Best course of action for AUSA position?

(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: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 8:39 am

I'm interested in being an AUSA (criminal) but have a few hiccups on my profile. I smoked a handful of times my first semester of 1L, smoked regularly for two years preceding law school, took study drugs a few times (in undergrad), and experimented with a micro dose of a hard drug once (also undergrad). I realize those were dumb mistakes and I've decided to never do any illegal substance again, but I'd like to move past those decisions and be an AUSA or DOJ trial attorney. Would it be better to apply for an internship at the local USAO my 3L spring and thereby exhibit some interest in federal prosecution (going to be at a firm 1L and almost certainly 2L), or forego the internship and not have any record of my drug use if I apply for a USAO at least 4.5 years out of law school? I don't want to apply if I'll be auto-dinged (it's a district where marijuana is legal if that makes any different in office tolerance) nor if it'll be a red flag down the road. SF-86 only asks 7 years back so I'd be able to not admit to any drug use on the application if apply at least 4.5 years out, and there would be no record of my past use.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 1:37 pm

Show your interest early by interning or externing with the USAO. I didn't, and it's been difficult to get my foot in the door anywhere. I know people who are less qualified on paper and in practice who have gotten in largely by connections and/or pedigree. I have probably applied to 50 locations in the last few years, with three interviews in the last two months. I'm six years out of school. Half of that time as an ADA in a busy second-tier market and three years as a defense attorney. I have about a dozen jury trials (and 300+ bench trials), but most the felony ones were on the defense side. I went to a T20 school, top half, lots of clinic and externships, but no law review or clerkships. At this point, if I'm competitive for anything, it's probably only going to be smaller / rural / branch offices.

If you want to work for a larger USAO office or DOJ main justice, the common advice here is that you should go the biglaw and clerkship route. Or potentially find an SAUSA position and leverage that into a permanent AUSA job. Some smaller offices do tend to hire lawyers with local prosecutor experience, but it's hit or miss in my experience.

As far as your drug use, stop now so you can put some time between you and that. Any post-bar drug use is usually considered a dealbreaker, unless it's something like 5 to 7 years old. Disclose everything. If you are honest, it's not necessarily fatal. If you hide something and it comes up on the field background investigation though, that's an automatic DQ and potentially a criminal offense.

Also worth noting -- I know someone who was offered an AUSA position in a state where marijuana is legal. He disclosed and did not pass the background check. I assume that his use was post-bar though. I have heard of other people disclosing older, pre-bar marijuana use and having no problems, even in states where it was illegal at the time. Also keep in mind that although the SF85P/86 only go back seven years, some USAOs will ask you if you have ever at any time used illegal drugs.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 2:32 pm

OP,


I can wholeheartedly tell you that every USAO that I (or someone I know) has come into contact with has not cared at all about the legality of marijuana in the state of the office. As you know, the USAO prosecutes federal crimes, and marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Therefore, their standards for employees are driven by federal law, not state law.

Don't assume that they will be any more lenient on a history of drug use because the office is located in CA, CO, or WA.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 5:05 pm

Thanks for the responses. Yes I am aware of the illegality at the federal level, just wondering if they would be more lenient since there's no hard and fast rule for internships; I'd be outside of the 12 month range for an internship, which I've heard is the necessary but not sufficient timeline for internships. It'd be D.Mass, which I still could see being less uptight than a flyover or E.D.Va. for example. Just wondering if it's worth it NOT to apply for the internship so as to never have to disclose the drug use in the future. But since some USAO's ask for all time drug history anyways I might as well apply I guess. I definitely won't lie though, and as I said I quit after first semester 1L. I'm hoping to otherwise have good credentials down the road of course, not just banking on will+interest getting me the position

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 6:05 pm

The connections you'll gain from the internship probably outweigh the other concerns. As mentioned earlier, I know people with disclosed pre-bar MJ use who are now AUSAs, as long as it's seven years before they applied to the USAO.

