Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

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JCFindley
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:43 pm

tmgarvey wrote:
FlanAl wrote:Hey tm,

I'd really be interested in learning more about the public defense system in NJ and heck about NJ in general. What are some of the nicer parts of NJ? I'd love to be in a place that had easy beach access and easy access to Manhattan. I'd also love to work somewhere where I will get a lot of trial experience pretty quick.

Thanks for any help and advice!
Hm, I'm down in South Jersey (which might as well be a separate State), so I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to tell you much about north or central Jersey in terms of where the best beaches and access to Manhattan are. I do know that Monmouth County is gorgeous (and expensive)--that's Bruce Springsteen country, nice beaches, and not too far from NY (though I'm not that familiar with ease of travel between the two). I usually take the train, myself, if I am going to NYC.

I can assure you that any job with the PD's Office would give you plenty of trial experience. Here's a link to the site for the State: http://www.state.nj.us/defender/.

I'm a transplant from Colorado, myself, and came out to NJ in 1981 to go to law school, with every intention of going back to Colorado after graduation. I'd never spent any time in NJ, so it was a bit of culture shock when I first arrived. In the late 90s I moved back to Colorado with every intention of staying there. The city I grew up in wasn't the same at all, though, and other things did not go well, and by then New Jersey felt like home, so I moved back here for good. As much as people joke about the State, there is a lot to like (also a lot NOT to like--taxes and cost of living among them), and much of the State is surprisingly beautiful.

I also like the fact that it is relatively easy from South Jersey to get up to New York or down to Washington, and only fifteen minutes from here to Philadelphia. Places like the Delaware Water Gap and the shore are great if you like outdoor activities. The benefits for public employees here are very decent, and now that the State is attending to what should have been done long ago with regard to the pension system, hopefully there will be benefits when the younger workers retire.

New Jersey's Supreme Court currently has (and has had for years) a very liberal bent when it comes to the criminal justice system.

If there's anything else you'd like to know, feel free.


What is the best way to apply for a 1L summer internship/job with the NJ PD? I am sure I will learn some of these ins and outs once I start school but want to start looking at my options as early as possible.

Thanks.

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:54 pm

JCFindley wrote:
What is the best way to apply for a 1L summer internship/job with the NJ PD? I am sure I will learn some of these ins and outs once I start school but want to start looking at my options as early as possible.

Thanks.
If you are in school in New Jersey or the surrounding area, I'd start off by asking at your school's placement office or clinical program director. They may know how the office(s) you are interested in selects interns.

Otherwise, contact the Deputy Public Defender for the Regional Office you are interested in and ask about their internship program. The names of each Regional Office Deputy are available at the link I posted above, under "Regional Office." They should be able to tell you when and where to submit your application.

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JCFindley
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:58 pm

tmgarvey wrote:
JCFindley wrote:
What is the best way to apply for a 1L summer internship/job with the NJ PD? I am sure I will learn some of these ins and outs once I start school but want to start looking at my options as early as possible.

Thanks.
If you are in school in New Jersey or the surrounding area, I'd start off by asking at your school's placement office or clinical program director. They may know how the office(s) you are interested in selects interns.

Otherwise, contact the Deputy Public Defender for the Regional Office you are interested in and ask about their internship program. The names of each Regional Office Deputy are available at the link I posted above, under "Regional Office." They should be able to tell you when and where to submit your application.


Thank you TM. I will be at Fordham so will be looking around NYC and NJ for the most part though may reach further out to one of the states I lived in while military or growing up.

Thanks again.

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FlanAl
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby FlanAl » Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:36 pm

Hey tm,

Thanks for the speedy response! I know that the PD is a state wide system but is it kind of broken up with offices in different counties? Does the pay differ greatly depending on where in the state you end up? Word is that they kinda hire more regularly than a lot of other east coast PDs so I'm really interested in learning as much as I can.

