Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

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BeastfromtheEast

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Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by BeastfromtheEast » Thu Jan 28, 2021 5:48 pm

I'm looking to get some advice about the possibility of practicing in a small town. I am a 25 year old attorney who is about to finish up a trial-court clerkship. I want to be a state prosecutor, and I've heard from everyone that working in a small district is the way to go. With less attorneys in the office I will have a greater opportunity to build trial skills and the opportunity for career advancement is way better.

I really like the idea of getting trial experience, but I'm worried about the location. It's a small town (23,000 people is small to me) that is about an hour's drive from any population center. There is some possibility that I could be transferred to an adjacent county that would allow me to live in a mid-sized city and commute to work each day. However, for the time being, I'd be stuck in a small town as a single 25 year old guy. What do you think I should do?

caveman2

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Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by caveman2 » Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm

I'm 32 and went through this exact scenario. I clerked for a trial court judge in a tiny town in Pennsylvania for almost two years, then went to a neighboring also-small county and worked as an ADA for two years. I now am working at a fed agency. The county I prosecuted in had a population of 140k people and the county seat had a pop of about 14k people. Fairly rural coal-mining country. The closest "big-city" was Reading, which was 45 minutes away. In my two years prosecuting there, I would say I had about the equivalent of someone who worked at Philly DA for 6-7 years. I was in charge of my own district, so every crime that happened in that district, big or small, was mine. In two years I did about 25 jury trials, all on my own. They ranged from DUIs to Felony agg assaults, and I also second chaired on a first degree murder case with the DA. We handled all our cases from the time of arrest all the way to sentencing, so they were my babies. The experience was invaluable.

I've never been a "big-city" person, in that living in downtown New York would be my nightmare, but I do like living big-city-adjacent. I like being able to go to Trader Joe's or IKEA if I feel like it, so living in a more rural county was not my ideal. I'm also single and looking, and the dating pool was nonexistent (apart from hicks and drug addicts). Thus, it was hard at times. But I knew I wasn't going to be there forever and I was just trying to get the experience to move on somewhere better where I could make more money.

You're fresh out of law school. If you want to move up the ladder faster (and depending what your endgame is), prioritize experience rather than the glamour of working somewhere like Philly where you'll be stuck doing traffic court for two years before getting assigned anything meaningful (and even then, just misdemeanors). Plus, I can't overstate the camaraderie of a smaller office. I was best friends with everyone in that office by the time I left, and it was a tearful goodbye on both sides. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Anonymous User
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Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:06 pm

caveman2 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm
I'm 32 and went through this exact scenario. I clerked for a trial court judge in a tiny town in Pennsylvania for almost two years, then went to a neighboring also-small county and worked as an ADA for two years. I now am working at a fed agency. The county I prosecuted in had a population of 140k people and the county seat had a pop of about 14k people. Fairly rural coal-mining country. The closest "big-city" was Reading, which was 45 minutes away. In my two years prosecuting there, I would say I had about the equivalent of someone who worked at Philly DA for 6-7 years. I was in charge of my own district, so every crime that happened in that district, big or small, was mine. In two years I did about 25 jury trials, all on my own. They ranged from DUIs to Felony agg assaults, and I also second chaired on a first degree murder case with the DA. We handled all our cases from the time of arrest all the way to sentencing, so they were my babies. The experience was invaluable.

I've never been a "big-city" person, in that living in downtown New York would be my nightmare, but I do like living big-city-adjacent. I like being able to go to Trader Joe's or IKEA if I feel like it, so living in a more rural county was not my ideal. I'm also single and looking, and the dating pool was nonexistent (apart from hicks and drug addicts). Thus, it was hard at times. But I knew I wasn't going to be there forever and I was just trying to get the experience to move on somewhere better where I could make more money.

