Staff Attorney Offices

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Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:51 am

Hoping people could write a little bit about the various Circuit Staff Attorney Offices, and what kinds of experiences they've had (types of cases, workload, hours, office vibe, and post Staff Attorney jobs).

clerk1251

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby clerk1251 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:00 am

I believe there was just a thread about this on the legal employment forum (which would be a more appropriate place for this anyway).

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:26 am

I saw a thread about the D.C. Cir Staff Attorney office, but which did not answer any of my listed questions about that office, or any other. Is there another thread?

Perhaps this is the wrong area, but I thought there might be a fair bit of overlap with some less competitive clerkship applicants who also apply for Staff Attorney jobs, and the possibility that former Circuit Clerks have working knowledge of how the Staff Attorney Offices in their courts functioned. From what I understand, there is a wide variety between the various Staff Attorney Offices with regard to my listed questions (besides the exit jobs).

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby mjb447 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:55 am

Caseload tends to be habeas, 1983, certain other pro se or easy criminal appeals - chambers clerks get to work on most of the really novel, interesting stuff. Some circuits (particularly 2d and 9th) get a lot of immigration. Some offices also do jurisdictional screening, while in other circuits there are a few specialized attorneys (either SAO or Clerk's Office) who do that. Aside from those wrinkles, I think caseload is pretty consistent across offices.

Workload is generally manageable. In the circuit that I'm most familiar with, attys are expected to turn out a certain number of cases each week. I imagine output is tracked in some way most offices, if only to ensure good turnaround time.

Hours tend to be 9 - 5; you generally don't work directly with the judges, so you're a lot more free to come and go as you please.

Office vibe in the one I'm familiar with seems pretty monastic, probably partially because cases are presented via memorandum only. It's my understanding that some circuits do oral 'presentation' to judges (either via telephone or in person), so that would result in a bit more human contact.

Post staff attorney jobs vary - I think most people at least attempt to do a chambers clerkship afterward, but a lot of others go into PI/gov. A few go into midlaw, but I think that's a bit rarer, and I don't know of anyone who went to biglaw.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hoping people could write a little bit about the various Circuit Staff Attorney Offices, and what kinds of experiences they've had (types of cases, workload, hours, office vibe, and post Staff Attorney jobs).


Former Second Circuit staff attorney here. When I was there, the office handled pro se appeals, pro se motions, counseled motions, and immigration appeals (still does as far as I know). The subject matter in the pro se cases is what you would expect-- lots of employment discrimination and 1983 cases with the occasional trademark, copyright, or contract diversity case. Habeas petitioners have to move for a certificate of appealability, so you do see a fair share of those, both counseled and pro se. Counseled motions include Rule 23(f) petitions to challenge class certification, stay motions, and motions to dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The subject matter in the counseled cases is, again, what you might expect for the Second Circuit-- financial and other regulation, antitrust, intellectual property, etc. Immigration cases are mostly BIA appeals on the non-argument calendar. The cases range in difficulty, novelty, and, for me, the extent to which they piqued my interest.

The workload depends very much on what cases you happen to be assigned at the time. Generally, it's intense but manageable. Expectations for the quality of your work are quite high, and most judges will not hesitate to pick up the phone or send an email with any questions about your conclusions. You're generally expected to handle a particular number of cases per month. Your work product is a memo to the panel and draft orders, draft summary orders, and draft opinions. Hours are generally something in the range of 9-5, although you will occasionally get hit with a rough caseload or an emergency motion that keeps you working much longer.

Office vibe is collegial and, yes, a bit monastic. My colleagues were smart and capable, and the judges seemed to really appreciate our work.

Judging from the experience of my former colleagues and perusing the alumni directory, post-SAO jobs run the gamut: big government, elbow clerkships, prosecutors, firms of all sizes, and public interest.

As you can probably tell, I thought it was a great first legal job, and I think most of my former colleagues share that view.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby mjb447 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Hoping people could write a little bit about the various Circuit Staff Attorney Offices, and what kinds of experiences they've had (types of cases, workload, hours, office vibe, and post Staff Attorney jobs).


