BigLaw before crim law / public service?

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Band A Long
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BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Wed May 09, 2012 10:27 am

I'm a pretty debt-averse person interested in public service and criminal law (perhaps dreaming to one day to be an ADA) so as I've been reading about schools, rankings, and merit aid, I've been trying to calibrate my scores to something that means I'll get a very significant scholarship to a T1 or top 100 school in the area I would like to do that work in (notably, Temple et al in Philadelphia). I will graduate in a year with hopefully ~3.75 GPA from a Big10 school, and though I can't tell you my LSAT I have taken one diagnostic (planning to begin studying soon and test in October) and scored in the low 160s.

All that is background. The question I'm curious about is — is there an advantage or a disadvantage to attempting to do high-earnings, high hours Biglaw work out of law school and then later attempt to realize my ultimate goal of being a prosecutor or the like?

This provides to my mind two benefits — it could potentially help me go to a higher ranked school (i.e. I'll be willing to take on more debt to go higher in T1 because I have a good chance of getting a high paying job) and it could provide a good starting investment to help me settle in an area related to my future profession (coming out of 5 years work with a couple-hundred-thousand dollar nut could really help someone get established, invest for the future, by a house, etc).

The negatives, of course, are that a) I won't be jumping into the world of criminal law as fast as my peers because I'll be doing (read: trying to get) internships for big firms rather than working at the DA's office over the summer or clerking. Plus, I already mentioned I'm pretty debt-averse — I'll be coming out of UG with ~$17,000 in loans and I know that my ultimate goal is to working in a relatively low-paying field. I'm happy to live simple but a multi-thousand dollar payment to the Department of Education still scares me silly. I'm guessing to get into BigLaw I'm going to have to give up big scholarships in the lower T1 and take on some big money loans.

So anyway — what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of choosing higher-ranked, biglaw-centered schools vs. lower-ranked schools with money based on my goals? Am I way off on anything? Do you have any suggestions or criticisms?

I realize that my numbers are still hypothetical but I think my situation is universal enough to be of benefit to other readers, so that's why I asked even without an LSAT score. It's more about general preferences and law school strategy than specific schools (though I'd also really appreciate suggestions in that area too!).

Cinderella
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Cinderella » Wed May 09, 2012 11:00 am

First, if you take on a lot of debt and work in biglaw when you graduate, you'll basically be working to pay off the debt. So if/when you make the jump to prosecution, you won't have "a couple hundred thousand dollar nut," and you'll probably still be in debt.

Next, it seems to me that any answer to your question would be too speculative to be helpful. There are too many unknowns. Study for and take the LSAT, and do as well as you can. Then come back and ask this question. Maybe the right answer will be to go to a regional school on scholarship; maybe it will be to go to a t14 and shoot for biglaw; maybe it will be to go to a good school and rely on loan forgiveness.

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Band A Long
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Wed May 09, 2012 11:13 am

Thanks for the answers. Maybe I've been misunderstanding the idea of biglaw for a while then, but I figured you were going in with ~$170,000 debt but pulling in ~$100,000+/year, which should be able to tackle that pretty fast if you're living frugally. Everything after that would be beneficial. But I guess I was a little to optimistic.
Cinderella wrote:Next, it seems to me that any answer to your question would be too speculative to be helpful. There are too many unknowns.

Yeah, I realize that it's really a crap shoot making guesses before I have a solid score. I'm guess I'm just figuring it'll be easier to focus on studying if I have a game plan. Law school isn't my only option coming out of UG so I'm just trying to nail some things down so that I can decide what I want to do. Thanks for your help.

More generally though, comments on whether someone coming out of biglaw can even get into a DA's office would be interesting. It sounds like people are recruited pretty young, do multiple internships/clerkships during law school, and then apply after they graduate directly to the office. Or is this not the case? Do laterals into prosecution ever happen?

09042014
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby 09042014 » Wed May 09, 2012 11:19 am

I don't really know about crim law stuff, but I would suspect that big law isn't that great of an idea for it.

But if you want to general public service stuff I think big law is the way to go unless you have the grades to get something ultraprestigious right away (like ACLU). Just do 3 years in a big law litigation group then find what you want to do. Just save every penny you make, live like you would on a public service salary, put your loans on the 30 year plan (so you pay almost none of it off). After three years you should have 150K saved up. Jump to public service, cop dat IBR, and use the 150K as down-payment for a decent house.

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Band A Long
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Wed May 09, 2012 11:29 am

Desert Fox wrote:I don't really know about crim law stuff, but I would suspect that big law isn't that great of an idea for it.

Just because they're headed in somewhat different directions?
Desert Fox wrote:But if you want to general public service stuff I think big law is the way to go unless you have the grades to get something ultraprestigious right away (like ACLU)

Just to clarify, you mean LS grades, not UG grades, correct? Top 10% of your LS class etc?
Desert Fox wrote:After three years you should have 150K saved up. Jump to public service, cop dat IBR, and use the 150K as down-payment for a decent house.
That's a pretty neat switcharoo. Do a lot of people try to do that? Is it discouraged in any way (penalties, etc)? This is a school-based IBR, not something through the government, right?

Thanks for all the comments. I would definitely say I'm far more interested in criminal law than general public service but this is all very helpful.

09042014
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby 09042014 » Wed May 09, 2012 11:45 am

I just don't think big law would be good practical experience for criminal law, but big law litigation is, well, litigation.

Yes, law school grades. The problem with public service hiring is that it happens late, is very disorganized, and random. By choosing that route you risk graduating without a job.

Most school LRAPs make you do public service right away. So you wouldn't qualify. You'd be doing the gov't IBR plan, 10 years of public service, and your debt is wiped. You'd have to do the math, because you might be better off getting the school plan, but I think if you save 150K, you'd be better off just forgoing the school plan.

