Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

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brinicolec

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Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby brinicolec » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:25 am

I know this is a vague/possibly weird question, but I'm a current 0L wondering about the pay difference between being a PD vs. a BL and whether or not those who choose to be a PD (or ADA, which I included because I think the salaries are comparable --- right?) may regret it when faced with the salary/paying off any potential debt/wanting to live comfortably.

I guess, basically, my question is whether or not any ADA/PDs have found the lower salary so low that it causes them to feel tight on money/has forced them to get another job (especially those of you who are single). I've read articles (dated a couple years back, I believe) talking about people having to get second jobs because the pay wasn't enough and things of that nature and that just really terrifies me/turns me off from the idea of being a PD because I don't want to go to LS and end up feeling like I can barely afford to live comfortably.

*By live comfortably, I obviously don't mean a massive house and a luxury vehicle and what not. I mean being able to live somewhere nice, not worry about paying bills/affording necessities, and still having money to spend on things for myself occasionally.

As far as I know, there's not really any thread addressing this, but if there is *and it's recent*, I'd appreciate someone linking to it.

Also, if there are other reasons (not salary-related) that you may have for regretting being an ADA/PD over taking a BL job, I'd be interested in those as well.

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Thelaw23

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby Thelaw23 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:33 am

0L here - I've always envisioned myself being a prosecutor. I'm really trying to make AUSA my end goal, regardless of how difficult/impossible/far off it might be.

Although this is a bit off-topic about the salary thing, I just want to add something about the workload of an ADA (an I am assuming PD is similar)

ADA has also always caught my interest, and I might definitely intern at a DA's office. From the things I heard from people who interned at the office and worked as ADA's, however, is that they are insanely overworked in terms of case load. Yeah, they don't have the same grueling hours as BL, but the whole idea of being a prosecutor "meting out justice" and really giving it your all on every case/being fair gets lost as you have hundreds of cases on at the same time that you are going through them just to be done with them and keep up.

This is only anecdotal stuff from a major market DA's office, though.

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brinicolec

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby brinicolec » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:52 pm

Thelaw23 wrote:0L here - I've always envisioned myself being a prosecutor. I'm really trying to make AUSA my end goal, regardless of how difficult/impossible/far off it might be.

Although this is a bit off-topic about the salary thing, I just want to add something about the workload of an ADA (an I am assuming PD is similar)

ADA has also always caught my interest, and I might definitely intern at a DA's office. From the things I heard from people who interned at the office and worked as ADA's, however, is that they are insanely overworked in terms of case load. Yeah, they don't have the same grueling hours as BL, but the whole idea of being a prosecutor "meting out justice" and really giving it your all on every case/being fair gets lost as you have hundreds of cases on at the same time that you are going through them just to be done with them and keep up.

This is only anecdotal stuff from a major market DA's office, though.


My understanding is that's true, and I think that I'd be fine with that (a heavy caseload, not cases kinda getting lost in it all lol)

My major concern is articles about PDs needing second jobs or things like that movie Gideon's Army where PDs are talking about how very LITTLE they have after paying their bills. As much as I think I'd enjoy PD work, I can't envision any career that has me hoping $3 worth of gas will last me two more days because it's all I can afford will allow me to be happy.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby arose928 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:04 pm

It's pretty hard to generalize because it depends on the market. PDs in the Bay Area, for example, make a pretty decent living - depending on the county, starts at like $60-90k and goes pretty steadily up from there. But there are places in the country where yeah PDs are making $40k and struggling to survive. So it just depends on where you want to be. PDs are government employees so you should be able to look up their salaries though and get a sense of what you could be making (but keep in mind that the numbers you'll find may take a number of years to get to)

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zot1

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby zot1 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:11 pm

I don't think you can live comfortably in the Bay Area making 60k-90k.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby arose928 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:20 pm

You can, I've done it for years... and that's just to start. Like I said, you get pretty steady raises/promotions each year.

What I should add to my answer is that it makes hiring in those markets super competitive. Here people are actually competing over $19/hour contract law clerk positions with no benefits. You have to hope to get one of those, and then just hang on for 1-2 years until an attorney position opens up. Then compete for that position.

There's also offices that technically start at $100k+ (SF, Santa Clara) but they won't look at you without 3+ years of experience so I don't really consider that a starting salary.

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zot1

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby zot1 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:23 pm

If you don't mind me asking, what is your family/housing situation?

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:32 pm

Pay does vary a lot by location. Also if you go FPD the pay is quite a bit better (not biglaw better, but better).

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:39 pm

Very interested in this as well.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to pursue a path during law school that leaves both these options (PD/BL) open upon graduation? Or is it better to demonstrate a clear interest in one area?

I'm guessing it's be easier to make the jump from BL ---> PD/ADA, than vice versa. Anyone have insight?

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby arose928 » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:29 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:Very interested in this as well.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to pursue a path during law school that leaves both these options (PD/BL) open upon graduation? Or is it better to demonstrate a clear interest in one area?

