Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

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Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 04, 2018 9:04 pm

Hey all, thanks in advance for coming to this thread and for any advice you might be willing to provide. Using anon feature due to my providing specific info re my situation.

Background:
Strong undergrad and very strong regional LS, both in major market resulting in strong network in that market and a corresponding lack of geographic flexibility due to this and personal circumstances. Did not oci or apply to any firms throughout Ls due to a desire to prosecute in the major market. Graduated something like 33-40 percentile in class. Published in multiple LRs.

Due to hard work, good fit, publications, and luck, landed fedclerk position in major market right after graduating. Began to consider possibility of biglaw then prosecuting, but got early offer at first choice Das office. Now been in the office two years and thinking about next step with goal of ausa. Have struck out thus far for circuit clerkships.

Current sitch:
Been applying to 1-3 year lit positions from biglaw firms in my major market for a few months. Did callback interview with only one that interviewed me. Recently got invited to interview for third year position in arguably top midlaw firm in region, which is the only one of its size to which I applied. Now I’m torn.

How strong a candidate for a lateral biglaw junior associate am I? How often do these junior associate positions pop up? I have found a good deal of success in prosecution. Should I stick with it for 3-5 more years even though the money is killing me? Should I accept the midlaw offer if I get it, with potential to lateral to biglaw? How long is my window to apply to junior biglaw lit positions out of Ada before I’m not wanted?

I do not want to do small time criminal defense and I just don’t see myself being able to deal with state govt wage long term without a nest egg or going Fedgov. FWIW, I love writing and I love the courtroom.

Any advice would be appreciated. Biglaw or bust? Take what I can get? Keep going up through Das office?

Thanks.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 04, 2018 10:42 pm

What's your current experience at the DA's office been?

I'm a current AUSA and at my large office, you would be an excellent candidate regardless of whether you stayed at the DAs office or moved to biglaw---provided that you've stayed at the DAs office long enough to try serious felonies and be involved in proactive investigations (and have people at the DAs office willing to vouch for your judgment, work ethic, and dedication to the mission).

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 3:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:What's your current experience at the DA's office been?

I'm a current AUSA and at my large office, you would be an excellent candidate regardless of whether you stayed at the DAs office or moved to biglaw---provided that you've stayed at the DAs office long enough to try serious felonies and be involved in proactive investigations (and have people at the DAs office willing to vouch for your judgment, work ethic, and dedication to the mission).


So maybe this gets to the heart of my issue. In my major market, an ausa applicant allegedly needs biglaw on their resume to be considered (probably because it’s a desirable non-flyover district).

To answer your question, I supervise a small court, done a handful of appeals and like thirty jury trials, that do include relatively serious felonies. However, to get to the grand-jury-investigation-level felonies to which I believe you are referring, I would probably have to put in another 1.5-3 years at the Das office.

So my questions are:

1. Even with a 1 year fedclerkship, wouldn’t 5 years as an ada effectively disqualify me from biglaw jobs

2. Even in a major usao market that really only hires out of biglaw, can that be made up for by 5 years as an ada plus fedclerk?

3. Can you get ausa out of relatively prestigious regional midlaw (with no biglaw) but dao and fedclerk?

4. If not, does it make sense to take a junior midlaw lit position, with my resume, to get out of the dao and learn civil lit, with the likelihood of then lateralling to biglaw a couple years later?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby gregfootball2001 » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:16 am

Anonymous User wrote:So my questions are:

1. Even with a 1 year fedclerkship, wouldn’t 5 years as an ada effectively disqualify me from biglaw jobs

Knowing nothing about AUSA hiring, I can only speak to this question. The answer to this one is probably yes, it would likely disqualify you. You're talking about coming in as a 6th year, when partnership decisions are on the horizon. You would have only 1 year of civil experience, and no book of business whatsoever. You would have no experience running the discovery process on a large case with potentially millions of documents, and frankly likely wouldn't have the writing experience either (as I understand most ADA jobs, they are not particularly writing-heavy, at least in terms of 20-50 page motions, responses, and replies). While your extensive in-court experience would of course be useful and different, true biglaw cases are primarily motions practice. Many firms (and clients) consider it somewhat of a loss if you have to go to trial at all.

That being said, your in-court experience may be much more attractive to small- and some mid- law places that have business and need someone to go into court right away.

