Maybe it’s the courtroom dramas on TV and in the movies. Maybe it’s the excitement of trying cases and putting away bad guys. Whatever the reason, every year future lawyers enter law school with dreams of becoming a prosecutor. But many of those dreams get sidetracked along the way and young lawyers find themselves doing research in a big firm library without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

For many lawyers one of the largest obstacles to becoming an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) is the low pay compared to big law firms. “It’s a great profession but you’re never going to get rich.” says Michael Conroy, an ADA at the Staten Island District Attorney’s office. Beginning Assistant District Attorneys in smaller offices start off with salaries in the low 30s, according to Jim Polley, the Director of Government Affairs at the National District Attorney Association. Of course ADAs make more in larger cities. For example, a lawyer starting in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office will pull in around $49,000 and then get bumped up to $57,000 for their second year. In contrast, some firms in Los Angeles are paying first year associates $125,000.

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