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Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:27 am

Note: edited to make my question more clear.

So I'm a 3L who's set to go to a V10. Don't particularly want to do biglaw, have lots of pre-law-school public interest experience and two summers in different biglaw litigation groups. What public service roles exist that hire candidates either (a) immediately coming out of LS or (b) shortly after starting?

For example, I was considering uncompensated SAUSA positions. Many say they're willing to hire after 1 year of litigation experience. Is this accurate, or are they typically looking for more years? I'm happy to take a pay cut or go to zero for a high-enough-impact role, and SAUSA positions are pretty intriguing, but I'm willing to consider other roles that would let me do more independent advocacy in the public interest than biglaw allows. I'm also not married to criminal law, so very open to other types of litigation.

If relevant: HYS, significant pre-law WE in public interest (I've never worked in a for-profit setting before 1L summer, actually) and leader of a few PI focused orgs on campus. No clerkship, but applying now for 2024 and 2025.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Thu Dec 14, 2023 3:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 14, 2023 2:22 am

You don't want the job and you don't need the job so... don't take the job. If you want permission from an internet stranger (you don't need it, you're a grown-up), here it is: you don't have to go to biglaw. Plenty of people don't, and most of them are probably happy with that choice.

Apply for something you want to do and do that instead (and sign up for LRAP if applicable). Talk to your public interest career office. I'd probably find another job before I quit, but that's me.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 14, 2023 3:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 2:22 am
You don't want the job and you don't need the job so... don't take the job. If you want permission from an internet stranger (you don't need it, you're a grown-up), here it is: you don't have to go to biglaw. Plenty of people don't, and most of them are probably happy with that choice.

Apply for something you want to do and do that instead (and sign up for LRAP if applicable). Talk to your public interest career office. I'd probably find another job before I quit, but that's me.
Sorry if I was unclear--it's late and I'm studying for my last final. It's more that I don't want the job but everything interesting I've seen seems to either (a) want demonstrated commitment to public interest (which you would think I have, but apparently my two summers of biglaw negates my pre-law experience) or (b) wants dedicated biglaw experience. I've had a couple people I talked to mention that trying to pivot early makes me seem like I was cold/no-offered (which was not the case, let's be clear).

I guess it was more of a vent than a question tbf, so let's start over with a more general question:

Where should I be looking for public service opportunities that would likely be interested in hiring someone with a pretty strong public interest track record, prestigious academic credentials, and minimal biglaw experience? Our public interest office tries their best but are, uh, not lauded for their jobs.

Edit: thought more about the question, restated in the edit above.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Dec 15, 2023 11:49 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 3:04 am
Sorry if I was unclear--it's late and I'm studying for my last final. It's more that I don't want the job but everything interesting I've seen seems to either (a) want demonstrated commitment to public interest (which you would think I have, but apparently my two summers of biglaw negates my pre-law experience) or (b) wants dedicated biglaw experience. I've had a couple people I talked to mention that trying to pivot early makes me seem like I was cold/no-offered (which was not the case, let's be clear).

I guess it was more of a vent than a question tbf, so let's start over with a more general question:

Where should I be looking for public service opportunities that would likely be interested in hiring someone with a pretty strong public interest track record, prestigious academic credentials, and minimal biglaw experience? Our public interest office tries their best but are, uh, not lauded for their jobs.

Edit: thought more about the question, restated in the edit above.
I don't think you're giving PI employers enough credit. You summered in a biglaw litigation group, liked it enough to go back the next summer, and now you've decided you don't actually want to do it. Why should a PI employer hire you, and invest time in training you, over someone who spent both summers in PI and seems less likely to get cold feet? If you can sell your prior work experience as a demonstrated commitment, it wouldn't hurt to shoot in an application, but that's the sort of question you'd need to be able to answer; especially for "high-impact" roles, your application is being measured against people with the same prestigious academic credentials and stronger public interest track records. Why you?

