Public Defender

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
cmartin5970
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Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:33 pm

If I want to work as a public defender or for a group such as Legal Aid who provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford it, how much of a difference does which law school i go to matter? i live in NC and plan on working in the state after graduation.

Here are the schools I am considering and what I have heard back:

UNC: Waiting
NCCU: Waiting- #1 choice
Elon: Full Ride
Campbell: 17,000 a year
Charlotte: 29,000 a year

I really like the focus of NCCU and the type of lawyers they produce as well as the cost, but it will also be hard to turn down a full ride education since i am already in debt from undergrad and do not seek a high-paying job.

nickwar
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Re: Public Defender

Postby nickwar » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:38 pm

My advice is to go to the cheapest school in an area you'd like to work.

PDs want people who sincerely care about their work and are willing to work hard at it. So go somewhere cheap, start getting some experience right away (either through a law school course or via interning at your closest office) and try to be completely schooled on the job when you go for your first real interview. Showing interest and competence will mean much more than whether you went to a slightly better law school for twice the price.

Take criminal law, con law, evidence, and criminal procedure as soon as possible. If you haven't changed your mind about wanting to do PD work, toss on a post-conviction relief-type class and crim pro 2. If your school has a criminal defense externship course for credit, absolutely take it.

I say go to the cheapest place you'd like to work because, as you probably know, PDs don't get paid a biglaw salary. Minimize your debt and give yourself some leeway, which is really the right move no matter what you want to do.

Good luck -- it's a very interesting line of work.

cmartin5970
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Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:42 pm

Thanks for the response, most people on here constantly say re-test and go to the best school possible, but I just find it difficult to get 60,000+ in debt through UNC if I can go somewhere else in the same area for free or for significantly less like NCCU

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20130312
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Re: Public Defender

Postby 20130312 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:45 pm

The problem with going to a school like NCCU is that if you strike out with the PD's office, then what? You have very few options available, absent family connections or some serious networking.

cmartin5970
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Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:48 pm

Is it safe to say that the job prospects are higher for PD/Legal Aid compared to private big firms?

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20130312
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Re: Public Defender

Postby 20130312 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:53 pm

cmartin5970 wrote:Is it safe to say that the job prospects are higher for PD/Legal Aid compared to private big firms?


Not in this economy. Law school grads are gunning for anything they can get. There's a decent post about PD jobs at the bottom of this thread.

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Grizz
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Re: Public Defender

Postby Grizz » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:57 pm

cmartin5970 wrote:Is it safe to say that the job prospects are higher for PD/Legal Aid compared to private big firms?

Depends on your school. T14ish? Way easier to get biglaw. NCCU? Probably easier to get PD/legal aid (biglaw prospects are nil).

That's not to suggest it's easy. It's getting ridiculously hard to land one of these positions nowadays due to state budged cuts. These positions are INSANELY hard to land. Do a google search; I think legal aid is beginning layoffs as well. These positions have a ton of apps from people from prestigious schools as well.

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mrtoren
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Re: Public Defender

Postby mrtoren » Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:00 pm

Its tough to say how you would fare out of NCCU. Even though you want to do government and public interest work, the jobs may not be there. The few there are may be snatched up by graduates of better schools who want to take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. By attending a school like UNC, all options are on the table. Everything from BigLaw and MidLaw to public interest and government. By going to NCCU, you're cutting the deck in half. You're limited to what public interest and government work you may or may not be able to find. If you're lucky, you could possibly snag a position with a small firm..if not, you'll be waiting tables. Its a gamble.

Don't worry too much about the loans from UNC. If you land a PI/Gov job, you can enroll in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and have the debt paid off in ten years. If you can't find PI/Gov work, you can probably land a job with a decent firm and afford to pay off the loans yourself.

cmartin5970
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Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:14 pm

okay thanks for the advice everyone, i havent heard back from UNC yet so it is still way too early to make a decision, but i am very anxious about deciding which school to attend and am afraid of making the wrong decision.

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AlexanderSupertramp
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Re: Public Defender

Postby AlexanderSupertramp » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:15 pm

I think you are smart to only be considering those two choices on your list. UNC is notoriously slow when it comes to admissions decisions. The other posters make a great point about UNC being more widely respected in both the state and out of just in case you are unable to find PD work and have to go private or even move out of NC. However, for your purposes going to NCCU would not be a death sentence. It's very cheap and based upon the aid you're receiving at the other schools you'll probably get a decent scholarship. No doubt it will be conditional on a 3.0, though, which at most law schools is no big deal. However, NCCU has a brutal curve- I'm thinking it's a 2.0 because they let in people with much lower stats than they probably should. The dean also just announced he's leaving so I don't know what that will mean in terms of going up or down in rankings. He did a really good job in keeping the tuition down and trying increase the reputation of the school in terms of public interest.

I'd keep waiting for UNC and if you're accepted go there regardless of scholarship since you're in state. However, if for some reason you don't get in or they lose your stuff and don't tell you til it's too late (happened to a few people last cycle) NCCU sounds like for your purposes it would be a fine back up. It's clinics are well-respected in the region and I know that in my judicial district alone over half the judges, most of the PDs, and a few ADAs went to NCCU.

I know you didn't ask but UNC does not take transfers from the other schools in NC so you can't really change your mind if you decide not to go there whereas I'm sure if you went to UNC and then got worried about the debt you may be able to transfer to NCCU.

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willwash
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Re: Public Defender

Postby willwash » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:21 pm

cmartin5970 wrote:If I want to work as a public defender or for a group such as Legal Aid who provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford it, how much of a difference does which law school i go to matter? i live in NC and plan on working in the state after graduation.

