Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
FuturePD
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Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:04 pm

Hi, I figured that after all I've learned from lurking here over the last 4 years or so, I should try to give something back to this community. So here goes.

I've accepted and will be starting shortly a job as a public defender. It's at a large, nationally recognized office, and I'm thrilled about the job.

I was a bit of a non-traditional student. I spent about a decade before law school working at a variety of non-profits, none of which were really related to criminal defense or law. I have a lot of public speaking experience from that work, however, including talking to and answering questions from hostile audiences, and I think that really helped me in doing the mock exercises in interviews. Before law school I did some, but not a lot, of volunteer work in poor communities. I've lived previously in the city where I'll be working. Oh, and if it matters, 3.45/171.

For me, I think the primary thing was that I came into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and everything I did in law school was designed to get me closer to that goal. I had some very good advice, and some very good luck, but I think I also helped myself by focusing on what PD offices really care about, rather than on what everyone else at my law school was impressed by (think PD internships/clinic/trial work, not grades/journal/clerkships/OCI). I graduated from a lower T14 law school, and I ended up graduating in the top third (though, just barely). I did not do law review, moot court, mock trial, or any other high profile activities. I did do a lot of volunteer work involving providing direct services to poor people.

I spent both summers, as well as most of my 2L year, at three different PDs offices. One of them was in a town near school, one is another nationally recognized agency, and one is the office I'm about to join. I also did a criminal defense clinic my 3L year. I've had quite a bit of in-court experience, starting my 2L summer, and one non-jury trial. I think that was the single most important thing to the people who interviewed me. I was never asked about grades or much of anything other than my internship and clinical experience. My interviews focused primarily on the "soft" stuff, like why I wanted to be a PD and how I would handle various situations.

Anyway, that's me. I'm happy to answer any questions about how I prepared for the job search, the application process, what to do in school, or anything else that would be helpful to aspiring PDs who are trying to figure out how to get into this field. Whatever people want to know, I'll try my best to help.
Last edited by FuturePD on Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Void
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Re: Ask a Public Defender (starting work this fall)

Postby Void » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:10 pm

FuturePD wrote:Hi, I figured that after all I've learned from lurking here over the last 4 years or so, I should try to give something back to this community. So here goes.

I've accepted and will be starting shortly a job as a public defender. It's at a large, nationally recognized office, and I'm thrilled about the job.

I was a bit of a non-traditional student. I spent about a decade before law school working at a variety of non-profits, none of which were really related to criminal defense or law. I have a lot of public speaking experience from that work, however, including talking to and answering questions from hostile audiences, and I think that really helped me in doing the mock exercises in interviews. Before law school I did some, but not a lot, of volunteer work in poor communities. I've lived previously in the city where I'll be working. Oh, and if it matters, 3.45/171.

For me, I think the primary thing was that I came into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and everything I did in law school was designed to get me closer to that goal. I had some very good advice, and some very good luck, but I think I also helped myself by focusing on what PD offices really care about, rather than on what everyone else at my law school was impressed by (think PD internships/clinic/trial work, not grades/journal/clerkships/OCI). I graduated from a lower T14 law school, and I ended up graduating in the top third (though, just barely). I did not do law review, moot court, mock trial, or any other high profile activities. I did do a lot of volunteer work involving providing direct services to poor people.

I spent both summers, as well as most of my 2L year, at three different PDs offices. One of them was in a town near school, one is another nationally recognized agency, and one is the office I'm about to join. I also did a criminal defense clinic my 3L year. I've had quite a bit of in-court experience, starting my 2L summer, and one non-jury trial. I think that was the single most important thing to the people who interviewed me. I was never asked about grades or much of anything other than my internship and clinical experience. My interviews focused primarily on the "soft" stuff, like why I wanted to be a PD and how I would handle various situations.

Anyway, that's me. I'm happy to answer any questions about how I prepared for the job search, the application process, what to do in school, or anything else that would be helpful to aspiring PDs who are trying to figure out how to get into this field. Whatever people want to know, I'll try my best to help.


When do you start?

