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View Diary: BREAKING (Ok, not really): Why we should be happy about Obama's nomination for US Attorney. (321 comments)

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  •  Gotta disagree, really. Not as to the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cheerio2, BradyB, HiBob, hardart

    person selected--I don't know enough about that individual to comment one way or the other--but as to the part where you contend that the USA's offices are "overworked" and "underpaid."  I have several friends in the legal community who worked as AUSAs, and none of them who are working in the private sector now complain about how overworked they were, or how underpaid.  These jobs pay in the $125,000.00 and up range, and the vast majority of AUSAs work less than 45 hours a week.  They get phenomenal benefits, as well--and their offices are incredibly well-staffed with support staff that most federal Public Defenders and private criminal defense attorneys could only dream of.  Several of these former AUSAs I know have tried to get their old jobs back, now that they know how good they had it.

    The position of United States Attorney is largely a political one.  It's relatively rare for an experienced litigator to rise through the ranks of the Justice Department all the way up to the level of United States Attorney.  Almost all of the people appointed to this position by the President are so appointed for political purposes, usually patronage at the recommendation of a prominent elected politician from the particular state.  They tend not to have much understanding of the actual functioning and goings-on of their offices, and usually get involved only in the highest-profile cases, to announce a "bust" or juicy indictment.  So--at least according to my friends who worked in the US Attorney's Office as AUSAs--there wasn't much of a drop-off in productivity during the time when there was an Acting USA.

    All that being said, I do think that it is a bit premature to rush to judgment on Obama's appointment in Utah--and I am not sure, given the nature of career prosecutors--how much difference it makes, anyway.

    •  You know very little about this topic (0+ / 0-)

      But you claim to be the "expert" so soldier on!

    •  Reply was directed to original poster, sorry (n/t) (0+ / 0-)
    •  Please, please, PLEASE tell me where there are... (4+ / 0-)

      ...AUSAs - besides First Assistants and division heads who have been with the office 20+ years - who are getting paid $125k per year.  My goodness, I want to apply there.  That would almost double my current salary.  Even if that were true, FIRST YEAR associates at top law firms pull in $160k/yr.  Partners (which would be the equivalent for a senior AUSA) make hundreds of thousands per year at a MINIMUM.  So yes - relative to what these people could be getting paid in the private sector, they are underpaid.  Their medical benefits are great, but not remotely close to the value of closing the gap.  And the expenses that AUSAs can claim are very limited.

      As for the overworked part, it depends on the situation at each USAO.  I have some friends who worked at the USAO in Manhattan (SDNY), one with a team doing terrorism cases and one dealing with financial crimes.  They were not working just 45 hours a week.  They were working 60+ hours per week at times.  The attorneys at the USAO in the district I clerked at were working 50+ hours toward the end of the period where they were operating without a USAO.  That's, of course, not counting commuting.

      In any case, forget the AUSAs for a second.  Their secretaries and paralegal staff are NOT making that kind of money.  And the junior attorneys (0-5 years experience) are not cracking 6 digits.  Take into account the student loans that most young attorneys have, and they are not very well paid.

      I'm not gonna say we federal attorneys are "overworked and underpaid" compared to teachers or construction workers.  But considering how much we could get if we switched to private practice, even as a contract attorney or a firm with some sort of flextime arrangement?  We're giving up a LOT of money to do what we do.  And we don't get overtime, bonuses, or expenses for working longer hours when the court/office is understaffed.

      Preaching to the choir and then shooting them when they don't sing loud enough isn't a good strategy for increasing the size of the congregation.

      by Matisyahu on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 08:24:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The vast, vast majority of private practice (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HiBob, triv33

        lawyers (a) make substantially less than $125k per year; (b) do not work at the "big" firms; (c) have to pay for their own health insurance, etc.; and (d) work more hours than the average AUSA.

        So, I encourage you to find out just how good you have it as a federal attorney by exploring the world of private practice.  Who knows, maybe you'll be lucky and hit the jackpot by landing on the partnership track at Skadden Arps.  If not, you might have more of an appreciation for the perks and salary of your government job.

        Even the lowest-paid AUSA makes far more than the $30,000/year that a beginning public defender would get.  So, forgive me if I am not shedding any tears for the AUSAs.

        •  I'm not asking you to "shed a tear" for me. (4+ / 0-)

          I never said that we were "overpaid" relative to public defenders.  Everyone can find someone who is more overworked and underpaid relative to them.  Does everyone except the one person in the universe who is the most "underpaid" in the world not have the right to say that they are overworked and underpaid?  Of course not.  It's all relative.

          And I never said I didn't "have it good."  I actually DID get an offer from Skadden out of law school.  I turned it down because I do appreciate that I would have a good job with a great QoL if I stuck with the federal employment route.  I love my job.  So the condescension isn't warranted.

          What I am asking YOU to recognize is that we ARE underpaid relative to what we could be making in private practice.  Our hourly pay is way less than what we'd make if we switched to a BigLaw firm, even though the work we do would probably be valued at least as much (if not more) if it were set by the market rather than the General Schedule.  They get paid 2-3 times as much, depending on the firm, even though they work at most 1.5 times as many hours in the course of a normal week.

          It's a well-known phenomenon in the legal world that has become very difficult to get the most best private practice attorneys to become judges because the top partners at BigLaw firms often make ten times as much as a federal judge.  As one of the judges I clerked for said, he can't go out on the street and complain about his salary.  But he took a HUGE paycut to become a judge 15 years ago, and is not sure he would do the same now that partners at his former firm are making 7 digit salaries.

          And, more importantly, unlike attorneys at BigLaw firms, there are no bonuses that get paid if we work a certain number of hours per year, and no midnight taxi service to go home if we work late at the office.  We receive no monetary compensation for going "above and beyond."  So whenever a vacancy happens, our workload increases but our pay does not.  THAT was the point.

          I'm sorry if you got the impression that I'm complaining about our pay.  I'm not.  The only thing I'm even sorta complaining about is that people don't realize how hard we work and don't give any thought to the impact that vacancies have on our workload and relative pay.  The vacancies have lots of bad downstream effects - and as I explicitly said, the effect on our workload is merely ONE of them, and not even the most important one (I would say that the delays in sentencing dates are most serious for courts, and poor oversight of prosecutorial discretion is most serious for USAOs).

          Preaching to the choir and then shooting them when they don't sing loud enough isn't a good strategy for increasing the size of the congregation.

          by Matisyahu on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 09:10:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Unless you can find some links with stats (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Imhotepsings, sethtriggs

          to back that up, I find that hard to believe on average.   Federal salaries are locked by grade and step; folk working in private industry always have the potential to make much more.  An attorney working in Federal Government at a certain grade will max out in 15 years, while his/her counterpart will blow past them in salary with the same amount of time at a private firm.

          Now whose sounding like a teabagger?

          "The bottom line is, we've got to wake up. We can't allow our disappointment in Obama to lull us into allowing a truly dangerous strain of conservative philosophy to gain any more traction than it already has." --ObamOcala 4/5/11

          by smoothnmellow on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 09:43:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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