I'm a Public Defender AMA

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Leela
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I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am

I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.

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bikeflip
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by bikeflip » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:03 pm

Crim defense atty. Can I sometimes hijack or answer questions too?

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:43 pm

Please do!

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Echos Myron
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Echos Myron » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:48 pm

Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
What type of market are you in?
What type of school did you go to? (T13, T1, T2, etc)
Did you intern at your office during LS?
How is surviving on a PD salary? Do you have significant student loans?
Do you want to be a career PD, or are you looking at short/mid-term exit options?
Where do most people from your office lateral/exit to?

Thanks so much for this thread and any insight that you can provide!

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:18 pm

Echos Myron wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:48 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
What type of market are you in?
What type of school did you go to? (T13, T1, T2, etc)
Did you intern at your office during LS?
How is surviving on a PD salary? Do you have significant student loans?
Do you want to be a career PD, or are you looking at short/mid-term exit options?
Where do most people from your office lateral/exit to?

Thanks so much for this thread and any insight that you can provide!
Suburb of a major city
T13
Yes, 3 and a crim-imm non-profit that only handled clients in ICE detention
It's ok. I'm not the best budgeter and it's something I continue to work on. I can pay all my bills, but needed a loan for a major financial emergency and have very little in savings. Not significant student loan debt.
Goal is career PD
Lateral to major city offices, sometimes other PI work in direct client services

happy to answer any other questions/expand on answers

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mmart207
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by mmart207 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:25 pm

Would you suggest someone go to a lower ranked school that pays full tuition or close to it if one wants to become a PD?

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:49 pm

mmart207 wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:25 pm
Would you suggest someone go to a lower ranked school that pays full tuition or close to it if one wants to become a PD?
I think that depends on your situation. Do you want to be a PD in a major market? If yes they 100% look at pedigree and some are very obnoxious about it. I think my school rank was an advantage in applying. That being said, I don't think that's applicable outside of major markets. Also considering your school's public interest repayment program against your long-term goals and total debt is important

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Echos Myron
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Echos Myron » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:51 am

Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:18 pm
Echos Myron wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:48 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
What type of market are you in?
What type of school did you go to? (T13, T1, T2, etc)
Did you intern at your office during LS?
How is surviving on a PD salary? Do you have significant student loans?
Do you want to be a career PD, or are you looking at short/mid-term exit options?
Where do most people from your office lateral/exit to?

Thanks so much for this thread and any insight that you can provide!
Suburb of a major city
T13
Yes, 3 and a crim-imm non-profit that only handled clients in ICE detention
It's ok. I'm not the best budgeter and it's something I continue to work on. I can pay all my bills, but needed a loan for a major financial emergency and have very little in savings. Not significant student loan debt.
Goal is career PD
Lateral to major city offices, sometimes other PI work in direct client services

happy to answer any other questions/expand on answers
Is your office in the same market as your LS?
What types of cases do you handle at this point in your career? Do you find the work to be interesting/fulfilling? Do you ever get bored of court?
Do people ever lateral to Impact Lit or Policy-type orgs? I have seen ACLU lawyers who started at places like PDS and was wondering if that was a realistic trajectory, or just a unicorn outcome for a few people

Thanks again for the answers and for this awesome thread idea! :D

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:14 am

Echos Myron wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:51 am
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:18 pm
Echos Myron wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:48 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
What type of market are you in?
What type of school did you go to? (T13, T1, T2, etc)
Did you intern at your office during LS?
How is surviving on a PD salary? Do you have significant student loans?
Do you want to be a career PD, or are you looking at short/mid-term exit options?
Where do most people from your office lateral/exit to?