You're fresh out of law school. If you want to move up the ladder faster (and depending what your endgame is), prioritize experience rather than the glamour of working somewhere like Philly where you'll be stuck doing traffic court for two years before getting assigned anything meaningful (and even then, just misdemeanors). Plus, I can't overstate the camaraderie of a smaller office. I was best friends with everyone in that office by the time I left, and it was a tearful goodbye on both sides. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
Thank you for your detailed response. It puts things in perspective. I live in Southern California and I am having difficulty landing a prosecution job. I am thinking I may have to move to another smaller county just to even get hired.

caveman2

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Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by caveman2 » Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:06 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm
Thank you for your detailed response. It puts things in perspective. I live in Southern California and I am having difficulty landing a prosecution job. I am thinking I may have to move to another smaller county just to even get hired.
Here's something else for perspective: In Philly, I wouldn't have been able to afford living alone in an apartment. In my rural county, I was able to buy a house. Also, my very first trial ever was a felony strangulation. I prosecuted it alone, no supervision, and not only did I get the conviction, but it was also the first conviction ever on that charge in that county (strangulation added to PA crimes code in 2016). In the days leading up to the trial, everyone told me "that charge is really difficult to get a conviction on." Not only did I win it on my first try, but I got a write-up about it in the newspaper. Needless to say, that was like prosecutor porn to a first-year ADA. Not trying to toot my own horn here, just demonstrating that you would never get opportunities like that in a bigger office.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:16 pm

caveman2 wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:11 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:06 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm
Thank you for your detailed response. It puts things in perspective. I live in Southern California and I am having difficulty landing a prosecution job. I am thinking I may have to move to another smaller county just to even get hired.
Here's something else for perspective: In Philly, I wouldn't have been able to afford living alone in an apartment. In my rural county, I was able to buy a house. Also, my very first trial ever was a felony strangulation. I prosecuted it alone, no supervision, and not only did I get the conviction, but it was also the first conviction ever on that charge in that county (strangulation added to PA crimes code in 2016). In the days leading up to the trial, everyone told me "that charge is really difficult to get a conviction on." Not only did I win it on my first try, but I got a write-up about it in the newspaper. Needless to say, that was like prosecutor porn to a first-year ADA. Not trying to toot my own horn here, just demonstrating that you would never get opportunities like that in a bigger office.
Did you move to a bigger city now? Did you sell your house in the rural county? (not really related to legal, but curious). I just purchased a home in Southern California so I would have to continue to pay on it. I am not in a position to rent it out, so I would have to pay a mortgage and then rent out a room in a smaller county or something.

I am just trying to figure out what to do. I feel like I would have to go to a small county for at least 1 year before I can transfer back to Southern California.

Congrats on your first case. That's amazing. Are you happier with the fed agency?

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caveman2

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Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:32 pm

Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by caveman2 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:16 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:11 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:06 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm
Did you move to a bigger city now? Did you sell your house in the rural county? (not really related to legal, but curious). I just purchased a home in Southern California so I would have to continue to pay on it. I am not in a position to rent it out, so I would have to pay a mortgage and then rent out a room in a smaller county or something.

I am just trying to figure out what to do. I feel like I would have to go to a small county for at least 1 year before I can transfer back to Southern California.

Congrats on your first case. That's amazing. Are you happier with the fed agency?
Yes I'm in a bigger metro area now out of state and much happier. Sold my house right at the right time Summer 2020. Now is definitely the time to sell--not sure how much longer the insanity bubble is going to last. I'm renting for the time being until a good house comes along to buy, but I'm biding my time to see if prices will go down.

Much happier at the fed agency. The work isn't nearly as fun or interesting, but way less stress, way fewer hours, and twice as much money.

Anonymous User
Posts: 365229
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Gain Experience But Work in a Small Town?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:13 pm

caveman2 wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:29 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 1:16 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:11 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:06 pm
caveman2 wrote:
Thu Feb 18, 2021 6:58 pm
Did you move to a bigger city now? Did you sell your house in the rural county? (not really related to legal, but curious). I just purchased a home in Southern California so I would have to continue to pay on it. I am not in a position to rent it out, so I would have to pay a mortgage and then rent out a room in a smaller county or something.

I am just trying to figure out what to do. I feel like I would have to go to a small county for at least 1 year before I can transfer back to Southern California.

Congrats on your first case. That's amazing. Are you happier with the fed agency?
Yes I'm in a bigger metro area now out of state and much happier. Sold my house right at the right time Summer 2020. Now is definitely the time to sell--not sure how much longer the insanity bubble is going to last. I'm renting for the time being until a good house comes along to buy, but I'm biding my time to see if prices will go down.

Much happier at the fed agency. The work isn't nearly as fun or interesting, but way less stress, way fewer hours, and twice as much money.
Good for you man. Best of luck.

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