Criminal defense/ where to start

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fm1477
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Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:00 am

Criminal defense/ where to start

Postby fm1477 » Thu Jun 15, 2017 6:23 pm

Hi all,

I wasn't exactly sure where to post this and this seemed like a decent place.

I am interested in crim law and only crim law. This has been my main goal for about 8 years and is literally what gets me out of bed in the morning. That sounds intense, but just so you all understand my passion :) .

I scored a 171 on the LSAT and was by no means a splitter. I will be applying this fall and fortunately there are several T50 schools within 20 miles of my house (I want to stay home for personal reasons). I could attend one t7 with decent money or a t50 with a top rated trial advocacy program on a full ride and probably a stipend. I haven't made that decision yet, but I inform all of you so you understand my situation. The only reason I am considering the free-ride route is because it is my understanding that criminal lawyers are judged by how much they win, not from where they earned their JD (please correct me if I'm wrong). Given that it is my goal to start my own firm as soon as I am established enough to do so, I feel that it'd behoove me to keep costs as low as possible. I'm aware of low income protection, but I don't want to be trapped in a relatively low-paying job for too long.

I have consulted with many criminal defense attorneys (about half have gone on to start their own firms) in my area and most all have started as PDs. However, several have began their career as an ADA out of law school and one even started their law firm right out of law school. The latter seems like absolute lunacy to me.

The common path among the most prominent in my area (and the country from what I've found) seems to be about 3-4 years as a PD, get experience defending clients, build skills and once you're established as a reputable defense attorney, leave and go on your while you continue to build a reputation.

Anyone in crim law have any suggestions? All suggestions are welcome. Thank you very much for your help.

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stego
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Re: Criminal defense/ where to start

Postby stego » Sat Jun 17, 2017 2:59 am

My advice to you would be to attend the best law school you can get into for free or close to free. If you live in Philly, Temple with a big scholarship would probably be a good option.

And while trial advocacy is probably a good thing for you to get involved with, I wouldn't pay much attention to specialty rankings. They don't really matter.

You might find this thread helpful: How to be a prosecution/PD gunner

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UVA2B
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Re: Criminal defense/ where to start

Postby UVA2B » Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:43 am

This definitely belongs in the ask a law student/graduate sub, but regardless...

While not involved in criminal law and unable to speak to the paths to success in criminal law defense work, I think you're on the right track. Going to Villanova or Temple for free (stego made this connection so if it's another market, extrapolate this advice) would be better for your career and financial situation than going to Penn on a smaller scholarship. And the most logical path to success in this career definitely one of PD/ADA, but I'm doubtful one is a clearly better path than the other. Your success in criminal defense, both professionally and financially, will hinge on your ability to navigate your state's criminal procedure while eventually demonstrating some level of entrepreneurial success.

This is all moot if you're wanting to get into more white collar criminal law, because that's mostly handled by big firms and very experienced federal prosecutors/defenders. If you want this type of work, Penn will do much more to set you up for that type of work than Villanova or Temple could.

Edit: forgot about your criminal/retake for Harvard thread. This advice still applies, but from that thread it became kind of important that you might not really be interested in criminal law but more interested in police brutality and impact lit, which requires a lot more planning and luck.

fm1477
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:00 am

Re: Criminal defense/ where to start

Postby fm1477 » Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:33 pm

UVA2B wrote:This definitely belongs in the ask a law student/graduate sub, but regardless...

While not involved in criminal law and unable to speak to the paths to success in criminal law defense work, I think you're on the right track. Going to Villanova or Temple for free (stego made this connection so if it's another market, extrapolate this advice) would be better for your career and financial situation than going to Penn on a smaller scholarship. And the most logical path to success in this career definitely one of PD/ADA, but I'm doubtful one is a clearly better path than the other. Your success in criminal defense, both professionally and financially, will hinge on your ability to navigate your state's criminal procedure while eventually demonstrating some level of entrepreneurial success.

This is all moot if you're wanting to get into more white collar criminal law, because that's mostly handled by big firms and very experienced federal prosecutors/defenders. If you want this type of work, Penn will do much more to set you up for that type of work than Villanova or Temple could.

Edit: forgot about your criminal/retake for Harvard thread. This advice still applies, but from that thread it became kind of important that you might not really be interested in criminal law but more interested in police brutality and impact lit, which requires a lot more planning and luck.


Thanks for the replies! I do live in the Philadelphia area. I don't necessarily want white collar and only white collar. I could see myself defending anything in volume (assuming it occurs in volume). Obviously I have no experience so I don't know what I like and what I'm good at. All of that will fall into place. I agree that my success will rely entirely upon my ability to navigate the crim pros of PA, NJ, and DE. If I focus on becoming the very best at that, the financial side will take care of itself. In terms of money, there seems to be a lot more variation in crim law than almost any other field. If you're elite, you could eat like a partner at any biglaw firm (except maybe Wachtell). If you suck, you'll eat like the manager of a Cinnabon.

cavalier1138
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Re: Criminal defense/ where to start

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Jun 18, 2017 5:29 am

fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the replies! I do live in the Philadelphia area. I don't necessarily want white collar and only white collar. I could see myself defending anything in volume (assuming it occurs in volume). Obviously I have no experience so I don't know what I like and what I'm good at. All of that will fall into place. I agree that my success will rely entirely upon my ability to navigate the crim pros of PA, NJ, and DE. If I focus on becoming the very best at that, the financial side will take care of itself. In terms of money, there seems to be a lot more variation in crim law than almost any other field. If you're elite, you could eat like a partner at any biglaw firm (except maybe Wachtell). If you suck, you'll eat like the manager of a Cinnabon.


Oh boy. A lot to unpack here.

Ok, first: white collar is not a defense gig that happens on the side. White collar defense happens exclusively at big law firms (or in rare instances, at boutique firms that deal with a single corporate client). If you actually want the chance at working in white collar, then you should gun for Penn (if you insist on staying in the Philadelphia area). But if you don't actually want white collar work as a viable option, then any regional school will be fine, and you should go to the cheapest T1 option.

And criminal law is not really subject to more financial uncertainty than other fields. Lawyer salaries are bimodal by nature. For every solo practitioner making six figures, there are dozens who are barely scraping by on court-appointed gigs. And counting on your finances just falling into place because of how gosh-darn good you're going to be is more than a bit risky. Assuming you go this route, it's not like you'll be competing against practices run by people who are gunning to be terrible lawyers making <$40k a year. Everyone wants to be the best in their field.

Based on your posts here (and in your last thread), it really seems like you want to be the next Alan Dershowitz more than you want to be a lawyer. I'd seriously take some time to look at what your real career path options are in the field before diving in with the plan of using a PD office to vault into being a famous solo practitioner.




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