U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:47 pm

DMV Messiah wrote:
USAIRS wrote:I don't know what you mean by the social atmosphere. I enjoy an academic atmosphere, and found it among the grad students at UChicago. The law students were law student-y. A lot of the same cool people and jerks that you are likely to encounter on this site.

The professors were as expected, but the unusual thing was just interaction with them outside of class. As I've talked to people from other schools, that was more common at Chicago than elsewhere. I played basketball against Epstein, dinner with Obama, random hallway conversations with epstein, carpooling with Ryan Goodman, and just a number of random meetings and discussions with Richard Posner and other top professors. I had classes with them as well but, while nice, I think the small class size at Chicago and emphasis on student-prof interaction is most notable.

:shock:


It was before he became senator, while he was in state politics, and with a small group. Still pretty stoked about that, though, since we actually talked a bit about democracy and forgotten 80's TV shows.

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Bronte
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby Bronte » Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:01 pm

No questions, but excellent thread. Thank you.

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Tanicius
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby Tanicius » Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:13 pm

Being a federal public defender or AUSA is my goal. How did you secure your job as an AUSA? What did you do in law school to give yourself a good shot at the position?

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:51 am

I started in an agency after law school. After a couple of years at the agency I applied to the USAO and lucked out. I also had some great references, including a couple of AUSAs from the same division, from when I interned there a few years back. Basically a combination of top law school, lots of hours, govt internships, networking, and luck (I applied and got hired just before the market turned sharply south).

If you want USAO, they only take laterals. So you have to either come in from DOJ or laterally apply from another agency, or have a pedigree plus top law firm litigation (and clerking helps), or be a stand out at a city attorney or DA's office. All those things just put you in the running. I've seen people with similar credentials not get interviewed. You have to find some way to stand out from the rest of your accomplished peers.

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DMV Messiah
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby DMV Messiah » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:18 am

A few questions:

1) What is the actual process like for lateral hires to the USAO? Did you just send in your resume? Can you apply to any office, or did you select only one or a few to apply to? Also, what happens next--interview(s)? Polygraphic? Background / Credit check?

2) I am strongly considering JAG, but I'm a little put off by the civilian job prospects if I decide not to go career military. I hear a lot of people entering the program talk about USAO as looking kindly on former JAGs. Can you say anything about this, one way or the other? Do you work with any former JAGs, and do you have any idea how your office views them?

Thanks!

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:40 pm

DMV Messiah wrote:A few questions:

1) What is the actual process like for lateral hires to the USAO? Did you just send in your resume? Can you apply to any office, or did you select only one or a few to apply to? Also, what happens next--interview(s)? Polygraphic? Background / Credit check?

2) I am strongly considering JAG, but I'm a little put off by the civilian job prospects if I decide not to go career military. I hear a lot of people entering the program talk about USAO as looking kindly on former JAGs. Can you say anything about this, one way or the other? Do you work with any former JAGs, and do you have any idea how your office views them?

Thanks!


I just sent in my resume. My understanding is that the larger offices with constant needs will hold on to it until there are openings, but I was flat out rejected from one office. Generally, you can find attorney vacancies on the DOJ website, but it doesn't hurt to simply apply to the ones you are interested in. There are two to three interviews here, one of which with the chiefs and the other with the US Attorney. Once you are hired there is a background check going back ten years, including credit and a tax check.

I've seen limited success with JAG. I don't know any at my office, but I've seen them at other offices, and as Special Assistant US Attorneys, which is a good foothold into an AUSA position. Nothing gives you a 100% shot at the USAO, so I can't recommend any particular course as good for it, with the exception of clerking for a local judge or appellate judge, or supreme court. For everything else, they reject far more applicants than they interview, even if you are an assistant DA or attorney with another agency. You have to be a stand-out in addition to that.

So, being a JAG would be good, just like being an ADA or DDA, or having a top school and top firm on your resume. But any of those people have a 1 in 4 chance at best, in my estimation. I am of the opinion, though, that any of those things is inherently good experience, and you'll be able to find something great following any of those jobs if you work hard. If you go from JAG, to ADA, to Public Defender over the course of several years, this seems like a great career to me, even if you always wanted to try being a federal prosecutor for a while. I fully recognize how much luck and timing has to do with it.

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echoi
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby echoi » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:55 pm

What are some things that you didn't like about UChicago?

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:00 am

echoi wrote:What are some things that you didn't like about UChicago?


I think the office of career services stunk. Outside of setting up OCI, it seemed to me they don't really know squat and, worse, provide misinformation.

Small class size was a negative in the same way it is a positive. It was hard to avoid people you didn't like, and it seemed easy for one or two jerks to ruin it. I think my class was particularly defined by a few uptight people who were really unpleasant. This was something pointed out to me by people in other classes, which were obviously different in their overall attitudes, so I think the culture changes based on a few strong personalities. I think this is less likely to take place in larger classes.

