For the next month, the Career Brief will feature two stories every week from current 2L students who agreed to answer for PDO, “How I Spent My Summer”. These stories are posted on the bulletin board outside of PDO’s offices.
Lena Cetvei: Intern, Justice Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Salt Lake City
How did you learn about the job? I learned about it during PDO’s on-campus Career Fair in January.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? The job was posted on PDO’s job listings in January. I emailed a cover letter, résumé, writing sample, and official transcript. I emailed the contact person again the beginning of March to express my continued interest in the job, as I had not heard from them regarding an interview or rejection. I was informed at that time that the position was filled, but then, two weeks later, they emailed me for an interview. During the interview, I met with the hiring paralegal and we discussed some items on my résumé, my interest in working for the Department of Justice, and my writing sample (in which they were particularly interested because some of the cases I cited were their cases). I was offered the internship at the end of the interview. Once I was given an offer, I had to complete an extensive background check.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? In a typical day at the job, I would get to work at 9 a.m., go to a few court hearings with other interns (there were seven total) or attorneys in the morning. Then I would research and write memos for attorneys in the afternoon. Sometimes these were just quick research projects with simple answers that the attorneys needed right away before a hearing, but others were in-depth memos. I also went to several press conferences announcing new indictments, attended a three-day jury trial, and went to a week-long counterterrorism conference.
What was the coolest part about the job? The coolest part was seeing how the work impacted real people. I wrote motions that were argued in front of the judge and which affected the defendants immediately. It was also amazing to be able to assist in representing the United States of America in court, knowing that the work you are doing is helping to punish those who have broken the law. I worked in the White Collar Crimes Unit. Being able to see defendants indicted who have stolen millions of dollars from taxpayers or innocent victims provided a great sense of accomplishment. In addition, all of the cases had real significance. I did not work on any small misdemeanor-type cases. Although I worked for the White Collar Crimes Unit, I was free to take assignments and attend hearings from any other unit. I also really enjoyed meeting the other interns. We all worked in the same room and it seemed that many times we all worked together to help an intern who had a question on a certain legal question. We also went to court together. I developed great friendships as a result. The atmosphere of the entire office was very collegial and not competitive.
What did you gain from the experience? I met an amazing group of attorneys while I worked there who were extremely happy with the work they were doing. I learned to research and write legal memos very quickly, and I learned what attorneys and judges look for in motions and briefs. I also learned many aspects of criminal procedure and evidence very quickly, even though I had not yet taken those classes. I also learned that it is crucial for an attorney to view a situation from all sides. It is tempting to always only support the side that you work for, but I noticed that especially in criminal trials where entire lives are on the line, it is important to find a balance between what is best for society, but also what is best for the defendants. It was very interesting to put the theories that we learned during first year classes, such as criminal law and legal writing, to use.
What advice would you offer future applicants? I really enjoyed my summer experience, and wouldn’t do anything differently—except maybe to try and fit in a few classes during my internship so I could get some credits out of the way for 2L year. Applicants should keep in mind that the requisite background check can take more than a month to complete—so be sure to time your start date accordingly!
Brooke Johnson: Summer Honors Intern Program, Research Specialist,
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Regional Office, Salt Lake City, Utah
How did you learn about the job? At one of PDO’s on-campus job fairs I met SEC attorney, Cheryl Mori, and she encouraged me to apply.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? I applied through the federal summer internship website, which required me to enter every possible thing about myself. Then, after I was offered the job, I had to go through a 7-year background check by the FBI, disclose all possible conflicts, and receive high-level clearance. It was definitely a good introduction to government work (forms, forms, and more forms) and it was worth it.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? The SEC allows the interns to be fairly autonomous—they assign us memoranda and motions as they arise, as well as giving us weekly opportunities to attend testimony, depositions, court, and sit in on phone calls with opposing counsel and potential witnesses. Also, the interns receive weekly training through a videoconference from the SEC. Most of the Commissioners lectured, and various other department heads also provided training. In addition, the SEC broadcasts its weekly Commission meeting where all actions are discussed and voted on. It was a great experience to see how the Commission works from the inside. But, basically, when nothing action-packed was happening, I wrote and researched.
What was the coolest part about the job? For me, the coolest part of the job was being assigned an emergency motion and memorandum, attending depositions, reviewing documents, and filing the motion with the court in about 2 weeks. I feel like I (hopefully) made a difference for some defrauded investors.
What did you gain from the experience? I had a great writing experience, great opportunity to network with well-respected attorneys.
What advice would you offer future applicants? Don’t check every SEC branch when applying. You can send your application to several offices at once, but I know that the person who selects applications at the Salt Lake office doesn’t want to interview people who just check every office. They’re looking for people who will appreciate the opportunity to work in Salt Lake and network with attorneys here.