Geographic limits on USAO exits? Forum

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LawBurner1

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Geographic limits on USAO exits?

Post by LawBurner1 » Fri Jan 20, 2023 10:41 pm

(I recognize most of the below is extremely far off in the future for me; I'm mostly just bored)

I'm graduating in May, then working at a firm in DC for a year, then doing a couple of clerkships. My hope is to come back to a firm in DC post-clerkship, work there for a couple of years, then break into either Main Justice or the DDC/EDVA USAOs as a trial attorney.

For non-career reasons, I think it's pretty likely that I'll be moving to Atlanta (to which I have family ties) about 10-15 years from now. My ideal career path would be jumping from the USAO/DOJ to firm partnership. I know this path is pretty well-trodden, but what I'm trying to figure out is how much of an impediment it would be to jump from being an AUSA in one city to private practice in another. Looking at partner bios at Atlanta firms, the former government people were overwhelmingly from the NDGA USAO, but of course, I don't know if this is the result of intentional selection by the firms or just self-selection by those leaving government.

Does anybody have any perspective on this? I would love to stay in DC for a while, and I like the wider variety of government opportunities - but I also don't want to put myself in a difficult position to find the kind of job I'd like back in Atlanta down the line.

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Re: Geographic limits on USAO exits?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jan 21, 2023 1:44 am

Why would a firm in Atlanta hire an AUSA in Alexandria as a partner? It wouldn't make economic sense for the firm to hire someone without good local connections. I'm sure this move is theoretically possible but if you want to practice in Atlanta firm long-term, your goal should be becoming an NDGA AUSA, which might mean going to an Atlanta firm after you're done clerking.

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Re: Geographic limits on USAO exits?

Post by namefromplace » Sat Jan 21, 2023 11:34 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jan 21, 2023 1:44 am
Why would a firm in Atlanta hire an AUSA in Alexandria as a partner? It wouldn't make economic sense for the firm to hire someone without good local connections. I'm sure this move is theoretically possible but if you want to practice in Atlanta firm long-term, your goal should be becoming an NDGA AUSA, which might mean going to an Atlanta firm after you're done clerking.
Yeah, the advantage of hiring someone from a USAO is that they know the USAO (and AUSAs) that will ostensibly be investigating/prosecuting their clients. It gives clients something of an insider edge. Of course, there are other benefits to hiring a former AUSA--they'll likely have much more trial and investigatory experience than your average BigLaw associate. But to jump onto a big firm as partner, you'll probably need more than that.

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Re: Geographic limits on USAO exits?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 22, 2023 1:01 pm

Over a 10 year scope? Well, pretty much anything is achievable in that time scope, if you're not a jerk and not an incompetent buffoon.

One hitch in your plan though is the desire to be a partner after exiting a USAO. By the time you hit the 10 year mark, law firms are no longer really interested in your ability to bill hours. You are expected to run around chasing clients and bringing in dollars. (Year 10 is still a little early to really do that, but it's around the transition point). If you're a 10 year lawyer exiting a USAO with zero clients, why would any law firm be interested in hiring you? You're marginally useful as a trial lawyer, yes, but that doesn't take you that far as a 10 year lawyer. 20 might be different. And if all your USAO experience is in criminal, you won't know civil litigation. You could of course pursue a career in USAO civil.

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Re: Geographic limits on USAO exits?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:47 pm

Along the lines of the post above this one, there is a perception that there's a revolving door between being an AUSA and becoming a biglaw partner, and I just don't think that's generally true any more, if it every really was. The obstacles are this:

- USAOs pretty much everywhere are dealing with a high volume of drug/gun/CP crime, none of which is going to be of interest to biglaw firms. So you can spend a lot of time on work that biglaw firms don't care about.

- even if you do get staffed onto the kind of white-collar crime that biglaw firms defend against, I don't think you're necessarily marketable as a partner based only that experience until you have a pretty substantial work history. I know someone who went from the USAO in their (fairly high tier) district to partnership in a firm in that market, but they had worked at two USAOs, been criminal chief in both, and had also worked as a DAG at Main Justice. I know another biglaw partner who used to be a local AUSA (much smaller market), but went to the firm after 10 years as an AUSA, 5 years as criminal chief, acting USA in another district, and various stints in DC.

Caveats: more specialized work in Main Justice might be different (for instance, if you ended up in the cyber crime section and got experience with privacy stuff). And I think SDNY still has more of a revolving door between biglaw and AUSAs, although I'm still not sure that people go from SDNY to NY biglaw partnerships in the time frame you're looking at.

To return to your earlier question, I think it would be hard to jump from DC USAO directly to a partnership in Atlanta, especially if you haven't worked there at all (going back to a place you have established a history might be different). It might be a little easier from Main Justice for the caveat above, but still tough.

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