Of course, who knows - perhaps some white-collar group would have a number of cases on the docket and needs an experienced second-chair for a few. Of course, these groups are notoriously hard to get into in the first place. So it's certainly possible, but if I had to bet, I'd say that it would be pretty unlikely.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby GreenEggs » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:41 am

You’ve done thirty jury trials in your first two years?
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:21 am

Kummel wrote:You’ve done thirty jury trials in your first two years?

Is that unusual? Don't DUI trials take like a morning?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby GreenEggs » Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:27 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Kummel wrote:You’ve done thirty jury trials in your first two years?

Is that unusual? Don't DUI trials take like a morning?


It's pretty unusual, especially considering part of your first year will be in training. Also a lot of early trials will be bench trials. Tho I'm sure there are some jurisdictions where thirty jury trials as a new ADA isn't that unheard of, but it's still a very large number.

I guess Miami is the "major" market that comes to mind, but still that's a lot.
Last edited by GreenEggs on Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby andythefir » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:54 pm

Kummel wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Kummel wrote:You’ve done thirty jury trials in your first two years?

Is that unusual? Don't DUI trials take like a morning?


It's pretty unusual, especially considering part of your first year will be in training. Also a lot of early trials will be bench trials. Tho I'm sure there are some jurisdictions where thirty jury trials as a new ADA isn't that unheard of, but it's still a very large number.

I guess Miami is the "major" market that comes to mind, but still that's a lot.


I did 30 jury trials and 70 total trials my first 2 years. I had precisely 0 training, and I did a trial the day I was sworn into the bar. It’s unusual, but not impossible, depending on the jurisdiction. Now, it’s totally fair to say that someone with that background likely has a lot of bad habits, and I would address that in any hiring context (I’ve done a billion trials, so I can do a voir dire standing on my head, but I’m eager to get better).

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:25 pm

If this major market is anything like NYC/SF/LA hasn't the biglaw ship already sailed? I've never met anyone who came to a biglaw firm after a couple of years at a DA's office.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
So maybe this gets to the heart of my issue. In my major market, an ausa applicant allegedly needs biglaw on their resume to be considered (probably because it’s a desirable non-flyover district).


Are you certain on this? I am not trying to attack your credibility, but I know in our district, which is one of the most competitive districts in the country, they take the following combinations: fedclerk + biglaw; fedclerk + DA; biglaw + DA; other fed agencies.

However, there is a rumor in the legal community here that our district only takes individuals from fedclerk + biglaw, but I know for certain that is not true. These rumors may be prevalent in all competitive districts. I just wanted to make sure that your info is correct before you make your next decision.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:58 pm

FascinatedWanderer wrote:If this major market is anything like NYC/SF/LA hasn't the biglaw ship already sailed? I've never met anyone who came to a biglaw firm after a couple of years at a DA's office.


EDNY regularly takes ADA's with good experience. At least that's what I was told by EDNY AUSAs.
SDNY is a different story, though.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
FascinatedWanderer wrote:If this major market is anything like NYC/SF/LA hasn't the biglaw ship already sailed? I've never met anyone who came to a biglaw firm after a couple of years at a DA's office.


EDNY regularly takes ADA's with good experience. At least that's what I was told by EDNY AUSAs.
SDNY is a different story, though.


OP here

So to address the discussion above, yes I’ve done 30 jury trials. It’s on the high end, but not uncommon for adas who work hard and get their discovery done by the first date, are good with witnesses, and have a bit of luck. I suppose I’m closer to 2.5 years at the Das office.

Anecdotally, in recent years, former or current Ausas have not heard of ada directly to ausa without prior biglaw experience. To be honest, I just don’t see one year as a fedclerk enabling me to be the exception, but I suppose I could be wrong.

That said, assuming I am strong enough to get interviewed at these biglaw spots (which it seems I am), wouldn’t it make sense to go that route if ausa is the goal?

Also, to address another post above, thank you for confirming my suspicion that it would be very difficult to jump to biglaw after 5-6 years as an ada. In light of that, if I get offered a junior lit position at a relatively large and prestigious regional firm, does it then make sense to take that with the goal of ausa (lateral to biglaw or go to ausa directly from there?).

I just can’t help but feeling that there are many litigation-related skills that I just have not yet cultivated and I am concerned that I will eventually lose my opportunity to do so if I remain at the Das office. Is that valid?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby andythefir » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:15 pm

I’d also add that if you’re willing to spend a few years in Guam or Yuma or Odessa, your odds of getting into a USAO skyrocket. There were postings for Guam and the Virgin Islands recently that likely get way less competitive applicants than Chicago or LA.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:43 pm

andythefir wrote:I’d also add that if you’re willing to spend a few years in Guam or Yuma or Odessa, your odds of getting into a USAO skyrocket. There were postings for Guam and the Virgin Islands recently that likely get way less competitive applicants than Chicago or LA.