There was very little emphasis on public service, not just PI, but government and politics. The school seemed entirely focused on clerkships, teaching, and large firms. It was easy enough to go into government if you wanted it with the Chicago reputation, and clerkships are helpful for that. However, it seems obvious to me now that Harvard does a much better job of emphasizing public service. I find it incredibly disappointing that the place where Scalia, Obama, Elena Kagan, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, John Paul Stevens, and Bernard Meltzer taught does such a poor job of informing its students of the value of a life dedicated to public justice. To me, this is the one thing that keeps Chicago from being in the same league as Harvard and Yale. Creating firm partners and teachers is not the same as creating people who are the leaders of this country and who make a real difference. I get "the life of the mind" thing, but what a waste of talent, in my opinion.

I have mixed feelings about the grading system. I have this conspiracy theory that it is inherently designed to make average students feel like they are getting C's, and top students feel only just above average. It is part of this long theory I have based on the history of the Law School. However, I do think a non-grade system, while maybe helping the bottom-ish students with employment, does low-performing students a disservice. I was absolutely helped and motivated by knowing that something I did was sub-par. My standards were elevated, and I knew my strengths and weaknesses by the end of law school. I've attacked those weaknesses and they are now my strengths. Graduating a terrible writer who doesn't know he/she is a terrible writer is a horrible thing for a school to do to you after taking your $120,000. I've seen this happen at Berkeley twice now, and I think its down-right despicable.

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:40 pm

I understand that the US Attorney salary at 4 or more years is 97-127K. Where will an attorney generally be at 7, 8, 9,...years into the job? Does the salary basically top out at around 127K on average? Is the idea to get their salaries up to the 6 figure range relatively quickly, but once at that level it stays steadily in the low 100K range(depending on the region?)

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:35 pm

ejjones wrote:I understand that the US Attorney salary at 4 or more years is 97-127K. Where will an attorney generally be at 7, 8, 9,...years into the job? Does the salary basically top out at around 127K on average? Is the idea to get their salaries up to the 6 figure range relatively quickly, but once at that level it stays steadily in the low 100K range(depending on the region?)


Sorry I didn't get back to you. I've now "subscribed to this topic" so that I'll get an email next time someone posts here.

The USAO salary varies by office, likely by cost of living adjustments but I haven't verified it. It may also vary within a year level. Unlike the GS scale, the AD scale used for AUSAs has steps within each grade that depend upon performance. It seems that people get "outstanding" ratings almost routinely, but we all work pretty hard. For people with 4 years of experience, the range for acceptable to outstanding performance is 98k to about 106k. The salary will top out about 15 years at about 155k if you have an outstanding rating. Between your 5th and 15th years, salary goes up about 5k a year. Between 1 and 4 years of experience, you are stuck at 85 to 95k.

Compare this to the GS scale, where you start at about 70-80k, but at the end of four years you hit 123k if you are in DC (Grade 15 step 1).

You also get bonuses, small but nice.

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echoi
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby echoi » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:41 pm

Read that you lived at the International House in another thread, USAIRS. How was your experience there? I'm thinking about living there for 1L.

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:27 pm

echoi wrote:Read that you lived at the International House in another thread, USAIRS. How was your experience there? I'm thinking about living there for 1L.


I-House was the best. I wish I had lived there all three years. About 1/4 of its population is americans, and it is pretty much entirely grad students, with occasionally international people who aren't students. I just liked hanging out with Phd'ers and med students and what-not better than law students (who you'll see more than enough of, but there were 4 others who lived there and that I hung out with). Also, as advertised, it was really great to get to know people from around the world. The Spanish really knew how to party. I learned to play the blues from this Japanese guy who spoke no english, but could play the guitar like ringing a bell. I planned surf trips with an Irish friend of mind. Soccer was played on the midway a couple times a week. I also met my wife there studying downstairs. It was just really refreshing and fun to live with all these people. I think it was better than typical dorm living because of the large open spaces downstairs, which are great in the winter, and because you aren't living with a bunch of 18-year-old idiots.

The place has been renovated since I lived there. The bathrooms are shared with maybe the exceptions of the tower rooms. I-house was closer to things on-campus, 57th street restaurants, metra, and basically everything except the law school (across the midway, so still very close).

Probably my best memories of my three years in law school are from when I lived there. I definitely recommend it, so long as you don't mind dorm-style quarters.

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echoi
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby echoi » Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:57 pm

USAIRS wrote:
echoi wrote:Read that you lived at the International House in another thread, USAIRS. How was your experience there? I'm thinking about living there for 1L.


