Becoming a PD
It's been so long that I've posted, but also a long time since I responded to any emails, for which I apologize.
Writer ambimb was curious about various aspects of becoming a public defender, and mostly interested in the nuts and bolts. As a 2nd year law student he was wondering if it was better to try and clerk with the same public defender's office for a 2nd summer, or go to a different one. The one he went to the previous summer would allow him, this summer, to actually appear in court as a law clerk.
I can't say which office is better, the devil is clearly in the details. But, one of the most important questions is whether or not he wants to work permanently in that one. The connections you make as a law clerk are invaluable in securing permanent employment. If you make a good impression as a clerk, the chance of getting hired increase exponentially. Many offices get thousands of applications for just a few open spots, the people best suited to getting those few jobs are those who have worked with the offices that would hire them.
I clerked for the office that I hooked up with for part of the school year. In that time I was able to show my interest, abilities (even though we couldn't appear in court), and interest in becoming a PD. As a result, when I passed the bar, I was able to get hired fairly quickly. Then again, one of the people with whom I clerked, who actually clerked much longer than I did, took over a year to get hired. Perhaps that is because he clerked at the same office he eventually wanted to work at - he was a pain in the butt and grated on people, and as a result, he was lucky to have been hired in the first place. Other people took varying amounts of time to get hired on, if at all, based in part on their performance as law clerks.
So, if you want to eventually hook up with an office, any office, plant some roots there and make them like you, it's your best chance.
I don't know if I ever mentioned this before, but when clerking for the PDs office, I wasn't paid. It didn't matter, I got used to doing various free externships for the experience in law school, and actually enjoyed many of them quite a bit. I really loved the PD's office the most, though. I remember about half way through my externship when I began to think of myself as an actual PD, not just a clerk hoping to catch on there some day. Once I started, I felt like I was doing work I had always been meant to do, almost as if everything I'd ever done that I enjoyed was coming together into this job. Then, when I got hired 9 months later, I still loved it just as much (hell, I still love it just as much, it's a great job). However, I'll never forget getting my first paycheck as a regular employee, I opened it, looked at it for a moment, and thought "damn! They're actually paying me for this? That's incredible, what a great scam I've found!" I still look at my paycheck twice a month and think to myself "they really pay me this much money for doing this stuff? It just doesn't seem fair."
I'd have to say, if you ever get into a situation like that in life, don't ever leave it. If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.