I appreciate that...just due to family circumstances, I’m really not geographically flexible. I acknowledge that, even in dc, there are a good number of DOJ jobs I would have a good shot at...I just can’t move to dc.

Do usaos in competitive spots ever hire out of midlaw I’d the experience is good and if there’s a clerkship there?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:What's your current experience at the DA's office been?

I'm a current AUSA and at my large office, you would be an excellent candidate regardless of whether you stayed at the DAs office or moved to biglaw---provided that you've stayed at the DAs office long enough to try serious felonies and be involved in proactive investigations (and have people at the DAs office willing to vouch for your judgment, work ethic, and dedication to the mission).


You must be in DC USAO.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:57 am

Anonymous User wrote:
andythefir wrote:I’d also add that if you’re willing to spend a few years in Guam or Yuma or Odessa, your odds of getting into a USAO skyrocket. There were postings for Guam and the Virgin Islands recently that likely get way less competitive applicants than Chicago or LA.


I appreciate that...just due to family circumstances, I’m really not geographically flexible. I acknowledge that, even in dc, there are a good number of DOJ jobs I would have a good shot at...I just can’t move to dc.

Do usaos in competitive spots ever hire out of midlaw I’d the experience is good and if there’s a clerkship there?


Listen, if you’re not geographically flexible then it is a crapshoot. There’s a limited number of slots and everyone applying will have strengths and weaknesses.

If it were me, I’d stay at the DAs office. Your competitive advantage is that you will have trial experience. If you go
to midlaw, when you apply to usao, you’ll be competing against kids from Harvard and Yale with appellate clerkships who worked at fancy firms. The way for you to get noticed with your background is being a stellar prosecutor. And even then it might not work out if you’re not flexible. Good luck though.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What's your current experience at the DA's office been?

I'm a current AUSA and at my large office, you would be an excellent candidate regardless of whether you stayed at the DAs office or moved to biglaw---provided that you've stayed at the DAs office long enough to try serious felonies and be involved in proactive investigations (and have people at the DAs office willing to vouch for your judgment, work ethic, and dedication to the mission).


You must be in DC USAO.

This isn’t the only large USAO that likes to hire former ADAs. (Large =\= “prestigious.”) My former office (large, not DC) did so regularly.

Not that any of this helps the OP, assuming these aren’t the offices they’re interested in. OP, unfortunately targeting one specific USAO can be very difficult; I know many people who started in less geographically desirable offices to be able to move back to where they wanted to be (which wasn’t automatic, but I have seen many current AUSAs be able to move to other offices when an opening arises).

In my former office the ADAs who got hired frequently had developed connections to people in the office through networking/participating generally in the local legal community. But while it was a large office the legal community at question was relatively small, which may have made it a bit easier. I know that when the office hired former local ADAs there were always a number of people in the office who could say “oh I know her from [whatever]” so they were sort of a known quantity. People from big firms often didn’t have those kinds of connections.

Of course the more an office hires former ADAs, the easier it is for current ADAs to develop connections, so again, it may not be as helpful in the office you’re targeting, but I would probably continue as an ADA and work to become known in the crimlaw community, if you can’t get to a biglaw firm known to feed into that USAO.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:35 am

OP here

Wouldn’t I have to be an ada for like 10 years to even have an outside shot at usao? In your collective experiences, how many ada years do these people have under their belt (who successfully go that route)?

So the consensus is that even very large a regionally prestigious midlaw plus ada plus fedclerk would not allow one to get into a usao at a major market?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:39 am

Former large office anon here. Former ADAs in that office usually had between 3 and 7 years, I’d say - depends a little on what experience they had and where the office needed experience. Requiring 10 years experience would be fairly unusual.

And I think midlaw + fedclerk + ADA would give you a shot at many offices, depending on the experience you accumulated in those positions (many offices will prioritize experience over pedigree), but if your local office really does only hire out of biglaw I don’t know how they’d react to it. Again, I think getting to know as many connections as you can makes up a great deal for ostensible pedigree issues - if you’re a known quantity who’s thought well of, that goes a long way.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby dudders » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:13 pm

andythefir wrote:
Kummel wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Kummel wrote:You’ve done thirty jury trials in your first two years?