Also you said that PDs got paid more than prosecutors. I totally respect you not wanting to go into specifics but it would be cool to know whether or not you were able to live comfortably on a prosecutor's salary.

Thanks Again!

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:18 pm

FlanAl wrote:Hey tm,

Thanks for the speedy response! I know that the PD is a state wide system but is it kind of broken up with offices in different counties? Does the pay differ greatly depending on where in the state you end up? Word is that they kinda hire more regularly than a lot of other east coast PDs so I'm really interested in learning as much as I can.

Also you said that PDs got paid more than prosecutors. I totally respect you not wanting to go into specifics but it would be cool to know whether or not you were able to live comfortably on a prosecutor's salary.

Thanks Again!
As I understand it, PDs in NJ are paid on a step-system that is Statewide. You can see what PDs are paid by looking at this page: https://www13.state.nj.us/pls/nj_public ... 9:0::NO:::. Based on that, it looks like the starting salary is $60K. (The job title is Assistant Deputy Public Defender 3). I believe (but can't say for sure) that the pay scale is the same regardless of where in the State you are working.

As far as prosecutors go, their salaries are determined by what the County is willing to pay. Our office had a collective bargaining unit, and we would negotiate new contracts every three years, which would set the starting salary and raises for the "pool" of prosecutors each year. How that pool of money was distributed, in terms of annual salary increases, was completely at the discretion of the County Prosecutor (who is appointed by the Governor in NJ, for a term of five years). It used to be that when someone making a very high salary retired, the difference between their salary and a new hire would be put back into the pool to be redistributed when the next round of raises happened. I believe that was eliminated in our last contract.

When I started as a prosecutor, I took a pay cut from my previous position with the AG's Office. At the time I was hired, though, the usual practice was to give everyone the same dollar amount raise--typically between 2 and 5 thousand. It was great for me at the time, because the people at the low end of the scale moved up much more quickly. Over the years, it was more often that everyone would get a base percentage increase, and certain people would get "merit raises". It has changed, according to who was running the office and how he saw fit to distribute the money. Every County does it differently, and there is a pretty big disparity between the highest-paying Counties and the lowest. Our office was in the upper segment, salary-wise, but not as high as some.

In our County, being a prosecutor made you a comfortable (not lavish) living standard. When I retired after 22 years, I was making $125K. The starting salary in that office is, I believe, a little more than $50K. (When I was hired in 1988 I was paid $32K and that was with three years of experience). Again, all the salary info is a matter of public record. You can check the individual County websites for prosecutor pay information by County.

I was pleased with the salary, and the benefits. My goal, as with most people who go into this kind of work, wasn't to get rich.

Edit: Sorry, forgot to answer your question about how the OPD is "broken up" between Regional Offices. Central Administration of the OPD is in Trenton. Each Region (made up of one or more Counties) has its own administration, headed by a Deputy Public Defender. They handle all matters in their respective geographical areas. I believe some of the more sparsely populated Counties have a single Regional Office, so there is a bit of traveling involved to go to the various jails and courthouses. There are times, too, when you might have a client who is already serving a sentence in State Prison, but there are generally video conferencing facilities that make it possible to meet with such a client without traveling.

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JCFindley
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:02 pm

TM,

I just wanted to say thanks again for taking your time to answer questions on this site. While very helpful on some things there is not as much information on the DA/PD side of law as there is the big law interests.

071816
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby 071816 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:06 pm

You ever prosecute any mobsters?

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:13 pm

chimp wrote:You ever prosecute any mobsters?
Nope, but I once greeted with a friendly kiss a defense attorney that I know in a bar, not realizing his mobster client was sitting behind him on the barstool.

I figure the FBI has an interesting clip of the videotape somewhere.

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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:22 pm

JCFindley wrote:TM,

I just wanted to say thanks again for taking your time to answer questions on this site. While very helpful on some things there is not as much information on the DA/PD side of law as there is the big law interests.
You're welcome. That's why I'm doing it.

