By: Alexander Sanchez
Throughout my first year in law school at the University at Buffalo School of Law, I continuously imagined how my first summer would go as an intern. At times I’d find myself daydreaming while trying to do my readings and homework. I would think about where I’d be for my first summer and the type of work I would be doing. I imagined hundreds of possibilities … and needless to say what actually happened was not in any of my daydreams.
During the school year, I was fortunate enough to be offered and accept an offer to be a law clerk for a firm; due to COVID-19, however, that opportunity was suspended for the summer. Initially, I was befuddled as to how to move forward. As I have always been accustomed to doing throughout my life, I then put my head down and worked hard to make sure I bounced back. Thanks to a lot of resilience on my part (as well as help from Vice Dean Lisa Patterson as well as Lisa Bauer in UB law school’s Career Services Office), I was fortunate to be awarded the Mary J. Dowd Fellowship Award after securing a position in the Suffolk County (NY) District Attorney (DA)’s online internship program.
Going back to pre-COVID times, I expected my summer to involve going into offices and working face to face with attorneys on cases for different clients. I was hoping to meet several new people and obtain new mentors during this summer while working. The funny thing is that, despite the huge change in plans, in a sense these hopes didn’t completely fizzle out.
I may be doing work in my satin PJs sometimes instead of a suit, but who am I to complain about that? I may not be getting the in-person face to face that I was expecting in my many daydreams, but one thing I can confidently say is that this summer has still been full of growth and development for me.
When I started I had no idea what to expect out of the program. All I knew is that there was a very detailed schedule and that I would make the most of this opportunity. To be completely honest I was initially nervous to start, but it’s not for the same reasons as most of my peers. Most look at District Attorneys’ offices and romanticize them due to Law and Order and other crazy crime shows. When I used to think of DA’s offices the image in my head was more adversarial and less television drama and action. Thanks to my experience so far this summer, I have been able to see that my perspective was fairly inaccurate. The relationship between a DA and a community is not one of adversaries. Instead, a DA’s office is there to work with the community … and is actually the communities defense from chaos. This does not mean that the relationship is ever perfect, because in most cases it is still far from perfection, but what it does mean is that there are strides being made in the right direction.
The stories and cases I have heard about through the program have shown me that there are many people who are given closure and peace due to the hard work everyone in the Suffolk DA’s office does on a daily basis. DA offices are part of the community, and they try to better the lives of the people in the community. During arraignments I’ve seen several different types of cases and individuals. I have been able to learn about the work that an ADA puts in to each individual case. It is clear to me that they are truly passionate about justice in their community.
I haven’t been able to talk to people face to face, but there have been a ton of Q&A sessions that have helped answer my questions, as well as helped me learn from the questions and thoughts of others. I am currently working on a policy paper as a part of my internship. With the knowledge and observations I have made to this point, I am developing a policy that I believe the Suffolk DA could implement to improve their work and benefit the community as a whole.
I have noticed personal growth while working on this project, and others. This growth is due to all of the new concepts and information I have learned this summer. I am excited to put it all together and see the work that I put in pay off.
This summer may not be going the way that I drew it up in my head while trying to focus on my 1L Crim Law readings, but I can certainly say it was the summer that I needed to get to know who I really am. My name is Alex Sanchez, I am a rising 2L at University at Buffalo School of Law, and regardless of what comes my way I always bounce back. This summer, I truly learned to stay on my toes and always expect the unexpected.
Name: Alex Sanchez, ‘22
Name of Fellowship: Mary J. Dowd Fellowship Award
Placement: Suffolk County (NY) District Attorney (DA)’s
Location: Buffalo, NY (Remote)
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Stay on your toes and always expect the unexpected.”