An Interview with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, Nicole Cabezas Lamb, NDLS 2013

Nicole is now in her third year as an ADA at the New York County District Attorney’s office and absolutely loves her job. In her words “she would stay here forever. The people are awesome.” Nicole feels good about herself at the end of the day and “would hate” to ever leave this job.

How did she land a job that she is so thrilled to do everyday?

Nicole knew in law school that she wanted to be in the courtroom but criminal law was her lowest grade. Her grades her 1L year were “not great” and she ended up with what she vaguely remembers was a 3.1 or so. She spent her 1L summer at the Bronx DA, where her uncle was a detective and she figured out from that experience that she wanted to be a prosecutor.

So she picked classes like deposition skills and trial advocacy and committed her law school career to the theme of prosecution work. She did an externship with the Public Defender. She joined trial team, which she says was the best experience she had in law school and the one that most prepared her for practice. She went to the U.S. Attorney in Newark her 2L summer.

Her trial team coach put her in touch with Toni Mardirossian, an attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and she networked with her, picking her brain about her career. In her 3L year, she was eager to land a job in a prosecutor’s office anywhere.  She applied all over the east coast, including Suffolk County and Staten Island.

She got an interview at the Manhattan DA and accepted immediately.

To be good at the job, you need to be willing to go out of your comfort zone and be good on your feet. She says she is “so busy” and that it is not a “9-5 job.” She works weekends sometimes and her first year, she worked Christmas, New Year’s, and any other major holiday you can think of. Arrests happen 24 hours a day and there needs to be a prosecutor to deal with them.

I asked her what causes her to roll her eyes about the job and she said that they expect you to produce work but it is hard to be ready when you have 50-80 cases at a time. But she is never bored and always challenged.

Outside of the office, Nicole definitely has a life. She takes regular weekend trips and took her last week-long vacation a year ago. Attorneys get 5 weeks of vacation there and 1-2 sick days accrue each month, which is a lot of time off. Attorneys regularly take that time and if an attorney needs to stay home with a sick child, they are allowed to do so without any need for further explanation.

Nicole is very close with co-workers and said that many of them came to her wedding.

As far as how to land a job there, it is all about networking to get your foot in the door.

The Manhattan DA keeps a folder of all candidates and puts any notes or letters recommending the candidate in that folder.

Once you get your foot in the door, the interview process is designed in a way that truly allows the interviewers to get insight into your skills as a prosecutor and trial attorney. Often times the hypotheticals pose a question regarding ethics and usually require you to take a position and articulate and flesh out why you’re taking a certain position.

Nicole is happy to talk to any Notre Dame students. Email me and I will send you her contact information.

 

 

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