Here are the schools I am considering and what I have heard back:

UNC: Waiting
NCCU: Waiting- #1 choice
Elon: Full Ride
Campbell: 17,000 a year
Charlotte: 29,000 a year

I really like the focus of NCCU and the type of lawyers they produce as well as the cost, but it will also be hard to turn down a full ride education since i am already in debt from undergrad and do not seek a high-paying job.


Please don't go to Central. Campbell is giving you a fairly good deal and they are a really solid school, especially if you plan to practice in NC. Don't assume you'll want to be a public defender for the rest of your life. My vote is wait for UNC, if deny, go Campbell.

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Aberzombie1892
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Re: Public Defender

Postby Aberzombie1892 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:23 pm

NOTE: I only read the OP.

OP, be very careful with Public Defender/legal aid offices. You should research the ones you would consider working with after graduation before you decide on what law school to attend. Some PD/Legal Aid offices are just as elitist as NLJ250 or V100 firms, while others would take an average student from a T50 or equivalent.

I would hate for you to to attend a less prestigious school in North Carolina because you thought it wouldn't matter, and then not be able to get a job in your desired PD/Legal Aid office because you didn't go to UNC/Wake/or better.

Brassica7
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Re: Public Defender

Postby Brassica7 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:44 pm

I worked in a legal aid organization, beginning in 2008 right before the economy tanked. When I got there, they were in the process of hiring a new attorney. They had around 50 applications for the position (and this was pre-recession), including people from schools like Harvard and Columbia. The position paid around $43,000. When the organization's budget collapsed, they cancelled the hire, and over the next two years laid off about 40-50% of the staff. I think the bleeding has finally stopped, but the organization is a lot different than it once was.

To be fair, when these places hire, they do sometimes go with the local school applicant with a passion of social justice over someone from Harvard. The problem is that you need to find a place that is hiring, and then beat out the dozens (hundreds?) of other applicants.

cmartin5970
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Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:57 pm

Brassica7 wrote:I worked in a legal aid organization, beginning in 2008 right before the economy tanked. When I got there, they were in the process of hiring a new attorney. They had around 50 applications for the position (and this was pre-recession), including people from schools like Harvard and Columbia. The position paid around $43,000. When the organization's budget collapsed, they cancelled the hire, and over the next two years laid off about 40-50% of the staff. I think the bleeding has finally stopped, but the organization is a lot different than it once was.

To be fair, when these places hire, they do sometimes go with the local school applicant with a passion of social justice over someone from Harvard. The problem is that you need to find a place that is hiring, and then beat out the dozens (hundreds?) of other applicants.


Yea thanks for the response, i am just in a predicament because i realize the job prospects are bad so it seems to me it would be a good idea to graduate debt free (my parents will help me with living expenses and i have a good bit saved) because no matter where u go the job prospects are bad...but i also know that the better the school you go to the more likely you will get a job, but also the more debt you will be in

cmartin5970
Posts: 95
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:49 pm

Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:58 pm

Brassica7 wrote:I worked in a legal aid organization, beginning in 2008 right before the economy tanked. When I got there, they were in the process of hiring a new attorney. They had around 50 applications for the position (and this was pre-recession), including people from schools like Harvard and Columbia. The position paid around $43,000. When the organization's budget collapsed, they cancelled the hire, and over the next two years laid off about 40-50% of the staff. I think the bleeding has finally stopped, but the organization is a lot different than it once was.

To be fair, when these places hire, they do sometimes go with the local school applicant with a passion of social justice over someone from Harvard. The problem is that you need to find a place that is hiring, and then beat out the dozens (hundreds?) of other applicants.


Yea thanks for the response, i am just in a predicament because i realize the job prospects are bad so it seems to me it would be a good idea to graduate debt free (my parents will help me with living expenses and i have a good bit saved) because no matter where u go the job prospects are bad...but i also know that the better the school you go to the more likely you will get a job, but also the more debt you will be in

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willwash
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Re: Public Defender

Postby willwash » Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:08 pm

cmartin5970 wrote:
Brassica7 wrote:I worked in a legal aid organization, beginning in 2008 right before the economy tanked. When I got there, they were in the process of hiring a new attorney. They had around 50 applications for the position (and this was pre-recession), including people from schools like Harvard and Columbia. The position paid around $43,000. When the organization's budget collapsed, they cancelled the hire, and over the next two years laid off about 40-50% of the staff. I think the bleeding has finally stopped, but the organization is a lot different than it once was.

To be fair, when these places hire, they do sometimes go with the local school applicant with a passion of social justice over someone from Harvard. The problem is that you need to find a place that is hiring, and then beat out the dozens (hundreds?) of other applicants.


Yea thanks for the response, i am just in a predicament because i realize the job prospects are bad so it seems to me it would be a good idea to graduate debt free (my parents will help me with living expenses and i have a good bit saved) because no matter where u go the job prospects are bad...but i also know that the better the school you go to the more likely you will get a job, but also the more debt you will be in


If you're a NC resident, UNC is pretty fuggin' cheap. I would know, I went there as an undergrad. Sure LS is a little more expensive, but for the level of school it is, it is probably the best "deal" out there.

cmartin5970
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Re: Public Defender

Postby cmartin5970 » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:04 pm

it is still increasing very quickly and would still mean graduating with over 100,000 in debt when combined with cost of living and undergraduate debt

tbaker757
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Re: Public Defender

Postby tbaker757 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:56 pm

If you truly want to do PD/PI forever (or at least ten years) then the debt you incur at a better school won't matter so much. But if you decide in law school you hate it or once you're out you'll have more options. If you go to the worse school you narrow your chances but that's just how I see it.




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