Summer Job Diaries: Aspiring Prosecutor Lands in Court as DA Intern

Spencer Sharpe
Spencer Sharpe '19

Spencer Sharpe ’19 is spending his summer clerking for the Hardcore Gang Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

How did you land your summer job?

Professor Susan Poehls sent an email to the student body letting us know that the Hardcore Gang Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office was scheduling on-campus interviews for summer clerkship positions. I originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue criminal law, so the position was extremely appealing to me. I sent her my resume and a couple weeks later a TWEN page became available to sign up for an interview. I urge all new students to really stay on top of their LLS email. Potential externship and job opportunities are often sent directly to students.

How did the Career Development Office help you secure the position?

The Career Development Office helped at every stage of the process. I first contacted the office to see if I should even apply to the position as a 1L with a resume that was light on legal experience. The office responded quickly and reassured me that the DA’s office hires first-year students all the time and that I should apply confidently.

Once the TWEN page was posted, I had just one a week to prepare for the interview. In a panic, I emailed Assistant Director of Career Development Kandice Kovac, my adviser, that I needed my resume reviewed and that I wanted to do a mock interview as soon as possible. Kovac went over multiple drafts of my resume and gave me valuable feedback about how to highlight my past experience for this position. She ensured the mock interview happened in time for me to be prepared for the real deal. I received an offer for a position in the Hardcore Gang Division’s Compton branch about a week later, and really do credit the advice of Assistant Director Kovac for me landing the gig.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

Definitely the types of cases that the office handles and the amount of trial experience I’ve received. The Hardcore Gang Division mostly prosecutes murder and attempted murders that are gang-related within the County. The experience of assisting a DA on a murder case from the preliminary hearing all the way to sentencing has been fascinating. The Hardcore Gang Division is a trial-heavy division of the District Attorney’s office, and I find myself in the courtroom most days helping the DA I was assigned to advance her cases. The work is fast-paced and I have enjoyed the amount of time I have spent in the courtroom.

What has been your most challenging assignment thus far?

It was actually given to me on the first day. I met the DA to whom I was assigned and she quickly asked me to familiarize myself with a case file and prepare an opposition to a motion I had not yet encountered. The work paid off, because there was a hearing on the motions and I got to sit next to the DA before the judge, writing her notes, material information and helping her argue our case. It was probably the most interesting experience I have had in law school thus far, and it was exciting to be a part of a hearing pertaining to a motion I assisted in putting together.

What new legal skill(s) have you acquired during your summer job?

I have definitely gained a lot of writing experience in the position, but being comfortable with a flexible, fast-paced work environment is probably the most useful skill I acquired this summer. In criminal law, especially during trial, things move quickly. You have to be ready to adjust strategy or refocus quickly.

Assisting a DA with a hefty caseload requires doing a lot of different tasks on different cases, on what can be very different issues. Accepting the fast-paced style of work and willingly exploring areas of the law you may not be familiar with is key. The experience I have gained helping the DA on different parts of each case was invaluable for my understanding of practicing criminal law.

How has your Loyola education helped you make a difference in your placement?

I have found that the practice-oriented style of instruction at Loyola has prepared me for everything I’ve encountered at my externship. The work I received at the DA’s office was similar to my legal writing course, and many of the motions I was assigned dealt with issues covered in my evidence course.

What LLS courses have you found most helpful to your position?

My summer Evidence course taught by Professor Sean Kennedy was extremely useful since it covered issues that practicing lawyers face in the courtroom.  There were multiple instances where potential challenges Professor Kennedy mentioned in class would come up in during litigation and I felt I could make meaningful contributions because I was aware of them.

In what additional ways has Loyola helped you map your career path?       

All of my current career opportunities came from Loyola. It has been instrumental to have the backing of such a great community of professors and advisors dedicated to helping get students out of the classroom and into practice.  It was a Loyola professor who made me aware of the Hardcore Gang Division’s summer clerkship, which then led to an offer to extend the externship through the fall semester. I also am excited to take advantage of the Hobbs/Poehls DA Practicum this upcoming year for its extensive training and for the externship placement it offers in the spring semester.