As for where to look, you're past most federal and state honors hiring timelines, but many state/local DA and PD offices hire throughout the year. Your school also has a public interest fellowship program that would be worth exploring.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2023 12:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Dec 15, 2023 11:49 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 3:04 am
Sorry if I was unclear--it's late and I'm studying for my last final. It's more that I don't want the job but everything interesting I've seen seems to either (a) want demonstrated commitment to public interest (which you would think I have, but apparently my two summers of biglaw negates my pre-law experience) or (b) wants dedicated biglaw experience. I've had a couple people I talked to mention that trying to pivot early makes me seem like I was cold/no-offered (which was not the case, let's be clear).

I guess it was more of a vent than a question tbf, so let's start over with a more general question:

Where should I be looking for public service opportunities that would likely be interested in hiring someone with a pretty strong public interest track record, prestigious academic credentials, and minimal biglaw experience? Our public interest office tries their best but are, uh, not lauded for their jobs.

Edit: thought more about the question, restated in the edit above.
I don't think you're giving PI employers enough credit. You summered in a biglaw litigation group, liked it enough to go back the next summer, and now you've decided you don't actually want to do it. Why should a PI employer hire you, and invest time in training you, over someone who spent both summers in PI and seems less likely to get cold feet? If you can sell your prior work experience as a demonstrated commitment, it wouldn't hurt to shoot in an application, but that's the sort of question you'd need to be able to answer; especially for "high-impact" roles, your application is being measured against people with the same prestigious academic credentials and stronger public interest track records. Why you?

As for where to look, you're past most federal and state honors hiring timelines, but many state/local DA and PD offices hire throughout the year. Your school also has a public interest fellowship program that would be worth exploring.
Yeah I agree with the above poster that high-profile public interest orgs (ACLU, LDF, etc) are definitely looking for folks with more of a demonstrated public interest commitment (and clerkships too) for the few openings they have available. The pre-law-school public interest to big law summer intern path is so common it’s a cliche, so a lot of PI orgs (fairly or not) won’t really view you as someone with a “pretty strong public interest track record.” Also, the main public interest fellowship deadlines (like state/fed gov honors program deadlines) have already passed by now - if you’re dead set on something for next year, I think it might be slim pickings if you don’t want to be a local DA/PD (which usually is good training for federal prosecution/defense work, so I wouldn’t rule it out).

It’s probably best to see if your school does any sponsored fellowships and then reach out to an organization you’d be interested in working for to see if they’ll take the free labor.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2023 9:59 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:27 am
Note: edited to make my question more clear.

So I'm a 3L who's set to go to a V10. Don't particularly want to do biglaw, have lots of pre-law-school public interest experience and two summers in different biglaw litigation groups. What public service roles exist that hire candidates either (a) immediately coming out of LS or (b) shortly after starting?

For example, I was considering uncompensated SAUSA positions. Many say they're willing to hire after 1 year of litigation experience. Is this accurate, or are they typically looking for more years? I'm happy to take a pay cut or go to zero for a high-enough-impact role, and SAUSA positions are pretty intriguing, but I'm willing to consider other roles that would let me do more independent advocacy in the public interest than biglaw allows. I'm also not married to criminal law, so very open to other types of litigation.

If relevant: HYS, significant pre-law WE in public interest (I've never worked in a for-profit setting before 1L summer, actually) and leader of a few PI focused orgs on campus. No clerkship, but applying now for 2024 and 2025.
re uncompensated SAUSA gigs - if it says they'll consider you after 1 year, they'll definitely consider you, and your school/experience will probably look good. It will depend entirely on who else is applying/interested, b/c sometimes you get much more experienced people using the SAUSA position to pivot down the line. But if you're willing to do uncompensated SAUSA, you could also consider regular AUSA gigs in border districts, b/c they're more likely to hire people with less experience. (You'd have to be willing to do border district work though - primarily immigration and drugs coming over the border - which may not be consistent with your PI focus.)

