A career in prosecution is designed for those attorneys dedicated to the finest public service available and who are committed to the ideals of public safety and justice. Working in a major metropolitan prosecutor’s office offers an attorney a broad spectrum of experience. The crimes prosecuted range from disorderly conduct to aggravated assaults, complex fraud investigations, rapes and murders. The Office is responsible for both adult and juvenile prosecutions.
While the District Attorneys Office naturally offers exceptional trial experience, it also provides a unique environment for the pursuit of other legal skills. For example, the Appeals Unit handles over one thousand appeals annually, both as appellee and appellant, presenting challenging and interesting issues for developing legal writing skills and oral advocacy. These appeals are litigated in a variety of courts, ranging from the Civil Service Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to the United States Supreme Court. The bulk of appellate litigation before the Pennsylvania Superior and Supreme courts. In nearly all cases, appellate attorneys are assigned full responsibility, under supervision, for the briefing and arguing of their own cases. Increasingly, the Appeals Unit is staffed by attorneys completing judicial clerkships, including Federal District and Circuit Court clerkships.
The benefits of working in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, both professionally and economically, are very competitive with the private practice of law in small/medium law firms in most areas of the country.The average length of service for an Assistant District Attorney has been steadily increasing evidencing that many lawyers are finding the vocation of becoming a career prosecutor quite attractive and rewarding.
Assignments and promotions within the District Attorney’s Office are based primarily on the needs of the office, demonstrated ability and work ethic. New Assistant District Attorneys are assigned initially to either the Trial Division Bureaus or the Appeals Unit. In the Trial Division Bureaus, attorneys handle misdemeanor trials and felony preliminary hearings. Attorneys in the Appeals Unit write briefs and argue before the appellate courts.
After an initial period in the Trial Division, Assistant District Attorneys typically move on to the Juvenile unit where they handle delinquency hearings involving a myriad of charges, including serious felonies. Ultimately, Assistant District Attorneys return to the Trial Division Bureaus where they are now prepared to prosecute before juries. During the course of an assignment to the Bureaus, each Assistant District Attorney should expect to be assigned to the Charging Unit.
Once proficient in non-jury trials, an Assistant District Attorney will have an opportunity to try jury trials. As stated previously, this progression is based on the needs of the office and on one's demonstrated ability and work ethic. Following the normal progression in the Trial Division, Assistant District Attorneys are often assigned, based upon the needs of the Office, to the Investigations Division, Appeals, the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, Homicide or other specialty unit.