FuturePD
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Re: Ask a Public Defender (starting work this fall)

Postby FuturePD » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:12 pm

In a few weeks. I'm lucky to have a guaranteed start date; a lot of my friends with PD offers from other offices are still waiting to find out when (and in some cases, where) they'll be starting.

Void
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Re: Ask a Public Defender (starting work this fall)

Postby Void » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:15 pm

FuturePD wrote:In a few weeks. I'm lucky to have a guaranteed start date; a lot of my friends with PD offers from other offices are still waiting to find out when (and in some cases, where) they'll be starting.


Cool. I'm starting in a few weeks too. :) (sorry- I know this thread is intended for 0Ls & students)

Edited to add: also, my question was especially dumb now that I have re-read the thread title. I was just trying to covertly determine whether we would be working for the same office!
Last edited by Void on Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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greennblue
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby greennblue » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:28 pm

Congrats on the job! How did you handle the anxiety of limiting your options coming out of law school? In other words, it seems evident that in order to land a pd or public interest type position out of school, a lot of time during law school needs to be spent demonstrating a clear level of interest (through summer work, clinics, classes, etc.). Given the employment environment and the funding that is being cut from pd offices, were you worried that the job wouldn't materialize and you wouldn't be able to pivot to another area of law?

Just FYI, I'm very interested in pursuing the exact same path but am hesitant to limit my options coming out of law school by being so focused/specialized.

Thanks!

FuturePD
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:58 pm

For me, the relevant decision was whether to go to law school at all. The only law job I've ever wanted was PD (or something very closely related in the indigent litigation field), so I had to decide whether it made sense for me to spend three years of my life and a lot of student loan money for the chance to do that. I wouldn't have gone to law school for any other purpose, so I made the decision to limit my options when I decided to go to law school in the first place. I also specifically chose a school where I could limit my debt and maximize opportunities to work at offices I would like to end up at. If I hadn't gotten into a good school with good financing, I wouldn't have gone.

I also think it helped a lot to have worked for a number of years before school, because I knew I had those skills and connections to fall back on. If the PD thing hadn't worked out, I think I might have just gone back to my previous career. I considered law school right out of college, but I'm really glad I decided against it. First, because I think I wouldn't have been as willing then to take the risk I did. And second, because the "soft" skills those jobs gave me (networking, general office skills, etc.) have helped me along the way.

Ultimately, though, I think I was probably (like many law students) unjustifiably sanguine about the job market. I just made up my mind that it was going to work out if I put my all into it, and refused to entertain the idea that it wouldn't. Which was probably really foolish. But on some level, you have to be that unrealistically optimistic to go to law school at all these days. I'm not sure that throwing yourself fully into PD or PI work is any more limiting than throwing yourself into the BigLaw track. You have to decide to do it, evaluate your options, and then just refuse to believe that it won't work out. (Which is sort of the same attitude I have about trials. Decide whether to go to trial, but once you decide to take your chances at trial, refuse to believe that you're going to lose, because any other way means that you will lose. So apparently, I did learn something useful in this process.) That attitude isn't for everyone, but it's what kept (and hopefully, will keep) me sane.

mono172000
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby mono172000 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:07 pm

Thanks for doing this. I often think being a pd would be a really interesting and fulfilling career post law school. But I definitely have some reservations about it, so it's nice to have someone to bounce questions off of.

1. How do you deal with the moral complications defending the accused? I think the hardest thing about the job for me would be working through those handful of truly gruesome cases and having to remain steadfast in your resolve for your client. I think the complications exist on both sides of the aisle, so I always make a point ask pd's and da's how they work through those tough cases internally and keep moving in the field.

2. I'm applying this cycle and think I may have a chance at some of the T14. Any suggestions on how to best compare the top schools w/r/t their ability to get you top pd opportunities? Do schools like HYS still carry the same weight if you're aiming for this field or should you try to go more local with an aim to maximize scholarships etc.

3. Do you plan to stay in public defense for your career? Is this the kind of field that leaves you without many options down the line if you wake up one day, middle aged and weary of the criminal trial grind? Do people tend to leave the field after some time and if so where do they go?