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 20, 2023 4:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Dec 15, 2023 11:49 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 3:04 am
Sorry if I was unclear--it's late and I'm studying for my last final. It's more that I don't want the job but everything interesting I've seen seems to either (a) want demonstrated commitment to public interest (which you would think I have, but apparently my two summers of biglaw negates my pre-law experience) or (b) wants dedicated biglaw experience. I've had a couple people I talked to mention that trying to pivot early makes me seem like I was cold/no-offered (which was not the case, let's be clear).

I guess it was more of a vent than a question tbf, so let's start over with a more general question:

Where should I be looking for public service opportunities that would likely be interested in hiring someone with a pretty strong public interest track record, prestigious academic credentials, and minimal biglaw experience? Our public interest office tries their best but are, uh, not lauded for their jobs.

Edit: thought more about the question, restated in the edit above.
You summered in a biglaw litigation group, liked it enough to go back the next summer, and now you've decided you don't actually want to do it.
Ah, I wish that were true. I absolutely despised my 1L summer, but I wasn't able to get traction with PI orgs before OCI and felt heavily pressured by my school to do the biglaw thing, so I switched firms hoping that I disliked the firm more than the work. Sadly, my second firm was much worse than my first.

For 1Ls currently applying to firms, don't fucking do it. It's awful. Do something meaningful instead; doesn't even have to be PI, just something that has more intrinsic meaning than making a partner more money.

Edit: I know we do sponsored fellowships, but I've never been explained how you actually get them. I'll reach out to our PI careers office after the holidays.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by lavarman84 » Thu Dec 21, 2023 2:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:27 am
Note: edited to make my question more clear.

So I'm a 3L who's set to go to a V10. Don't particularly want to do biglaw, have lots of pre-law-school public interest experience and two summers in different biglaw litigation groups. What public service roles exist that hire candidates either (a) immediately coming out of LS or (b) shortly after starting?

For example, I was considering uncompensated SAUSA positions. Many say they're willing to hire after 1 year of litigation experience. Is this accurate, or are they typically looking for more years? I'm happy to take a pay cut or go to zero for a high-enough-impact role, and SAUSA positions are pretty intriguing, but I'm willing to consider other roles that would let me do more independent advocacy in the public interest than biglaw allows. I'm also not married to criminal law, so very open to other types of litigation.

If relevant: HYS, significant pre-law WE in public interest (I've never worked in a for-profit setting before 1L summer, actually) and leader of a few PI focused orgs on campus. No clerkship, but applying now for 2024 and 2025.
What exactly are you interested in doing in the PI space? There's a massive difference between federal prosecutor and what most of the nonprofit world does. School-funded fellowships can be a great way to make the transition, but you have to actually have some plan for the work you want to do. I'm not trying to be harsh, but it feels a bit like you don't know what you want.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 21, 2023 1:11 pm

lavarman84 wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2023 2:40 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2023 12:27 am
Note: edited to make my question more clear.

So I'm a 3L who's set to go to a V10. Don't particularly want to do biglaw, have lots of pre-law-school public interest experience and two summers in different biglaw litigation groups. What public service roles exist that hire candidates either (a) immediately coming out of LS or (b) shortly after starting?

For example, I was considering uncompensated SAUSA positions. Many say they're willing to hire after 1 year of litigation experience. Is this accurate, or are they typically looking for more years? I'm happy to take a pay cut or go to zero for a high-enough-impact role, and SAUSA positions are pretty intriguing, but I'm willing to consider other roles that would let me do more independent advocacy in the public interest than biglaw allows. I'm also not married to criminal law, so very open to other types of litigation.

