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1/12/09 6:51 PM
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jclay
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Member Since: 1/9/09
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After some complications and setbacks, I have completed my first semester of law school. I just got my grades for the first semester. I ended up with a 3.25, which is on the lower end of what I expected.

I go to the University of Florida which, nationally, means nothing, but is generally considered the best law school in state. University of Miami and Florida State are the other big three.

I entered law school with the aspiration of doing criminal law, and I'm still set on it. My plan is to work for the state attorney upon graduating, learn the trade for 4-5 years, and from there see if I want to go into defense.

I realize I'm not going to become a millionaire, but that is not what I am in it for (I considered being a cop).

I figure if it's about money, provided I'm a good lawyer, I can eventually find a way to make it. And if I'm no good at lawyering -- well, I would never be making mega-bucks in the first place.

I have a few questions.

First, am I closing any doors if I work for the state attorney? Is there some stigma that will never leave me? Almost every criminal law guy I have heard of started as a prosecutor; from this I'm assuming it's a good idea, or at the very least, not abnormal.

I find the criminal justice system captivating, and I never consider criminal law reading a chore. I'm hoping this translates into a future job that, although stressful at times, I can find interesting and enjoyable. But I'm very interested to hear input from guys that have gone down this road -- prosecution, defense, tax attorney, whatever -- if you have a JD you know more about it than me.

I still feel like I'm shooting from the hip, but I think I'm better off than the law student justifying everything in dollar amounts.

I still can't say I won't be just as miserable and driving a cheaper car a couple years down the road, so who knows.

Sorry if I'm rambling and drop some knowledge on me
1/12/09 7:14 PM
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bflex
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Let's talk. First off, Nova is the best law school in the State hands fucking down. Now that we have that out of the way...........you're career.

Why do you want to learn how to prosecute if you want to be a defense attorney? Go to the public defender's office. Shaz is an exception, but most State Attorneys would have a difficult shifting a car from first gear to second.....even with an automatic transmission. Seriously, there are some good ones, but as a group, on a scale of 1 to 10, I rate them a 1 tallent wise. Some truly believe in what they do and are damn good lawyers. Most just couldn't find or hack another job.

"First, am I closing any doors if I work for the state attorney? Is there some stigma that will never leave me?"

Closing doors, no. Stigma? Yes, people will think you are a hack and that you have no integrity. Anybody who puts up with the bullshit "we don't drop cases" policy of most Florida State Attorney's offices has no integrity. If your employer doesn't value your opinion, you need to find a new employer or if you stay, it is just an admission that your opinion isn't worth shit. He doesn't value your opinion because he doesn't give a shit about who's life he ruins. He just wants to be reelected.

"I find the criminal justice system captivating, and I never consider criminal law reading a chore." Criminal law is a fantastic field to enter. Fun stuff and not very stressful.

"I still feel like I'm shooting from the hip, but I think I'm better off than the law student justifying everything in dollar amounts." I make a lot of money.

"I still can't say I won't be just as miserable and driving a cheaper car a couple years down the road, so who knows."

Follow your heart. You can't go wrong. I do drive a cheap car, but it is because my wife buys everything under the sun. She actually hit me up for a new tv the other day just because she thought a flat screen would look cool.
1/12/09 8:12 PM
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Bunkou
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My two cents....

In actual practice, the "quality" of your law school doesn't mean much. In civil, criminal, and military law I've watched graduates from 4th tier schools eat top ten graduates alive. So don't fall for that elitist crap, especially if you're going to do criminal law.

Next, being a prosecutor truly doesn't prepare you for being a defense attorney. In fact, it can make you worse as it gets you used to looking at a case a certain way that is hard to let go. There are a lot of prosecutors that become defense attorneys, but the majority of them aren't considered very good by the defense bar.

Try taking a clinic in each, or doing an internship to decide what you want. It was my internship at the Honolulu prosecutor's office that convinced me I would never be a public prosecutor. You might have a different experience.
1/12/09 8:12 PM
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jclay
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I appreciate the reply Bflex.

"Go to the public defender's office"

Is that lower in the pecking order than a state attorney? I thought the angle was learn how the system works as a prosecutor then become a saboteur and make some $$$.

I'm hoping to intern with the SA or public defender's office this summer. Maybe I will lean more to public defender and see how that is.

I know you do pretty well for yourself, and I keep that in the back of my mind when people sneer at criminal law.