4. What does the day in the life of a big city pd look like? I know you haven't started yet but it sounds like you have a lot of exposure so you may be able to answer this question.

Thanks.

FuturePD
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:55 pm

1) I don't have moral qualms. Maybe I'm unusual (or naive--I'll accept that possibility), but I actually don't believe there's much of any moral gray area, even when it comes to "truly gruesome" crimes. Our criminal justice system is an abominable institution that, at best, puts human beings in cages like animals, breaks up families, and ruins people's ability to participate in society for the rest of their lives. At worst, it tortures and kills people. There is nothing a person can do that, in my mind, justifies sending them to an American prison as they currently operate. And as a law clerk/intern, when I've worked on particularly grizzly homicide or sexual assault cases, I still believed that those clients were being subjected to punishments that couldn't be justified by any crime they may have committed. Do I think it's appropriate to physically segregate some particularly dangerous people from society so that they can't hurt people and can get appropriate help for their problems? Sure. But that's nowhere close to what our system actually does.

If I were a doctor, no one would ask how I deal with the moral complications of treating people who may not be very nice and who may, after I treat them, use their new-found good health to do bad things. Similarly, when the government proposes to engage in massive human rights violations in our name, I think we're morally obligated to intervene, no matter who the person is whose rights are being violated. The system is wrong, and it's hurting people, and it needs to be stopped. And my job is to stop it, at least with regard to each client who comes to me for help.

Wow, that was more of a screed than I had originally set out to write. Can you tell that I get this question a lot, and that I get sort of indignant about it? Sorry. But that's how I feel. I can't speak for my colleagues. But in my mind, if you don't believe that everyone has an absolute moral right to your help, no matter what they may have done, this probably isn't the profession for you. /rant

It also helps that I genuinely like the work. It's hella cool to get to go places most people don't get to go and talk to people most people don't get to talk to and just generally stir up trouble inside the system. I like the way that makes me feel, and I like the person I am when I'm doing it. And it's still fun and interesting and challenging and awesome, even when the subject matter is something gross or the client isn't someone I'd choose to hang out with. I think--and other people who have been doing this for a long time tell me the same--that you have to both believe in the work and actually enjoy the work.

2) Apply everywhere you might get in that you would actually go if the offer were right. I think I applied to almost 30 schools. Ask for fee waivers, and put in the time, and crank out a couple dozen applications. Then, see what comes up, and play the offers against each other.

For me, it came down to three major factors. First, I wanted to go to a school with a national reach. I was ready to relocate anywhere in the country after school, and I wanted to make sure that I could be competitive for every PD job that came open my 3L year. That meant T14 or somewhere else well-regarded. I wanted to be able to say "I went to X Law School" and have offices everywhere in the country say, "Ah, yes, X, that's a great school that produces some excellent PDs." I applied to most of the T14, as well as about 15 other T1 schools in major cities I could stand to live in that have decent PD offices where I could work during school.

Second, I wanted to make sure I could work throughout school. Work experience is critical, and you need to do as much as possible as early as possible. I started doing volunteer work my first week of school, and I started working 1L spring. I didn't apply to any schools in cities that didn't have an established PD office, and I didn't apply to any schools that didn't have criminal defense clinics that gave students actual trials. I wanted to do internships and clinical work as early as possible and as often as possible, and I think focusing that way was the smartest thing I did. It was certainly the factor discussed most in my interviews.

Third, I wanted to not be totally impoverished after graduation. Yes, I looked at scholarship offers, but I also looked very carefully at LRAP programs. Some of them are much better than others. There are quite a few T1 schools now where you can end up going for free by combining LRAP and IBR for 10 years. If you're committed to a PI career, that's almost as good as a full ride with a stipend. Also, make sure your school has guaranteed summer PI funding so that you don't have to take out private loans (not eligible for IBR) to pay for your unpaid summers. I ended up turning down a bigger scholarship at one school in favor of a much better guaranteed LRAP and PI summer funding offer at the school I ended up attending

Yes, HYS are great, but there are a lot of very well-regarded schools that have as good or better resources for PI/PD students. Look into those programs specifically. And look at where the folks in the offices you want to target went to law school. Prestige matters in so far as you want to have gone to a school where your potential employer can be confident you learned something useful, and that primarily means a school they've heard of that will support your actual work, outside of the classroom.

