ambivalent imbroglio home

« Trouble With Podcasting? | Main | DC LSIC Clinic: Orientation Notes, Day 1 »

August 18, 2005

Dream Job Search

The website of the MT Federal Defender is seeking an attorney.Check out this job opening to become an Assistant Federal Defender for the Federal Defenders of Montana. It sounds like a dream job to me! However, if they're advertising now, they want someone before this time next year, right? And an even bigger problem: Federal defenders don't hire people fresh out of law school, do they?

Help! Does anyone have thoughts on these questions?

More generally, I have to put together a public defender job search and I really don't know where to begin. Any thoughts on methods and strategies would be greatly appreciated.

Damn. There's probably nothing that scares a third-year law student more than not having a job! But hey, I don't graduate for nine more months—why would I be nervous about having no job at this point? Well, for those not familiar w/it, let me explain the “usual” path to your first law job: First, you work in a firm during your second summer (between your second and third years of law school), you do well there, and at the end of the summer you get an offer of employment beginning the following year after you've graduated and taken the bar exam.* If I had followed this path, I'd probably have a job offer right now. I started clinic orientation yesterday and spoke w/several of my peers who are in such a position—happy, carefree, with job offers securely in hand. They're looking forward to a final year of law school w/out a care in the world. Only if they failed some classes (nearly impossible to do) would they need to worry about getting a job after they graduate. As for me? As John Stewart is fond of saying, I got nuthin.

*By the way, this is directly related to whether the third year of law school is really worthwhile or necessary. The system basically works like this: Law school gives you some basics and puts you into massive debt. The system assumes (mostly correctly) you will go to work for a firm to pay off that debt, and firms assume (correctly) that you will know next to nothing about the actual practice of the law when you finish law school so they build in a several-year apprenticeship where they make new associates do all kinds of menial and mindnumbing crap as they learn how to actually become lawyers. But since these firm job offers come before the third year even begins, that final year looks an awful lot like just a mechanism to give law schools a lot more money and put law students a lot deeper into debt. That debt helps to perpetuate the system b/c it ensures that new graduates are indebted enough to put up w/the awful workloads and power games of the firms. Cool.

Posted August 18, 2005 06:27 AM | 3L

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:

I don't know about their hiring criteria, but my best friend got a fed PD internship between her first and second year, so I don't think it's *impossible* to get one of those jobs relatively fresh out of law school. I don't know if she applied to be a federal PD after school or not. She switched (to put it nicely) and is now an asst. DA.

Posted by: E. McPan at August 18, 2005 08:56 AM

Hey, that does look like a good job. From what I know there are some Fed PDs that hire out of law school and some that don't. I interned at the FPD in San Diego and they hired out of law school. Obviously, almost all PDs won't hire you until you've passed the bar, because till then you're useless to them. This particular job looks like it's for an immediate opening and they probably won't wait a year to fill it.

As for strategies for PD jobs, I'd look to states with established systems. Ask PDs in different states that you know. Refine the list of states that you're willing to work in, based on salary, cost of living, whether you need to take the bar, etc. Then apply, apply, apply. Ask a professor at law school/clinic if they know someone in a certain state. Do well in the clinic. It always helps. If you have any more specific questions, drop me a line!

Posted by: Gideon at August 18, 2005 09:35 AM

For a PD job search, check out This is the national legal aid and defender association website. They have available jobs and also PD office throughout the country, broken down by state.

Gideon also gives some good advice about how to get to get your name out there. I would probably focus initially on being a state defender because there is a good chance you will get more trial experience than in the federal system. Of course, I tend to think that street crime is more interesting than white collar crime and so that probably skews my interest toward the state side anyway.

And if you're interested in Alaska or have other questions, let me know.

Posted by: Alaska at August 18, 2005 08:29 PM

Montana is stupid.

Posted by: M at August 18, 2005 08:48 PM

Oh Lord, I have more than enough info to pass along regarding the 3rd year job search. I'm not sure whether my situation makes me a good or bad person from whom to get advice. But all the above advice is good. I had a spreadsheet of the PDs in cities and states in which I was interested, gathered the contact and hiring info, went through what was required in each interview process, etc. DC, NY, MA, GA, Philly, Miami, NH, and San Diego all seem to have structured hiring procedures that start with (or before) the EJW fair in October - but most start that early only for prelim interviews, and the rest come much much later. I've seen the FPD in Idaho/Washington also advertise, seemingly open to new grads. I use for job listings. It updates regularly and you can get email updates for specific types of jobs or locations if you want. It's quite helpful. If you want any info at all, I'd be more than happy to pass it along. And I promise I'm not nearly as bitter one-on-one as I am via blog. :)

Posted by: womanofthelaw at August 18, 2005 11:10 PM

about   ∞     ∞   archives   ∞   links   ∞   rss
This template highly modified from The Style Monkey.