Friday, November 1, 2013

When Asked for Advice . . .

I receive emails all the time from people looking for career advice. Here is part of one email and my response that I hope people find illuminating.

Prosecutor's Discretion, 

I wanted to just say thank you for doing your blog and giving those of us on the outside a glimpse into your world.

I would appreciate any general advice you can give a young lawyer about to start working as a DA.  I've already received plenty of great advice from your posts, but if there are specific things that you found helpful as a young prosecutor or advice you wish you would have been given, I would love to hear it.  

Thanks again.

And my reply:

Thank you for the kind words. With respect to advice, be careful what you wish for because I have a lot to give.

Never say no to an assignment when you are just starting out. Other assistants around you will because they will be too busy and that means they'll be missing out. I learned how to do search warrants and many other great investigative techniques that no one my level was doing just because I said yes, which meant I moved through the office quicker.

Read the statutes. ADAs are notoriously bad at this. They rely on the person above them to teach them. That person relied on the person above them and so on, so that every bad habit and incorrect interpretation of the law is passed down and no one bothers to correct it. Whenever you come across a statute or case, read it. Don't just cite it and assume it says what other people interpreted it as. 

Learn how to leave the emotions of these cases at work. Over 7 years later and this is what I still struggle with and what affects me everyday. You are going to see so much evil in this world and people doing unthinkable things to each other that you have to find something or some place that reminds you that people are generally good. Volunteer with kids or something.

If you want a specific bureau, go for it. Don't be afraid to ask or else no one will know where you really want to go in the office.

With government, it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. Example: I asked to start a devoted hard drive to documents, motions, and law that ADAs could use so that we did not always have to reinvent the wheel and it was "taken under advisement." I started it a month later, quietly, and it is now relied upon by everyone even those that did not want it. Although, you have to be careful and build up a solid repuation in the office before this.

Congratulations on deciding to enter public service. It is rewarding, challenging, and often makes you wonder about the future of humanity, but overall it is worth it. Remember that no matter what happens and what you feel, you must always do the right thing. You represent yourself, your boss, and the people and must act appropriately all the time.



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