If relevant: HYS, significant pre-law WE in public interest (I've never worked in a for-profit setting before 1L summer, actually) and leader of a few PI focused orgs on campus. No clerkship, but applying now for 2024 and 2025.
What exactly are you interested in doing in the PI space? There's a massive difference between federal prosecutor and what most of the nonprofit world does. School-funded fellowships can be a great way to make the transition, but you have to actually have some plan for the work you want to do. I'm not trying to be harsh, but it feels a bit like you don't know what you want.
I don't want to specify exactly, because most of my work has been in a sufficiently specific niche that HYS + area of interest could easily out who I am. Like, I'm one of two people my year who has a serious interest in this field and the only one who was a biglaw summer. It's an area where federal prosecutors and nonprofits have a surprising amount of overlap (though obviously a big split in criminal/civil work).

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 27, 2024 12:46 am

OP here, bumping this. Have clerkships (District + COA) from 2025-2027 now, but struck out on entry-level public interest hiring. Absolutely miserable and have started fantasizing about intentionally failing the bar so I don't have to start at my firm (yes I have a therapist, yes I've talked to him about this).

If I were to, say, bail on my firm either (a) before starting or (b) very early in my year (like, say, Jan/Feb), would that come back to bite me on post-clerkship public interest hiring? I imagine (a) looks like I was no/cold-offered, so (b) would seem to be a better strategy.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 27, 2024 1:30 am

Your future judges will definitely want an update and will wonder what the hell is happening with you. You will head into your first clerkship needing to assuage suspicions that you might be a flake. Just take the damn job. It's one year, and you'll learn a lot more than you'd think (though not necessarily about the law). Trust me, it's much easier when you know you have a last day.
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2024 12:46 am
OP here, bumping this. Have clerkships (District + COA) from 2025-2027 now, but struck out on entry-level public interest hiring. Absolutely miserable and have started fantasizing about intentionally failing the bar so I don't have to start at my firm (yes I have a therapist, yes I've talked to him about this).

If I were to, say, bail on my firm either (a) before starting or (b) very early in my year (like, say, Jan/Feb), would that come back to bite me on post-clerkship public interest hiring? I imagine (a) looks like I was no/cold-offered, so (b) would seem to be a better strategy.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 27, 2024 8:20 am

Bluntly, I think you’re probably being far too picky about what PI gig you’re willing to take. I say this as someone who went to a UMich/Penn/Duke, did not go the project-based fellowship path, and didn’t get a permanent position until quite close to graduation. I did fairly prestigious PI internships both summers and during the academic year, as well as several clinics. The fact that you had pre-JD experience should be a significant boost/help counter your firm summers, so I’d actually wonder if you’re borderline attractive but something else is off about your application materials.

Did you not do any clinics? First of all, I’d find that super odd if I were reviewing, but if you did, then second, your clinical professors might be a good resource.

That being said, you might be in a tougher position now since it would need to be just a 1-year gig. Most places wouldn’t want to bring someone on for that short of a time, but still keep trawling PSJD, as temporary things pop up from time to time. Also you might be logistically limited by where you’re taking the bar/clerking/etc.

In your shoes, if you feel like this is something you want to keep trying to do (while doing bar prep unless you did NY’s early February sitting or something?), you’re going to have to really aggressively reach out to alumni (maybe check your clerkship database to see if anyone else matches a similar profile)/friends and see if they can help you out. I don’t have the appetite for that, personally, though, so I’d just stick it out and quit a few months early.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 27, 2024 11:32 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jun 27, 2024 8:20 am
Bluntly, I think you’re probably being far too picky about what PI gig you’re willing to take. I say this as someone who went to a UMich/Penn/Duke, did not go the project-based fellowship path, and didn’t get a permanent position until quite close to graduation. I did fairly prestigious PI internships both summers and during the academic year, as well as several clinics. The fact that you had pre-JD experience should be a significant boost/help counter your firm summers, so I’d actually wonder if you’re borderline attractive but something else is off about your application materials.

Did you not do any clinics? First of all, I’d find that super odd if I were reviewing, but if you did, then second, your clinical professors might be a good resource.

That being said, you might be in a tougher position now since it would need to be just a 1-year gig. Most places wouldn’t want to bring someone on for that short of a time, but still keep trawling PSJD, as temporary things pop up from time to time. Also you might be logistically limited by where you’re taking the bar/clerking/etc.

