August 16, 2016
Andrew Chan (HLS, 2013) had an eye set toward working at the US Attorney’s Office even before law school. In college, Chan worked as a summer fellow at OPIA, where he had the opportunity to speak to Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs). By the time he reached law school, he had a sense that he wanted to go into government work.
At HLS, Chan worked at the US Attorney’s offices in both San Francisco and Boston. In his 2L summer, he split his time between working in the private sector and working at the DOJ. While most people seemed drawn to the firms, he knew he didn’t want to spend the entire summer there. Following law school, Chan clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston before joining the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York about ten months ago.
At his current job, no two days are alike. Chan’s snapshot of a typical week includes lots of interpersonal interaction, particularly with law enforcement partners at the FBI, NYPD, Postal Service, IRS, and Homeland Security. His office provides back-up legal support for investigating and charging criminal cases. During the investigative phase, the USAO assists law enforcement in compiling and analyzing evidence, issuing subpoenas, and pursuing search warrants. The office must then make a decision as to whether there’s enough evidence to charge a case and make an arrest. If so, the next step is to present testimony and evidence to a grand jury to convince them that the case is prepared for indictment and trial.
When deciding what role to pursue in his future, Chan was drawn to becoming a prosecutor because they have more say about who enters the criminal justice system in the first place. “It’s important for prosecutors to be attuned to the public interest and figure out what’s in the best interest of the community,” he says. Compared to state prosecutors, Chan describes his work at the US Attorney’s office as less reactive and more focused on long-term investigations. Oftentimes, his office might investigate a case for years before making an arrest.
Although Chan’s hours at work can balloon to as much as private firms in some weeks, he notes that unlike the private sector, he has greater autonomy over his cases. For the vast majority of his cases, he is the only attorney. As a result, AUSAs also have greater control over their schedules, making for a great work-life balance, particularly for those balancing a family with their career.
To HLS students, Chan says, “Don’t follow the herd.” In his experience, many of his law school friends entered firms only to scramble for exit strategies soon after graduation. Chan has had the opposite experience, saying that although he’s only been at the USAO for ten months, he could spend his entire life there. “Be more intentional and find something that you love to do,” he adds to his advice. “Why else would you go to HLS?”