3) I have no idea. If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I wouldn't have said that I was likely to become a PD. So, who knows where I'll be 10 years down the line. I hope I'll still be doing this, because I feel very strongly about it, and it's really fun. But my understanding is that there are lots of exit options. Obviously, appellate work or impact litigation or other forms of lawyering that are less trial-heavy are options. But also clinical teaching, public policy work, advocacy, writing, and a lot of other career paths open up if you have a couple hundred trials under your belt and a ton of stories from the thousands of clients you've met. Even some firms like the trial experience that PDs get, and government jobs are a good option too. (Just make sure that if you think you won't last 10 years, you know how your future choices might affect your debt repayment strategy.) I think that, like many high-stress careers that require long hours and hard work, a lot of people do leave. I sort of hope I won't be one of them, but I also see some real exit options if I ever want them.

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FlanAl
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FlanAl » Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:15 pm

Where did you do your non-jury trial, was it during summer or while you were at school? Unfortunately there isn't a pd office at my school but I think I will get the chance to get some court room experience up in small town court via a like independent study with one of the clinic professors (already took the clinic). Do you think that the trial was a game changer in your interviews?

Oh and rising 3L at lower t14

FuturePD
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:41 pm

FlanAl wrote:Where did you do your non-jury trial, was it during summer or while you were at school? Unfortunately there isn't a pd office at my school but I think I will get the chance to get some court room experience up in small town court via a like independent study with one of the clinic professors (already took the clinic). Do you think that the trial was a game changer in your interviews?


It was in clinic, and my trial date was after I already had my job. I knew it was coming, so I was able to tell interviewers that I had a trial coming up (actually, I thought I was going to have more, but others got dismissed pre-trial). But I don't think that one factor was dispositive. I do think that in-court experience is vital. We talked at length in several of my interviews about motions I had argued and about case strategy.

I'd definitely do anything that will get you more experience working on cases, and especially if it'll get you into court. But also ask what the opportunity cost of that independent study is. That is, are there internships or other experiences that will better position you to apply for jobs or to perform better in interviews later this year? Talk with the professor, or with some other mentor you trust, about your options.

Void
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Void » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:13 pm

Fwiw, as I mentioned I also just accepted a PD offer, and my experience was actually pretty similar to OP's. I went to law school to be a public defender, and focused my classes, writing, volunteerships/internships/jobs and clinics exclusively upon criminal law and issues faced by the indigent- a little family law, some mental health stuff, etc. I did well in school, which couldn't have hurt my job search, but I think my dedication and experience is what got me the offer. I get the sense that lots of law students are interested in "public defender or maybe prosecution," because they mostly want to practice criminal law. I would be surprised to hear that many of these types of students are successful in landing PD gigs. Most of my interviews were pretty clearly focused upon my dedication to representing indigent clients regardless of their charges or circumstances. I don't think I would have landed an offer if I hadn't made it quite clear that I had ZERO interest in prosecution. This might vary by region, office, etc., but I just wanted to emphasize the importance of establishing your dedication.

Disclaimer: typed this on my iphone while bring distracted by texts, so not the most eloquent post!

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dextermorgan
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby dextermorgan » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:21 pm

I have similar goals. I am trying to decide between participating in moot court or volunteering. The conventional wisdom is that moot court helps you out for PD jobs. Do you have any input on that?

Void
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Void » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:27 pm

dextermorgan wrote:I have similar goals. I am trying to decide between participating in moot court or volunteering. The conventional wisdom is that moot court helps you out for PD jobs. Do you have any input on that?