I-House was the best. I wish I had lived there all three years. About 1/4 of its population is americans, and it is pretty much entirely grad students, with occasionally international people who aren't students. I just liked hanging out with Phd'ers and med students and what-not better than law students (who you'll see more than enough of, but there were 4 others who lived there and that I hung out with). Also, as advertised, it was really great to get to know people from around the world. The Spanish really knew how to party. I learned to play the blues from this Japanese guy who spoke no english, but could play the guitar like ringing a bell. I planned surf trips with an Irish friend of mind. Soccer was played on the midway a couple times a week. I also met my wife there studying downstairs. It was just really refreshing and fun to live with all these people. I think it was better than typical dorm living because of the large open spaces downstairs, which are great in the winter, and because you aren't living with a bunch of 18-year-old idiots.

The place has been renovated since I lived there. The bathrooms are shared with maybe the exceptions of the tower rooms. I-house was closer to things on-campus, 57th street restaurants, metra, and basically everything except the law school (across the midway, so still very close).

Probably my best memories of my three years in law school are from when I lived there. I definitely recommend it, so long as you don't mind dorm-style quarters.


Thanks USAIRS. I think this pushed me over... definitely gonna live here if I can.

USAIRS
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:29 pm

Well, I've been working 28 days straight and I'm getting pretty tired. In the spirit of doing anything but what I'm supposed to be doing here at the office for a little bit, please hit me up with some questions if it should strike you.

articulably suspect
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:40 pm

USAIRS wrote:Well, I've been working 28 days straight and I'm getting pretty tired. In the spirit of doing anything but what I'm supposed to be doing here at the office for a little bit, please hit me up with some questions if it should strike you.


Can you share any knowledge you have on Federal Public Defenders?

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:48 pm

ejjones wrote:
USAIRS wrote:Well, I've been working 28 days straight and I'm getting pretty tired. In the spirit of doing anything but what I'm supposed to be doing here at the office for a little bit, please hit me up with some questions if it should strike you.


Can you share any knowledge you have on Federal Public Defenders?


I don't know anything about how they do hiring, or exit options. Outside of that, they do defense work for people who don't have leverage to get a high-paid attorney. They won't typically have very sophisticated clients or high-end white collar cases. On the whole well respected by our office, but they get a lot of dogs and loser cases, so I could never see myself doing it. Occasionally, someone goes from here to there, but it is pretty rare. I don't know of anyone that went from there to here.

ETA 3/5/10: I now know of one person who went from FPD to USAO in the 90's.
Last edited by USAIRS on Fri Mar 05, 2010 7:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Fuser
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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby Fuser » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:52 am

This is a very informative thread thank you for taking questions. I have a few questions that may not be UChicago related, but perhaps you have information about.

1. Are you interested in politics, or do you feel like there are people at your office who have political aspirations?

2. Do the rankings mean anything to you or the people you work with? I am interested in what someone who has been out of law school for a while thinks about the rankings, if anything. Do you keep up with them or do you simply have a general idea of what the top schools are?

3. To the best of your knowledge is diversity as important when it comes to hiring in government as it seems it is for law firms?

4. Was your previous position in California, or did you lateral from another state?

Thanks again for your responses.

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby USAIRS » Sat Feb 06, 2010 9:38 pm

1. Are you interested in politics, or do you feel like there are people at your office who have political aspirations?

I'm not very interested in elected office, but I do like the idea of high level staff or appointments within the executive branch, which often require some political participation via campaigns. There are definitely a few who have aspirations of elected office, for which working as a prosecutor is a plus. Mostly, people go on to being state court judges or federal judges. The state ones will be appointed initially to fill vacancies, but then you'll have to run as an incumbent.

2. Do the rankings mean anything to you or the people you work with? I am interested in what someone who has been out of law school for a while thinks about the rankings, if anything. Do you keep up with them or do you simply have a general idea of what the top schools are?

People have a general idea about the rankings. Most important here is what you did after law school. Clerkship and/or top firm is the most common, then City Attorney's office. There is going to be a correlation with those things and the school attended, but that is all it is. If all you have is yale, but no appellate or local clerkship, or no litigation experience with one of the feeder firms, then you'll likely be out of luck.

3. To the best of your knowledge is diversity as important when it comes to hiring in government as it seems it is for law firms?

My office seems very diverse relative to top firms. We don't seem to have a hard time getting amazing candidates from diverse backgrounds, and none of them fall outside of the description I said above, having amazing credentials. So if you are looking for a URM boost, it isn't apparent.

4. Was your previous position in California, or did you lateral from another state?

It was in California. Lateraling from another state will be difficult without connections, and I mean someone pulling for you-not that you went to high-school here.

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Re: U Chicago Alum Answering Questions

Postby hiromoto45 » Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:43 am

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