Is that unusual? Don't DUI trials take like a morning?


It's pretty unusual, especially considering part of your first year will be in training. Also a lot of early trials will be bench trials. Tho I'm sure there are some jurisdictions where thirty jury trials as a new ADA isn't that unheard of, but it's still a very large number.

I guess Miami is the "major" market that comes to mind, but still that's a lot.


I did 30 jury trials and 70 total trials my first 2 years. I had precisely 0 training, and I did a trial the day I was sworn into the bar. It’s unusual, but not impossible, depending on the jurisdiction. Now, it’s totally fair to say that someone with that background likely has a lot of bad habits, and I would address that in any hiring context (I’ve done a billion trials, so I can do a voir dire standing on my head, but I’m eager to get better).


It depends on the jurisdiction, but this was pretty similar to my experience starting. Zero training, had court the first day, my first jury trial was my second week, and I did 30+ trials my first year. You get your feet wet, that's for sure.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here

Wouldn’t I have to be an ada for like 10 years to even have an outside shot at usao? In your collective experiences, how many ada years do these people have under their belt (who successfully go that route)?

So the consensus is that even very large a regionally prestigious midlaw plus ada plus fedclerk would not allow one to get into a usao at a major market?


Who told you that? The way AUSA hiring works is that the longer farther away you are post-graduation, the more expensive you become. Generally, the sweet spot is 3-5 years out. That way, you're not a new lawyer and have some experience, but you also are not as expensive as someone with 10 years experience. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anyone hired more than 8 years out in an AUSA position that isn't lateraling from main justice or coming from another USAO. I'm sure there have been, but its probably exceedingly rare.

Also, be wary, many USAOs hire fewer ADAs because 30 - 70 trials a year means you're flying by the seat of your pants. USAO investigations are slow and meticulous. AUSAs who appear in federal court are expected to adhere to procedure and the rules of evidence. There's a much greater formality to it, at least in some of the "prestige" districts. Finally, the final knock on ADAs is that they can't write and do very little of it in their job, but I think you can probably combat that notion with a very polished writing sample given that you were a federal law clerk.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Who told you that? The way AUSA hiring works is that the longer farther away you are post-graduation, the more expensive you become. Generally, the sweet spot is 3-5 years out. That way, you're not a new lawyer and have some experience, but you also are not as expensive as someone with 10 years experience. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anyone hired more than 8 years out in an AUSA position that isn't lateraling from main justice or coming from another USAO. I'm sure there have been, but its probably exceedingly rare.

Also, be wary, many USAOs hire fewer ADAs because 30 - 70 trials a year means you're flying by the seat of your pants. USAO investigations are slow and meticulous. AUSAs who appear in federal court are expected to adhere to procedure and the rules of evidence. There's a much greater formality to it, at least in some of the "prestige" districts. Finally, the final knock on ADAs is that they can't write and do very little of it in their job, but I think you can probably combat that notion with a very polished writing sample given that you were a federal law clerk.

I know former ADAs who have definitely commented on this difference, especially with regard to formality - one was initially surprised to find out that when a COP was scheduled it would be their case and theirs alone, not a cattle call for all the COPs when theirs would get done, well, sometime. I think this is something that can be learned pretty easily, though. It may also vary by district (the judges in my former large office district were much more casual than the judges where I am now). And the appellate person in my former office has also commented that former ADAs have to be taught what they can get away with in federal court because it’s VERY different from state.

But some offices will value enough the trial facility of ADAs and ability to think on their feet in court that they find hiring them valuable. These may tend to be offices with very high volume of relatively common offenses (like immigration, basic drug crimes, and gun crimes) as opposed to offices with a lot of sophisticated white collar or other really complex work. Again, it will depend on the office you’re targeting.

If you have made connections there and they’ve told you that biglaw is the route into that office, and you can’t get biglaw, you’ll have to decide whether you want to stick the ADA path and maybe try for other offices as well, or whether regional midlaw gets you close enough, and what you would want to do if the local USAO never happens.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Who told you that? The way AUSA hiring works is that the longer farther away you are post-graduation, the more expensive you become. Generally, the sweet spot is 3-5 years out. That way, you're not a new lawyer and have some experience, but you also are not as expensive as someone with 10 years experience. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anyone hired more than 8 years out in an AUSA position that isn't lateraling from main justice or coming from another USAO. I'm sure there have been, but its probably exceedingly rare.

