Law enforcement? Forum

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Anonymous User
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Law enforcement?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Dec 07, 2021 11:12 pm

Do JDs ever go into law enforcement? Not honors but as an actual officer. Fed/State/Local.

I cone from a T6 with below median grades, but have big law experience. Is it weird to think about law enforcement?

I have heard FBI/CBP/CIA sometimes take JDs, and the FBI have a specific track for that. I don't know how frequently it actually happens though.

And, I know this is way less common, but some of the cops in suburban areas are making 120-130k. Not state trooper, not police chief not even seargents, just normal beat cops.

Anonymous User
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Re: Law enforcement?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 12:06 am

I’m a prosecutor and obviously don’t have experience all over the country, but have heard of maybe one LEO (whether federal or state) with a JD. (I also know of some local police departments that have a prosecutor on staff, but I’m not certain that they actually perform law enforcement duties, so probably not what you’re looking for.) Whenever this topic comes up, someone will mention one or two semi-prominent folks who’ve done this, but I think it’s more that they had a JD, then went into law enforcement, than that they had a JD, and *so* went into law enforcement. I don’t think it’s impossible or anything, but also don’t think it’s very common - I don’t think there’s a clear pipeline (caveat is that yes, there’s a law/legal track for the FBI, but I don’t know anyone who’s done it and it doesn’t seem to result in lots of JD special agents).

I don’t mean to be discouraging - I don’t think having a JD would present a problem in any way, as long as you meet all the other requirements. I just think it would still be more of a complete career change than a natural transition.

I also think the experience would depend a lot on what kind of law enforcement job - for instance, education requirements can vary a lot (my state police academy requires either an AA or 60 credits of higher ed, or high school/GED and 2 years of LE or military experience, whereas DEA requires at least a BA and likes MAs too). Not saying that’s bad, just that most people with a T6 JD have been very good at/into higher ed and law enforcement would be a very different culture, and even the LEOs I know with BAs have generally done them at whatever cheap local college, rather than at fancy schools. (Again, not saying that’s at all bad, you might well prefer it, just saying it may be a bit different depending on your route to your T6.)

Oh, I guess BOP attorneys sort of fit this? Some work in the prisons so are actually also corrections officers, and go through the required training and carry gear etc. But they’re doing legal work in the prison, so again, not quite the same as transitioning fully to law enforcement (and I realize BOP isn’t everyone’s ideal employer, but it seemed semi-related).

Anonymous User
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Re: Law enforcement?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 8:31 pm

When I was a 1L, FBI came to my law school to recruit for special agent roles specifically, not for its General Counsel office. I don't know the exact statistics but remember him mentioning that quite a few agents have JDs, and it's one (of many) things that help people in the application process (like having a STEM background, knowing foreign languages, etc.). I'm not sure about other federal agencies or local/state law enforcement, but it definitely seems like a path to FBI is doable!

Anonymous User
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Re: Law enforcement?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 9:18 pm

I agree with the poster above except that I think it's more common than they describe for JDs to become FBI agents. It's not just that there's a track: it's one of their most-desired backgrounds, and it's not just a few agents who have one, it's a sizable minority, e.g. at least 10%, possibly more.

Anonymous User
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Re: Law enforcement?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 08, 2021 10:18 pm

I am a cop and an attorney, although I was an LEO first and went to school at night after a few years on the job. I would say this is the more common route for cops who have JDs. Meaning, they were cops first and became lawyers second. Either because they are planning an early exit out of law enforcement, or they are trying to set themselves up for a soft landing in retirement by timing it right and hopefully having a legal job lined up for when they drop their papers. There are some who get it because of the illusion that having a JD means you hop on the fast track to upper management (if that is the sort of thing you want out of your LE career). As for being a lawyer first and then becoming an LEO after, I think it is more common to go the federal route. I work with many different agencies and this is just something I have observed. I know a handful of FBI agents who were former lawyers and decided practicing law wasn't for them. But, as stated above, the FBI has a strong inclination towards hiring lawyers, as it is one of the backgrounds by which you can professionally qualify. It is not unheard of though for lawyers to become local and state cops, especially in my agency where us cops make better money than most lawyers in my state (once we are at the top of the pay scale without killing yourself on overtime we can easily exceed 150k and many of our members make over 200k). Our police academy will routinely see a former civil litigator who got tired of billing hours, a former prosecutor who wanted to see the other side, etc.

Is it weird for you to think about law enforcement coming from a T6? No. Not one bit. It isn't any weirder than coming from a T6 and considering a move to a business role, or banking, etc. It's a career change outside of practicing law just like any other move would be. One bit of advice I will give is that if you are considering a career change like this one, really consider why. If your why is because you actually want to do day to day police work then forget you even have a JD and go be a city cop. Don't get blinded by the fact you have a JD and thus must conform to the notion that lawyers making the transition have to stay on the fed route. If you want purely investigative work involving longer term cases, then the fed route might make more sense. As for the qualification standpoint, having a JD is really neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. On the federal side it may bump you up on the GS scale to start, depending on the agency. Or, as the other poster said, it will at least qualify you out of the gate to be eligible to apply to the FBI. But, it is no more an advantage than being otherwise qualified and standing out during the testing process. As for state and local LE, other than it maybe looking impressive on your background packet, it's not going to get you anything extra. If an agency is going to hire you, chances are they are going to hire you regardless of your JD.

Bottom line, it happens more than you think for a lawyer to change careers to LE. Good luck.

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