PD vs Legal aid track

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PD vs Legal aid track

Postby arose928 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 9:03 pm

Interested to hear people's thoughts on this.. I'm a 0L, just curious about future planning.

Right now the rough outline of what I want to do after law school is some sort of indigent defense/direct service/client work for several years, before moving on to something more systems-level. So I'm thinking either PD or legal aid in something like a clean slate program, etc. I understand that for PD jobs, especially where I'm at (Bay Area), they are pretty competitive and you need to pretty much gun for them from 1L on and take the right courses (crim pro, mock trial, etc). I don't know as much about getting into legal aid, but I understand that it's pretty different work from being a PD. Is there anything different you need to do to set yourself up for a legal aid type position? At what point do you need to pick a track and stick with it?

I've also read a lot about being a PD, and talked to some folks about it, but there seems to be much less out there on legal aid. Anyone working in it care to share what their work is like, and how it differs from PD? My sense is that it would be the same stressful grind/emotional toll of working with people who have just been fucked by life and the system, but also less stressful because you're not necessarily the difference between them and jail, everyone doesn't hate you, etc. Would love to hear more about it though.

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Re: PD vs Legal aid track

Postby twenty » Fri Apr 24, 2015 9:13 pm

There's not going to be a huge difference between tracks until maybe your 1L summer. For the bay area, PD pay is significantly better than legal aid pay (salaries for PDs in San Francisco start at 100k/year), and there is quite a bit more job security. The work is substantially different enough to where the credited response is probably "try both and see which you think you'd prefer." Talk to PDs and legal aid folks. 1L is long, and you'll have time to figure it out.

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Re: PD vs Legal aid track

Postby Yukos » Fri May 01, 2015 2:50 pm

These jobs are actually quite different, and I have a feeling once you start classes and volunteering you'll have a good idea which one you like more.

I only know one person who's gunning for direct services legal aid. He did a lot of pro bono work 1L, ran a pro bono 2L and is now doing a community law clinic--so there are definitely ways to show your commitment. The coursework will also be completely different, but you don't need to worry about that as a 1L.

My outsider impression is that there are many more PD jobs and they generally pay better, but they're still competitive. Legal aid usually doesn't get (much) state funding like PD offices do, so it's hard to find entry-level jobs. You might need to get a fellowship to do legal aid work. If you like the kind of work they both seem like fantastic jobs, and they should be LRAPable from a T14.


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Re: PD vs Legal aid track

Postby k5220 » Sun May 03, 2015 4:15 am

If you go into law school pursuing both, be a little careful to keep your PD options open by avoiding domestic violence advocacy stuff on the legal aid side. (PD's tend to be a little wary of people with experience that leans at all toward prosecution).

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Re: PD vs Legal aid track

Postby BlueLotus » Sun May 03, 2015 8:01 am

Another consideration is that there tends to be a lot more entry-level job openings in PD as opposed to civil legal aid.

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