In your shoes, if you feel like this is something you want to keep trying to do (while doing bar prep unless you did NY’s early February sitting or something?), you’re going to have to really aggressively reach out to alumni (maybe check your clerkship database to see if anyone else matches a similar profile)/friends and see if they can help you out. I don’t have the appetite for that, personally, though, so I’d just stick it out and quit a few months early.
Clinic + advanced clinic in 2/3L respectively. Theoretically good experience too—lots of writing and a few appearances in state court and before administrative panels. Clinical professor is probably the best of my clerkship recommenders.

I’m not sure you’re wrong about something being off—I’ve had judges say that my materials give off a transactional vibe (which is odd because I’ve only done lit, but my journal and one book prize are more business-y and I’ve taken a few business-y classes). I could cut my journal from my resume, but I’m not sure if that would help or hurt at this point.

Problem 2 (and this might be the killer) is that I’m heading to a non-NY/DC/CA city for the year (locked down an apt a couple weeks ago) and there seems to be far less going on here in the PI space.

I’ve been applying broadly but haven’t really gotten any bites.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 27, 2024 6:34 pm

Previous commenter: in that case, then I’m just sorry! I think it may well simply be bad luck/generally super tough for public interest hiring. Not sure if it helps, but you sound like a credible applicant, and I really don’t think you’re being like, blackballed for your firm summers (but the comment about you reading as transactional is odd…). I sort of lean the way of the other commenter: just stick out the year. Fwiw, I’m in Philadelphia/Chicago/Boston/Seattle-type city now and while there might be fewer desirable roles on the whole than NY/CA/DC, depending on what you’re looking for, there’s lots of legal aid/regional policy work.

What does your clinical recommender think of the situation?

Edit to be slightly more responsive to your question: this is so annoying but I think it depends on how substantial that 1 year of experience is — have you gotten stand-up experience, what have you had experience briefing, etc. I don’t think it’s a fake openness at all, if that’s what you’re asking about. Also interested in moving to a government PI role after clerking, so I’ve been asking around, too. (But my take is you shouldn’t be looking at uncompensated roles anyway, no matter how bad you want that particular niche. Like something WILL come up.)

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by mrpotatoe3045 » Mon Jul 01, 2024 3:10 pm

PI hiring can really vary in terms of competitiveness. Most PI orgs also care much less about the prestige of the school you went to and/or grades. A good chunk of PI hiring is interest based (they care about your commitment to the cause), which is primarily gauged by your 1L/2L summer positions. To be frank, it sounds like you may be overly selective with the PI jobs you'd be willing to take.

For example, PD jobs in NYC have historically been somewhat competitive (a little less so now due to them hemorrhaging attorneys, but it's at least still somewhat true). On the flip side, housing defense in NYC is always desperate for bodies, and would likely hire anyone with a semi-coherent rationale for working with them. Similarly, PD work outside of major metro areas tend to be very uncompetitive.

Long story short, a lot of PI orgs will not care a ton about your current assets (school prestige, grades), and may even view some of them negatively (experience in big law and lack of PI internships). The easy solution is to apply to less competitive PI jobs.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 01, 2024 5:18 pm

mrpotatoe3045 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2024 3:10 pm
PI hiring can really vary in terms of competitiveness. Most PI orgs also care much less about the prestige of the school you went to and/or grades. A good chunk of PI hiring is interest based (they care about your commitment to the cause), which is primarily gauged by your 1L/2L summer positions. To be frank, it sounds like you may be overly selective with the PI jobs you'd be willing to take.

For example, PD jobs in NYC have historically been somewhat competitive (a little less so now due to them hemorrhaging attorneys, but it's at least still somewhat true). On the flip side, housing defense in NYC is always desperate for bodies, and would likely hire anyone with a semi-coherent rationale for working with them. Similarly, PD work outside of major metro areas tend to be very uncompetitive.