And not every USAO asks you about all drug use going back to the beginning of time. That was only one of three that I've applied to. They had me fill out that form while waiting for my first interview.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 08, 2019 9:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thanks for the responses. Yes I am aware of the illegality at the federal level, just wondering if they would be more lenient since there's no hard and fast rule for internships; I'd be outside of the 12 month range for an internship, which I've heard is the necessary but not sufficient timeline for internships. It'd be D.Mass, which I still could see being less uptight than a flyover or E.D.Va. for example. Just wondering if it's worth it NOT to apply for the internship so as to never have to disclose the drug use in the future. But since some USAO's ask for all time drug history anyways I might as well apply I guess. I definitely won't lie though, and as I said I quit after first semester 1L. I'm hoping to otherwise have good credentials down the road of course, not just banking on will+interest getting me the position


I honestly would apply and, if it doesn't work out, go to an ADA office. Don't necessarily count on D.Mass. being okay with your MJ use in law school. When I interned there back in law school, the career services office made clear that the USAO really gets concerned about recent drug use and did reject people in the past for drug use. (I will say that I did have prior drug-use experience, but that occurred way before law school. I disclosed and it was okay. And I kept having to disclose for later clearance jobs, and that was okay too.)

Also, I wouldn't necessarily make my law school decisions based on the chance I have to disclose prior drug use. If you plan on doing any mid- to high-level government or law enforcement job, there is a strong chance that you will have to disclose it in some capacity. A lot of people do reckless thing when they are young. The point is to be honest about it.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 11, 2019 11:58 pm

OP here:

a few updates and additional questions--

(1) I ~accidentally took a prescription med belonging to a friend this semester (1L spring) and totally forgot. Scared of flying and they gave me one of their meds; I was so anxious that I took it without thinking, totally unaware it was a controlled substance or that she had a prescription for it.
(2) I realize that I smoked a few times in undergrad while I interned for a fed agency that had me fill out a PERSEC determination form (I believe this counts as a security clearance)

Are either of these auto-DQs for an internship in law school (would be spring 2021)? If not, should I nonetheless avoid applying for a USAO internship in a year? Would these DQ me from an AUSA position down the road (assuming 7 years without drug use)?

Really hoping the answer to the Q about full time positions is no; obviously I understand that breaking the law is wrong, but it seems a little extreme to Auto-DQ me down the road for a few non-violent drug offenses that I would be voluntarily admitting to. If that's the case I guess I should set my sights on another potential career path I guess.

TheLorax

New
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Dec 21, 2015 4:26 pm

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby TheLorax » Sun May 12, 2019 4:01 am

Some of the posters here are taking a really hard line on drug use. It is certainly possible that a DOJ in a subsequent administration will be more lenient, especially for recreational drugs which have been legalized by the states (and come on we all know use probably shouldn't have been upheld as a federal crime anyways). I wouldn't bank on it happening, but if you're in the gray area you may just want to wait and see. You may be doing that anyways if you work in the private sector for a few years.
Last edited by QContinuum on Sun May 12, 2019 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Outed for anon abuse.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 6481
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun May 12, 2019 7:35 am

Anonymous User wrote:(2) I realize that I smoked a few times in undergrad while I interned for a fed agency that had me fill out a PERSEC determination form (I believe this counts as a security clearance)


This one might be a bigger issue if you misrepresented the drug use at the time (i.e. you were asked about it and lied).

I don't think either incident alone is necessarily an auto-disqualification for an internship, but the fact that you illegally used someone else's prescription very recently won't be a great look. And when you look at it as a continuation of your prior behavior (and apparently your continued use of pot in law school), it starts to paint a bad picture.

Taking this post in combination with the OP, I'd be concerned about your application prospects. It sounds like you have an issue with substance abuse (regardless of whether you feel like you do, that's what it sounds like), and I think it's enough to interfere with your ability to get the internship. Seven years out, it may not be an issue. But your scenario goes beyond the "I smoked pot a few times in college" level. It may not be post-bar use (yet), but it looks like a pattern.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2019 10:39 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:(2) I realize that I smoked a few times in undergrad while I interned for a fed agency that had me fill out a PERSEC determination form (I believe this counts as a security clearance)


This one might be a bigger issue if you misrepresented the drug use at the time (i.e. you were asked about it and lied).

