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Aspiring lawyer, questions on how to start

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by TauKappaEpsilon, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. Dbc0919

    Dbc0919 Senior member

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    New York, NY
    The answer is focus on an internship that will help you get into a top law school. I'm an attorney in NYC with significant experience in your area of interest. Two things to consider. As another poster pointed out, a great number of white collar practitioners have worked as Assistant United States attorneys. If you have any interest in working as a federal prosecutor, at least in NYC, you better go to a top, top law school. As getting a job in a US Attorneys office straight from law school is virtually impossible, most work for big law firms for a few years and then apply. If you really want to do white collar defense, you'll stay and get real experience for a few years and go back to a white collar firm or join the white collar dept of a large firm. USA's office provides opportunities to get real experience particularly courtroom experience you will never get as an associate at a firm. This leads to the second thing. While most big firms have white collar practices now, it is still relatively, in law firm terms, new. Many of the partners will be former AUSA's and associate positions are limited. However, I would say a majority of the most prominent white collar defense lawyers in NYC have their own firms or a partners at smaller firms specializing in defense. Generally, these firms are also hiring associates with experience and from top law schools. So, get into a top law school. Of course, there are plenty of lawyers with great white collar practices without that background . . . a tremendous number of solo's, people with state court experience who learn federal defense, federal defenders programs, . . .none of which will care about your college internships.
     
  2. sns23

    sns23 Senior member

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    Actually, it has not been that large of a time commitment.
     
  3. rohde88

    rohde88 Senior member

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    I think most of my '10 classmates are gainfully employed, albeit not at their junior year of college hopes as a "white collar defense" attorney.
     
  4. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    I do a lot of white collar criminal defense work. My path was that I went to a good law school, was on the law review, worked as an associate at a big firm for a while, then left and started my own practice (I have never been, nor would I ever be, a prosecutor of any type). Having said that, I also defend a lot of people charged with street crimes and I really cut my teeth in criminal defense work defending clients accused of street crimes before the white collar work started coming in. The good thing about white collar work is that clients generally have more of an ability to pay. My advice is this: do whatever you are going to do (campaign work, internships in other industries, school work, volunteer work, etc.) in any field, just make sure to do it well.
     
  5. ballmouse

    ballmouse Senior member

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    Get an internship and never be ungrateful about it. Take it and do the best job you can, even if the work isn't exciting or it isn't in a field of work you particularly like. Why?

    Anyone willing to give you an internship almost certainly has a lot of projects to offer you. If you can do excellent work on the boring stuff, you will very likely get a crack at the good stuff and improve your resume. Every internship I've had has always involved crappy work to test me in the beginning. But in hindsight, I got the opportunity to work on significantly better projects than I would've thought possible when I first filled out the applications.
     
  6. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    ^ You'd be surprised the shit internships out there...
     
  7. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Potentially useful angle if you're wanting to find clients. Nothing like a bushel of politicians to keep defense attorneys employed.
     
  8. cptjeff

    cptjeff Senior member

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    As somebody working in a highly political environment on the other side of the aisle there are so many cracks I want to make right now...
     
  9. TauKappaEpsilon

    TauKappaEpsilon Senior member

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    I'm starting a summer position at a medium sized firm (50-60 attorneys). I'm an intern, however, they have highschool, undergraduate, and law school interns, so hopefully I wont be doing the menial work. If I could ask all of you (preferably attorneys) what are some of the most useful things I could offer a medium sized firm? I have a car, I am proficient in all the Microsoft office programs, I can do legal research, I can do case briefs, I can write memos, etc. Anything that can be helpful to a firm I can do, or have one of my barred (but not currently practicing) professors teach me how to do.

    This is a great firm and I'd really like to show them that I am a valuable worker and not some useless intern who is only good for copying papers. I'd really like to excel at my summer position and be offered a spot next summer as well. Any advice you can give me would be really appreciated.
     
  10. sns23

    sns23 Senior member

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    Bluntly, if you are an undergraduate, you almost certainly cannot perform legal research and writing. It is really a different animal than the type of writing and research you perform during undergrad. My guess is that you likely have no training with Lexisnexis or Westlaw. A firm is not going to pay for your learning curve. I hope you can make a mean pot of coffee. I don't want to burst your bubble, but i really doubt the firm will delegate a case to you and ask you to research an issue and write a memo. Maybe you could write a case summary, but i would not expect much beyond that.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
  11. TauKappaEpsilon

    TauKappaEpsilon Senior member

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    You are right, I don't have any real experience with Lexisnexis or westlaw. And I appreciate your insight. I come from a family of businessmen so I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this. However, I was told I will be getting paid for my time at the firm. I just wish I could do something of substance to prove myself.
     
