Friday, September 18, 2009

Week Two!

So, last week I discussed two things I was excited for: the staff meeting on Monday and the continuation of the case locating project.

Neither of those things happened this week. BUT, it's for the best! I had a really good week.

Monday morning I got to the office, opened my office email, and found 25 emails. Apparently the elevator wasn't working properly (you have to swipe your ID at a reader before you press certain floors, including ours. The reader wasn't working, so people couldn't get the correct floors. Tragedy). Of course, instead of responding directly to an email from IT asking who was having issues, employees Reply-All'ed. Once I weeded through those emails, I found an email from a paralegal asking for help on a project! Of course I run into her office.

The project is an FDA Criminal investigation. I don't know too much about it right now, but let's say Drug Company is making a drug for a specific purpose. But, instead of using it for that purpose, they are selling and advertising it "off-label," for another purpose. This purpose is generally not permitted based on FDA guidelines, and generally has other criminal implications. But, I had to get special access to a certain secure file system, which involves an approval from another office, before I could start on this process.

Now, as I'm learning, nothing is ever simple. For example, this approval. The paralegal emailed someone, that person responded, CC'ing 3 other people. One of those other people sent me an application for this database.. a 3 page form. I get the form in quickly, and now I'm waiting for them to process the approval. Hopefully I can start working on this project next week.

The project I ended up working on was a Criminal Odometer Tampering case. Basically, a car dealership might be rolling back the miles on their used cars. To prove this, a paralegal asked me to run CarFax and AutoCheck reports on the cars. 240 cars later (480 files, each at about 5 pages per file), I completed the project. It took about a day and a half to compile all of those cases. Next, the paralegal wanted printed, stapled copies of the files. 2000 printed pages later (and thank God for double-siding!) and the project was complete. I've never seen so much paper before...

Now, you're probably thinking, how didn't I start crying from boredom? My theory with internships is that any time I get a task, I smile, say thank you, and do it as quickly (while maintaining accuracy) as possible. This establishes credibility that I can work quickly and effectively, and will move me past some of the more.... irritating... tasks. I don't ask "why do I have to do this?" I just take care of business. People tend to appreciate that, at least in the internships I've worked at.

Anyway, that's all for this week. Next week, look for my access to be approved (hopefully), the staff meeting not to get cancelled again (please!) and other exciting and random projects!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

My first week

I started work on Thursday morning at 9am. Of course, timing the red line and the shuttle in the morning is a consistent challenge. I walked through the doors of my building at 9:08am.

After I made it past security, I headed up the elevator to my office. I walked into the front door. The student working the front desk asked, "Josh?" The fact that he knew my name, that I was arriving that day, was immediately comforting; I, for one, knew that I had made it to the correct office, which assuaged one of my first-day fears.

After waiting for a few minutes, I met my supervisor, and another student, Dan, a fellow AU student! Dan was talking super-quickly as he got me set up on my computer, and showed me my office. He had to make it back to an 11:20 class, so he was running me through some basic procedures on our databases. Great information, but I was too busy trying to soak it all in to remember to take notes. I gave myself a self-guided tour of the Microsoft Access-based database system to get a feel for how things run. Oh, and yes, I actually have an office with my own desk and computer, and a door. Not a cubicle. My name is even on the door.

I share my office with another intern, Shanley, who has her own desk and computer as well. We're great office buddies, despite how hard we both work all day. Shanley is working on some data entry for a big case, so she is always super-intensely typing away into Excel. We have nice conversations, but I try not to distract her too much.

Anyway, back on topic, after Dan got me all set up and ran off to class, I went into a three-hour meeting with my supervisor, Ken. Ken is a great guy; he wants to be sure that I fully understand what the office is doing, how things work, how our computer system works, etc. Although our meeting went for a significant portion of the morning, he never made it seem like I was wasting his time, or that he had better things to do. My project was going to be to talk to an attorney and do research for a major case that she's working on. But, sadly, she emailed my supervisor just as I was about to go meet with her saying that another intern started the project and was making major headway, so the extra set of hands wasn't necessary.

Instead what I've been working on for the past two days has been checking the system to see where the files are supposed to be in certain paralegals' offices. From there, I make sure that they're in the right place. It seems really meaningless, but it's actually important. People have to be able to find their case files, and in an office where each attorney is handling at least 10 and at most 40 open cases, finding the hard copy of a file should be as easy as possible. I completed the starting task of finding the files just before I left on Friday (meaning, 5:28pm). Next, I get to go talk to the lawyers and paralegals about the current status of the cases, and update the system with the latest information.

What I like most about this task is that even though it involves a lot of grunge-work, it's also allowing me to meet and chat with a number of paralegals and attorneys. It's breaking some of that obvious ice that exists when you first meet someone; we're getting past the simple "where do you go to school," and beginning to talk about law school applications, law in general, etc. It's been quite fun, actually.

I'll post next week with an update on this project. Apparently on Monday we have a staff meeting where I'll get to introduce myself formally to the office and ask for stuff to do! It's exciting.

Hello, World!

Hello, my loyal readers! I started this blog in conjunction with American University's Career Center to share my experiences interning at the Department of Justice. I'm working in the Civil Division, in the Office of Consumer Litigation (OCL).

Basically, any United States consumer can submit an inquiry to our office. It is investigated, and if necessary, litigated.

Anyway, let me take a few steps back: how did I find this internship? Finding the internship took some legwork. I used, selected a number of agencies that I was interested in, and searched the agency websites to find internships. I ended up on the Office of Consumer Litigation internship website, read the instructions, and faxed in my application.

About a week later, I received a call from a blocked phone number. I happened to be away from my phone when the call came through, but when I got my voicemail, I had a message from the Department of Justice asking for a return call to talk about my application!

I got in touch with Justice, and I spoke with soon-to-be-supervisor about the position for about 20 minutes. By the end of the conversation, he offered me a position.

The background check process was fairly intense. I had to list places I've lived and worked and provide references for each, and get fingerprinted. After all that was completed, I was invited for an orientation session where we watched a video about security, and went to the main DOJ building to get my ID badge. At that point, I was ready to begin work! My next post will discuss my first two days at work, so stay tuned!