Thanks so much for this thread and any insight that you can provide!
Suburb of a major city
T13
Yes, 3 and a crim-imm non-profit that only handled clients in ICE detention
It's ok. I'm not the best budgeter and it's something I continue to work on. I can pay all my bills, but needed a loan for a major financial emergency and have very little in savings. Not significant student loan debt.
Goal is career PD
Lateral to major city offices, sometimes other PI work in direct client services

happy to answer any other questions/expand on answers
Is your office in the same market as your LS?
What types of cases do you handle at this point in your career? Do you find the work to be interesting/fulfilling? Do you ever get bored of court?
Do people ever lateral to Impact Lit or Policy-type orgs? I have seen ACLU lawyers who started at places like PDS and was wondering if that was a realistic trajectory, or just a unicorn outcome for a few people

Thanks again for the answers and for this awesome thread idea! :D
No
Misdemeanors
I love the work. My office has some pretty serious structural issues, which is frustrating and contributes to burn out, but I really like being a PD generally. I like the vast majority of my clients, the work aligns with my personal values, and really highlights my skill set, which is fun.
I'm in court 5 or 6 (haven't hit 7 yet) days a week, so boring is good. Obviously sitting around waiting for something (judge, DA, prisoner movement) is boring; however, most days are fire drills, so when things are calm, it's only a good thing.
I imagine this happens pretty regularly, but I don't know anyone that has done it.

e: you're welcome, I'm happy to do it!! we always need more good people :)

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bikeflip
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by bikeflip » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:23 am

Would the following applicants get an interview in your office:
  • Someone who was a cop
    Someone who was working at a sheriff's office but in an administrative position
    Someone who was a victim advocate
    Someone who interned for a DAs office
    Someone who did not intern with the PDs office but has no DA or law enforcement stuff on their resume

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:25 am

bikeflip wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:23 am
Would the following applicants get an interview in your office:
  • Someone who was a cop-absolutely not, unless as an investigator
    Someone who was working at a sheriff's office but in an administrative position-not clear to me, probably though
    Someone who was a victim advocate-probably not, unless compelling cover letter. less because we wouldn't want them and more because of the job
    Someone who interned for a DAs office-we've hired people who had mixed resume, especially if it went DA---->PD
    Someone who did not intern with the PDs office but has no DA or law enforcement stuff on their resume-no
this is all guesswork, I have absolutely zero input/real knowledge of hiring

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Echos Myron
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Echos Myron » Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:24 pm

Leela wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:14 am
Echos Myron wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:51 am
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:18 pm
Echos Myron wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:48 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
What type of market are you in?
What type of school did you go to? (T13, T1, T2, etc)
Did you intern at your office during LS?
How is surviving on a PD salary? Do you have significant student loans?
Do you want to be a career PD, or are you looking at short/mid-term exit options?
Where do most people from your office lateral/exit to?

Thanks so much for this thread and any insight that you can provide!
Suburb of a major city
T13
Yes, 3 and a crim-imm non-profit that only handled clients in ICE detention
It's ok. I'm not the best budgeter and it's something I continue to work on. I can pay all my bills, but needed a loan for a major financial emergency and have very little in savings. Not significant student loan debt.
Goal is career PD
Lateral to major city offices, sometimes other PI work in direct client services

happy to answer any other questions/expand on answers
Is your office in the same market as your LS?
What types of cases do you handle at this point in your career? Do you find the work to be interesting/fulfilling? Do you ever get bored of court?
Do people ever lateral to Impact Lit or Policy-type orgs? I have seen ACLU lawyers who started at places like PDS and was wondering if that was a realistic trajectory, or just a unicorn outcome for a few people

Thanks again for the answers and for this awesome thread idea! :D
No
Misdemeanors
I love the work. My office has some pretty serious structural issues, which is frustrating and contributes to burn out, but I really like being a PD generally. I like the vast majority of my clients, the work aligns with my personal values, and really highlights my skill set, which is fun.
I'm in court 5 or 6 (haven't hit 7 yet) days a week, so boring is good. Obviously sitting around waiting for something (judge, DA, prisoner movement) is boring; however, most days are fire drills, so when things are calm, it's only a good thing.
I imagine this happens pretty regularly, but I don't know anyone that has done it.

e: you're welcome, I'm happy to do it!! we always need more good people :)
Thanks again!

One more question, if you don't mind:
How political is your office? Do people view their jobs as PDs as having a political facet to them? (i.e. combatting mass incarceration; challenging classism and racism in policing/enforcement of laws; working on the front-lines a civil rights movement agains MI and excessive policing) Are these things that are discussed and considered in the work, even implicitly? Or are they sort of taboo things to talk about and/or things that people keep to themselves or only discuss with close colleagues?
I'm curious because I did a PD internship during undergrad in a small-ish (liberal) city, and the office was slightly political but much, much less than I would have anticipated given its location and the nature of the work.

