Any Federal Public Defenders here?

(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: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 25, 2018 2:17 pm

Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:55 pm

Yep. There are lots of differences district to district and office to office, and I have not been here a long time, so I might not know anything useful, but I can try to answer any questions you might have.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:24 am

I'm curious how many of the AFPDs in your office came from state PD offices. I'm currently considering becoming a PD in a major US city (i.e. NYC, Chicago, LA) and my dream job is AFPD. I've got experience doing capital defense work, interning at a state PD and state appellate defender, and I've also done some appellate criminal work as a 3L. I've pretty much interned or done a clinic every single semester in PD related work.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:Yep. There are lots of differences district to district and office to office, and I have not been here a long time, so I might not know anything useful, but I can try to answer any questions you might have.

I take it the majority of trial attorneys are experienced. Which offices can I apply to without being fluent in Spanish.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:I'm curious how many of the AFPDs in your office came from state PD offices. I'm currently considering becoming a PD in a major US city (i.e. NYC, Chicago, LA) and my dream job is AFPD. I've got experience doing capital defense work, interning at a state PD and state appellate defender, and I've also done some appellate criminal work as a 3L. I've pretty much interned or done a clinic every single semester in PD related work.


In the largest city offices like the ones you are targeting, my understanding is that they will sometimes hire local PDs with a few years experience that they particularly like. If you talk to people who have been AFPDs for 10-15+ years, this seems to have been the most common path to the job, but it was a lot more wide open back then, I think.

However, in most offices I have had contact with, it seems like the more common hiring model now seems to be to hire federal clerks who have some demonstrated interest in public service/indigent services. This is how I got my job. I did a summer with a city PD office, and another summer with legal aid, and some other stuff relevant to FPD work. AFPD was also the job I had targeted through most of law school, and one thing I wish I had done differently was to try hard for a federal clerkship. I ended up with one, but not directly out of law school, and I think things could have gone easier if I had done that. Note that unlike many other employers, FPDs seem to value federal magistrate clerkships highly, and these are much easier to get than A-III clerkships. Finally, I'd say that hiring is pretty idiosyncratic, and the above are only very broad generalizations.

As for Spanish, if the office doesn't mention it in its job announcement, it's probably not that important for the job, but will be looked on favorably. It seemed lots of people at local PD offices I had experience with spoke Spanish, but not that many at the federal level, for whatever reason.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:30 am

Thanks.

Some states require Spanish, and even many mountain states prefer it. I have no interest in North East or West coast living, so I'll be targeting the fly over states once I get a couple years in.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2018 12:55 am

Does anybody know when the Newark FDP last hired? I feel like I've been checking for years and they've never had an opening (and applications are met with a "we're not hiring" form letter).

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:27 am

I've checked the listings pretty consistently for 2+ years now, and don't recall ever seeing an an announcement for that office. However, I do not believe that every office announces every position on the employment site. I've seen a few that were announced on the federal judiciary website but nowhere else as far as I could tell.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Apr 29, 2018 2:23 pm

My school has a good deal of "design your own" fellowships for a 1yr. after graduation (~5% of graduating class and probably only 8-10% of the graduating class does PI/Gov't work). Would doing a year long fellowship with a FPD be a good way to break into an office in the same way that a magistrate/district court clerkship is?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:31 am

It would depend a lot on how interested your local FPD office was, a lot of them are just never going to hire someone without a lot of experience, and in that case it might be a waste of a valuable year for you. However if it is a larger office with some degree of turnover, it might be a good idea. If you have any ties and can ask frankly if it’s the sort of thing that could possibly lead to a job, I’d ask. Otherwise I would be wary, because if you did a full year with an FPD You might end up without a job there, and still not have a lot of experience that other employers would be interested in.

Another thing to consider is what kind of duties they will let you perform. I would imagine that you would be more like a research and writing specialist then an AFPD. That would be good experience, but some offices might not know what to do with you, or be worried about letting you do anything directly with clients. So to sum up, it’s hard to say. Sorry.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2018 5:19 am

I'm a newish AFPD, and paths to the job vary a lot, depending on the district. From having attended national conferences, it seems like the county PD to AFPD path is very common in rural districts, though it happens everywhere. Doing a federal clerkship (even with a magistrate judge or working as a staff attorney for a federal court) is very helpful. Big city offices tend to care more about credentials and prestige, and the jobs are extremely competitive.

In general, the biggest difference between federal and state practice is that the level of motions practice, research, and writing is way higher in federal court. Having writing samples that show you can make a complex legal argument is very important. Your appellate experience would be looked upon favorably for sure.

Also, be sure to check out the Federal Defenders of San Diego. They are one of the few offices that routinely hires people straight out of law school. They do great work in a busy border district and have a very good training program for new attorneys. (Though certainly a plus, Spanish fluency is not required; they have staff interpreters.)

User avatar
anon sequitur

Silver
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:14 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby anon sequitur » Wed May 02, 2018 4:58 pm

Anyone know how hard the research and writing positions are to get? Are they a good way to lateral to an assistant FPD position?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 02, 2018 10:21 pm

I have an interview with a federal PD office. Is there an interview process common across offices?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 9:34 am

I had a bunch of interviews before I got my current position, they were all different, most were pretty informal as far as legal interviews go. Only a couple of places bothered with hypotheticals or other annoying things like that.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 11:57 am

anon sequitur wrote:Anyone know how hard the research and writing positions are to get? Are they a good way to lateral to an assistant FPD position?


It's very common for R&W attorneys to become AFPDs. I did. Be aware, though, that what R&Ws do in each office can vary. Generally they're not supposed to appear in court, but some offices let them argue appeals. You typically don't have a trial caseload though.