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Corsair
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Corsair » Wed May 09, 2012 12:20 pm

..

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Band A Long
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Wed May 09, 2012 12:30 pm

Corsair wrote:If you plan on becoming an AUSA, you pretty much HAVE to do Biglaw or a federal clerkship first.

Is the path to becoming an AUSA a move-up from a local DA? Or are they exclusive routes through public law? Any suggestion where I could get a better handle/overview of these hiring processes?

Cinderella
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Cinderella » Wed May 09, 2012 1:28 pm

Yeah, many people overestimate how much take home pay biglaw associates make. After taxes (NY taxes, most likely), cost of living, and loans, there’s not much left. There are a number of threads around TLS with the calculations; I encourage you to look at them. I think people have estimated that it would take 10 years to pay off the debt? Maybe more or less time depending on various factors.

Google PSLawNet; there are some good PDF's on AUSA and ADA hiring there. I don’t really understand what your question was though. AUSA is thought to be more prestigious than ADA. Being an ADA is one way to move into AUSA, but there are other ways. I disagree with what corsair said, though. Some USA offices want biglaw and clerkships. I worked in a USA office where not a single assistant us attorney had worked in biglaw or a clerkship. They had all been ADAs or JAGs.

In general, biglaw is so ridiculously different from criminal law that working in one does not really prepare you for the other. But people do lateral from biglaw into criminal law. Some offices like to get their attorneys right out of law school; others only hire experienced attorneys.

But biglaw --> criminal law is a rather circuitous route. I’m guessing you’re interested in this as a way to pay off debt? The other pros and cons that you listed in your OP are pretty nil. Maybe you should take some time to work before law school, pay off your loans, and spend a lot of time thinking about law school and your goals. Law school is really not something to jump into if you’re uninformed. It can seriously ruin your life. And if you go in informed/game the system, you can graduate and go straight into the work you’re interested in without having to worry about debt.

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SaintsTheMetal
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby SaintsTheMetal » Wed May 09, 2012 6:00 pm

Tagging for reference, this is basically exactly what I want to do. Although I only want to do defense, would never be a DA. Ideally I'd like to do BigLaw to save up some capital and invest it in a small criminal firm, but perhaps it would be better just to go to a TTT on scholarship and skip the BigLaw and the debt?

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Band A Long
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Wed May 09, 2012 8:54 pm

Cinderella wrote:Yeah, many people overestimate how much take home pay biglaw associates make. After taxes (NY taxes, most likely), cost of living, and loans, there’s not much left. There are a number of threads around TLS with the calculations; I encourage you to look at them. I think people have estimated that it would take 10 years to pay off the debt? Maybe more or less time depending on various factors.

Okay, very interesting. I'll search around
Cinderella wrote:Google PSLawNet; there are some good PDF's on AUSA and ADA hiring there. I don’t really understand what your question was though. AUSA is thought to be more prestigious than ADA. Being an ADA is one way to move into AUSA, but there are other ways. I disagree with what corsair said, though. Some USA offices want biglaw and clerkships. I worked in a USA office where not a single assistant us attorney had worked in biglaw or a clerkship. They had all been ADAs or JAGs.

TBH I'm just really not informed on the process and I had to google the acronym AUSA :oops: so that's probably why my questions are appearing convoluted. I'll check out the link.
Cinderella wrote:But biglaw --> criminal law is a rather circuitous route. I’m guessing you’re interested in this as a way to pay off debt? The other pros and cons that you listed in your OP are pretty nil. Maybe you should take some time to work before law school, pay off your loans, and spend a lot of time thinking about law school and your goals. Law school is really not something to jump into if you’re uninformed. It can seriously ruin your life. And if you go in informed/game the system, you can graduate and go straight into the work you’re interested in without having to worry about debt.

The debt issue was a big part of it. In my head I figured that you would be pulling a little more cash than you already explained above, obviously I have a lot more reading to do. I appreciate the advice - I definitely have a lot to learn and information to pull together. Thanks a lot for the help.
SaintsTheMetal wrote:Tagging for reference, this is basically exactly what I want to do. Although I only want to do defense, would never be a DA. Ideally I'd like to do BigLaw to save up some capital and invest it in a small criminal firm, but perhaps it would be better just to go to a TTT on scholarship and skip the BigLaw and the debt?

Glad to hear someone else is interested in similar things! We've got a lot to learn, haha. I think that ultimately your question is one for its own thread simply because of what Cinderella said earlier - it all depends what your stats are and then personal preferences. But I'm beginning to see that the best strategy for people like us is to really do a lot of reading and nail down exactly what we'd like to do, then figure out what schools/debt we'd be willing to work with based on LSAT & GPA. :D

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eandy
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby eandy » Wed May 09, 2012 9:43 pm

Lots of ADAs worked in big law. Do fall/ spring internships and your 1L summer with a prosecutor. Then after a few years in big law you'll still have a demonstrated interest. Go work for a prosecutor. Many offices won't hire you straight out of law school anyway. Big law---> prosecution isn't difficult as long as you have demonstrated interest and don't have some ridiculous criminal record.

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Band A Long
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Re: BigLaw before crim law / public service?

Postby Band A Long » Thu May 10, 2012 7:47 pm

eandy wrote: Big law---> prosecution isn't difficult as long as you have demonstrated interest and don't have some ridiculous criminal record.

Thanks for the information. I guess I'd just be worried that if I happen to move away from my home area, only doing summer or so with the local office + being new(er) to the area would make them consider me less seriously than someone who demonstrates interest at every opportunity.




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