This candidate had a unique background for a mid-level litigator. After clerking for a federal district judge for two years, he joined a top regional firm, then went to the local U.S. Attorney's Office at the suggestion of his judge. Most Assistant U.S. Attorneys become career government attorneys once they join the U.S. Attorney's Office. It can be difficult for AUSAs to transition back to private practice, especially if they have spent many years with the government. Although these jobs provide valuable courtroom experience, it can be difficult go get back to a firm once you leave that path.
In this instance, the candidate had only been with the U.S. Attorney's Office for a couple of years. It was a small office, so he gained a great deal of experience in that time, working on more than 40 litigation cases at once. His responsibilities included interviewing witnesses, preparing discovery, arguing motions at hearings, and handling settlement negotiations, trials, and appeals. He worked on a variety of cases, including employment discrimination, defensive torts, defensive environmental claims, healthcare fraud actions, and prisoner litigation. An outstanding litigator, he received certificates of appreciation for devising innovative strategies in negotiating settlements at well below expected value. Needless to say, he was a super strong candidate.
This candidate also had outstanding credentials and strong ties to the region. He went to a Top 10 law school, where he won awards for legal research and writing and moot court competition. He had family in the city where the boutique was located and had already committed to taking the bar there.
Finally, this candidate was a great fit for the litigation boutique. This boutique has a strong white collar defense practice with several former AUSAs. Former government prosecutors are a great fit for white collar work because they understand criminal prosecution and the way the federal justice system works. This candidate really hit it off with the head of the practice group and even met with him for coffee one weekend. The firm was a perfect fit for this candidate.
A couple of take-a ways from this case study: 1) Don't underestimate litigation boutiques in your job search. They are a great way to get hands on ligation experience. 2) Take every opportunity to enhance your trial advocacy skills, both in law school and after graduation. 3) Federal prosecutors can make the transition back to law firms, if they get great experience and do not stay with the government too long.
This search demonstrates that superstar litigators can land jobs with top litigation boutiques if they are committed to getting great trial experience.