"As a 2L student, I have an offer from a small law firm in a non-major market and from a large prosecutor's offices in a major market. I want to work in the market where the prosecutor is, but I don't want to do so in a law firm. What is a better option for my situation?"
You have a couple of different options. The problem with working in a prosecutor's office is if you work in a prosecutor's office in your second summer, people are going to think that you want to be a prosecutor or work for the government. It's going to be much more difficult for you to get a position in the future with a law firm when you're tryin' to get a job as a 3L. Law firms are also going to think that you may not have been able to get a job in a law firm. There're a couple of different ways to think about that.
If the small law firm is not in a major market, but it's a good law firm where you can see yourself having a future, then I really would probably pick the small law firm route. If you believe that it could lead to an offer and a career, and if they do the type of work you're trying to do. I don't know what kind of work you're trying to do. I'm assuming it's litigation because you're doing prosecution. As a 2L, the summer after your second year is very important, and it does set the tone.
If you work in the prosecutor's office, I would also wonder if that could lead to a job later on. Now, prosecutors can go into law firms later, but typically, as criminal defense or white-collar defense attorneys, so that's where that's going to lead. The big concern that I have in terms of what you're saying is the market you're interested in. The most important thing for a young attorney is to have access to work. You should be more concerned about the quality of the work you're getting as a young attorney and the type of work, than you should be concerned about the market you're working in. Honestly, the market you're in when you're a law student, and you're choosing what market to work in, most attorneys spend the majority of their days sitting behind a desk in an office building, so that's how it works, and it doesn't matter where you do that.
In many cases, it's nicer to be in a smaller market because you don't have as long of a commute. It's easier to get ahead, it's not as hectic, and you can have a bigger place to live, and a car, and all sorts of things. I believe that access to work and the second one is working somewhere where there's a future. Those are the two things that I would keep in mind.
Now, if you have to be in the market where the prosecutor's office is for whatever reason, your family's there or something, then it's certainly okay to take that job. But my instinct would be to take the job in the smaller market if you want to work in a law firm. It just offers a different and better type of training because you're working for private clients.
When you work for the government, the problem with the government is the quality of the work can differ. Depending on the department of the government, the state there's different quality of work that's expected, and there are different qualities of attorneys. Work in a prosecutor's office is not general commercial litigation; it's prosecution. So it's not going to prepare you to do anything but that. And the final thing is a lot of prosecutors do retire and want to do something else fairly early. The prosecution is a great job when you're young, but it can get pretty tiring and it often does not lead to anything else. Meaning, it's very difficult to get into anything but criminal defense once you have that training. It doesn't teach you certain research skills and stuff. It teaches you how to go to trial and to do all sorts of things. But if that's not the kind of work you want to be in a law firm, you may be better off.
And the final thing. If you come out of law school at 25, you can practice 'til you're in your 90s. I've seen that happen. If you come out of law school as a prosecutor, you can start when you're 25, and most prosecutors will leave by 45 or so, and then many of them are done after that or take other types of jobs.
45 could be a little bit young, but 55, maybe. That's it. And then the other thing about a law firm that's good is a law firm teaches you how to get business and then run your own business, and meaning you have clients and those clients will give you ongoing work, and that's very powerful. Your income is unlimited, depending on whatever you want to do. The quality of the work expected in a law firm can differ, but generally, it's very high. There're other reasons too.
There're lots of benefits of working for the government, and the government has much better hours. There's a lot of respect you get from working for the government. You're doing something more important than a law firm. You get lifetime health insurance and all sorts of other benefits from the government. There are benefits to the government, as well as working in the law firm. If your goal is to work in a law firm, I would work in the smaller town.