices who hire out of biglaw so the dedication thing isn’t required, but it can help. (Anecdotally, a lot of the AUSAs I’ve met from the southeast started as state prosecutors, though not all by any means, so it might help.)

FWIW, the only person I know who has actually transferred has a military spouse and so was faced with moves outside of her control. So she was able to apply for a hardship transfer. Everyone else I know who has moved offices has done so by applying for openings when they occur (so my point is that you are unlikely to be able to create an opening by deciding you want to transfer at some given moment). That said, I know a whole bunch of people who went from my rural/border district to other offices (including NDCA, Ohio, CDCA, SDCA, Oregon, and Colorado, as well as the criminal division of DOJ in DC). I would say they needed at least 3 years experience to make the jump (many had more, though not always in that office).

All *that* said, the places you name are going to be a HUGE culture shock from DC if you’ve never been/lived there. I personally think AZ/NM are pretty interesting places to explore for a while (can’t speak to OK) but I’ve lived in a bunch of different places and am used to moving and not knowing people. Leaving your SO (it sounds like?) in DC would be pretty hard. And the learning curve for a new prosecutor can be very hard. So while I’m personally all about making sacrifices for a long term job goal, think about whether you’re going to be setting yourself up to succeed, based on your personal circumstances.

(I guess AZ and NM are rural, but I never thought of them that way - their defining characteristics are being border/Indian country.)

andythefir

Silver
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:56 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby andythefir » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:52 pm

I’d add to the above that New Mexico and Arizona can be radically different, and that would have a huge impact on your quality of life. Tucson or Phoenix would be a far way to travel to see a SO, but would be pretty palatable to a DC dweller. ABQ would be rough, and Cruces would be an enormous shock.

While it would help your chances to do well there, doing poorly/quitting after a few months may also hurt your chances of getting to a different office.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:56 pm

I don’t think ABQ and Tucson would be *that* different (they’re different from each other but a similar level of different from DC, I think?). But totally agree about Cruces. :lol:

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I did basically this - started in a border district, went to another non-border district (fwiw, I’m not sure that any of the districts you want to get to are considered super competitive, as districts go, though I get that they’re more desirable to you). You will learn how to prosecute cases. That's absolutely transferable. The cases in my current district are completely different from the cases I used to work, but I learned the basics of how to pick up a file and work a case. And the basics of trial prep and discovery and the like also completely transfer. Another key is getting to know senior people in your office who will know lots of people in lots of other places and can vouch for your work as a prosecutor. Having the FAUSA get on the phone and pitch me to my new office was a huge plus. Finally, I think putting in the time in a rural district can be a good way to sell your dedication to the mission. There are definitely plenty of offices who hire out of biglaw so the dedication thing isn’t required, but it can help. (Anecdotally, a lot of the AUSAs I’ve met from the southeast started as state prosecutors, though not all by any means, so it might help.)

FWIW, the only person I know who has actually transferred has a military spouse and so was faced with moves outside of her control. So she was able to apply for a hardship transfer. Everyone else I know who has moved offices has done so by applying for openings when they occur (so my point is that you are unlikely to be able to create an opening by deciding you want to transfer at some given moment). That said, I know a whole bunch of people who went from my rural/border district to other offices (including NDCA, Ohio, CDCA, SDCA, Oregon, and Colorado, as well as the criminal division of DOJ in DC). I would say they needed at least 3 years experience to make the jump (many had more, though not always in that office).

All *that* said, the places you name are going to be a HUGE culture shock from DC if you’ve never been/lived there. I personally think AZ/NM are pretty interesting places to explore for a while (can’t speak to OK) but I’ve lived in a bunch of different places and am used to moving and not knowing people. Leaving your SO (it sounds like?) in DC would be pretty hard. And the learning curve for a new prosecutor can be very hard. So while I’m personally all about making sacrifices for a long term job goal, think about whether you’re going to be setting yourself up to succeed, based on your personal circumstances.

(I guess AZ and NM are rural, but I never thought of them that way - their defining characteristics are being border/Indian country.)


Thank you for this

JakeTappers

New
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:38 pm

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby JakeTappers » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I did basically this - started in a border district, went to another non-border district (fwiw, I’m not sure that any of the districts you want to get to are considered super competitive, as districts go, though I get that they’re more desirable to you). You will learn how to prosecute cases. That's absolutely transferable. The cases in my current district are completely different from the cases I used to work, but I learned the basics of how to pick up a file and work a case. And the basics of trial prep and discovery and the like also completely transfer. Another key is getting to know senior people in your office who will know lots of people in lots of other places and can vouch for your work as a prosecutor. Having the FAUSA get on the phone and pitch me to my new office was a huge plus. Finally, I think putting in the time in a rural district can be a good way to sell your dedication to the mission. There are definitely plenty of offices who hire out of biglaw so the dedication thing isn’t required, but it can help. (Anecdotally, a lot of the AUSAs I’ve met from the southeast started as state prosecutors, though not all by any means, so it might help.)

