Career Conversations: A Summer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office

zimmermanby Liesel Zimmerman, Class of 2018

During the lunch hour on Thursday, October 20, the Law School lobby was bustling with people, participating in the Office of Career Services’ Career Conversations Program. Second-year and third-year students stood wearing nametags and smiles, eager to share stories of their internships from the previous summer. The Office of Career Services (OCS) arranged for students from a variety of legal backgrounds to meet with 1Ls to get them thinking about their upcoming summer job search. The interns provided a range of perspectives, from summer associates at large law firms, to summer research assistants, to interns at non-profits, to summer law clerks for federal judges, among others.

Blog1During Career Conversations, I had the opportunity to talk to interested 1Ls about my summer as a law clerk at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. I am originally from the Buffalo area, and I intend to return there to practice, so I was thrilled to gain experience within the legal market I hope to work in after graduation.

The U.S. Attorney and Assistant U.S. Attorneys serve as federal prosecutors, representing the United States in all federal cases that arise within the 17 counties of Western New York. The office is comprised of a Criminal Division, a Civil Division, and an Appellate Division. I was assigned to three supervising attorneys in the Criminal Division, who acted as mentors over the course of my internship. Each handled a unique caseload and specialized in specific types of crimes, so I learned a great deal about a broad range of cases.

Blog3My daily routine consisted of working in the law library with my fellow law clerks on legal research tasks from our respective supervising attorneys. I often accompanied my attorneys to District Court and observed court proceedings as well. On days when high profile defendants were appearing in court, the media would often stop my attorneys at the door and ask for their comments. It was incredible to have the “inside scoop” on the confidential details of these cases before they were made public!

One such case, handled by the Chief of the Criminal Division, dealt with a civil rights violation. The crime in question took place the week before I began my internship, so I had the chance to see the case evolve from the very beginning. I participated in witness interviews and meetings with opposing counsel and the FBI agents investigating the case. I also completed a legal memorandum that helped determine whether additional individuals should face charges.

Another of my supervising attorneys, who works within the Narcotics and Organized Crime Section, handled a well-known and highly publicized Buffalo narcotics case. I was able to sit in on court proceedings and contribute research to help build the case against the defendant. I also wrote a memorandum on the admissibility of hearsay evidence, which was then submitted to the District Court on my supervisor’s behalf.

Blog2Under my third supervising attorney, I learned a great deal about Human Trafficking prosecutions, an area for which I have a particular passionate. I participated in meetings of the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance, wherein representatives from numerous agencies meet to create a unified force against human trafficking in Western New York. I also wrote a memorandum that evaluated the probability of success in prosecuting a potential defendant for harboring and concealing a fugitive.

In addition to all the practical knowledge I gained by putting my writing and researching skills to use, my attorneys taught me how to be a successful professional in the legal field. My summer at the US Attorney’s Office confirmed my desire to become a prosecutor, and I was grateful to get to share my experience with my peers.

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