Job News: Ah-oh.

The last word on my quest to become a public defender in Montana was that my application was going to be forwarded to “the hiring official” on May 26th. That was two weeks ago last Friday and I still hadn’t heard anything, so I figured I’d check in to see what I could learn about the current state of the State Public Defender’s hiring process. What I learned was, um, not great.

The office received over 500 applications for all positions (including lawyers, investigators, paralegals, and administrative staff) so I’m competing w/a big pool, the majority of whom are almost certainly very experienced and already licensed to practice in MT. The hiring process hasn’t reached the Billings office yet and won’t until after July 1st, but right now the priorities in that office appear to be for an investigator and an administrative assistant. If the Billings office does need an attorney it will most likely hire someone with experience who is already licensed.

Needless to say, this is incredibly disappointing news. I previously had the impression that Billings would be hiring several lawyers and that they’d definitely be considering new graduates. Of course, I’m not sure anyone ever said “Billings” for sure; those statements were probably referring to the whole state. It’s possible I inferred that those statements would apply to Billings based on the fact that the Billings office has had a lot of turnover in recent months and years and was advertising for attorneys quite recently. I took that to mean that Billings was definitely going to need some new people soon. Of course, they probably hired the new people already before the state system started taking over; that would explain why it doesn’t look like there are any/many openings in Billings right now.

Apparently this situation could change, but that’s what it looks like at this point. I also learned that if I want to maximize my chances, I should be willing to work in Helena, Kalispell, Great Falls, or Miles City—any of which would be fine except for three little things: my family is in Billings, L. has a good job in Billings, and we’re about to close on a house in Billings.

So yeah, this looks pretty bad.

I guess this would be the time when it begins to look like I’m going to lose the giant gamble of moving first, hoping I get the job second. I knew doing it this way was risky but hope and desire won out over common sense and practicality. Now I see why no one does it this way. As L’s parents have been saying for weeks, I was putting the cart before the horse. *sigh*

But life must go on, right? When one door closes another opens and all that. And to be precise, the door to the Montana public defender’s office has not completely closed for me. It sounds like that door is still open just a crack and, well, who knows what I might learn in July? What seems certain is that my job search is going to have to expand. I know that there are several openings for legal secretaries/paralegals in Billings right now. I bet I’d do a bang-up job in either position. I wonder what they pay….

What happens to a law school graduate who doesn’t start working as a lawyer when he graduates from law school? Ay-yi-yi.

Oh, Public Defender Stuff has the latest on the new Montana PD System in the news. I wonder if that hefty price tag mentioned at the end of the article ($20 million/year for 2008 & 2009 for the whole state defender system) means they’re not going to be hiring as many people as they’d hoped. I don’t know, but if anyone out there has any more info, I’d certainly love to hear it.
[tags]job search, montana, billings[/tags]

10 thoughts on “Job News: Ah-oh.”

  1. Damn, that’s sucky news. But don’t draw any conclusions until you get the final word. Stuff is bound to turn up. I got my fingers crossed for ya’.

    Also, you might try looking with local government entities — the city, the county, whatever. Getting experience is what’s important.

    Hang in there and good luck!!!

  2. So worst case scenario, you don’t get the job. Then, just do what plenty of solos do, sign up for court assigned criminal cases (they must have something like that in MT, no?) and take em’ as you can. Malpractice insurance doesn’t cost much, esp. when you start out because you don’t have a “history” of cases to insure against malpractice as well as the current load. Get involved with the local bar and seek a mentor. Start your own crim. defense practice, charge a reasonable and/or sliding scale rate to your non-assigned cases. … it can be done…. for inspiration see MyShingle at you know where….

  3. Good luck if you go legal secretary like me. :) Wish I could help but the only people I know in Montana are distant relatives and a parrot named Fred.

  4. ::sigh:: Sucks, I know, Ambib. Everyone else has offered what advice there is to offer from friends who have no connections to actually help, so I won’t add my same two cents. But, I AM rooting for you and hoping (believing) that it will all work out. Sometimes, the cart just does go before the horse.

  5. I applied for the same job, said I was available in all offices in MT, will have two years experience as a law clerk by the time I can start, and I haven’t heard a word from them yet.

  6. Thanks for all the encouragement and suggestions. I’ll definitely look into the solo thing, but that option is complicated by the fact that the new state public defender office is hiring “contract attorneys” to take care of any cases it can’t handle. So I’d still have to be hired by the state, or win a contract, to get court-appointed work. So probably a better bet would be to try to get a job w/a small firm or w/legal aid or, as She Says suggested, the city or county. And as LawGrrl suggested, looking for mentors, networking, maybe some informational interviews. I’ll be keeping my eyes open and I’m still confident I’ll find *something.* I would really like that thing to be indigent crimminal defense, but….

    Will: It’s good to hear you’ve heard nothing either. I know they’re swamped right now so I’m not giving up hope that things could seriously change in the next 4-5 months between now and the time I actually am licensed to practice (knock wood).

  7. Worst comes to worst? you have to wait for it. I know plenty of people who have gambled with one state public defender office… sometimes it just takes a few months for things to open up. L. said she’d support you, right? Sometimes if you volunteer with them long enough, they can’t fire you anymore either… so they HAVE to start paying you. I heard about one girl who wanted a job with a DA’s office so bad that she volunteered with them for A YEAR after she graduated. Not sure how she paid her bills, but by then they hired her as a first year and she already had a year experience!

  8. WOTL: They make you do that in Maryland. If you volunteer for like 6 months, then you can have an interview. I think that’s retarded. But voluntarily doing it in a state where they don’t require it is probably a good idea…

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