Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

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AEIOU
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Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby AEIOU » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:03 pm

I'm an 0L who wants to go to law school to be a defense attorney. Most resources I've found (including this forum) are focused on biglaw and government jobs when discussing employment prospects, so I was wondering if any defense attorneys could shed some light on the job market for lawyers trying to break into the field. I'm interested in private defense in particual, although I understand that the first step is usually to gain experience in a PD office.

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fatduck
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby fatduck » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:03 pm

alright, what'd you do?

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JCFindley
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:12 pm

fatduck wrote:alright, what'd you do?


LOL Duck.....

Actually, I am interested in this as well so am going to tag this.....

I will say that DA experience is often on the CV of defense attorneys as well but that is the extent of my knowledge on it...

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tedalbany
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tedalbany » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:18 pm


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JCFindley
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:34 pm

tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423


Thanks Ted.....

I have been lurking that one but was also curious about being a defense attorney without necessarily being an ADA or PD first. Or is that considered a prereq of sorts.

AEIOU
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby AEIOU » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:54 pm

tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423

Thanks for the link. I have scrolled through a decent portion of this thread but it doesn't really get into private crim defense (with the exception of some ridiculous argument about the skills of PD's vs. Private Crim Defense that was completely irrelevant to the discussion) which is my dream.

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tedalbany
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tedalbany » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:58 pm

AEIOU wrote:
tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423

Thanks for the link. I have scrolled through a decent portion of this thread but it doesn't really get into private crim defense (with the exception of some ridiculous argument about the skills of PD's vs. Private Crim Defense that was completely irrelevant to the discussion) which is my dream.


I'd imagine all of the advice is the same, you just do the extra step of applying to many firms that do crim defense (in addition to applying to PDs, you know, cast a wide net)

AEIOU
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby AEIOU » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:03 pm

tedalbany wrote:
AEIOU wrote:
tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423

Thanks for the link. I have scrolled through a decent portion of this thread but it doesn't really get into private crim defense (with the exception of some ridiculous argument about the skills of PD's vs. Private Crim Defense that was completely irrelevant to the discussion) which is my dream.


I'd imagine all of the advice is the same, you just do the extra step of applying to many firms that do crim defense (in addition to applying to PDs, you know, cast a wide net)

That touches one of my main questions: do firms that specialize in crim defense even hire grads? My impression was that these are usually very small firms that go after experienced attorneys. I thought PD was a pre-req. I suppose I should add that the idea of going solo/partnering with a couple other lawyers is extremely appealing to me.

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kalvano
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby kalvano » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:19 pm

Most criminal firms around here look for people with DA / PD experience.

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Borhas
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby Borhas » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:46 pm

JCFindley wrote:
tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423


Thanks Ted.....

I have been lurking that one but was also curious about being a defense attorney without necessarily being an ADA or PD first. Or is that considered a prereq of sorts.


It's pretty tough, but there's basically two non-PD routes that I know of

1. get yourself on the panel (counties w/o PD offices will contract out specific cases to attorneys on their panel). You can live off the appointments as you build your reputation. You may need some experience to get on some panels. This is the go solo route.

2. work yourself into a small crim defense firm. Work part time during school and try to keep working with them afterwards. You won't be getting much money cause you'll be more of a law clerk than a trial attorney.

AEIOU
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby AEIOU » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:44 pm

Borhas wrote:
JCFindley wrote:
tedalbany wrote:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=155423


Thanks Ted.....

I have been lurking that one but was also curious about being a defense attorney without necessarily being an ADA or PD first. Or is that considered a prereq of sorts.


It's pretty tough, but there's basically two non-PD routes that I know of

1. get yourself on the panel (counties w/o PD offices will contract out specific cases to attorneys on their panel). You can live off the appointments as you build your reputation. You may need some experience to get on some panels. This is the go solo route.

2. work yourself into a small crim defense firm. Work part time during school and try to keep working with them afterwards. You won't be getting much money cause you'll be more of a law clerk than a trial attorney.


If one were to take route 2, how long before one tries cases/makes a decent income?

tmgarvey
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tmgarvey » Sun Jul 01, 2012 1:41 pm

I was a prosecutor for 22 years. I never worked as a defense attorney, but virtually every one that I know in the private bar was either a PD or a prosecutor first.

The best reason to go that route is you will gain HUGE quantities of experience in a short period of time, and you have a whole office of colleagues who will teach you the ropes before you have someone's life and future in your hands all by your lonesome. The contacts you make in that time will be invaluable resources when you do want to strike out on your own. Do not underestimate the value of getting a good working relationship with both sides of the criminal bar, not to mention the judges. If you go into private practice you will be encountering these same people, over and over again--the same prosecutors, the same defense attorneys (who may be representing your client's co-defendants), the same judges and courtroom personnel.

Making good relationships with ALL of these people is critical to your success. I had one acquaintance in law school who became a PD and proudly told me months later that all of the judges and prosecutors HATED him. He didn't get it. You don't have to sell out your clients or be best friends with the prosecutors, but the best lawyers are generally respected (and usually liked) by the other side and by the judges. You do your clients no favors if everyone hates your guts and doesn't want to deal with you. There are certain ways things are "done" and if you don't know what those are, you are not going to be providing your clients with the best representation. That doesn't mean that you always have to go along with it--there may be good reasons for swimming upstream in particular cases. But it's best to know the rules before you (judiciously, legally, and ethically) break them.

Even a couple of years as a prosecutor or a PD will be sufficient to gain that kind of experience. I wouldn't be so quick to be looking to avoid it.