FWIW, the only person I know who has actually transferred has a military spouse and so was faced with moves outside of her control. So she was able to apply for a hardship transfer. Everyone else I know who has moved offices has done so by applying for openings when they occur (so my point is that you are unlikely to be able to create an opening by deciding you want to transfer at some given moment). That said, I know a whole bunch of people who went from my rural/border district to other offices (including NDCA, Ohio, CDCA, SDCA, Oregon, and Colorado, as well as the criminal division of DOJ in DC). I would say they needed at least 3 years experience to make the jump (many had more, though not always in that office).

All *that* said, the places you name are going to be a HUGE culture shock from DC if you’ve never been/lived there. I personally think AZ/NM are pretty interesting places to explore for a while (can’t speak to OK) but I’ve lived in a bunch of different places and am used to moving and not knowing people. Leaving your SO (it sounds like?) in DC would be pretty hard. And the learning curve for a new prosecutor can be very hard. So while I’m personally all about making sacrifices for a long term job goal, think about whether you’re going to be setting yourself up to succeed, based on your personal circumstances.

(I guess AZ and NM are rural, but I never thought of them that way - their defining characteristics are being border/Indian country.)


Would you mind PMing me? I have an interview in a border district coming up and would love possible insight.

andythefir

Silver
Posts: 590
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:56 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby andythefir » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:24 pm

I have 2 friends that are trying to do this exact maneuver, and both are finding it way harder than anticipated. To answer the OP directly, I don’t know if the 1-3 year timeline is reasonable. I think 3-5 years in the first office is much more reasonable, and in some cases even longer. I think the hiring freeze, which is functionally only lifting now based on the number of jobs posting, meant that there’s a whole bunch of super qualified applicants applying to every single posting. I’d imagine that cohort of overqualified border district AUSAs will be competing with the usual hyper qualified applicants to the usual offices. There’s also a whole bunch of USA nominations up in the air, which can distort hiring.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 11, 2017 12:01 am

andythefir wrote:I’d add to the above that New Mexico and Arizona can be radically different, and that would have a huge impact on your quality of life. Tucson or Phoenix would be a far way to travel to see a SO, but would be pretty palatable to a DC dweller. ABQ would be rough, and Cruces would be an enormous shock.

While it would help your chances to do well there, doing poorly/quitting after a few months may also hurt your chances of getting to a different office.


Las Cruces would definitely be a huge change from D.C., but FWIW, I really like the Las Cruces/El Paso area. It really depends on whom you are as a person. If you love mega-cities, it may not be for you, OP.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:34 pm

What does the day-today look like for AUSAs in the SW? Typical hours? Weekend work?

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What does the day-today look like for AUSAs in the SW? Typical hours? Weekend work?

It depends a little on which office, what administration, and your temperament. In the SW district where I worked, there were stretches where I worked 8:30-5 and stretches where it was more like 8:30-7. Later nights and weekend work were common for big hearings, and of course, trial. How frequent any of these things are depends on intake criteria, USA approach to stats, and staffing levels (for instance, in my former district, under a previous USA, the workload was crazy, and I knew someone who'd been there about 5 years under that USA, and he had 50 felony trials under his belt - which is very high; I think 2-3 trials a year is more common. The USA when I was there kept numbers more manageable; I don't know what it's like now). When I was in trial I'd probably work weekends (both days) for the three weeks up to/including trial, and stay late most nights. If I had a big motion to respond to, that was either a weekend or a late night.

Personally I hated working weekends so would say I probably did so about 6-7x a year, but I would stay late much more commonly (however if your frame of reference is all-nighters for a big firm, I didn't stay THAT late. Like 6:30-7 a lot of nights and 9-10 pm maybe once every 2-3 weeks).

I also know of a new AUSA at another border district who is very unhappy with the workload, who works a lot of weekends (though I don't know what "a lot" means). Some of that may be the office, some of that may be that current policies make the workload worse, some of it may be an expectation thing (they came from biglaw, they're still in the worst of the learning curve, and if they thought the hours were going to be a utopia compared to biglaw, that was probably a mistake).

That said, vacations were common and respected, I don't mean that people were jetting off places every other weekend, but if you planned a vacation in advance, you weren't going to have to cancel it because someone was assigning you work, and people were very collegial about covering stuff while you were away. Some of that is probably individual office culture (my office was very family friendly(), but some is that there are a lot of attorneys doing similar kinds of cases as yours so it's easy to get coverage.

The defining characteristic of these districts is volume, and so day to day you will be in court a lot, on a lot of relatively straightforward stuff (lots of changes of pleas, lots of sentencings). You will still write/respond to motions, but maybe not at the same level of complexity as districts with a lot of complex white collar litigation.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What does the day-today look like for AUSAs in the SW? Typical hours? Weekend work?

It depends a little on which office, what administration, and your temperament. In the SW district where I worked, there were stretches where I worked 8:30-5 and stretches where it was more like 8:30-7. Later nights and weekend work were common for big hearings, and of course, trial. How frequent any of these things are depends on intake criteria, USA approach to stats, and staffing levels (for instance, in my former district, under a previous USA, the workload was crazy, and I knew someone who'd been there about 5 years under that USA, and he had 50 felony trials under his belt - which is very high; I think 2-3 trials a year is more common. The USA when I was there kept numbers more manageable; I don't know what it's like now). When I was in trial I'd probably work weekends (both days) for the three weeks up to/including trial, and stay late most nights. If I had a big motion to respond to, that was either a weekend or a late night.