Long story short, a lot of PI orgs will not care a ton about your current assets (school prestige, grades), and may even view some of them negatively (experience in big law and lack of PI internships). The easy solution is to apply to less competitive PI jobs.
Does that change at all post-clerkship? Or I have just perma-fucked myself for impact litigation-style work here? I've considered some other areas--when I posted this originally I was open to being a federal prosecutor, but after some thought I don't think I could actually lock anyone up (and being a PD is more in line with my politics and interests anyway), but I'm very into appellate advocacy so I'm more focused on potential synergies there.

To the other commentator's point: I'm not sure how substantive the firm year would be. It's a good firm with a good litigation group, but it's huge. I strongly doubt there will be any chance to get stand-up experience just given the size of the place. Based on people I've spoken with, first years seem to be most used on discovery matters? So maybe that's helpful?

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by mrpotatoe3045 » Mon Jul 01, 2024 6:00 pm

Most PI orgs which don't litigate in federal courts (i.e. the vast majority of them) tend to view a federal clerkship anywhere from a slight boost -- slight negative. More likely a boost for prosecution/government jobs, more likely a negative for direct client services/defense. Appellate work would likely view it more as a positive due to the writing, but they would likely favor a state appellate clerkship over a federal one. Impact litigation would also probably like it, but those jobs are very difficult to land. Always shoot your shot but I'd have a plan B for sure. Appellate defense is easier than impact lit, but still somewhat difficult to land since there are fewer positions and they tend to have a better work life balance than the trial attorneys (so you're competing with PDs who already have a few years of trial experience).

It doesn't seem like the year in big law would necessarily do you any favors in the PI world. Obviously this depends on the type of PI job you want, but the type of discovery review you do in big law is likely quite different than that in the PI world (most of my discovery work is watching bodycams and transcribing for example).

With that said, you're certainly not SOL for PI jobs long term. Just do what most people do who are under-competitive for PI -- work a lower entry/worse PI job for a year or two to develop relevant skills and then leverage that for the job you actually want.

Making an analogy back to NYC PD work (as that's what I'm most familiar with), a lot of former big law attorneys who wish to do PD work will work in family defense or housing defense for a year or two to build up the relevant client management skills/signal public interest and then pivot to criminal defense.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 01, 2024 11:09 pm

What about starting at a border/reservation district’s FPD? Would that be pivotable to NY etc FPD offices? I would assume they have more of a use for fed clerks and it seems like WD Tex or D-South Dakota would probably need bodies, but maybe I’m missing something here.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 12:26 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2024 11:09 pm
What about starting at a border/reservation district’s FPD? Would that be pivotable to NY etc FPD offices? I would assume they have more of a use for fed clerks and it seems like WD Tex or D-South Dakota would probably need bodies, but maybe I’m missing something here.
I’ve seen someone go from a border district to Boston; I’ve seen AUSAs move offices so I can’t imagine the skills wouldn’t transfer on the FPD side. Just keep in mind that to my knowledge, the border district offices require Spanish fluency.

Also, if you’re thinking about for this year before you clerk, FPD offices don’t usually hire newbies - the least experienced person I’ve seen join an FPD office was someone coming off a clerkship and even that was unusual. Yes, border/reservation districts need people, but they’re also hiring people to represent defendants in felony cases and if you look at the requirements for being on the CJA panel (so sort of comparable) they usually want some amount of felony experience first. I think they generally want more experienced people than USAOs do. And they can hire experienced people out of state/local public defenders’ offices, as the feds generally pay better than the locals.

This is leaving aside the fact that you know you’ll be leaving in a year and government employers don’t really do the “leave to clerk and come back” thing that firms do.

I don’t know everything about every FPD office by any means, so don’t let me stop you from trying, but I’m not sure how much success you’ll have. You’d probably have better luck with local legal aid or state/county public defenders, although depending on the state, they’ve often hired for the fall by now.

