Wearing the White Hat for the Summer

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By: Jamie Englerth ’23

Looking back at the beginning of my internship, if future me would have told myself what I would experience on the first day, I wouldn’t have believed it. I have always known that working in the public interest as a prosecutor was what I wanted to do. I have worked in three District Attorney’s Offices so I wanted to try to expand my knowledge but still stay true to my goals of wearing the White Hat. That’s when I saw the application for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. It seemed like the perfect fit for me, I would be interning in the public sector as a prosecutor but this time, learning how our federal justice system works. After talking with some classmates and professors I knew that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was where I needed to be this summer.

On my first day at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I was unsure what this summer would entail. I had prior experience on the state level but was very unfamiliar with our federal system. At orientation we were all given our assigned attorneys that we would be working with for the summer. I was assigned to one Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit, one in the White-Collar Unit, and my last in the Appeals Unit. I can remember going up to my AUSA in the White-Collar Unit and telling him I had never worked on White Collar cases but I was open to learn about fraud and embezzlement. However, White Collar is much larger than just fraud and embezzlement! In fact, I have not worked on a single fraud or embezzlement case this summer.

Rather, I have been learning about the many facets of criminal law in the federal system. I have had the opportunity to write, research, and watch cases involving child exploitation, drug trafficking, human trafficking, firearms trafficking, wildlife trafficking, and many other areas. The federal system has opened my eyes to a whole other side of criminal law I did not see before. Entering into this internship I was nervous and tried not to have too high of expectations. Would I be able to apply the law I had learned this past year? Would I be able to write a motion for my attorney based on my own research? Questions of doubt began to run through my head. To say the least, all of my worries vanished as I entered this welcoming office. Since the first day we were met with open arms and attorneys ready to help us grow and learn this summer.

During my 2L year at The University at Buffalo School of Law, I had taken Criminal Procedure: Investigation, Evidence, and Criminal Law: Sentencing and Prisons, so I felt ready to take another step in to the realms of our criminal justice system. I had the black-letter law, but now it was my turn to use that knowledge to research and write motions to help defend the Assistant U.S. Attorney’s positions. Each day I went into the office, there was something new to see and learn. There was never a day that was like the last. Some days I came in, and I was researching a 4th Amendment question. The next, I was sitting in court watching oral arguments–and then others I was writing motions for my AUSA to file with my name attached. It was thrilling and challenging every day. From this internship I was able to learn how to research and write based off of real cases rather than the hypotheticals in law school. As a practicing attorney, some things are not just a quick and easy search with an answer.

As I have seen this summer, in law school, we are taught what the law is, what it means, and how to apply it for set hypotheticals. What we are not taught is that in real life, often our legal issues are not as clear cut as the hypotheticals we get in law school. We may be taught that if x happens then y. But what if x happens with z, do we still get y? We learn black letter law as if the law is black and white when in reality there is a lot of grey. We can read as many case books and as many statues as we’d like, but applying the law is not as clear cut as we often think. There are other factors and real lives at issue when we are practicing. Because of this internship, I feel more prepared to enter my legal career. I will understand the complexities of the legal world, researching, and most importantly how our writing matters because of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They took the time to help me learn and grow in hopes of making me as prepared as possible for when I become an attorney. For any incoming 1Ls or 2Ls, if you have the opportunity to work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I highly recommend it! You will spend your summer growing in ways you couldn’t have imagined. Plus, there will always be lots of laughs and you will get to meet some amazing people along the way. 

Overall, I could not have asked for a better internship the summer of my 2L year. I was able to gain experience and knowledge that will set me up on the right footing as I begin my legal career. None of this would have been possible if not for the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program Fellowship.  Without this fellowship, I would not have been able to pursue the internship that I wanted. I would have had to take an internship that was paid to pay for my living expenses or work less at an internship so that I could get a job. Because of the Fellowship, I was able to accept the position I truly wanted. Thank you does not begin to cover how grateful I am for BPILP and their fellowship I was awarded. I hope to continue my work in public interest to keep giving back to the community as they did for me.

Thank you to the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program! I sincerely appreciated this opportunity!

Name: Jamie Englerth ‘23

Name of Fellowship: The Buffalo Public Interest Law Program (BPILP) Fellowship

Placement: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York

Location: Buffalo, NY

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “You can be a passionate Prosecutor and fight for justice, but as soon as you stop seeing defendants as human beings, then you need to take a step back. A lot of people get caught up in the fight and the battle, but at the end of the day, it is someone’s life we are battling over. Never forget that and always have compassion as we all come from different backgrounds.”