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:25 pm

Echos Myron wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:24 pm
One more question, if you don't mind:
How political is your office? Do people view their jobs as PDs as having a political facet to them? (i.e. combatting mass incarceration; challenging classism and racism in policing/enforcement of laws; working on the front-lines a civil rights movement agains MI and excessive policing) Are these things that are discussed and considered in the work, even implicitly? Or are they sort of taboo things to talk about and/or things that people keep to themselves or only discuss with close colleagues?
I'm curious because I did a PD internship during undergrad in a small-ish (liberal) city, and the office was slightly political but much, much less than I would have anticipated given its location and the nature of the work.
Very political. Race is discussed constantly. We aren't a sanctuary jurisdiction so immigration and xenophobia are also discussed frequently. People go to lectures, protests, organizing meetings, etc on a regular basis

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Kümmel
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Kümmel » Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:27 pm

are y'all unionized, and if not, why haven't you led the charge yet?

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:30 pm

Kümmel wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:27 pm
are y'all unionized, and if not, why haven't you led the charge yet?
unionized

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Clamence
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Clamence » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:01 pm

Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
How difficult is it to get a PD job these days? And what can a law student do to make it easier?

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Eurapoopin
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Eurapoopin » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:42 pm

Clamence wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:01 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
How difficult is it to get a PD job these days? And what can a law student do to make it easier?
I'll jump in here. I'm a 3L who was recently offered a position with an office I was very highly interested in. It can be difficult depending on what jurisdiction you want to work in. Many rural areas are begging for qualified candidates, whereas more urban areas tend to be highly selective.

Biggest thing you can do is get as much experience through clinics/internships/externships. And I don't just mean learning how to do prelims, bond hearings, etc. Chat people up and get to know the people you're working for. Being likable and having PDs, professors, etc go to bat for you and help you network will go a long way. I think I was helped out big time by all kinds of people I worked with, ranging from professors, to investigators, to front desk support staff. Building relationships with as many people in the PD world as possible while you're in school is a huge leg up.

Grades tend not to matter much, though I imagine there's a floor at which they might bring up your grades during interviews, etc. I interviewed with many offices across the country and things that routinely came up were experiences, questions about my dedication, hypotheticals, and personality fits (extracurriculars, what I do in my free time). Not once was I asked about my writing sample, lack of a journal, or grades.

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Echos Myron
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Echos Myron » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:33 pm

Leela wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:25 pm
Echos Myron wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:24 pm
One more question, if you don't mind:
How political is your office? Do people view their jobs as PDs as having a political facet to them? (i.e. combatting mass incarceration; challenging classism and racism in policing/enforcement of laws; working on the front-lines a civil rights movement agains MI and excessive policing) Are these things that are discussed and considered in the work, even implicitly? Or are they sort of taboo things to talk about and/or things that people keep to themselves or only discuss with close colleagues?
I'm curious because I did a PD internship during undergrad in a small-ish (liberal) city, and the office was slightly political but much, much less than I would have anticipated given its location and the nature of the work.
Very political. Race is discussed constantly. We aren't a sanctuary jurisdiction so immigration and xenophobia are also discussed frequently. People go to lectures, protests, organizing meetings, etc on a regular basis
Awesome, this is what I hoped to hear

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:20 pm

Eurapoopin wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:42 pm
Clamence wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:01 pm
Leela wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:54 am
I'm a 2nd year PD, happy to answer questions about getting the job, the job itself, career paths for a PD, trials/courtroom work, basically whatever interests people.

Feel free to ask here or PM me.
How difficult is it to get a PD job these days? And what can a law student do to make it easier?
I'll jump in here. I'm a 3L who was recently offered a position with an office I was very highly interested in. It can be difficult depending on what jurisdiction you want to work in. Many rural areas are begging for qualified candidates, whereas more urban areas tend to be highly selective.

