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New Series – Student Experience Spotlight

Starting this week, the OCPD Bulletin will regularly feature a spotlight of a WCL student’s internship, externship or part-time job.  If you would like to be featured as part of this series, please email Kristen Meeks at kmeeks@wcl.american.edu.  To read other students’ experiences and to share your own, we encourage you to use SEEN, the Student Employer Evaluation Network in CareerLink.

 This week, we are featuring Rochelle Brunot, a rising 3L who completed fall and spring externships with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.  The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office regularly conducts academic year externship interviews as part of WCL’s Fall Recruitment Program and is scheduled to be on campus in fall 2013.

1.   Where did you work? How did you get your job?

        I worked at the Gang Unit of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.  During the fall 2012, I worked at the District Court Screening Unit of this same office.  My supervisor asked if I would be interested in working in one of the Circuit Court Units the following spring, which is how I started working at my current job in the Gang Unit.  I found my job at the District Court Screening Unit through CareerLink.

2.   What did you do every day?

        There was no typical day at the State’s Attorney’s Office because what I did changed with the differing needs of my supervisor.  I worked there three days a week and typically received assignments at the beginning of the week that I would work on for the entire week.  Because I had no set assignments I was able to do a variety of things.  Some of the things I did while working at the State’s Attorney’s Office was analyze and listen to police interviews, listened to jail calls, assisted with cataloging evidence for trial preparation, and researched a variety of criminal procedure issues.

3.   What was the most interesting thing you did?

        The most interesting things I was able to do at my externship were to observe a jury trial for an armed robbery and kidnapping case and draft a motion.  Observing the jury trial was very interesting to me because I took evidence in the fall, and it was interesting to see the evidence rules in action and to now be able understand the basis for the various objections the attorneys raised.  In addition, it was interesting to observe the two styles of the attorneys when it came to questioning the witnesses.  Observing a jury trial confirmed my decision to become a prosecutor.  In addition, I was also able to draft a motion in response to a pro se motion to suppress.  This experience was interesting because responding to a motion written by a person was no legal training required some creativity in addition to the requisite legal research and writing skills.

4.   What surprised you about the work?

        One thing that surprised my at my externship was the lack of writing.  Through working in district court, I realized that the prosecutors did not engage in much writing because often there were no motions filed by the defense the prosecutors did not need to write motions in response.  While the prosecutors in the Gang Unit did file motions, most of the attorneys’ work did not involve writing.  The attorneys spent more time gathering and evaluating evidence for their cases; this activity included interviewing officers, interviewing witnesses, looking at police interviews, etc.  Thus, it seems while writing skills are still an important component of being a successful prosecutor one also needs strong oral communication skills.

5.   What did you like the most about working for that employer?

        The thing that I liked best about working in this office was the ability to experience almost all aspects of being a prosecutor.  I was able to see the many different roles that prosecutors engage in as part of their jobs.  For example, assisting with cataloging evidence was an interesting experience because I was able to see the behind the scenes view of case preparation.  These experiences allowed me to get a better view of what I would have to do as a prosecutor.

6.   What did you find challenging about the work?

        The most challenging part about my job was probably trying to figure out what pieces of information were relevant to the case at hand and what type of information was extraneous.  As a prosecutor it is important to see how the details relate to the larger picture, and often times, I would think information was not important when it could be potentially used in the case.  Fortunately, there was a quick learning curve and I soon figured out quickly that often information, which seemed unimportant, could be used.

7.   What have you learned that you can apply to your career going forward?

The one thing I will take away from this externship that I can apply to my future career is the importance of being flexible.  As an attorney, and it seems especially as a prosecutor, flexibility is an important skill.  Often as an attorney, it will be necessary to engage in other tasks besides legal research, legal writing, and trying cases.  Because there are other responsibilities that a prosecutor must do it is imperative that before one becomes a prosecutor a person is flexible and able to do other tasks.

Students can access internship and job postings and participate in WCL recruitment programs through CareerLink.  To identify your own career goals and create a personalized job search strategy, log into CareerLink to schedule an appointment with an OCPD counselor today.  For help with any CareerLink access issues, email careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu.

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