I have nothing against people who want to do the BigLaw thing. It's just not my thing, and obviously it isn't what everyone in law school wants to do with their degree. That's one of the saddest things about the ridiculous levels tuition has reached--people should feel they can afford to practice public interest law. Thankfully, the new prosecutors and PDs I've encountered over the past few years seem to be as intelligent and well-educated as ever. Just a shame it has to be so difficult.

The best thing I can suggest to anyone who has an interest is to get those clinic or internship positions. You can ask all kinds of questions of the people you meet, and decide whether it's really for you. As I said, I see more people who are happy in their jobs as prosecutors and PDs than in most other areas of the law. I think it's because it attracts people who have a passion for what they do--something that's pretty hard to say about a lot of areas of the law.

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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby jreg » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:29 pm

Tm,
What would you say are common exit opportunities for someone working in a large city DA's Office? How does one make themselves competitive for these positions?
What are rarer opportunities coming from the above mentioned DA's Office? How does one make themselves competitive for these positions?

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:43 pm

jreg wrote:Tm,
What would you say are common exit opportunities for someone working in a large city DA's Office? How does one make themselves competitive for these positions?
What are rarer opportunities coming from the above mentioned DA's Office? How does one make themselves competitive for these positions?
Sorry, that's one thing that's tough for me to answer. I never had a particular interest in exiting--I retired when I had my time in, when it made sense to me. I got a nice post-retirement job, but I sense you are looking for something in private practice, and I am sadly clueless when it comes to the ins and outs of that.

If you want to stay involved in the prosecution side of things, some people do go to the AG's Office or U.S. Attorney's Office, where they can perhaps do higher-profile cases with a better salary. Some people go to mid-sized private law firms that specialize in criminal practice, or partner up with a defense attorney they have gotten to know. Some people go to other public interest work, such as a State agency, or working for the Legislature.

I suppose one becomes "competitive" for such jobs the way most jobs are landed--make good contacts, build a good reputation, network, maybe get involved in some local bar activities.

Sorry not to be of more help here--it just was never a concern of mine.

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JCFindley
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:01 pm

One more for you.

I fully expect to run into some age bias when I actually start looking for a job. Regardless if it is legal or not I am sure it out there in the private sector. My expectations are that it would be far less prevalent in government work. Any thoughts on a retired military guy starting a second career in this sector. (retired military = late 40s BTW)

JC

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:21 pm

JCFindley wrote:One more for you.

I fully expect to run into some age bias when I actually start looking for a job. Regardless if it is legal or not I am sure it out there in the private sector. My expectations are that it would be far less prevalent in government work. Any thoughts on a retired military guy starting a second career in this sector. (retired military = late 40s BTW)

JC
Shouldn't be a problem. We've hired new prosecutors in their 40s and 50s. One of the current law clerks for one of the judges is in the same age range. Actually, the maturity can be an asset. The military background would be a plus, too. For one thing, you would bond well with the investigators, many of whom have military backgrounds or current reserve status. Not to mention, you wouldn't have a problem with judges hollering at you (as they are wont to do, from time to time). :)

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JCFindley
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby JCFindley » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:30 pm

tmgarvey wrote:
JCFindley wrote:One more for you.

I fully expect to run into some age bias when I actually start looking for a job. Regardless if it is legal or not I am sure it out there in the private sector. My expectations are that it would be far less prevalent in government work. Any thoughts on a retired military guy starting a second career in this sector. (retired military = late 40s BTW)

JC
Shouldn't be a problem. We've hired new prosecutors in their 40s and 50s. One of the current law clerks for one of the judges is in the same age range. Actually, the maturity can be an asset. The military background would be a plus, too. For one thing, you would bond well with the investigators, many of whom have military backgrounds or current reserve status. Not to mention, you wouldn't have a problem with judges hollering at you (as they are wont to do, from time to time). :)


The only things that scare me in life are my father and Marine Corps DIs. Anyone else can try their best but it just doesn't stack up the same.

