July 18, 2005

You'll never make it in BigLaw!

It pleases me immensely to hear a 21-year-old say this:

"I think i definitely want to be a public defender for a couple of years at least."

Right on. Join us. But beware what the well-tailored lawyers say:

Law students also need to realize that there is a vast difference between a starting job at the public defender’s office or district attorney’s office, as compared to starting at his firm of choice. It takes a thick skin and a strong constitution to work with hardened, penniless criminals day in and day out at the public defender’s office....

Well, thanks for the kiss, I suppose, in a "well, X has a nice personality" sort of way (we get this kind of compliment from our professional betters in the Bar all the time). Now here comes the kiss-off:

Some law students are under the impression that they will gain valuable trial experience as a public defender or a deputy district attorney enabling them to later land a good job with a law firm.... a young attorney who has worked for the government has learned nothing about dealing with individual clients, quoting fees, keeping clients advised, and grasping the many complex issues that are presented by business clients on a day-to-day basis. And while it may also be true that government attorneys learn to think on their feet... this is not good training for handling complex business cases where preparation is the number one priority. Just as important, a government attorney has had no experience billing 40+ hours per week or even keeping track of their time. Thus, working for the government right out of law school often disqualifies young attorneys from ever landing a job at a prestigious law firm.

I weep. All these years of haggling and litigating over people's freedom have left me unequipped to deal with the issues that really matter, like whether Corporation A will pay Corporation B's attorney fees.

Young 'uns, if you truly harbor dreams of grinding away in the law library generating income for your firm's partners, and maybe in two years or so getting to roll a partner's briefcase to court to watch said partner do a trial, then for G d's sake turn back now, and don't follow me!

(This could be a good time to introduce newer A&C readers to the beloved Public Defender Dude essay, "Criminal Law is so much better than Civil Law".)

(I do know at least one former p.d. who's now a success in a big law firm, but that one's name is anathema - we shall not speak it.)

Correction: this post implied that the author of the quoted career advice and his firm hail from BigLaw. By BigLaw standards (and perhaps others), both are in fact rather small. A&C regrets the error.