The positions are more entry level and don't require as much (or any) trial experience typically. They're still competitive, however. Like all FPD jobs just how competitive they are depends on the district. A rural office on the Mexican border in Texas is probably less competitive than a big city.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 03, 2018 12:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have an interview with a federal PD office. Is there an interview process common across offices?


FPD offices have a lot of autonomy, so my experience interviewing in a couple of offices may not translate everywhere. That said, the interviews we're pretty similar: fairly informal panel interviews. You'll be asked why you want to do indigent defense. So have a good answer to that (which can be that you think we lock up too many people and that federal sentencing is too draconian). You'll probably also be asked about experiences working with underprivileged people (i.e., our client population). In a similar vein, you may be asked about dealing with people with mental illness or people who are very difficult and uncooperative.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 07, 2018 6:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have an interview with a federal PD office. Is there an interview process common across offices?


FPD offices have a lot of autonomy, so my experience interviewing in a couple of offices may not translate everywhere. That said, the interviews we're pretty similar: fairly informal panel interviews. You'll be asked why you want to do indigent defense. So have a good answer to that (which can be that you think we lock up too many people and that federal sentencing is too draconian). You'll probably also be asked about experiences working with underprivileged people (i.e., our client population). In a similar vein, you may be asked about dealing with people with mental illness or people who are very difficult and uncooperative.


Appreciate the info. Wish me luck!

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 13, 2018 2:31 am

I have a question regarding starting salaries. I’m trying to gauge what would an attorney with 3 to 4 years of legal experience would earn the first year as an AFPD. As I understand it, the salary for an AFPD is pegged to the salary for an AUSA with the equivalent years of experience. According to the AD pay schedule for AUSAs, attorneys with 3 to 4 years experience can earn anywhere from $57,000 to about $97,000 before locality pay. Is that 3 to 4 years of legal experience generally or specifically as an AUSA?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 13, 2018 3:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have a question regarding starting salaries. I’m trying to gauge what would an attorney with 3 to 4 years of legal experience would earn the first year as an AFPD. As I understand it, the salary for an AFPD is pegged to the salary for an AUSA with the equivalent years of experience. According to the AD pay schedule for AUSAs, attorneys with 3 to 4 years experience can earn anywhere from $57,000 to about $97,000 before locality pay. Is that 3 to 4 years of legal experience generally or specifically as an AUSA?


AFPD salaries are very confusing. I still don't get the AD payscale, and the ranges are so broard that there is quite a bit of leeway to set salaries within that range.

To answer your question, I think those AD scale guidelines are general experience, but I was set at a lower grade than I was expecting, so it's hard to say for sure. I was set pretty high up the band though, and was totally happy with my initial salary.

In my office (an urban district), the boss is very good about paying us as much as they can within the guidelines. I've heard FPDs in other districts are less generous. It's hard to generalize.

But AFPD salaries are solid and some of the best pay you'll get for public-interest work. Also, you move up the salary scale pretty fast. And the benefits are decent too (5% salary match for the federal 401(k) equivalent, FERS pension, good health insurance, 4 weeks vacation after 3 years, etc.). In urban districts with high locality pay, the experienced attorneys all end up hitting the maximum salary (about $165k currently) after 10 years easily, and possibly sooner if they came in with more years of experience.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 13, 2018 10:12 pm

AD ranges are based on total years of experience practicing, not limited to time as an AUSA or FPD). The range is very broad but IME your evaluations have some effect - that is, if you get an outstanding annual review you can't be paid less than the 25th percentile, and if you have lower evals, you can't be paid more than the 75th, I think? It's still pretty opaque though. IME people start off getting paid between the 25th and 50th percentiles in a grade, but each year you move up - either to the next grade (if you move into that level of experience) or within your grade (which I think is why they start you between 25-50).

As noted, though, it can vary by office - the head has some discretion to decide how to handle money/raises/etc.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 14, 2018 12:37 am

Big thanks for the insight! In your experience, how often do you see AUSAs switching sides to become AFPDs? By the same token, have you seen AFPDs go off to become AUSAs? I’ve read that in certain urban and “prestigious” federal defender offices a candidate with prosecution experience won’t even be considered.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon May 14, 2018 8:14 am

I know quite a number of state PDs who have become AUSAs, but I don't know any AFPDs who've made that switch - perhaps in part because they need to have a certain degree of experience to get into the AFPD job in the first place, and those who are inclined to switch from defense to prosecution probably figure that out and switch before they get to the AFPD. (That's pure speculation though.) I don't know any USAO that would have a problem with hiring a former (AF)PD - having defense perspective is considered useful - although I don't know if there would be conflict issues going straight from the FPD to the USAO.

IME public defenders are WAYYYYY less likely to hire someone coming out of prosecution. Of the AFPDs (and PDs) I know, none have post-grad prosecution work (I can't say none of them, say, did an internship with a prosecutor's office during law school - I just don't know). It seems to be a culture thing because there are tons of private criminal defense folks who used to be prosecutors (state or federal) and they frequently use it as selling point to clients.

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:55 pm

How often are research and writing specialists promoted to assistant federal defenders? Does every office have a line of research attorneys waiting for their turn? If so, how long does it usually take?

Anonymous User
Posts: 325089
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:59 pm

I don't know any APFDs that started as research/writing specialists, but I'm also not sure how widespread those positions are.

Lurker19

New
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:31 pm

Re: Any Federal Public Defenders here?

Postby Lurker19 » Wed Jun 20, 2018 11:22 pm

What is the background check process like? Is it as strict as I've heard AUSA positions are, where you essentially have to get a security clearance?



Return to “Legal Employment?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.