In this edition of the Career Brief, PDO features Thaddeus “Tad” May, an attorney who works for the Salt Lake District Attorney’s office, Special Victims Unit, and Lenora Babb, a current 2L, who found a job with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Appeals Division.
Tad May, SJQ 2006, Attorney with Salt Lake District Attorney, Special Victims Unit
1. What are you doing? I work at the Salt Lake District Attorneys Office, Special Victims Unit.
2. What do you love about what you do? My job is fantastic. There is nothing like getting a guilty verdict for a victim in the cases I am handling. I am in court 4 days a week. Preliminary hearings on Tuesday and Thursday and law and motion practice on Monday and Friday. I do not write a lot. Most of my advocacy is oral, and most of my thinking is done on my feet. This is my preference. SVU cases do require more motion practice than some other prosecutorial positions, but compared to civil practice the writing component is minimal. The time when I am not in court is spent screening new cases, meeting with victims, and doing all of the other intangibles that help prepare cases for trial.
My job is challenging. The decisions I make affect people’s lives in real and dramatic ways. I do not make decisions that will impact another person’s freedom lightly.
3. Where did you go to law school? Why did you decide to go? I went to the S.J. Quinney College of Law, and graduated with a JD in 2006. I went to law school because I knew I needed a graduate degree. My B.A. History wasn’t translating into earning power. I pondered a PHD and decided arcane writing and research and poor job prospects were not for me. The only remaining choice was law school as I had no interest in business.
4. When you came to law school, what did you think you wanted to do? Civil Litigation. I had the opportunity to clerk at a civil litigation firm and through that experience decided it was not for me. I left that firm and started volunteering in West Valley City’s traffic court, under the third year practice rule. Although I was far from proficient at trial I realized that this was the kind of law I wanted to go into.
5. How did you find your current position? What was the application process like? After law school I worked as a district court clerk. This was a great experience and taught me about every aspect of law practice. After clerking I applied and was hired by the Utah County Attorney’s office. Six months later I saw that Salt Lake County was hiring and have been here ever since. I would encourage patience and diligence amongst those who wish to enter into government practice. Hiring is done on an as-needed basis so you need to be ready to apply whenever a position becomes available.
6. What is the best thing about working for the government? In general, I feel that the hours and overall lifestyle is a lot better than anywhere else I’ve worked. I would encourage anybody to do what I do. It is a wonderful job. You don’t get paid beans, but the work is fantastic. Very few attorneys do work that any lay person would ever want to hear about. Try telling a non-lawyer about that summary judgment motion you are filing or that set of interrogatories you are drafting. But people like to hear about a crime and punishment. The cases I handle are interesting and important and I feel that my work is a real service to the community at large.
The student loan issue is real, but so is the quality of life issue. I have been able to meet my obligations thanks to frugality and luck. Many of my friends in civil practice earn far more money than me, but they also have far less time to spend it.
Lenora Babb, SJQ 2013: Law Clerk with the Utah Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Division
1.) How did you learn about the position? PDO sent out an e-mail announcing the opening.
2.) How did you apply and what was the application process like? I applied for the position in the Spring of my 1L year (this past spring). Unfortunately, it turned out that they were looking for a 2L at the time. However, though he rejected me, the recruiter sent a very nice e-mail saying how much he liked my application, and encouraging me to apply again in the future. 5 months later, he contacted me out of the blue. It seems there was an opening and he was surprised that he had not seen an application from me (it turns out the announcement never went out). Of course I immediately re-sent him my materials and he asked me to come in for an interview.
3.) What was the interview like? The interview was very conversational. My interviewer wanted to know about my experiences as an intern at the Utah Supreme Court. The one question I was surprised by was “what is your favorite constitutional law case and why?” We chatted a lot and there was a good rapport. That same day, I received the job offer.
4.) What do you think helped you in terms of their decision to hire you (experience, grades, personality)? I think that my educational background and my writing sample were the biggest factors in my hiring. Also it helped that I got along really well with my interviewer.
5.) What is a typical day or week at your position like? I typically work between 12-14 hours a week. The office is a very casual atmosphere. I get a variety of assignments, from small research questions to drafting an entire brief. Also I do a lot of cite-checking.
6.) What is the coolest part about the position? I think the coolest part about this job is being able to work on appeals. I enjoy thinking about the type of issues that tend to come up in criminal appeals. Also, it is really fun to help prepare for something and then watch one of the attorneys argue it in front of the Utah Supreme Court.
7.) What did you gain from the experience? I’ve gained a better understanding of criminal law and procedure, and my brief-writing has improved.
8.) What advice would you offer future applicants? I would suggest perfecting your persuasive writing skills and making sure your writing sample is a great display of those skills. Also, take lots of classes in criminal law.