Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

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Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

Post by rogeliolimon » Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:21 pm

I am an incoming 1L at a T25 who has been hellbent on becoming an ADA since 2012. Before starting law school, I have spent two summers in a big city DA office, one summer in a small town DA office, one summer in federal court, and two semesters in criminal justice research facilities. I have tried to network my butt off and do everything right in pursuit of this goal.

And I am absolutely terrified.

I know the tried and true strategy for getting an ADA position is intern, intern, and intern, and that SA stints and PD work can be disqualifiers to hirers. Accordingly, my plan is to continue interning 100% for DA Offices (maybe AG or judicial externships too). I have also already reached out about applying for the school’s prosecution clinic once I’m a 2L. I’m also not NYDA or bust--I plan on applying BROADLY to everywhere from Tacoma to Buffalo.

But, if I do all that and still fail to get recruited by a DA Office, would any private law firm be willing to take me? Am I stupid to put all of my eggs in the local prosecution basket? It’s pretty much the only thing I want to do in the world, but I don’t want to be penalized with post-grad unemployment for my myopic track.

What would be the best way(s) to form contingencies for if I can’t get work as an ADA? Would private criminal defense firms (I know PD offices are probably too bleeding heart to consider someone with such an exclusively prosecutorial background) or personal injury firms be willing to take on someone who so obviously wants to do prosecution?

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Re: Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

Post by Sackboy » Fri Aug 14, 2020 11:53 pm

You're doing everything right. My worry level would be at about 0% right now. DA jobs, typically, aren't that hard to get as a whole, because there are so many openings every year across the country. With your prior demonstrated interest, future law school DA internships, and tolerance for working nationwide, I can say with near 100% certainty that you'll land a gig. I only say near 100%, because there is a chance that you die during law school and are therefore not able to get hired. In my opinion, you honestly don't need contingencies.


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Re: Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

Post by nixy » Sat Aug 15, 2020 12:30 am

Yeah, I think that if you apply broadly you will be able to get a prosecution job *somewhere.* It's not that anyone and their uncle can just waltz into the jobs, in that they're not a backup option; if you're someone who was gung-ho big law but you get no-offered at the end of your 2L summer and you're scrambling to get something, you're not going to be a good ADA candidate anywhere but the most desperate employer b/c you won't have any relevant experience or demonstrated commitment to the job. Or, conversely, if you set your sights on one specific office and aren't interested in anywhere other than that office, you may struggle (like I've seen people post here about wanting to work for the DA in Los Angeles, and anecdotes claim that the office takes a zillion law student interns but then hires very very few and you can't count on a post-grad job at all, so if you were "LA OR BUST" I'd caution you to be more realistic). But if you organize your law school time around getting into a prosecutor's office, and are willing to apply broadly, I think you will probably be fine.

Your question does go to a broader point - is it wise to specialize from day 1 of law school, or is it better to get a wide range of experiences so you can sell yourself to a wide range of employers? There are pros/cons to both approaches, but I think if you really do have a specific passion for a practice area and that's what you really want to do, specialization is good (especially when it's something as common as prosecution - insisting you will only work in, say, art law representing sculptors is getting too specialized, unless you have a lot of very unique experience and connections of people already lined up to hire you when you graduate).

Two things - first, I don't think that doing PD work would actually hurt you with the vast majority of DA's offices; it's more the other way around. Having insight into what defense attorneys do is very helpful to a prosecutor and I think most offices recognize that. That said, many/most PD's offices will not look at someone who was willing to work as a prosecutor, so if you did some kind of PD work during law school, and you didn't get a ADA gig after, having that PD experience still probably wouldn't get you into a PD's office. On the other hand, the private criminal defense bar is filled with former prosecutors. The difficulty in getting that kind of job out of law school is that most private criminal defense is by solo practitioners who won't be hiring associates, or in very small firms where they may prefer someone with more experience, but it's still a possibility. So while I don't think you have to look to get PD experience during law school, if some kind of opportunity to do that work arose, I don't think it would be a problem for you.

Second, if for some reason you didn't get into a DA's office, I would suggest looking into other local government jobs like city attorney's offices, and maybe legal aid (that's a bit tricky because representing indigent clients is usually more aligned with defense work, but domestic violence stuff or going after landlords can be a bit more like prosecution). You certainly can try for private firms, although that will be more of an uphill battle. There are firms in every city that will work for local municipalities/police departments, defending them civilly, and that might possibly be something that would fit with your experience.

But there are a lot of DA jobs out there, and if you're willing to take one anywhere even if it pays crap, you should be able to get one. (Don't get me wrong, you have every shot at getting a much better one, but just addressing the concern of NO JOB at the end of this.)

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Re: Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

Post by Skool » Sat Aug 15, 2020 12:56 am

It’s way too early in law school to start thinking you’re doomed.If you were applying this year during the current fiscal Armageddon, I would be more worried.

Echoing above, would try working for agencies doing prosecution adjacent work. Is there an independent agency in charge of investigating government corruption/waste where you go to school? A state agency investigating Medicare/medicaid fraud/waste?

Also, just do something totally different, just for fun. Any interest in Antitrust, or the First Amendment? If you give yourself space to branch out, you might be surprised at the result.


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Re: Contingencies for DA Hiring Freezes/Mass Rejections

Post by rogeliolimon » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:12 am

Thank you @all! Your responses have all been extremely helpful and encouraging. I think I spend too much time on this site and some of the more pessimistic threads have made me predisposed to expecting the worst, so it’s really refreshing that TLS people think my prospects aren’t totally uncertain.

@nixy - I read those LADA threads back when I was deciding between law schools. Those horror stories definitely played a part in spooking me about DA hiring and deterred me from banking on a non-UBE bar like CA’s. Domestic violence/tenant rep nonprofit work sound like extremely appealing alternatives. Despite wanting to be a prosecutor, I’m a pretty big lefty, so I could imagine that duking it out with sleazy landlords would be a total blast as a backup. Great idea!

@Skool - In re: trying subjects other than prosecution--that's good advice and branching out with my coursework seems like a good way to avoid early burn out w/ my chosen crim track as well. I’m also very interested in admin law (my undergrad courses and thesis dealt primarily with public admin and regulation), so I’ll definitely try to take non-crim classes in stuff like admin law, antitrust, FCA/qui tam, etc.

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