Thanks

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Systematic1
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby Systematic1 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:40 pm

It's a nice change to see someone taking questions that is actually interesting and informative, and not drunk. Thank you for that, and good luck with your semi-new career.

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pandamonium13
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby pandamonium13 » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:26 pm

TM,

I feel a bit embarrassed asking a question, as I'm a year removed from even being a 0L but I'm thinking about potentially pursuing a career in prosecution after law school. I'm currently two years out of undergrad, working for a bulge-bracket investment bank (but not necessarily in the banking department itself) and may soon have the opportunity to work as a paralegal at the local DA's office for the next year.

Given that the salary would be nearly half what I'm currently earning, do you think the one year of experience (while likely not performing the most exciting/substantive tasks) would be worth it or would I be better off saving money over the next year and using my time in law school to explore/pursue this path?

Thank you!

- M

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Thu Aug 02, 2012 8:21 am

pandamonium13 wrote:TM,

I feel a bit embarrassed asking a question, as I'm a year removed from even being a 0L but I'm thinking about potentially pursuing a career in prosecution after law school. I'm currently two years out of undergrad, working for a bulge-bracket investment bank (but not necessarily in the banking department itself) and may soon have the opportunity to work as a paralegal at the local DA's office for the next year.

Given that the salary would be nearly half what I'm currently earning, do you think the one year of experience (while likely not performing the most exciting/substantive tasks) would be worth it or would I be better off saving money over the next year and using my time in law school to explore/pursue this path?

Thank you!

- M
No, it's a good question. I would definitely wait for law school. Once you are in school, you will have the opportunity to do more substantive work. Here in NJ, once you are a 3L you can go on the record in court (just not in front of a jury). You could argue motions or handle a bench trial (under supervision, of course). And even a 2L is going to be in a better position to do substantive work than a paralegal--a 2L can write briefs, for example.

If you were still in college I'd say to go for it, but given how expensive law school is these days, I think you'd be better off socking some of that salary away and going for the prosecution experience and connections once you are in school. The delay till then won't hurt you, and getting a jump on it now doesn't seem like it would be helpful enough to outweigh the money considerations at this point.

Just my two cents.

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gavinstevens
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby gavinstevens » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:01 am

tmgarvey wrote:
JCFindley wrote:One more for you.

I fully expect to run into some age bias when I actually start looking for a job. Regardless if it is legal or not I am sure it out there in the private sector. My expectations are that it would be far less prevalent in government work. Any thoughts on a retired military guy starting a second career in this sector. (retired military = late 40s BTW)

JC
Shouldn't be a problem. We've hired new prosecutors in their 40s and 50s. One of the current law clerks for one of the judges is in the same age range. Actually, the maturity can be an asset. The military background would be a plus, too. For one thing, you would bond well with the investigators, many of whom have military backgrounds or current reserve status. Not to mention, you wouldn't have a problem with judges hollering at you (as they are wont to do, from time to time). :)


Continung on this, do vets get any formal preferential treatment in hiring?

Also, thanks for the thread.

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:48 pm

gavinstevens wrote:
tmgarvey wrote:
JCFindley wrote:One more for you.

I fully expect to run into some age bias when I actually start looking for a job. Regardless if it is legal or not I am sure it out there in the private sector. My expectations are that it would be far less prevalent in government work. Any thoughts on a retired military guy starting a second career in this sector. (retired military = late 40s BTW)

JC
Shouldn't be a problem. We've hired new prosecutors in their 40s and 50s. One of the current law clerks for one of the judges is in the same age range. Actually, the maturity can be an asset. The military background would be a plus, too. For one thing, you would bond well with the investigators, many of whom have military backgrounds or current reserve status. Not to mention, you wouldn't have a problem with judges hollering at you (as they are wont to do, from time to time). :)


Continung on this, do vets get any formal preferential treatment in hiring?

