Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Create an Assistant District Attorney

With Thanksgiving weekend just passing, it seems prudent to thank my boss for allowing me to start and continue this blog. There were only two rules when I started it: 1) don't comment on pending cases, and 2) don't get sued for defamation.

Seemed reasonable to me and so far neither have happened. Hopefully, this blog is informative on criminal law and the life of an ADA, and provides some entertainment.

As I promised some time ago, I'd let you know a little about my road to becoming an Assistant District Attorney. If this is the career you truly want, just look at my path and feel good about yourself. I'm sure you are further along than I ever was.

My progression of jobs: caterer, dishwasher, food server at an NFL stadium, produce stock clerk, cashier, movie theater concessionaire and usher, lobbyist firm intern, law firm intern, town warrant clerk, and substitute teacher. My favorite of the bunch is a tie between popping popcorn at a movie theater and stocking the shelves of a supermarket with some great people.

Education: Bachelor's in speech and language therapy. A year off to "find myself" then onto law school to "figure it out."

Being an ADA was never my main goal. Sometimes life pushes us where we are most useful, despite our opinions to the contrary.

Following that, I worked in two different district attorney's offices between New York City and upstate New York and have handled every type of case you can think of.

When I look back on the road I travelled to my current career, I can see the makings of a successful ADA. This job is all about how you relate to people. The doors of a DA's office open to gangsters, rape victims, doctors, the elderly, and child abuse victims the same way. You have to find that common ground with each of them. That means you must experience life outside of the office so that you can understand what life is like for that victim and that defendant.

A colleague of mine said today, "this is checkers, not chess." Most of this job is not about legal strategy, but getting to the correct result. It all comes down to people. The successful ADAs are compassionate first and vigorous litigators second. The unsuccessful ones forget compassion.

My jobs and experiences introduced me to every type of person this world has to offer. As I wound my way through them, I didn't see at the time how much they were preparing me for my current job. No one realizes the value of experience until it's over.


  1. Experiences are the crux of writing too. It develops my characters, their motivations, and story lines. If you know people, you can write about them.