On October 13, over two dozen law students and New York Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) braved the pouring rain for the Prosecutors’ Committee and Student Outreach Committee’s first-ever mixer. Pizza slices in hand, ADAs from across the five boroughs and Nassau County shared their wealth of experience and helpful advice with law students interested in following them into prosecutors’ offices.
Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair David Chiang made clear that the Asian American prosecutors at this meeting, whose roles ranged from bureau chiefs to brand-new ADAs, were there on a mission. “Asian Americans are incredibly underrepresented” in the prosecution field, Chiang told the room. While many prosecutors have mentors and networks that help them get ADA positions and rise up the ranks, Asian Americans may not have the same breadth of resources for doing so. Building support networks for career advancement in the ADA space was the reason why ADAs and Prosecutors’ Committee members met with law students that night.
“I want aspiring prosecutors to learn what it’s like to be in the office,” Devin Ly, a Kings County ADA, said. While the workload could be heavy and the demands sky high, he and his colleagues stressed that it’s worthwhile because of the good they were doing for their communities. For many of the prosecutors in attendance, their jobs felt meaningful not through tallying convictions or locking up their fellow borough residents. Rather, many AAPI prosecutors see their job as an opportunity to seek justice more holistically. Talking to students, these prosecutors shared stories, the philosophies of their offices, and how they work hard to do right by defendants and their communities. While the problems of incarceration should still be considered by prosecutors, a prosecutor’s job is ultimately to look beyond someone’s criminal record and the circumstances of the case and ask whether justice is best served by alternatives like social services or other pretrial interventions that would better serve the defendant and the community.
“It was awesome to meet all these prosecutors from all these bureaus!” Andy Xu, a second-year law student from Cardozo exclaimed. “It’s great that AABANY opens things like this up for us!” Justin Lee, a third-year law student from NYU, added.
The event was co-hosted by the AABANY Student Outreach Committee and the Prosecutors’ Committee. We would like to thank Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Cleary’s DE&I team for providing us with space as well as food and drinks for the event.
With these lessons in mind and with so many connections made between these future lawyers and mentors, and maybe even future colleagues, we can’t wait to see where this collaboration goes from here.