Post 3: Where to begin if I am interested in law?

The World of Work (WOW) fellowship supported me to pursue my summer internship at the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, an office that promotes justice. During my time in the Asset Forfeiture Unit, I observed people helping each other wholeheartedly, respectfully and closely. I was able to get comfortable with and involved in my working environment quickly. With my supervisor and team members’ assistance, I learned how to get work done productively and efficiently. I was able to help draft various types of legal documents such as complaints, motions to dismiss, and motions for default judgment. I was able to conduct legal research to find current statutes, languages of the statutes, and case law via LexisNexis, West Law, Google Scholar, and Hein Online, among others. I also assisted my supervisor with data reconciliation for transparency purposes. This experience as a whole has been very beneficial to me.

In this blog, I will give some advice to people who want to pursue careers in law but have zero relevant experience in related fields. Please note that I cannot speak for other interns in Middlesex DA’S office because we all were assigned to different places. Some are in district courts, some are in superior courts. Some are in the Woburn main office, just like me, but in different units. I can only speak as an intern for the Asset Forfeiture Unit. However, I do have various experiences working in different legal fields.

In summer 2018, I was an intern in an intellectual property litigation team in Allbright Law Offices in Shanghai, China, and dealt with civil disputes over trademark, copyrights, and other matters of intellectual property rights. In spring 2019, I worked for Senator Mike Barret of the Middlesex 3rd District in the Massachusetts State House and dealt with mainly legislative matters. In summer 2019, I am now working in the asset forfeiture group, which is part of the Special Investigation Unit in the Middlesex DA’s office. For those who want to pursue law as their future career, there are some tips based on my personal experiences. I will start by comparing my work in a law firm, the State House, and the DA’s office.

I. The Law Practice

Working in a law firm is very similar to working in the DA’s Office, as both require dealing with civil litigation–the former in intellectual property and the latter in forfeiture prosecutions that are related to crimes. Under this big umbrella, both trained me to be a “typical” paralegal. This means I was expected to do basic things that all paralegals know how to do, including tracking and maintaining client files, listing and analyzing case evidence and information, conducting legal research, and drafting legal documents.

II. The Legislative Experience

Working as a legislative intern, on the contrary, does not require one to know how to draft legal documents such as a motion to vacate, nor require one to be familiar with litigation or prosecution at all. The tasks for me were more administrative and legislative, and I was mostly assisting the senator’s staff with data entry, special projects, and constituent services. I sometimes researched policy issues related to the senator’s legislative proprieties. I regularly attend legislative hearings and events. However, I spent more time on administrative work than anything else. As a college intern, my ability to contribute to changing the language of bills was limited. Although I was eager to make a big impact on legislation, it was merely impossible.

III. The Legislative Experience vs. the Law Practice

In conclusion, for those who like politics or handling administrative matters, the State House is a good choice. There, you will learn about various things including, the structure of the government, how to select committees and what their roles are in passing bills, what the tensions are between the House and the Senate, and where the fiscal year budget comes from. For those who are more interested in law practice, I’d say either a law firm or a DA’s office would teach you a lot.

IV. The Law Firm vs. the DA’s Office

Then, what’s the biggest difference between working in a law firm and working in the DA’s office? How do I know which one fits me better? My answer is that as long as you like what you do, you have good supervisors, and there are adequate training and/or resources that allow you to acquire knowledge, then, it is a good one. I loved both topics of intellectual properties and crimes (all forfeitures in the DA’s office are related to crimes), and I was lucky to have a great supervisor each time. A big thank you to my current supervisor Paris Daskalakis, who has always been knowledgeable, supportive, and well organized. Both of my teams were small (2-4 people per team), which allowed efficient communications and cooperation among team members to happen easily. For those of you who are interested in law practice, try to do some research about the places you are applying for to see what their mission is, to figure out what a typical day is like, and to learn about the people who work there. For me, a  good working environment is more important than what field of law it is.

Most importantly, no matter what field of law you want to pursue, you always should have a fire in your belly that drives you and motivates you to serve people. I think that commitment and dedication are needed in all legal fields. And always seek justice, no matter which side you are on (i.e. the prosecutor v. the defense attorney). You should do the right thing to help people.

(The photo was taken by me in the early afternoon of the 17th of July, 2019 in front of the Waltham District Court. The court had fire hazards that day.)

– Carrie Sheng

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