(If you mean for after your clerkships, then ignore all this. Also check out Oklahoma offices.)

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 1:29 am

Why not just go to the firm and work mostly on pro bono matters for a year? They're not going to fire you. And if you tell them you're leaving for a COA clerkship, they'll be amenable so as to a) not need to re-staff whatever billable matters you'd otherwise be on; b) allow you to get substantive experience going into the clerkship; and c) think positively of the firm so you're more likely to return after your clerkships. You'd need to practice some tact in pulling off the forgoing, but a year at a large firm is not the worst thing in the world. It's definitely better than failing the bar or getting paid zero dollars to be a prosecutor.

mrpotatoe3045

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by mrpotatoe3045 » Tue Jul 02, 2024 10:42 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 12:26 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2024 11:09 pm
What about starting at a border/reservation district’s FPD? Would that be pivotable to NY etc FPD offices? I would assume they have more of a use for fed clerks and it seems like WD Tex or D-South Dakota would probably need bodies, but maybe I’m missing something here.
I’ve seen someone go from a border district to Boston; I’ve seen AUSAs move offices so I can’t imagine the skills wouldn’t transfer on the FPD side. Just keep in mind that to my knowledge, the border district offices require Spanish fluency.

Also, if you’re thinking about for this year before you clerk, FPD offices don’t usually hire newbies - the least experienced person I’ve seen join an FPD office was someone coming off a clerkship and even that was unusual. Yes, border/reservation districts need people, but they’re also hiring people to represent defendants in felony cases and if you look at the requirements for being on the CJA panel (so sort of comparable) they usually want some amount of felony experience first. I think they generally want more experienced people than USAOs do. And they can hire experienced people out of state/local public defenders’ offices, as the feds generally pay better than the locals.

This is leaving aside the fact that you know you’ll be leaving in a year and government employers don’t really do the “leave to clerk and come back” thing that firms do.

I don’t know everything about every FPD office by any means, so don’t let me stop you from trying, but I’m not sure how much success you’ll have. You’d probably have better luck with local legal aid or state/county public defenders, although depending on the state, they’ve often hired for the fall by now.

(If you mean for after your clerkships, then ignore all this. Also check out Oklahoma offices.)
This is all pretty much my understanding as well. FPD is usually more competitive, the only offices that hire new grads are the CA offices, but they'll have hired their class by now. Local legal aid/state PD office would be your best bet, but you might have to be somewhat geographically flexible. I endorse what the other user says, why not just roll with your big law job and deal with finding a PI job post clerkship? It'll be easier on that end anyways since you'll have more time. You can easily explain 1 year in big law away.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 4:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 1:29 am
Why not just go to the firm and work mostly on pro bono matters for a year? They're not going to fire you. And if you tell them you're leaving for a COA clerkship, they'll be amenable so as to a) not need to re-staff whatever billable matters you'd otherwise be on; b) allow you to get substantive experience going into the clerkship; and c) think positively of the firm so you're more likely to return after your clerkships. You'd need to practice some tact in pulling off the forgoing, but a year at a large firm is not the worst thing in the world. It's definitely better than failing the bar or getting paid zero dollars to be a prosecutor.
Given how our staffing works I'm not sure that's possible, but I can probably get on a couple matters.

Re the FPD question--sorry if I was unclear, I meant that to be post-clerkships. I'm more zen about going back to my firm for a limited period of time now, I think. Haven't fantasized about failing the bar for a few days (as much as Themis' evidence prof might make me want to never think about law again).

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jul 02, 2024 11:15 pm

mrpotatoe3045 wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2024 10:42 am
I endorse what the other user says, why not just roll with your big law job and deal with finding a PI job post clerkship? It'll be easier on that end anyways since you'll have more time. You can easily explain 1 year in big law away.
I agree with this, in part because you will be able to check the box of biglaw experience for employers who want to see that. Obviously it won’t quite count for an employer who wants real in depth biglaw experience, but sometimes just being able to have it on your resume will look good.

