Monday, July 18, 2005

Big Firm v. Public Defender's Office

Skelly at Arbitrary and Capricious points to this ridiculous item which suggests that working for a few years as a prosecutor or public defender won't give you the kind of experience big law firms are looking for. Hogwash. But, it did get me thinking about all the things about big firm life that I definitely don't miss. I worked at a big firm for two years before I jumped ship and became a public defender. Even with the 60% paycut, I have never once regretted the decision. Here is just a sampling of things I don't miss about working as an associate at a big firm:

*Spending entire weeks doing nothing but reading thousands of pages of internal company documents.

*Spending at least half of my time on cases in which I was never informed of the overall nature of the case, but instead, was merely given some tiny legal point to research and write a memo about.

*Researching, writing, and preparing the arguments for motions and briefs on which your name does not appear, you don't get to argue in front of the judge, and you're lucky if you actually get to carry the file to the courtroom for the hearing.

*Being given an assignment from a partner at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon that you are told must be completed by 8:00 a.m. Monday when the partner has known about the project needing to be done for two weeks; then, after spending all weekend rushing to get it done, not having the partner even look at it until a week after you turned it in.

*Keeping track of my time in six-minute increments.

The entire experience wasn't an awful one. I worked with some excellent lawyers and some really fun people. I did get to do some interesting, complex legal work. The money I made helped me pay off my student loans pretty quickly. And, my firm did support me in spending about 200 hours on a political asylum case--pro bono--that I was able to win. But, I wouldn't want to trade what I'm doing now for that life again. Nothing can compare to representing your own clients, taking your own cases to trial on a regular basis, and helping truly needy people through the most difficult experiences of their lives.

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