By: Jamie VandeVelde ‘23
When I started my second year of law school, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office was one of the last places I would have expected to spend my summer. The first year criminal law class was the lowest grade I’ve ever received, and I had basically written off any type of work that focused on it. I distinctly remember meeting with my writing professor and having him tell me to give it another chance because it is completely different in practice than in the class. I signed up to take Criminal Procedure: Adjudication in the fall, felt like I really connected with the material a lot more than in the first class, and am now on a path to focus on criminal law after graduation, but I was not sure which side I wanted to focus on.
This summer has made the decision to focus on prosecution very easy for me. At the start, my time at the Erie County District Attorney’s Office was mostly simply observing what the Assistant District Attorneys did in court on a daily basis. That then led to getting very small tasks to do for them, specifically the paperwork for arraignments, while under direct supervision. As time went by, and I started to build up some trust with the ADAs that I was working with, I was given certificates of compliance to prepare, a protective order to write, and recently a memo on how we should respond to defense counsel raising several objections to a lab report we were offering as evidence.
I decided to continue on with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office for the fall semester, and specifically requested to stay with the group of ADAs that I was with. The main reason for this was that as that trust with them had built up, I was being given more and more responsibilities, not just in our office, but in court as well. While I can’t be on the record, I’ve spoken with several complainants, been invited to sit in on meetings with officers about the cases and the charges they wanted to pursue, as well as being asked my opinions on aspects of plea deals. A few days after I told one of the ADAs that I had decided to stay, he handed me a stack of cases, and said to pick a few of them. These were going to be my cases for the rest of my time there. He would be the person on the record for them, but I was going to be responsible for doing all of the rest of the work. This summer has already been a far more hands on experience than I had expected, and this coming semester seems like it is going to be another step towards working a career with the district attorney’s office.
I wanted to end this by thanking Francis and Cindy Letro. Their generous donation allowed me to spend the summer working in an area of the law that I care about, while also building towards a potential future career.
Name: Jamie Vandevelde ’23
Name of Fellowship: Francis and Cindy Letro
Placement: Erie County District Attorney’s Office
Location: Buffalo, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “This summer has already been a far more hands on experience than I had expected, and this coming semester seems like it is going to be another step towards working a career with the district attorney’s office.”