I am interning at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division, located in downtown LA. Even though it is fun to be in the center of the city, my hour and a half drive to and from work is never my favorite part of the day! I work in the Hall of Justice–the first few floors are for LA County Sheriffs and the top floors are for DAs, including the District Attorney of LA County Jackie Lacey (unfortunately I haven’t run into her in the elevator yet). Last year I actually worked in the same building in Major Crimes. I work in general sex crimes, but some of my intern friends in the same office work for human trafficking. Within the office there is a focus on all types of sex crimes. The office itself differs from other offices that I have interned in before, because this office has several rooms for interviewing adult victims, a room for interviewing child victims, and even a room for comfort dogs to be utilized during the interviews (the dogs have yet to be seen but they are coming!).
As one of two undergrads who is interning, I am expected to be paired with an intern who is in law school while we both help DAs. Every 2 weeks we get assigned to a DA that we will help with whatever they need. We also get to accompany the DA to court pretty much every day. The court is conveniently across the street, which sometimes means that there is a lot of running back and forth when the DAs need something from their offices. In the past 2 weeks I have done a few different tasks for the DA I was assigned to. I organized a case file (DAs are given a lot of copies of various papers so removing repeats helps make things clearer for court), I transcribed an interview with a suspect, and I helped her with a presentation she gives to volunteers who help with victims.
In addition to helping the DA we are assigned to, the interns are expected to screen cases in our free time (we are also assigned a whole week where we only screen cases). The process of screening is when detectives write up reports that are submitted to the DA’s office where they are read and are either declined or moved forward to an interview. If we screen a case that moves forward to an interview we are expected to sit in on that interview, which I have already been able to do. It was very interesting to watch the preparation that goes into a victim interview, and how the DA has to be very careful to not ask leading questions, but also try to get as much information as possible so that they don’t have to bring the victim in for an interview more than necessary.
The Assistant Head Deputy of the office, Jodi Link, is the person who runs the law clerk program and she also runs many trainings with law clerks, DAs, and law enforcement. Last week I went to one of the trainings for law enforcement and it was quite a treat! She is very entertaining and I could tell everyone in the room left very informed. It was beneficial to go to the training before I sat in on an interview with the victim, because at the training she went into detail about questions to ask victims. I actually found this internship because last summer I went to a law clerk training for my position at Major Crimes and Ms. Link was running the training. I liked her leadership style and emailed her shortly after about possibly interning in her office. Interestingly enough, the only other undergrad working in the office with me (there are about 15 interns total) got the internship in the same way. So as a piece of advice for others, I would say that going out on a limb and showing interest in something definitely puts you ahead of other candidates.
This summer is already very hectic, every single day I come home with stories to tell my parents. Every case is fascinating in its own way and I consider myself lucky that in my internship when I have to read a bunch of files, it’s basically like reading a Law & Order: SVU storyline. That being said, the subject matter is very difficult. It’s plain to see that the DAs in the Sex Crimes Office have something in them that allows them to work these cases and still lead normal lives and have families. Because I have interned in DA’s offices before, I think the biggest thing I hope to learn by the end of this summer is if I can handle these types of cases, or if this type of work is not something I should pursue. In addition, I plan on going to law school and being surrounded by law students is the best thing I could have done right now they are full of advice and a few have even offered old LSAT prep books, so as another piece of advice if you’re planning on going to grad school befriend people in grad school!