I hope OP doesn't think I'm usurping. In my opinion, moot court is less helpful than actual courtroom experience- even just doing arraignments and such. Moot court is practicing appellate skills exclusively, which don't actually correlate much to what you'd be doing as an entry level PD. I mean it's definitely good experience and gives you great practice at public speaking and thinking on your feet, but if you had to choose between the two, real trial-level internship experience will probably be more valuable. I'm interested to see what OP has to say about this though.

FuturePD
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:22 pm

Void wrote:
dextermorgan wrote:I have similar goals. I am trying to decide between participating in moot court or volunteering. The conventional wisdom is that moot court helps you out for PD jobs. Do you have any input on that?


I hope OP doesn't think I'm usurping. In my opinion, moot court is less helpful than actual courtroom experience- even just doing arraignments and such. Moot court is practicing appellate skills exclusively, which don't actually correlate much to what you'd be doing as an entry level PD. I mean it's definitely good experience and gives you great practice at public speaking and thinking on your feet, but if you had to choose between the two, real trial-level internship experience will probably be more valuable. I'm interested to see what OP has to say about this though.


I absolutely agree. I'd rank various activities as follows, in (very rough, totally off-the-cuff) order from most to least helpful in getting a PD gig (based both on my own experience and from talking to folks on hiring committees at a half dozen offices around the country):

  • Criminal defense clinic where you get to represent clients in court
  • Criminal defense internship (preferably more than one at different offices) where you get to represent clients in court (I put clinic over internship because they're more likely to entail formal training, and many are longer in duration, but these two might be pretty much equal.)
  • Any other criminal defense experience (an appellate clinic that was all writing, an internship where you only worked out of court, etc.)
  • Pre-law work experience with relevant populations (usually poor people of color, but also the mentally ill, at-risk kids, etc.)
  • Internships/clinics/volunteer work with relevant populations and/or that get you into court
  • Mock Trial/Trial Practice classes
  • Moot Court/ADR (fake trials are better than fake not-trials)
  • Other volunteer work/general do-gooder stuff (except for the stuff specifically mentioned below. Helping puppies=OK, helping rape victims=potentially problematic.)
  • Other clinics
  • Journal (preferably a criminal journal, but ultimately, this doesn't matter much at all, and if you seem to have spent all your time working on journal, it can actually be a negative, since that's time you could have spent bolstering your other credentials.)
  • Public speaking/debate/acting experience. Anything that says that you won't pee your pants the first time you get up in front of a jury.
  • Campus leadership (SBA, "Criminal Law Society," other orgs primarily working for the benefit of the school.)
  • Really Good Grades (I'd say probably top 10% is impressive, but 25th percentile is the same as 75th percentile as long as you graduate. Though, one guy did tell me that he's suspicious of people with exceptional grades, because all that time they spent studying torts would have been better spent volunteering at the local PD.)

And here are things that might hurt you, or that, at the very least, that you should expect to have to explain at some point in an interview, because someone will ask you why you did that, in no particular order, except that the first one is the worst:

  • Anything having to do with prosecution. If you've actually worked at a prosecutor's office, expect an auto-ding from all the top offices unless you have some truly stellar story in your cover letter about how you uncovered a massive corruption scandal and freed a bunch of wrongly convicted prisoners, and it changed your life forever, and now you believe prosecutors are the scum of the earth. At some non-"true believer" offices, you may be able to get away with a stint at the DA's office if you just say you made a mistake and now you know better. Prosecution clinic might be explainable if it was the only clinic your school had, but even then, you have to be really upset at the idea that you participated in putting people in jail. Basically, avoid this stuff if you can, because it'll be a really big strike against you.
  • Victims' rights work (e.g., advocate for battered women, rape crisis counselor.) It's too close to helping prosecutors, and they worry that you'll empathize too much with complainants.
  • Failing to take crim law, crim pro, evidence, trial ad, or some other core class that is very important to criminal litigation. Especially if you took, for example, a whole bunch of tax classes instead, because it indicates that maybe PD wasn't your first choice.
  • BigLaw SA (this will be a big deal some places, because it shows that you sold out for money, or so the thinking goes).
  • If your school has a clinic, and you didn't do it.
  • If your city has a good PD office, and you didn't work there at some point, especially during the school year, and you didn't do something obviously better instead.