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JCFindley
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby JCFindley » Sun Jul 01, 2012 3:38 pm

tmgarvey wrote:I was a prosecutor for 22 years. I never worked as a defense attorney, but virtually every one that I know in the private bar was either a PD or a prosecutor first.

The best reason to go that route is you will gain HUGE quantities of experience in a short period of time, and you have a whole office of colleagues who will teach you the ropes before you have someone's life and future in your hands all by your lonesome. The contacts you make in that time will be invaluable resources when you do want to strike out on your own. Do not underestimate the value of getting a good working relationship with both sides of the criminal bar, not to mention the judges. If you go into private practice you will be encountering these same people, over and over again--the same prosecutors, the same defense attorneys (who may be representing your client's co-defendants), the same judges and courtroom personnel.

Making good relationships with ALL of these people is critical to your success. I had one acquaintance in law school who became a PD and proudly told me months later that all of the judges and prosecutors HATED him. He didn't get it. You don't have to sell out your clients or be best friends with the prosecutors, but the best lawyers are generally respected (and usually liked) by the other side and by the judges. You do your clients no favors if everyone hates your guts and doesn't want to deal with you. There are certain ways things are "done" and if you don't know what those are, you are not going to be providing your clients with the best representation. That doesn't mean that you always have to go along with it--there may be good reasons for swimming upstream in particular cases. But it's best to know the rules before you (judiciously, legally, and ethically) break them.

Even a couple of years as a prosecutor or a PD will be sufficient to gain that kind of experience. I wouldn't be so quick to be looking to avoid it.


Thanks so much for the answer TM. Personally, I am not looking to avoid it at all so much as developing alternative plans if the hiring freezes and budget cuts continue. (I suppose I could use biglaw as a fallback. Now there is something you don't read on TLS everyday. :D)

uchi12
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby uchi12 » Sun Jul 01, 2012 3:50 pm

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Last edited by uchi12 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

tmgarvey
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tmgarvey » Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:27 pm

uchi12 wrote:In the prosecutors office you will get more experience and get to handle more cases than almost anywhere else. You can start building a client base by talking to defendants and cutting (appropriate deals).
I wouldn't recommend that--as a prosecutor you NEVER talk to defendants alone, let alone cut deals with them. Highly unethical. Of course, being a competent prosecutor gets you known in general, and it's often an asset when you do go into private practice as a defense attorney.
Last edited by tmgarvey on Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

uchi12
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby uchi12 » Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:31 pm

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Last edited by uchi12 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

tmgarvey
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tmgarvey » Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:42 pm

uchi12 wrote:I mean being a nice guy. First impressions are everything. If a past defendant is referred to you years down the road, they'll remember you as a fair person (other defense attorneys will too). I can see where that could be misleading though, thanks for pointing it out.
Being a prosecutor is all about fairness, not being a hardass. Yes, there are cases where you must be tough and unmovable, but as long as you are fair, you are doing your job. I've had plenty of defense attorneys get highly ticked off at me in individual cases, yet I had a pretty great reputation in the "ethical and fair" department. Some of them disagreed with me on a particular viewpoint or stance I took that they may have considered unreasonable, but it's how you are viewed overall that counts.

And being professional and courteous to one's adversaries pays off in dividends way beyond money. Same goes for relationships with judges. At the end of the day, even if both you and the judge got totally ticked off with each other, if you do your job well and behave respectfully, the respect is generally returned. It's all about credibility and respect, both of which have to be earned.

AEIOU
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby AEIOU » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:55 pm

uchi12 wrote:Networking is how you survive in private practice.

Echoing the above post that stresses the importance of relationships: start in a prosecutors office and make friends with EVERYONE--especially those who are higher up or those with the ability/ambitions to be higher in the future.

Make good first impressions with judges, start building relationships.

In the prosecutors office you will get more experience and get to handle more cases than almost anywhere else. You can start building a client base by talking to defendants and cutting (appropriate deals). You will have so much more money in the prosecutors office to do things that you will likely only be able to afford once in awhile as a private defense attorney. This will allow you to know what's a good investment and what isn't.

I know a defense attorney that started like I outlined, and now works as a prosecutor in a small suburb so he can continue to network while in practice.

Source: I was an intern for a private defender and at the time wanted to be one myself. I asked a million questions to multiple people and it seems like this is the credited response.
I could never work for a prosecutor. I want to be a defense attorney because I believe in that cause. I respect prosecutors and understand that some of what they do is necessary, but its not for me.

tmgarvey
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Re: Any Defense Attorneys Willing to Take Q's?

Postby tmgarvey » Wed Jul 04, 2012 3:30 pm

AEIOU wrote:I could never work for a prosecutor. I want to be a defense attorney because I believe in that cause. I respect prosecutors and understand that some of what they do is necessary, but its not for me.
Funny, because that's almost exactly the way I feel about defense practice. :)

I have the utmost respect for many members of the defense bar, and I believe they perform an essential function in the system of criminal justice. I'm just more comfortable on the other side of the bar.

Interestingly enough, I know a few defense attorneys more enamored of capital punishment, for example, than I am (I have always been against it, for numerous reasons). And my first supervisor on the Trial Team was literally a card-carrying member of the ACLU.

Both sides serve important functions, but I think most people gravitate toward one or the other as being where they, personally, are the most comfortable. I believe in a good defense, but would make a lousy defense attorney because my heart would not be in it. Same with many defense attorneys, who believe in the notion that vigorous prosecution of criminal offenses is necessary, but they prefer to be on the side looking out for the accused. Nothing wrong with that. If you do what feels right to you, you will do a better job.




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