I'm guessing it's be easier to make the jump from BL ---> PD/ADA, than vice versa. Anyone have insight?


I don't know anything about BL hiring but as for PDs, I've been told straight up that they would be more impressed if you won a bar fight than if you clerked/worked in BL. I know some people who have done it, but for true believer offices, you will have quite a lot to overcome in an interview if you have zero PD experience, and you will be up against people who were gunning for it all through law school (me :) ) I think there are some offices that care about the prestige of it (especially federal PD - I think more people there come in from BL) but I wouldn't say BL -> PD is a surefire path.

You could keep both options open by splitting your summers. But if you think you might want to be a PD I'd say work in at least one office before graduation. I also know people who did PD their 1L summer, and BL their 2L summer because they needed the money, and that's something you can explain in an interview.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:52 pm

arose928 wrote:
TakeItToTrial wrote:Very interested in this as well.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to pursue a path during law school that leaves both these options (PD/BL) open upon graduation? Or is it better to demonstrate a clear interest in one area?

I'm guessing it's be easier to make the jump from BL ---> PD/ADA, than vice versa. Anyone have insight?


I don't know anything about BL hiring but as for PDs, I've been told straight up that they would be more impressed if you won a bar fight than if you clerked/worked in BL. I know some people who have done it, but for true believer offices, you will have quite a lot to overcome in an interview if you have zero PD experience, and you will be up against people who were gunning for it all through law school (me :) ) I think there are some offices that care about the prestige of it (especially federal PD - I think more people there come in from BL) but I wouldn't say BL -> PD is a surefire path.

You could keep both options open by splitting your summers. But if you think you might want to be a PD I'd say work in at least one office before graduation. I also know people who did PD their 1L summer, and BL their 2L summer because they needed the money, and that's something you can explain in an interview.


Thanks for the response. Splitting summers sounds like a good plan (assuming I have the grades for BL). However, if I don't, then I can always double down on the PD route.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby Blue664 » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:03 pm

Does PD mean public defender? If so, there is an episode of John Oliver discussing how dire the public defender system is in a lot of parts of the US (including how PDs can barely afford to live themselves).

DA salaries are probably set by the local government and I guess how well they are paid varies. There were a couple of Boston Globe articles recently about how ADAs get paid $40k or less and many end up living at home.

[edited for spelling]

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:24 pm

Blue664 wrote:Does PD mean public defender? If so, there is an episode of John Oliver discussing how dire the public defender system is in a lot of parts of the US (including how PDs can barely afford to live themselves).

DA salaries are probably set by the local government and I guess how well they are paid varies. There were a couple of Boston Globe articles recently about how ADAs get paid $40k or less and many end up living at home.

[edited for spelling]


Yeah, I've heard the horror stories. It would not be a long-term plan. Granted there are major differences in civil and criminal procedure, but it's a way to get trial experience and become comfortable in front of a jury before moving to civil litigation.

Plus you get to help the underprivileged and stick it to the government. To me, it's a win-win, minus the terrible pay.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:36 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:Granted there are major differences in civil and criminal procedure, but it's a way to get trial experience and become comfortable in front of a jury before moving to civil litigation.

What kind of civil litigation? If you mean biglaw, being a PD isn't going to give you the kind of trial experience they want. If you mean something more like personal injury/tort law, it probably makes more sense.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby zot1 » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:46 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:Very interested in this as well.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to pursue a path during law school that leaves both these options (PD/BL) open upon graduation? Or is it better to demonstrate a clear interest in one area?

I'm guessing it's be easier to make the jump from BL ---> PD/ADA, than vice versa. Anyone have insight?


For offices where competition is harsh (read major cities in California), your commitment to being a PD has to be demonstrated throughout law school and maybe afterwards. I unfortunately know a handful of people who've worked for free after graduation for the PDs office (sometimes they get grants from their school) before they got a full-time position.

Most DAs and PDs I know who work in LA, OC, SD, and Sacramento do not need a second job to get by, but they live modestly with some exceptions (if they're married, maybe they live in a bigger place than 1BD apt, or if they're spouse is in biglaw, then income not a problem at all).

You could end up working long hours not quite like but very similar to biglaw with much lower pay. Of course the trade off is that you're doing meaningful and sometimes "fun" work. (Some people get off being on trial constantly while others would prefer a corporate setting).

I think that it's very easy to want biglaw money, but very few people want the work. I sometimes think about it (having more money), then when I'm at home just doing whatever I want, I forget all about it.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby Foosters Galore » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:11 pm

From experience, PD's and DA's in Los Angeles are on the same pay schedule and they start around 75k. Making over 100k within 2-3 years.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby brinicolec » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:16 pm

Foosters Galore wrote:From experience, PD's and DA's in Los Angeles are on the same pay schedule and they start around 75k. Making over 100k within 2-3 years.


But they're a very rare exception, right?

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby Foosters Galore » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:23 pm

brinicolec wrote:
Foosters Galore wrote:From experience, PD's and DA's in Los Angeles are on the same pay schedule and they start around 75k. Making over 100k within 2-3 years.


