Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Life of a Former Prosecutor

Everyone asks me about my old DA life - So, do you miss it? Like anything, the answer is yes and no. It has been a (somewhat) smooth transition to private practice so far. Even for an experienced attorney, the new challenge was not without hurdles. The most critical part of private practice was also that for which I was least prepared.

In the DA's office, I did not answer to clients. I had bosses and I had my duties to the U.S. and New York Constitutions, but I did not have clients. Therefore, I told victims what was going to happen most of the time. This is not to say I did not solicit input and ask their opinions on matters. I talked to the victims, listened, and explained. At the end of the day though, a decision was made whether the victim agreed or not.

In private practice, clients pay the bills. That is on top of the duties of an attorney to discuss issues with their clients. In practice this means that the client has to sign off on the critical decisions, and, realistically, many of the non-critical decisions too. The days of telling someone what my decision was and explaining the reason for it have transitioned into days of seeking approval for a certain outcome or strategy.

There are certain other differences too. When I walk in a courtroom now, I wait just like everyone else. Sure, I know many of the court employees and chat with them. But criminal cases take precedence over civil and I generally wait until the criminal cases are completed.

There is also a certain inertia I see in civil cases. In a criminal case, a person's liberty hangs in the balance and there is a rush to move the cases quickly to a resolution. In the civil world, no such rush exists. Judges are scheduling civil trials over a year and a half away (The eighteen months is from the first appearance in front of a judge. There was usually a few years of investigation and discovery that took place prior to even scheduling a trial). The longer a civil case hangs in the balance, the more likely it will settle I notice.

The biggest change is that most of my days are spent behind a desk. As a litigator, I spend more time out of the office than most of my colleagues, but it is nowhere near what it was as a DA when I ran from courtroom to courtroom to police station every hour. This change just so happened to coincide with some studies which report that hours sitting behind a desk may kill you. Lucky me.

I do really enjoy the client development aspect. Part of a private lawyer's job is sales. We need to get clients in the door. Networking and client development are one of my favorite parts.

It has been fun to learn so much new material (corporate transactions, divorce, child support, debt collection, trade secret litigation, environmental law, and much more). Every day I realize how much more I don't know.

Sorry for the rambling post, but I wanted to provide an update that has been a long time coming.


  1. I'm glad to hear things are going well. Hopefully, there's a lower stress level now, too.

  2. Hello! Thank you so much for this blog. I have spent the last couple of hours reading several of your posts, starting with the very first one. I came across your blog when I googled "what it is like to work as an ADA". Your posts have provided me a good deal insight on the pressures and stress that ADAs feel. It has also given me a sense that the job can be extremely rewarding.

    I am 33 years old with a successful career in accounting. I want to go to law school in 2016 and work for the DA's office when I graduate. Going to law school has been my passion for as long as I can remember, but for several reasons, I could not do it when I was younger. But now, I feel like this is the last chance I have to make the move. But because it is such a big decision and a big change for me, I am seeking out as much advice and insight on the life of an ADA. The reason I have always wanted to go to law school and work as a prosecutor is because I am deeply passionate about the law and about victims getting justice. I figured if I never try it, I will always wonder.

    I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Thanks a lot!


    1. One thing I preach is that a person needs to follow their passions and do what makes them happy. I think combining law and accounting will make a formidable lawyer, even though being a DA is your goal. Your ability to get a job as a DA will depend largely on the geographic area you will work in (big office or small office). My suggestion is to find someone at your targeted DA's office and network with them. Then intern, if you can, and make yourself unforgettable so that when it is time to apply they need to hire you.

      Please reach out and let me know if there are any specific questions I can answer. Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much for your response. Sorry I could not respond earlier as I was out of the country for a few weeks.

      I really appreciate your efforts in putting this blog together. It has been very helpful to me.

      I'm hoping to get a job as a paralegal in the Manhattan DA's office between now and September 2016 to (1) get a sense of what life in as an ADA would be like; and (2) develop contacts internally for internships and jobs through and after law school. What do you think is the best way to do get the paralegal job? I'm preparing to apply online but I'm worried my application will get lost in hundreds of other applications.



    3. Network and network. Try to get in touch with an attorney or paralegal you, or someone you know, know at the office. That is the best way.

  3. Good to see you're learning a lot and having a good time doing it! I think I would definitely show this to people thinking of getting out of prosecuting and into other forms of law - it's good to see someone's success story. Thanks for sharing!