Also, thanks for the thread.
That probably depends on where you are. In NJ, prosecutors aren't part of the civil service system, so there is no "veteran's preference" for hiring. Maybe in other States it works differently--I really don't know. I do think that being a vet would be a good thing on your resume. It would demonstrate maturity and a commitment to public service. So, even though there might not be a formal "hiring preference" it is still an asset when you are applying for a job.

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FlanAl
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby FlanAl » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:59 am

Any thoughts on about how long it usually takes to move through the pay scale? Like how many years between Deputy AG IV to Deputy AG III?

Thanks again for all of the help

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:59 am

That, I couldn't tell you. Been a long, LONG time (25 years-plus) since I worked in the AG's Office, and even though I know people who work there, they have been there forever, too. I do know the budget is still tight for the State. If I am correct, though, there is a step system within each pay scale, so you are still getting raises, just not big jumps. You might want to check out the salaries of the various pay grades here: https://www13.state.nj.us/pls/nj_public ... 19:0::NO::: Looks like the lowest salary for a DAG IV is 62k-something.

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FlanAl
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby FlanAl » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:44 am

Thanks a bunch for your help. I know in California for PDs you pretty much go up a step close to every year and then once you're at year 5 or 6 you pretty much plateau.

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Legacy Rabbit
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby Legacy Rabbit » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:20 pm

Again,
thank you for taking the time to answer questions and "converse", with TLS posters. I personally, see the value add of the TLS site when people like yourself, those with relevant work experience, who share their personal stories.

If you may please shed some light on federal internship programs that you believe are NOW the most beneficial for one who is seeking public legal work. I ask this because you have spent from what I have read, your entire 20+ year career in the public sector in various positions.

Also please give your two cents on the legal climate in DC from what you have seen. I understand this is a general questions, but if you may give some info of your experiences/thoughts, it is appreciated.

tmgarvey
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Re: Retired prosecutor (22 years) taking questions

Postby tmgarvey » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:38 pm

Legacy Rabbit wrote:Again,
thank you for taking the time to answer questions and "converse", with TLS posters. I personally, see the value add of the TLS site when people like yourself, those with relevant work experience, who share their personal stories.

If you may please shed some light on federal internship programs that you believe are NOW the most beneficial for one who is seeking public legal work. I ask this because you have spent from what I have read, your entire 20+ year career in the public sector in various positions.

Also please give your two cents on the legal climate in DC from what you have seen. I understand this is a general questions, but if you may give some info of your experiences/thoughts, it is appreciated.
As far as federal internship programs go, it probably depends on which office you wind up in. I think the experience was VERY valuable to me, but the downside is that the feds rarely hire AUSAs who are recent graduates. They generally are looking for people with experience as prosecutors. How local prosecutors would weigh that internship experience probably varies. I could not get hired by my local Prosecutor's Office because I was not a known quantity to them. They mostly hired people who had interned with that office, or had clerked of one of the local judges. I did get hired eventually, obviously, but in terms of getting hired as a prosecutor right out of law school, an internship with the office where I hoped to work would have been more valuable. That said, I found that working in the US Attorney's Office gave me a good feel for what it is like to prosecute (albeit without the caseload that local offices have), and a lot of what I learned there was valuable to me later. I did get a glowing reference from them that helped me get hired locally three years after graduation (after I had worked three years on the civil side in the AG's Office). I also can't say that I regret the time I spent doing civil work at the AG's Office. I knew I didn't want to keep doing it for the rest of my career, but I'm still glad I got to see what that side of it is like.

I can't really tell you anything about the "legal climate" in DC. Even though my office is based there, I've only been there since I started a couple of times. You'd probably get better info on that from other students or recent grads who are living/going to school/working in the area.

Sorry I can't be of more help on that.




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