The bottom line is that most offices seem to be looking for two things: demonstrated ability to actually do the work of representing indigent defendants, and an absolute, unwavering commitment to being a PD over anything else you could have done with your time. That means that they want you to have experience doing the work (and corresponding references who can say you did a good job at it), and a resume and interview persona that says this is all you've wanted to do ever since you found out that it existed. Everything you do in law school should have a purpose that advances those goals.
Last edited by FuturePD on Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:06 am

I'm not a PD, nor do I play one on TV, so excuse me butting in, but I have friends who are, and from what I know the above is excellent advice.

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dextermorgan
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Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby dextermorgan » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:47 am

FuturePD wrote:
Void wrote:
dextermorgan wrote:I have similar goals. I am trying to decide between participating in moot court or volunteering. The conventional wisdom is that moot court helps you out for PD jobs. Do you have any input on that?


I hope OP doesn't think I'm usurping. In my opinion, moot court is less helpful than actual courtroom experience- even just doing arraignments and such. Moot court is practicing appellate skills exclusively, which don't actually correlate much to what you'd be doing as an entry level PD. I mean it's definitely good experience and gives you great practice at public speaking and thinking on your feet, but if you had to choose between the two, real trial-level internship experience will probably be more valuable. I'm interested to see what OP has to say about this though.


I absolutely agree. I'd rank various activities as follows, in (very rough, totally off-the-cuff) order from most to least helpful in getting a PD gig (based both on my own experience and from talking to folks on hiring committees at a half dozen offices around the country):

  • Criminal defense clinic where you get to represent clients in court
  • Criminal defense internship (preferably more than one at different offices) where you get to represent clients in court (I put clinic over internship because they're more likely to entail formal training, and many are longer in duration, but these two might be pretty much equal.)
  • Any other criminal defense experience (an appellate clinic that was all writing, an internship where you only worked out of court, etc.)
  • Pre-law work experience with relevant populations (usually poor people of color, but also the mentally ill, at-risk kids, etc.)
  • Internships/clinics/volunteer work with relevant populations and/or that get you into court
  • Mock Trial/Trial Practice classes
  • Moot Court/ADR (fake trials are better than fake not-trials)
  • Other volunteer work/general do-gooder stuff (except for the stuff specifically mentioned below. Helping puppies=OK, helping rape victims=potentially problematic.)
  • Other clinics
  • Journal (preferably a criminal journal, but ultimately, this doesn't matter much at all, and if you seem to have spent all your time working on journal, it can actually be a negative, since that's time you could have spent bolstering your other credentials.)
  • Public speaking/debate/acting experience. Anything that says that you won't pee your pants the first time you get up in front of a jury.
  • Campus leadership (SBA, "Criminal Law Society," other orgs primarily working for the benefit of the school.)
  • Really Good Grades (I'd say probably top 10% is impressive, but 25th percentile is the same as 75th percentile as long as you graduate. Though, one guy did tell me that he's suspicious of people with exceptional grades, because all that time they spent studying torts would have been better spent volunteering at the local PD.)

And here are things that might hurt you, or that, at the very least, that you should expect to have to explain at some point in an interview, because someone will ask you why you did that, in no particular order, except that the first one is the worst:

  • Anything having to do with prosecution. If you've actually worked at a prosecutor's office, expect an auto-ding from all the top offices unless you have some truly stellar story in your cover letter about how you uncovered a massive corruption scandal and freed a bunch of wrongly convicted prisoners, and it changed your life forever, and now you believe prosecutors are the scum of the earth. At some non-"true believer" offices, you may be able to get away with a stint at the DA's office if you just say you made a mistake and now you know better. Prosecution clinic might be explainable if it was the only clinic your school had, but even then, you have to be really upset at the idea that you participated in putting people in jail. Basically, avoid this stuff if you can, because it'll be a really big strike against you.
  • Victims' rights work (e.g., advocate for battered women, rape crisis counselor.) It's too close to helping prosecutors, and they worry that you'll empathize too much with complainants.
  • Failing to take crim law, crim pro, evidence, trial ad, or some other core class that is very important to criminal litigation. Especially if you took, for example, a whole bunch of tax classes instead, because it indicates that maybe PD wasn't your first choice.
  • BigLaw SA (this will be a big deal some places, because it shows that you sold out for money, or so the thinking goes).
  • If your school has a clinic, and you didn't do it.
  • If your city has a good PD office, and you didn't work there at some point, especially during the school year, and you didn't do something obviously better instead.