Biggest thing you can do is get as much experience through clinics/internships/externships. And I don't just mean learning how to do prelims, bond hearings, etc. Chat people up and get to know the people you're working for. Being likable and having PDs, professors, etc go to bat for you and help you network will go a long way. I think I was helped out big time by all kinds of people I worked with, ranging from professors, to investigators, to front desk support staff. Building relationships with as many people in the PD world as possible while you're in school is a huge leg up.

Grades tend not to matter much, though I imagine there's a floor at which they might bring up your grades during interviews, etc. I interviewed with many offices across the country and things that routinely came up were experiences, questions about my dedication, hypotheticals, and personality fits (extracurriculars, what I do in my free time). Not once was I asked about my writing sample, lack of a journal, or grades.
Totally agree with this.

Also learn/brush up on/highlight any Spanish skills you have

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kellyfrost
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by kellyfrost » Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:54 pm

Have you won any trials so far? If so, what were the charges?

What appears to be the most predominate drug in your area based upon either your cases or what you hear from your clients?

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sun Jan 28, 2018 6:19 pm

kellyfrost wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:54 pm
Have you won any trials so far? If so, what were the charges?

What appears to be the most predominate drug in your area based upon either your cases or what you hear from your clients?
yes, rather not get into specifics

Hard to say, the media is very focused on opioids and it's clearly a problem, but I have tons of crack cases. Marijuana is the most prevalent, but that's not really the same, imho

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sunnew
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by sunnew » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:08 pm

Current 2L. I’ve worked at one PD’s office in state A for two summers, will work in two offices in state B this semester/this summer. I will be applying for PD jobs in two other states that I will have no ties to barring a fiancée moving there for work. Do you have any insight as to the difficulty of getting such a community-focused job like this in a state to which one has no ties? How hard of a sell is a candidate like this?

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Leela
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by Leela » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:38 pm

sunnew wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:08 pm
Current 2L. I’ve worked at one PD’s office in state A for two summers, will work in two offices in state B this semester/this summer. I will be applying for PD jobs in two other states that I will have no ties to barring a fiancée moving there for work. Do you have any insight as to the difficulty of getting such a community-focused job like this in a state to which one has no ties? How hard of a sell is a candidate like this?
This is a guess, to be honest, so keep that in mind. You sound like a very well-qualified candidate, so while ties are a plus, I don't think you'll have trouble getting in the door. Are these national-level locations (do they recruit at EJW, for example)? If yes, I wouldn't worry about it. If no, I still think you'll get interviews based on your resume

With all these application questions keep in mind that PD offices want you to be on your feet in court with limited supervision ASAP. Your capacity to do that will trump tie concerns.

But again, just educated guesswork.

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sunnew
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by sunnew » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:48 pm

Leela wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:38 pm
sunnew wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:08 pm
Current 2L. I’ve worked at one PD’s office in state A for two summers, will work in two offices in state B this semester/this summer. I will be applying for PD jobs in two other states that I will have no ties to barring a fiancée moving there for work. Do you have any insight as to the difficulty of getting such a community-focused job like this in a state to which one has no ties? How hard of a sell is a candidate like this?
This is a guess, to be honest, so keep that in mind. You sound like a very well-qualified candidate, so while ties are a plus, I don't think you'll have trouble getting in the door. Are these national-level locations (do they recruit at EJW, for example)? If yes, I wouldn't worry about it. If no, I still think you'll get interviews based on your resume

With all these application questions keep in mind that PD offices want you to be on your feet in court with limited supervision ASAP. Your capacity to do that will trump tie concerns.

But again, just educated guesswork.
Thanks for the quick reply. I’m not at a great school and have middling grades, so I am a bit worried. I will definitely focus on making the most of my courtroom experience over the next year, though, and keeping up on my Spanish. Thanks for the advice.

That said, do you find you have a strong desire to move on to felonies? Obviously, things can and probably will change after practicing, but right now I think I’d be very happy doing misdemeanors and non-complex cases for years if not my whole career, because that would keep me in contact with clients day in and day out, which is what I really love. I wonder how universal or weird my feelings on that are.

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sunnew
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Re: I'm a Public Defender AMA

Post by sunnew » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:51 pm

bikeflip wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:03 pm
Crim defense atty. Can I sometimes hijack or answer questions too?
Thanks for doing this. What was your career path?

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