I just don't have the confidence to go out on my own immediately after graduation.

I'm hoping I have a knack for the work and eventually get into a position where I have the option of making some flow. I think if I'm proactive and avoid pigeonholing myself, I will be ok.

And if I was at Nova I would be too busy trying to find a future bread-earning wife in the medical or dental program. Fair amount of smart and attractive girls at that place
1/12/09 8:21 PM
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Bunkou
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My two cents....

In actual practice, the "quality" of your law school doesn't mean much. In civil, criminal, and military law I've watched graduates from 4th tier schools eat top ten graduates alive. So don't fall for that elitist crap, especially if you're going to do criminal law.

Next, being a prosecutor truly doesn't prepare you for being a defense attorney. In fact, it can make you worse as it gets you used to looking at a case a certain way that is hard to let go. There are a lot of prosecutors that become defense attorneys, but the majority of them aren't considered very good by the defense bar.

Try taking a clinic in each, or doing an internship to decide what you want. It was my internship at the Honolulu prosecutor's office that convinced me I would never be a public prosecutor. You might have a different experience.
1/12/09 9:37 PM
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bflex
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"Is that lower in the pecking order than a state attorney? I thought the angle was learn how the system works as a prosecutor then become a saboteur and make some $$$."

PD is not lower in the pecking order that State Attorney. They are equals. As for learning how to game the system by being a State Attorney, it seems to make sense, but upon further examination it does not. Let me elaborate:

As a State attorney, your case is made for you prior to getting into court. All of your witnesses have already been debriefed and/or are police officers. Police have instant credibility. Your cases should be slam dunks by the time they get to trial. Everything has already been done for you.

As a defense attorney, you have to prepare a case. That is the key to being a good defense attorney. It takes a lot of work. It takes time to get decent at it. That is the biggest problem I see with a lot, not all, but a lot of the attorneys going private from the State Attorney. They can't comprehend how to put together a case. You have to choose a defense, choose your witnesses, find cooperating witnesses, find out how to get around the State's evidence etc. etc. You have to do this on your own. With the State, most is done for you.

I love what I do. Don't get enamored with defending the wrongfully accused. Almost all of your clients will be guilty of something. Your only mission is to get them the softest landing possible. Also, you are going to want to kick the living shit out of some of them. You are going to want to throw cases so the son of a bitch gets what he deserves. I never have, but I have wanted to.

A criminal trial is the most fun you can have with your pants on. Civil lawyers fight over money. Criminal lawyers fight over lives. It is the highest stakes table at the courthouse and the criminal defense bar has the best attorneys out there. You will love it, but, if you want to be a defense attorney, go to the defense side from the start.
1/13/09 4:04 PM
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Trust
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 blex is correct, at least about Nova.  The rest I believe implicitly, considering the source.
1/13/09 7:51 PM
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goku
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Edited: 01/13/09 7:50 PM
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" Most kids at a 4th tier school are not that smart."

disagree

" Most kids at a top tier school are extremely smart. Learn from the best with the best and you have a much better shot of becoming one of the best."

disagreed

" Plus, law is an extremely elitist profession and a lot of doors are shut to people who go to certain schools."

agreed
1/14/09 7:24 AM
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bflex
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"Quality of school DEFINTELY matters. It is not solely determinative of your fate, but it definitely means something. Most kids at a 4th tier school are not that smart. Most kids at a top tier school are extremely smart. Learn from the best with the best and you have a much better shot of becoming one of the best. Plus, law is an extremely elitist profession and a lot of doors are shut to people who go to certain schools."

True and false. Quality of school can matter. If you want to go big law, then yes, the tier ranking system CAN matter. Some big law firms hire from smaller schools, but your ass better be in the top 10%.

As for most kids being at 4th tiers not being that smart. Disagree, most are smart, but again not as smart as some of the kids at the top tier schools. As for me, I scored in the 98 percentile in the MBE, so I might be the exception. At Nova, there were probably about 10% dumb as shit no reason to be in law school and 10% that could have done fine at Harvard. Everybody else was somewhere in the middle. A lot were individuals working on the second career. Older students with families who didn't have the luxury of picking up and moving to Mass.

Law can be an elitist profession. True. However, your school only matters for about 1 year after you graduate. Then, it is based on your ability. There are no doors that aren't open to me. I kick the doors wide open by being the best at what I do. I honestly think that, ability wise, I am in the elite in criminal defense. I don't get paid Roy Black or Joe Cheshire money yet, but they have had a lot more big cases and more exposure. Give me 3 more years.

