By Deborah Arron
Q: I just graduated from law school and passed the bar. Currently, I am clerking for a federal judge in Virginia. I have an offer for a lucrative associate position in a large law firm, but Id really prefer to work for a Commonwealth Attorneys office. I am having such a hard decision because I have to leave the security of the offer and wait until early spring to even apply for a job as a prosecutor. Moreover, I would be taking about a $40,000 pay cut. In the end, however, I really do want to have the trial experience right now and want to work as a prosecutor. Would a couple years as a prosecutor prior to joining a firm make me more valuable or would many firms simply consider it neutral or negative?
A: The more logical choice is to accept the offer with the large law firm, get a couple years of litigation experience, and then apply to the prosecutors office. Youre much more marketable that way than the reverse, and the extra income can reduce your student loans and make a low salary more feasible. But Ive also seen many assistant prosecuting attorneys who move into private practice to earn more money a few years into their careers. You just have to do a good job, and earn strong recommendations from lawyers and judges who see you in action.
Before you make your choice, though, think about why you have such strong feelings about working as a prosecutor. Do you have actual experience working there, or are you imagining what it will be like? The same applies to your trepidations about accepting the offer from the large law firm. Have you worked for themor another large firmin the past, or are you reacting to what youve heard from other people?
Whatever your choice, be sure its based on solid research, and a good understanding of your strengths and preferences.