Former Second Circuit staff attorney here. When I was there, the office handled pro se appeals, pro se motions, counseled motions, and immigration appeals (still does as far as I know). The subject matter in the pro se cases is what you would expect-- lots of employment discrimination and 1983 cases with the occasional trademark, copyright, or contract diversity case. Habeas petitioners have to move for a certificate of appealability, so you do see a fair share of those, both counseled and pro se. Counseled motions include Rule 23(f) petitions to challenge class certification, stay motions, and motions to dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The subject matter in the counseled cases is, again, what you might expect for the Second Circuit-- financial and other regulation, antitrust, intellectual property, etc. Immigration cases are mostly BIA appeals on the non-argument calendar. The cases range in difficulty, novelty, and, for me, the extent to which they piqued my interest.

The workload depends very much on what cases you happen to be assigned at the time. Generally, it's intense but manageable. Expectations for the quality of your work are quite high, and most judges will not hesitate to pick up the phone or send an email with any questions about your conclusions. You're generally expected to handle a particular number of cases per month. Your work product is a memo to the panel and draft orders, draft summary orders, and draft opinions. Hours are generally something in the range of 9-5, although you will occasionally get hit with a rough caseload or an emergency motion that keeps you working much longer.

Office vibe is collegial and, yes, a bit monastic. My colleagues were smart and capable, and the judges seemed to really appreciate our work.

Judging from the experience of my former colleagues and perusing the alumni directory, post-SAO jobs run the gamut: big government, elbow clerkships, prosecutors, firms of all sizes, and public interest.

As you can probably tell, I thought it was a great first legal job, and I think most of my former colleagues share that view.


Agree with this. It's a pretty great first job, even if it's not as desirable as a chambers clerkship for the goals that a lot of people have.
Last edited by mjb447 on Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:30 am

Former 8th Cir (St. Louis) SAO here.

Great job.
Very collegial office.
Great training for young attorneys - drastically improves your writing style.
Office mix of about 50% career/term, so lots of mentorship.
Wide range of work - 1983, employment, tax, habeas, anders, etc.
Some judges occasionally request SA's to do some chambers work on hearing panel cases (bench memo and opinion if that judge ends up the author), which is great for snagging another solid reference.

Generally 9-5ish with some flexibility and intermittent telework capabilities.
Caveat to hours is things can get hectic when something big happens that affects prisoners' rights, like a SCOTUS ruling (see, e.g., Johnson) or a Sentencing Guidelines revisions. Usually prisoners have a limited time to take action, so they all do, the DJs handle them around the same time, and then the appeals come rushing in.

Exit opportunities seem pretty wide - lots of government, firms of different sizes (not sure about big law), DJ and COA clerkships, etc.

Also, St. Louis is super cheap/affordable and it's easy to get short flights anywhere.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:36 pm

Any info on 1st, 3rd, or 10th Circuits?

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Mar 28, 2017 2:55 pm

co-clerk came from 11th Cir. SA, and he told me that 9th and 11th Cir. are the busiest SAs, which are where the best training happens.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:41 pm

Any info on 1st, 3rd, or 10th Circuits?


Former CA3 Staff Attorney. I loved my time there. Hours were generally 9-5:30, with flexible schedules entering the picture a bit later on. Staff Attorneys handled almost all pro se appeals and petitions (at both screening and merits stages) and all certificate-of-appealability-stage post-conviction proceedings. The office used to be the first set of eyes on all immigration petitions whether counseled or not, but the counseled petitions have since been reassigned to chambers. The pro se appeals were surprisingly varied; while the vast majority were things like 1983 suits and prisoner litigation, we'd get bankruptcy appeals, tax cases, and so on fairly often. I learned a ton, and there's something to be said for having to figure out what the heck is supposed to happen without, in some cases, any briefing to guide you.

Productivity was measured on cases completed. I never found the expectations to be daunting, especially on the entry-level track. The supervisors are lovely people with a great wealth of knowledge about...well, pretty much everything. A person I know worked at both the CA2 and CA3 offices, and said that the atmosphere at CA3 was markedly more collegial, with individual attorneys generally allowed greater freedom and creativity with regard to the disposition of their cases.

Downsides: very, very limit interaction with the judges, outside of a select few who are known to reach out directly. It's definitely nerdy, and you do get a sense that the elbow clerks look down their noses at you. Most people don't know what Staff Attorneys do, of course, which can make job-hunting difficult. Also, thanks to a certain space-stealing enthusiast, the Office is being forced out of its comfortable digs in the federal building and is being moved into a drab, windowless cave in the CA3 library.

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Re: Staff Attorney Offices

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:23 pm

CA3 and CA2 posted openings...any idea what the stats of people offered there were/exit options? Did decent at t14 but probably just out of range for a DC clerkship w/o experience.



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