  12. sns23

    sns23 Senior member

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    Just do what you are told well. You will almost never escape menial tasks at internships, especially during undergrad. That is what you are there for. In fact, sometimes you will enjoy them. It is nice to take a break and do mindless work every so often. During law school i student clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge (an extremely coveted position). One day i reorganized the books in the chamber's library. It was a slow week at the courts. However, it beat reading about procedural due process for 8 hours.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  13. Huntsman

    Huntsman Senior member

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    ^ I mean, all of that is true. Humility is lacking in legal interns, and seems to serve me well. \

    I am not, perhaps, as particular as sns. I think your probably could do legal research -- West and Lexis are computer programs like any other, and if I learned how to use a 60k engineering software package by myself, you could learn Lexis. The hard part is learning what is important in a particular case for a particular issue. There is a lot going on in a case and there may only a crumb that you need, be it holding or mere dicta. That's where I think you might struggle. But sns did give you good adivce. Do what you are told extremely well. Use your brain, and ask good questions. Once you have proven your reliability, your questions should open doors to more and better work.

    ~ H
     
  14. sns23

    sns23 Senior member

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    You certainly could learn it. But there is a place for that. It is law school, when you get an unlimited free subscription. It costs a lot of money to use the services. More often than not, those duties will get delegated to law student interns who know how to more economically use the systems (know which databases to use etc).
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2012
  15. Svenn

    Svenn Senior member

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    OP you might be getting yourself in good with this firm, which would be valuable if you want to work there or with their friends in the future, but in terms of building your resume for a law school application, I'm pretty sure your internship is useless. Admissions committees in the top schools, after the LSAT and grades, are looking for unique candidates that are 'socially engaged' that will make them look good both in stats and provide bragging rights; and from personal experience I can tell you you'd be surprised what kind of law (and med) schools you can get into if you've done some high profile volunteering. To be frank, they're not going to be impressed with a Republican DC kid whose family has business connections that interned at a small firm in undergrad. Go to Uganda or something and copy papers for a legal aid NGO then write an article for a magazine about it. That kind of stuff, though admittedly feigned and slightly silly in my opinion, can provide the edge over the competition.
     
  16. rohde88

    rohde88 Senior member

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    Location:
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    Make perfect copies each time, every time. You aren't much more useful than that. Read the stuff you are copying and try to understand the various parties, alleged events and their relationships.

    You'll learn the most from talking to whoever gives you assignments to copy. Ask them what kind of case it is.
     
  17. illegalcheeser

    illegalcheeser Well-Known Member

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    Aug 20, 2008
    

    Honestly, as an associate in a large law firm, I would never ever rely on you, a college intern (which is below a paralegal in my mind) to do any substantive legal research. If I were working with you, I might have you organize documents into a binder and put tabs on them, or perhaps search news sites for certain stories related to my matter at best. But I bet you'll mostly just be making copies or getting coffee, etc.

    As far as "preparing" for law school, first thing I'd do is stop worrying about it until summer before your senior year. You are seriously misinformed if you think all these internships matter more than a minor amount to ad-comms. They literally only care about your LSAT score and your GPA (to game the US News ratings) and perhaps the prestige of your undergrad institution, though that is secondary to the other two. I'd also reiterate the guy earlier who said to take a strong look at NOT going to law school as it is truly a raw deal for many, many people. Surely you've heard about the widespread lawsuits for fraud being litigated right now against dozens of law schools?
     
    2 people like this.
  18. FLMountainMan

    FLMountainMan Senior member

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    The legal profession, natiownide, had a net job loss of 2,100 last year. That may not seem like much, but IIRC, 2,400 people passed the Bar last year in Florida alone.Do some fuzzy math, and there were probably 40,000 new attorneys nationwide last year, trying to find a job in a shrinking profession. Good luck.
     
  19. munchausen

    munchausen Senior member

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    Oct 22, 2009
    I saw an ad the other day for a licensed attorney. The job was paying 16-18 an hour "depending on experience"
     
  20. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    Wit' Yo' Baby Momma
    

    Jesus. The Dominos up the street from me had starting salaries of $13 an hour...
     

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