The bottom line is that most offices seem to be looking for two things: demonstrated ability to actually do the work of representing indigent defendants, and an absolute, unwavering commitment to being a PD over anything else you could have done with your time. That means that they want you to have experience doing the work (and corresponding references who can say you did a good job at it), and a resume and interview persona that says this is all you've wanted to do ever since you found out that it existed. Everything you do in law school should have a purpose that advances those goals.

Thank you both. That is pretty much exactly what I figured, but it's nice to have some confirmation.

Mount Elbrus
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:34 am

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Mount Elbrus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:43 pm

There is nothing a person can do that, in my mind, justifies sending them to an American prison as they currently operate.


I am a Criminal Defense Attorney myself. Personally, I know of cases where the (now convicted) have done some absolutely horrific things, like videotape himself having sex with his wife and then re-create the exact same scenario, in detail, with his 8 year old daughter and videotape it. I know of another guy who raped an 8 year old girl, half way through he cut her open from just above her pubic bone to her neck and started chewing on her guts while still raping her.

Perhaps they can be rehabilitated, but there are some truly evil people in the world. Don't get me wrong, I have had plenty of clients that have been falsely accused and have felt great getting an acquiital, really great. It is good that you have the passion though, otherwise it can get very depressing.

Even when I know my client has done something really wrong, I can tell myself that I am his advocate and I am there to help him/her as best I can. Sometimes all I can do is get a more favorable sentence, other times I can get a confession thrown out (which was awesome because the confession was total BS and totally coerced!)

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:46 pm

Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?

Mount Elbrus
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:34 am

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Mount Elbrus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:50 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


No. I did not get them off. Rather, the prosecution failed to prove to either a jury or a judge that the person was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I would, however, take it very personally if a client was found guilty and then later exonerated because of DNA.

FuturePD
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:46 pm

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby FuturePD » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:50 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


No.

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:54 pm

Mount Elbrus wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


No. I did not get them off. Rather, the prosecution failed to prove to either a jury or a judge that the person was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I would, however, take it very personally if a client was found guilty and then later exonerated because of DNA.


What if you, in your opinion, the state did prove it's case, but you convince a stupid jury anyway?

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:54 pm

FuturePD wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


No.


Why not?

Void
Posts: 857
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:56 am

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Void » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:55 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


Me neither. Not even a little. The guy is constitutionally entitled to a rigorous defense- not a kangaroo court "I hate rapists so I am actually hoping this guy gets locked up" defense. Are you suggesting that we throw out the due process clause and the 6th amendment every time someone is accused of rape?

Void
Posts: 857
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:56 am

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby Void » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:02 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
Mount Elbrus wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


No. I did not get them off. Rather, the prosecution failed to prove to either a jury or a judge that the person was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I would, however, take it very personally if a client was found guilty and then later exonerated because of DNA.


What if you, in your opinion, the state did prove it's case, but you convince a stupid jury anyway?


If the state fails to convince the jury, then it hasn't proven its case BRD. Doesn't matter whether the prosecution has proven the case in the opinion of the defense attorney. That would be a pretty lax standard of proof, bro.

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Future Public Defender (I start next month) taking questions

Postby 09042014 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:02 pm

Void wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Would you feel personally responsible for future rapes a client commits because you got them off?


Me neither. Not even a little. The guy is constitutionally entitled to a rigorous defense- not a kangaroo court "I hate rapists so I am actually hoping this guy gets locked up" defense. Are you suggesting that we throw out the due process clause and the 6th amendment every time someone is accused of rape?


Sounds a lot like a "just following orders" defense to me.




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