And I made a promise when I took my first job, that I would offer as much help as possible to any student or intern who sought it. It is a dark road that no one understands. There was not much assistance when I tried to figure out what jobs to apply for and ultimately accept (I had two offers!).
As an aid to those in law school or those making the switch to criminal law, I thought I'd provide a little guidance on how to become an ADA:
1) Seek out the areas you want to live in and then apply to all the DA's offices around there. Do not apply to just one in the hopes they hire you. New York City DA's offices hire 40-50 new attorneys a year out of thousands of applications. Smaller counties may not even hire one a year out of thousands of applications.
2) Study some criminal law. I've conducted interviews and read many resumes. The ones that stand out show some interest in criminal law. It is a tough legal economy causing increased applications to every DA's office. Applicants who normally would seek out law firms and never studied any criminal law are now applying. No one begrudges a law student applying to many places to land a job, but you should show at least some interest in the position.
3) Mock trial, trial team, and trial technique classes are important. While these are structured (read - fictional and rehearsed) settings it demonstrates you like to be in a courtroom.
4) Intern at a DA's office. We remember the interns who completed projects on time, asked for feedback, and played on the softball team.
5) How important are grades? Thankfully, not critically important as long as you distinguish yourself in some other way. I was hired in a New York City office as an average student (mostly Bs with some As thrown in). I didn't win any awards for my scholarship. My resume and experience (mock trial, internship, criminal law job during law school) got me in the door. I showed them in the interview how well I relate to people. It's what the job's about after all.
6) Do you need to know someone? I didn't, but it can't hurt. It doesn't always help and it's usually overdone. I just read a cover letter today that dropped ten names, declared the applicant's political party, and violated every piece of the next rule.
7) Resume and cover letter - Use clear, concise, grammatically correct, and active sentences. Does this need to be said?
8) Research the office's structure, programs, and statistics before the interview so you can use the information during the interview.
9) Send handwritten thank you notes. Yes, things like this still matter.
10) Don't be afraid to follow-up. Just not too soon. Give it a week after your interview at least. Remember in small counties there are at least twenty people interviewed for every position. In major cities, that number swells to a thousand. Give them time to conduct the interviews, but not too much time so they forget you.
There are a thousand more items to discuss, but this is the nuts and bolts. Write a comment with a specific question andI I'll do my best to answer it. Or just send an email.
Check back later this week to see my journey to becoming an ADA and the qualities that make a successful ADA.