I don't think either incident alone is necessarily an auto-disqualification for an internship, but the fact that you illegally used someone else's prescription very recently won't be a great look. And when you look at it as a continuation of your prior behavior (and apparently your continued use of pot in law school), it starts to paint a bad picture.

Taking this post in combination with the OP, I'd be concerned about your application prospects. It sounds like you have an issue with substance abuse (regardless of whether you feel like you do, that's what it sounds like), and I think it's enough to interfere with your ability to get the internship. Seven years out, it may not be an issue. But your scenario goes beyond the "I smoked pot a few times in college" level. It may not be post-bar use (yet), but it looks like a pattern.


OP here. I didn't lie about drug use for the security clearance Cav. The form mentioned nothing about drugs; it was a clearance for a financial reg agency, and it was very low level I believe (just a PERSEC form).

I definitely see what you mean about how my history looks like and it sucks. I smoked 3 times in law school and accidentally abused prescription drugs though, so I'm hoping that if I put 18+ months in between me and the drug use I'll be ok to apply for an internship. I'll ask my CSO to get more info on whether it's even worth applying. My main concern is choosing between having no USAO on my resume, or having no drug use, except the security clearance MJ use which I'll have to cop to regardless.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 6481
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun May 12, 2019 5:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I definitely see what you mean about how my history looks like and it sucks. I smoked 3 times in law school and accidentally abused prescription drugs though, so I'm hoping that if I put 18+ months in between me and the drug use I'll be ok to apply for an internship. I'll ask my CSO to get more info on whether it's even worth applying. My main concern is choosing between having no USAO on my resume, or having no drug use, except the security clearance MJ use which I'll have to cop to regardless.


I think asking your CSO is a smart choice, especially if they have a person who specializes in government careers. The only thing I'd add is that you need to stop minimizing the behavior (e.g. characterizing it as "accidental"). You took someone else's prescription meds. That's it. The reason you didn't bother asking what you were about to take before accepting an unidentified pill from someone else is irrelevant. If you do end up applying, you want them to see you taking responsibility for your actions, not trying to deflect.

Anonymous User
Posts: 339648
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2019 8:12 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I definitely see what you mean about how my history looks like and it sucks. I smoked 3 times in law school and accidentally abused prescription drugs though, so I'm hoping that if I put 18+ months in between me and the drug use I'll be ok to apply for an internship. I'll ask my CSO to get more info on whether it's even worth applying. My main concern is choosing between having no USAO on my resume, or having no drug use, except the security clearance MJ use which I'll have to cop to regardless.


I think asking your CSO is a smart choice, especially if they have a person who specializes in government careers. The only thing I'd add is that you need to stop minimizing the behavior (e.g. characterizing it as "accidental"). You took someone else's prescription meds. That's it. The reason you didn't bother asking what you were about to take before accepting an unidentified pill from someone else is irrelevant. If you do end up applying, you want them to see you taking responsibility for your actions, not trying to deflect.


Noted. While I definitely will take that stance in the application, it was in fact accidental--which is what aggravates me. Thanks for the info

Barrred

Bronze
Posts: 207
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:49 pm

Re: Best course of action for AUSA position?

Postby Barrred » Sun May 12, 2019 9:03 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:I think asking your CSO is a smart choice

Chiming in to disagree with this small point, if OP means he intends to go confess his sins to the CSO and ask them for advice. My advice: Stop telling people and making a written record of your drug use. Even if you fess up and come clean on your SF-86, its better that there not be a record out there that an investigator can use to try to poke holes in the version you admit to on your eventual SF-86 (e.g., if you tell your CSO something slightly different than what you put on your SF-86 a few years later, an investigator might get records from/talk to the CSO and use that discrepancy to argue that you are lying). TL;DR: don't overshare, don't make a record of your past transgressions until you have to.



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.