Personally I hated working weekends so would say I probably did so about 6-7x a year, but I would stay late much more commonly (however if your frame of reference is all-nighters for a big firm, I didn't stay THAT late. Like 6:30-7 a lot of nights and 9-10 pm maybe once every 2-3 weeks).

I also know of a new AUSA at another border district who is very unhappy with the workload, who works a lot of weekends (though I don't know what "a lot" means). Some of that may be the office, some of that may be that current policies make the workload worse, some of it may be an expectation thing (they came from biglaw, they're still in the worst of the learning curve, and if they thought the hours were going to be a utopia compared to biglaw, that was probably a mistake).

That said, vacations were common and respected, I don't mean that people were jetting off places every other weekend, but if you planned a vacation in advance, you weren't going to have to cancel it because someone was assigning you work, and people were very collegial about covering stuff while you were away. Some of that is probably individual office culture (my office was very family friendly(), but some is that there are a lot of attorneys doing similar kinds of cases as yours so it's easy to get coverage.

The defining characteristic of these districts is volume, and so day to day you will be in court a lot, on a lot of relatively straightforward stuff (lots of changes of pleas, lots of sentencings). You will still write/respond to motions, but maybe not at the same level of complexity as districts with a lot of complex white collar litigation.


Separately, do you have any advice/tips to overcome the learning curve? Or atleast, what causes the learning curve to be so steep?

Would you say it was common for most attorneys in your office to work the hours you worked, or did you work more or less than your colleagues?

Also, what would a typical work week look? Monday’s = hearings all day? Tuesday = drafting motions, filing indictments? Just curious. I’ll be new to the criminal world and not sure what to expect.

Last, would you be ok stating which district or state you worked and which state your friend work(ed) in?

Anonymous User
Posts: 327247
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Benefits of Rural AUSA? Chances of transferring offices?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Separately, do you have any advice/tips to overcome the learning curve? Or atleast, what causes the learning curve to be so steep?

Would you say it was common for most attorneys in your office to work the hours you worked, or did you work more or less than your colleagues?

Also, what would a typical work week look? Monday’s = hearings all day? Tuesday = drafting motions, filing indictments? Just curious. I’ll be new to the criminal world and not sure what to expect.

Last, would you be ok stating which district or state you worked and which state your friend work(ed) in?

I'm not going to identify districts, sorry.

I don't think there's much you can do about the learning curve except survive it, to be honest. But I should clarify that I got hired through the honors program, so I had no practice experience (had just clerked), which is particularly tough. So the more you've practiced, the less steep the curve will be. It's just a lot of information to learn if you haven't run your own cases before, haven't done criminal law before, haven't done trials, etc. The more you've done of that, the less tough it will be. It might be helpful to review criminal procedure (even reading through the Crim Pro rules might help), for things like the different stages of a case, and you can read the local rules for your district (though frankly they may not make much sense yet).

I think I was sort of in the middle wrt hours? There were some people who came in a lot more weekends than I did, and there were probably some people who worked fewer hours (though I usually suspect it's because they're more efficient than I am). It's not entirely what you make it (if the office is swamped, you'll be swamped), but I do feel it was consistently the same people working long hours/weekends and the same people who never seemed to. I know a couple of people my supervisor had to nag to go take vacations, I know someone my supervisor had to say "if you need to work the weekend to get it done, then you have to do that."

Typical work week varies by where you are in the indictment cycle (also, just generally). Hearings will be all over the week without any regard to your schedule or day of the week or anything - entirely driven by the court's calendar. If you've just been given a case, you're going to be reviewing the file, making sure you have all the disclosure you need (hint: you probably won't), talking to the agent about what else you need, and making sure you can prove the charges. You will draft indictments and get them approved usually the week before your case goes to grand jury. Grand jury in my old district met once a week (same day every week), so if you were indicting in a given week, you'll meet with the agent to prepare the presentation day of/day before. You might have multiple cases to prepare. Once someone's been indicted you'd have to review disclosure and make sure it's ready to go out. Then there's communicating with defense attorneys about the case, potential motions, potential pleas. Then you work out a plea agreement (there will be policies governing what you can offer), get it to the defense attorney, go to a change of plea hearing, get a presentencing report, respond/write a sentencing memo, go to sentencing. If you're going to trial there's a timeline for filing pretrial motions. If you get motions from the defendant, they can come in any time.

Basically, you could be do any of these things pretty much any day and time of the week. It just really varies based on what stage your cases are at. In my old district, you were given cases every three weeks, so you knew which weeks you would be indicting, which sort of governed when all the rest of the stuff had to be done (and made things fall in clusters - I'd often have two weeks with no sentencings and then like 6 sentencings the following week). Also for whatever reason, COPs and sentencings were usually set in the morning (most hearings seemed to be), so a really rough guide was that in the morning you'd be running around to court, and in the afternoon you had more time to contact people/review stuff/write. But that's just a generalization.



Return to “Legal Employment?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.