On May 19, I started a seven-week internship with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, or the U.S.A.O., as it’s commonly known. Already I can tell that this experience has the potential to change the course of my burgeoning legal career.
The Dallas office serves as headquarters for an extra-large district that covers nearly 96,000 square miles, more than 100 counties, and more than 7 million people throughout northern and western Texas. The United States Attorney is the government’s highest federal law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction and handles criminal, civil and appellate claims.
So far, the sheer breadth of what the office covers impresses me. Even the names sound cool: Fraud and Public Corruption. White-Collar Crime. Affirmative Civil Enforcement.
Speaking of being born in the U.S.A., we have spent a good amount of time learning about those who aren’t. Illegal re-entry – AKA illegal immigration – claims comprise a good portion of the caseload flowing through the U.S.A.O. Whatever one’s political leanings, it is fascinating to see the process of how – and why – those cases are prosecuted.
A few takeaways, as I near the end of week two:
1) The time is absolutely flying. In nine days of working here, I’ve already been tasked with six assignments. They range in complexity, depth and subject matter. All have exposed me to areas of the law left untouched by my legal education thus far.
2) Upon receiving one of my latest assignments, I was told the attorney “expects great writing.” As a former newspaper reporter, you would think that would provide a sense of relief. No such luck. I started to itch just thinking about it. Not complaining, mind you. I like it when the bar is set high. Writing stirs a strange cocktail of emotions inside me, equal parts angst and ecstasy. When great writing is demanded, there is an extra layer of pressure.
3) My goal of learning something new every day seems shamefully modest now. I find that there is an avalanche of new coming at me every day, virtually all day. As a veteran law student, this should be nothing new. However, when learning occurs outside the glass box of academia and in the laboratory of real-world practice, it makes everything spring to life.
4) My plan to observe at least one proceeding before each of the fabulous magistrate and district court judges – whose courtrooms sit just a few floors above me – will require the sharpening of a skill that challenges me: time management. By the end of my time here, I will be a maestro of time management, a guru of getting it all done. If not, at least I will make it to court several times a week.
Regardless of what happens this summer, I can now say my legal career was born in the U.S.A., just like me.