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How great to see a positive post about becoming a PD! In my experience, aspiring PDs get very little encouragement for their aspiration while in law school. People tell them that PD work is not practical, cannot pay the bills, etc.; people also stress the problems of burn out, overwhelming case loads, and frustration. Those problems surely exist for many PDs but PD work has rewards that are rarely hightlighted.


"They'd probably be wearing more expensive clothes, though."

And paying off their student loans... :)


Good point, Dave!

My PD friend has a loan forgiveness program from her school for doing public interest work. She admits she'd never be able to do the work she's doing and pay off her loans without that help.


I'll agree about satisfaction, sense of purpose, passion, etc., but I will say that Biglaw tends to produce competent lawyers. Although, if you're a litigator, I'm sure that you'd get so much less trial experience at Biglaw that it's not even a useful comparison.

Carolyn Elefant

I want to point out that it's not just PDs. your experience reminds me very much of the solo lunches that I attend with the fellow solos who I've met on solosez, a 1000 member list serve or even at today's blogger lunch. I always have a great time at these types of events and emerge re-inspired about what I'm doing. I have been to many, many industry events with colleagues from large firms and they simply are not very interesting and I am not sure why.

I love my job (yes, I'm one of those too!). And actually, where I am the pay is not bad. Equal to that of the prosecutors.


When I practiced criminal law, the PDs made more than the prosecutors.


I'm currently a 3L, and thus completely stressing over what area of law I want to go into. With this in mind, I thought I'd say that I really appreciate your site and the insight into the profession it provides. Thanks!


It's nice to hear good things about public defenders. Far too often we hear so many negative things, even from our own clients who we work so zealously for without griping about the measley pay.

I've been doing public defense work since I graduated law school in 2003 and I love it. My fellow attorneys in my office are the most amazing people I know. I respect them all to the nth degree. We are passionate about our work because we believe in what we do, fiercely. I've always felt that being a public defender is like being in a special fraternity where your core beliefs are mirrored by the other members and that is very rewarding, personally and professionally.

Sure, I'd like to have the material things working at BIGLAW can buy, but I'll take a personally rewarding career where I make an actual, positive difference in someone's life over the expensive clothes and new Mercedes anyday.

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