None of my clients ask where I graduated from.
1/16/09 1:48 AM
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bordercollie526
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agree with bflex

Nova is a good law school and has a reputation of producing advocates.

If you are interested in criminal defense, try to intern at the PD's office this summer. If you are able to come to south Florida, the Miami PD's office is outstanding and you will get experience.
1/16/09 2:50 PM
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goku
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turducken - Goku, I don't see how you can disagree with those two points. If you can't see that there is a big intelligence gap between the AVERAGE kid at Harvard law and the AVERAGE kid at Nova, you are either blind or just lying to yourself. Do you also think the kids at community college getting a degree in medical technology are just as smart as those in medical school at Johns Hopkins?


so i guess this means you went to a 4th tier school?

you said that MOST kids at a 4th tier school are not that smart and MOST kids at a top tier school are extremely smart.

This is COMPLETELY different than saying the average harvard kid is more intelligent than the average nova kid. Also, I think being diligent and having a good study system is more important than intelligence.


You also said "Learn from the best with the best and you have a much better shot of becoming one of the best." thas true, but that has nothing to with intelligence imo. either you are intelligent or you are not. what you are talking about is experience or knowledge, not intelligence.
1/17/09 3:22 AM
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Shaz
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Obviously it may be different in different jurisdictions, but I can't see how working as a prosecutor could possibly hurt you. Every single former prosecutor I've spoken with loved doing it, and I've met MANY former prosecutors, both in civil and criminal practice. Many defense attorneys I've spoken with consider it the highlight of their careers, and the vast majority left solely because of financial concerns.

There are some crappy attorneys I've seen in action, many competent attorneys, and a few "big name" lawyers who are the ones you always see in the media, winning big cases, are the first names mentioned as the "elite". In my county and the surrounding counties, I can only think of ONE of these "top" lawyers who was NOT a former prosecutor.

I must respectfully disagree with bflex that prosecutors don't know how to put together a case. It's been my experience that most defense attorneys don't organize their case until they've heard all or most of my evidence at trial. It's the prosecutor who has to come up with a theory of the case, interview the witnesses, make sure we find all the witnesses, organize the evidence, track down potential defense witnesses, come up with a witness order and a trial strategy, and make sure it's all coordinated to go smoothly before the jury.

-Shaz!
1/17/09 2:02 PM
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bflex
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For the record, Shaz could be my partner. He seems to know what he is doing. There are only about 2-3 other prosecutors that I would say that about.
1/17/09 3:11 PM
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Shaz
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Sounds good, I may take you up on that one day :)

But first we have to go a few rounds in court.

-Shaz!
1/18/09 8:55 PM
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bflex
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See shaz, I take a different approach to preping for trial. I really don't give a shit what the prosecutor has to say. I develop my theory and take an "all eyes on me" approach.

Example, blame the drugs on someone else theory. "Ladies and gentleman of the jury, you need to pay attention to this name, because you will be hearing it a lot."

Then all of my questioning revolves around the other person. It is very effective. I could care less what the prosecutor says because he is not addressing my issue and then I bring that up in closing. "Why can't they tell you anything about Mr. X"

As I said, very effective.
1/18/09 10:59 PM
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Shaz
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Meh, I'd tell the jury to ask for a readback of all mentions of Mr. X and they'd see the only time he was ever mentioned was in one of your questions, there's no evidence to support the theory he even exists.

Boom!

-Shaz!
1/19/09 10:46 AM
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bflex
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See and on my rebutal, because I would not present evidence, I would use that against you.

"The State is trying to draw attention away from Mr. X. They don't want you to know anything about him. They want to pretend like Mr. X doesn't even exist. Although we don't have to prove to you that the drugs belonged to Mr. X, the State has to prove that the drugs did not belong to Mr. X. How did they do that? They didn't. They just want you to pretend that he does not exist."

Of course this will be more or less effective by jurisdiction depending on who gets the sandwich. Florida is always Persecution, Defense, Persecution. In NC, if the defense presents no evidence then it is Defense, Persecution, Defense.
1/19/09 2:20 PM
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Shaz
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New York State - prosecutor speaks last.

-Shaz!
1/19/09 10:59 PM
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bflex
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I'm not worried, the jury always hangs on every word I say. I'm that good looking.

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