(Also, I realize you’re not really serious about failing the bar on purpose, but biglaw firms pretty much universally give you a second shot. You’d still have to work there *and* you’d have to study for/take the bar again. Definitely not worth it!)

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by lavarman84 » Sat Jul 06, 2024 10:21 am

mrpotatoe3045 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2024 6:00 pm
Most PI orgs which don't litigate in federal courts (i.e. the vast majority of them) tend to view a federal clerkship anywhere from a slight boost -- slight negative. More likely a boost for prosecution/government jobs, more likely a negative for direct client services/defense. Appellate work would likely view it more as a positive due to the writing, but they would likely favor a state appellate clerkship over a federal one. Impact litigation would also probably like it, but those jobs are very difficult to land. Always shoot your shot but I'd have a plan B for sure. Appellate defense is easier than impact lit, but still somewhat difficult to land since there are fewer positions and they tend to have a better work life balance than the trial attorneys (so you're competing with PDs who already have a few years of trial experience).

It doesn't seem like the year in big law would necessarily do you any favors in the PI world. Obviously this depends on the type of PI job you want, but the type of discovery review you do in big law is likely quite different than that in the PI world (most of my discovery work is watching bodycams and transcribing for example).

With that said, you're certainly not SOL for PI jobs long term. Just do what most people do who are under-competitive for PI -- work a lower entry/worse PI job for a year or two to develop relevant skills and then leverage that for the job you actually want.

Making an analogy back to NYC PD work (as that's what I'm most familiar with), a lot of former big law attorneys who wish to do PD work will work in family defense or housing defense for a year or two to build up the relevant client management skills/signal public interest and then pivot to criminal defense.
I work in impact litigation. Clerkships are a big boost, and biglaw, particularly for a year, isn't a negative. We litigate often in federal court, and we often bring on biglaw pro bono firms for their expertise and resources in discovery. That said, yes, it's competitive, but two federal clerkships can make you a realistic candidate, OP. It's more about luck with regards to hiring timing and needs.

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Re: Early career public interest pivot?

Post by sleepyzombie » Sat Jul 06, 2024 10:32 am

lavarman84 wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2024 10:21 am
mrpotatoe3045 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2024 6:00 pm
Most PI orgs which don't litigate in federal courts (i.e. the vast majority of them) tend to view a federal clerkship anywhere from a slight boost -- slight negative. More likely a boost for prosecution/government jobs, more likely a negative for direct client services/defense. Appellate work would likely view it more as a positive due to the writing, but they would likely favor a state appellate clerkship over a federal one. Impact litigation would also probably like it, but those jobs are very difficult to land. Always shoot your shot but I'd have a plan B for sure. Appellate defense is easier than impact lit, but still somewhat difficult to land since there are fewer positions and they tend to have a better work life balance than the trial attorneys (so you're competing with PDs who already have a few years of trial experience).

It doesn't seem like the year in big law would necessarily do you any favors in the PI world. Obviously this depends on the type of PI job you want, but the type of discovery review you do in big law is likely quite different than that in the PI world (most of my discovery work is watching bodycams and transcribing for example).

With that said, you're certainly not SOL for PI jobs long term. Just do what most people do who are under-competitive for PI -- work a lower entry/worse PI job for a year or two to develop relevant skills and then leverage that for the job you actually want.

Making an analogy back to NYC PD work (as that's what I'm most familiar with), a lot of former big law attorneys who wish to do PD work will work in family defense or housing defense for a year or two to build up the relevant client management skills/signal public interest and then pivot to criminal defense.
I work in impact litigation. Clerkships are a big boost, and biglaw, particularly for a year, isn't a negative. We litigate often in federal court, and we often bring on biglaw pro bono firms for their expertise and resources in discovery. That said, yes, it's competitive, but two federal clerkships can make you a realistic candidate, OP. It's more about luck with regards to hiring timing and needs.
Is working in impact litigation without clerking a realistic possibility?

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