But they're a very rare exception, right?


I don't know. They're definitely an exception over your average or small sized county, but that may be the norm when it comes to the big cities. I have heard from colleagues that both San Francisco and Santa Clara County both start their hires above what LA pays.

I'd also note that this job comes with some pretty nice perks. Matching 401k and 457b up to 8% as well as a defined pension plan benefit.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:25 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
TakeItToTrial wrote:Granted there are major differences in civil and criminal procedure, but it's a way to get trial experience and become comfortable in front of a jury before moving to civil litigation.

What kind of civil litigation? If you mean biglaw, being a PD isn't going to give you the kind of trial experience they want. If you mean something more like personal injury/tort law, it probably makes more sense.


Yeah, the ultimate goal is to start my own boutique lit firm. Personal injury/tort law would probably be a pillar of my practice, especially in the firm's early stages.

If I had the choice between PD and BL after graduation, the decision would be between gaining practical experience or chasing the money. I plan on only working for the PD/in BL for 3-5 years.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Tue Feb 14, 2017 3:42 pm

zot1 wrote:
TakeItToTrial wrote:Very interested in this as well.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to pursue a path during law school that leaves both these options (PD/BL) open upon graduation? Or is it better to demonstrate a clear interest in one area?

I'm guessing it's be easier to make the jump from BL ---> PD/ADA, than vice versa. Anyone have insight?


For offices where competition is harsh (read major cities in California), your commitment to being a PD has to be demonstrated throughout law school and maybe afterwards. I unfortunately know a handful of people who've worked for free after graduation for the PDs office (sometimes they get grants from their school) before they got a full-time position.

Most DAs and PDs I know who work in LA, OC, SD, and Sacramento do not need a second job to get by, but they live modestly with some exceptions (if they're married, maybe they live in a bigger place than 1BD apt, or if they're spouse is in biglaw, then income not a problem at all).

You could end up working long hours not quite like but very similar to biglaw with much lower pay. Of course the trade off is that you're doing meaningful and sometimes "fun" work. (Some people get off being on trial constantly while others would prefer a corporate setting).

I think that it's very easy to want biglaw money, but very few people want the work. I sometimes think about it (having more money), then when I'm at home just doing whatever I want, I forget all about it.


Wearing a Tom Ford suit and having money to blow at nice bars after work sounds fun, but part of me thinks the corporate setting might be too monotonous.

The idea of being in trial often really excites me, but as a 0L, I still have a lot to learn/experience. I have heard that demonstrating a clear commitment is key to landing a PD job.

I would like to keep both options open, if possible.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby zot1 » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:39 pm

From my own experience trial in theory =/= trial in real life. I too once thought going to trial every day seemed awesome. Then I worked at the DAs office a lot and realized the lifestyle just wasn't for me. Some of my days get too quiet at times, but I prefer that. Definitely experience what you think you want because it could be different in practice.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby appind » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:11 am

where can one find total number of DAs and approx range of number ADAs per DA office? how many PDs per DA office?

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby schoolisfun » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:22 pm

I'm also interested if anyone regrets going into public interest law right out of law school. From what I understand OCI is the best/only shot at getting Biglaw. Seems like dedicating oneself to PI is a pretty big opportunity cost without establishing a Biglaw salary nest egg.
I don't see many people on TLS who regret going into PI but see lots of complaints about choosing biglaw. There must be someone on here who regrets their 20-something year old decision to enter public service once they have kids/ a mortgage etc. Right?

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby cavalier1138 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:35 pm

schoolisfun wrote:I'm also interested if anyone regrets going into public interest law right out of law school. From what I understand OCI is the best/only shot at getting Biglaw. Seems like dedicating oneself to PI is a pretty big opportunity cost without establishing a Biglaw salary nest egg.
I don't see many people on TLS who regret going into PI but see lots of complaints about choosing biglaw. There must be someone on here who regrets their 20-something year old decision to enter public service once they have kids/ a mortgage etc. Right?


I really doubt it. There are very few things in life that require a biglaw salary right out of the gates. And PI lawyers don't have insanely low salaries for life.

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Re: Anyone who decided to be an ADA/PD over BL regret it?

Postby zot1 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:37 pm

schoolisfun wrote:I'm also interested if anyone regrets going into public interest law right out of law school. From what I understand OCI is the best/only shot at getting Biglaw. Seems like dedicating oneself to PI is a pretty big opportunity cost without establishing a Biglaw salary nest egg.
I don't see many people on TLS who regret going into PI but see lots of complaints about choosing biglaw. There must be someone on here who regrets their 20-something year old decision to enter public service once they have kids/ a mortgage etc. Right?


Not quite. I've only ever regretted it in the sense that I wonder whether law is the long term career I always envisioned it would be. Yeah, it would be nice to have more money, but I also would never trade my free time. I don't have kids, but I do have a mortgage. It's not a fancy living, but it's definitely a comfortable living.



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