Summer jobs are a staple of the law school experience. Students need law-related jobs to build an impressive resume that will land them a job after graduation. Summer associate positions, judicial clerkships, and volunteering at legal clinics are common summer gigs for law students. But, if you’re anything like I was in law school, those commonly pursued summer jobs don’t pique your interest.
For context, I’m a prosecutor. Despite growing up in a family of teachers, I always knew I wanted to be a prosecutor. That’s why I went to law school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my career as a prosecutor actually started in law school during my first internship at the DA’s office.
Students often overlook internships at the DA’s office. It doesn’t have the same level of prestige as BigLaw, and you don’t get paid, even though you’ll be doing the same amount of work (if not more) that you’d be doing at a private firm. My internship at the DA’s office was challenging, difficult, incredible and everything in between.
What makes an internship at the District Attorney’s office so great?
You Get Real World Experience
My first day as a summer intern, I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. You’re definitely not in law school anymore. You’ll work with different attorneys in the office and get multiple assignments throughout the summer. The best part? Forget about Dudley and Stephens after the shipwreck… you will be working on actual cases!
Some common assignments a rising 2L might work on are listening to jail calls for homicide or domestic violence cases, drafting motions and appellate briefs, researching specific legal issues, and observing prosecutors litigate in court. You might even help attorneys prepare for trial by prepping witnesses for testimony and drafting motions in limine to either admit or exclude certain evidence during the trial.
The real magic happens when you intern at the DA’s office as a rising 3L. Most states allow law students to appear in court after they’ve taken certain classes, like Evidence and Criminal Procedure. You’ll be supervised by one of the attorneys in the office as you conduct preliminary hearings, jury trials, and other hearings. You not only draft motions in limine, you also argue them to the judge. You don’t just assist with trial prep, you question witnesses on the stand.
Your assignments will vary depending on whether you intern as a rising 2L or 3L (or both!). But they all have one thing in common: you will be doing the same work that I (and all prosecutors) do every single day.
Earn Class Credit
Some law schools offer students class credit for internships at the DA’s office. Even summer internships! Ask your school’s counselor if your school offers class credit for unpaid internships. If the answer is “no,” ask if you can earn credit through an independent study.
My counselor told me I could earn 2-3 hours of credit during my internship if I 1. found a professor willing to oversee my independent study and 2. submitted weekly writing assignments to the professor throughout my internship. So, I did! 2-3 hours of credit meant I didn’t have to take an elective during the semester, and what law student doesn’t want one less final?
Now that you’re (hopefully) considering an internship at the District Attorney’s office, let’s talk about how to find one. Here’s the good news – finding internships at nearly any DA’s office is relatively simple and straightforward!
Know Where to Look
Keep in mind that every county or judicial district has its own District Attorney. So it probably goes without saying that internship applications will vary with each DA’s office. Don’t worry though, you can find everything you need to know on the DA’s website, which means it’s time to put your Google skills to good use.
Once you find the website for your county’s DA’s office, keep an eye out for the “Career/Employment Opportunities” page. That’s where most DA’s offices post information on internships and how to apply.
Remember when I mentioned that internships at the DA’s office are unpaid? If we’re getting technical, internships are volunteer positions. And some DA’s like to get technical. So if you don’t find application information on the “Career/Employment Opportunities” page, peruse around for a page called “Volunteer Opportunities” and that should take you right to it.
And voila! Everything you need to know about applying for an internship at your DA’s office is just a few clicks away, regardless of what state and county you live in.
While every DA’s office has its own internal application process, but here are a few handy tips about applying at any office.
- Have your polished resume and cover letter handy – most offices will ask for them at some point during the application process.
- Unlike private firms, DA’s offices are considered law enforcement agencies. Prosecutors handle confidential and sensitive information, so you will undergo a background check and get fingerprinted before you start your internship.
- Interviewing for an internship at the DA’s office might look a little different than other interviews. Why? All prosecutors have one thing in common: this is our calling. We were born to do what we do. If you’re prepared for only one question in your interview, it should be this one:
Why do you want to work at our office? The interviewer wants to know if this is something you want to do, or something you are meant to do. Not sure yet? That’s okay! Every DA’s office has its own mission statement that you can find on their website. Read through it. Does any of it resonate with you? If so, maybe you’ve found exactly where you belong.
If you think you’d like to learn how to litigate, how to research and write like a practicing attorney, or want to see how prosecutors enforce the law and ensure that justice is done, I hope you’ll consider an internship with the DA’s office. Mine was the most rewarding experience and even turned into a job offer. It started my career. In fact, the prosecutors that supervised me when I was an intern are now my colleagues.
Who knows, maybe I’ll see you around the courthouse next summer.
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