Also, be wary, many USAOs hire fewer ADAs because 30 - 70 trials a year means you're flying by the seat of your pants. USAO investigations are slow and meticulous. AUSAs who appear in federal court are expected to adhere to procedure and the rules of evidence. There's a much greater formality to it, at least in some of the "prestige" districts. Finally, the final knock on ADAs is that they can't write and do very little of it in their job, but I think you can probably combat that notion with a very polished writing sample given that you were a federal law clerk.

I know former ADAs who have definitely commented on this difference, especially with regard to formality - one was initially surprised to find out that when a COP was scheduled it would be their case and theirs alone, not a cattle call for all the COPs when theirs would get done, well, sometime. I think this is something that can be learned pretty easily, though. It may also vary by district (the judges in my former large office district were much more casual than the judges where I am now). And the appellate person in my former office has also commented that former ADAs have to be taught what they can get away with in federal court because it’s VERY different from state.

But some offices will value enough the trial facility of ADAs and ability to think on their feet in court that they find hiring them valuable. These may tend to be offices with very high volume of relatively common offenses (like immigration, basic drug crimes, and gun crimes) as opposed to offices with a lot of sophisticated white collar or other really complex work. Again, it will depend on the office you’re targeting.

If you have made connections there and they’ve told you that biglaw is the route into that office, and you can’t get biglaw, you’ll have to decide whether you want to stick the ADA path and maybe try for other offices as well, or whether regional midlaw gets you close enough, and what you would want to do if the local USAO never happens.


OP here. This has all been very valuable thank you.

So as of now, I’m getting interviewed at maybe half of the junior lit lateral associate biglaw spots I’ve been applying for in the market. Of course, the bad spot in my application is that I’ve never actually done private practice.

Assuming I was willing to take a year, or even a two year hit for the right firm and position, would working in regional midlaw that pays like 40k off market with a great rep and a legit white collar practice be a good stepping stone to one of those biglaw jobs and eventual ausa?

Or would biglaw be like this guy did a 150 lawyer firm and even though it has a great rep, it’s not biglaw so we won’t look at him for a later even in spite of the clerkship, year or two hit, and (now) relevant experience?

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:30 pm

I really don't think anyone can answer that without knowing the office/market (which, let me add, I'm not asking you to reveal). Where have people gone from the midlaw firm? Do they get legit biglaw jobs in that market? Have any of them moved straight to the USAO? Do you know anyone in the USAO you can ask?

I can't say that a given path *won't* knock you out of consideration (not knowing your office) but I feel like you're looking for a magic ticket to the USAO that doesn't exist? I don't mean that to be harsh, it's just that targeting a specific office - especially in a competitive market - is really tough, and there isn't anything we can point to that is definitely going to get you there. What would you choose to do if the USAO wasn't on the table?

Also, when you say you're getting interviewed at biglaw firms, that sounds really promising. Have all those jobs passed on you, or are they still outstanding? Because your concerns might be moot.

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Re: Fedclerk plus 2 year ada. advice on next move

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:54 am

Anonymous User wrote:I really don't think anyone can answer that without knowing the office/market (which, let me add, I'm not asking you to reveal). Where have people gone from the midlaw firm? Do they get legit biglaw jobs in that market? Have any of them moved straight to the USAO? Do you know anyone in the USAO you can ask?

I can't say that a given path *won't* knock you out of consideration (not knowing your office) but I feel like you're looking for a magic ticket to the USAO that doesn't exist? I don't mean that to be harsh, it's just that targeting a specific office - especially in a competitive market - is really tough, and there isn't anything we can point to that is definitely going to get you there. What would you choose to do if the USAO wasn't on the table?

Also, when you say you're getting interviewed at biglaw firms, that sounds really promising. Have all those jobs passed on you, or are they still outstanding? Because your concerns might be moot.


OP here.

Still outstanding, but it’s only a couple. I guess I’m weighing a situation where I don’t have the biglaw option. Additionally, with every day that passes, the dao salary (in the long term) becomes harder and harder to stomach.

If no ausa, I might try to lateral back to the public sector and do some higher level civil prosecution at the ags office or maybe just get a bit of a nest egg and go back to the Das office.

Either way, I am concerned about missing my opportunity to learn civil lit before it’s too late and it’s really shitlaw vs tiny crim defense in the private sector

Being a judge would also be cool, which typically requires civil experience in my state



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