Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How I Spent My Summer: Externship

I landed a position as a law clerk for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (LADA)—at the Torrance Branch—the summer following my 1E year (the ABA recently passed a rule requiring law students to complete 28 credits toward their J.D. degrees before being eligible to participate in field placement externships, but I was fortunately grandfathered in before the rule took effect). There, I shadowed a seasoned Deputy District Attorney (DDA) in a special unit known as the Victim Impact Program, which prosecutes family violence cases, child/elder abuse cases, sex crimes, and hate crimes.

Working for the LADA was not something that crossed my mind prior to law school. But, during my 1E year, I was selected for jury duty on a case involving a sex crime charge. Once the trial concluded, I met the prosecuting DDA, we exchanged information and decided to keep in touch (I had disclosed my status as a law student during voir dire).

 Once summer rolled around, I applied for a clerkship with the DDA who had prosecuted the case I was a juror for. Soon thereafter, she became my externship supervisor—and, more importantly, she became my friend and mentor. She took me with her on day-to-day work tasks, which included: interviews with witnesses, court appearances, trials, pre-trial hearings, meetings with law enforcement and crime scene investigators.

The intensity of it all was exciting—I felt like I was living the real-life CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. More importantly, though, I saw first-hand what an important role the LADA plays. It is the largest local prosecutor’s office in the United States, and it serves not only as a source of comfort for victims and their families, but it is the instrument that keeps dangerous criminals away from the rest of society, while also filtering out unsubstantiated claims.

The job isn’t for everyone—particularly not the faint-hearted—but the rewards DDAs reap with each successful conviction are immeasurable. They gain valuable trial experience, and they walk away with the immense satisfaction of knowing that they have helped make the streets a little safer.

While law school graduation is still a ways off for me, I know that if I am fortunate enough to land a job offer at the LADA after passing the bar, I’ll take it. And that’s what summer externships are all about. You may not necessarily find your “calling” as I feel I did, but you should certainly take advantage of the opportunity to learn, network, and foster friendships. And, don’t fret when you get summoned for jury duty! It’s great experience for law students!

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