Ray Chao ’15, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

Through Princeton Career Services, I was fortunate to receive the opportunity to complete my Princeternship with the LA City Attorney’s Office. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it was great to head back to my (sunny and warm) hometown to gain some work experience and a better understanding of public service civil law.

My host, Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough, is a 1975 Princeton graduate. She told me that she was the first Mexican-American woman to ever attend Princeton, and told me amazing stories about her experience in a new environment (and stories about now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor who was one grade below her). Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough is a Deputy City Attorney, and the General Counsel for the LA for Kids program, where she is in charge of allocating over $200 million dollars in funding for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of parks and recreation centers around Los Angeles.

After passing background checks and getting fingerprinted, Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough introduced me to everybody in her office. Each of them served as a general counsel to some various project undertaken by the City of Los Angeles, and they all had very interesting stories to tell. After meeting everybody in the office, we attended a Continuing Education Seminar hosted by an LA City Councilman. He discussed various issues that the City of LA faced including medical marijuana dispensaries and liability for broken sidewalks. I never realized how complicated and interesting the issue of sidewalks could be. The city did not know what to do about broken sidewalks because they had no money to fix them, but somebody had to fix them or else the city would continue to face lawsuits.

After lunch, we proceeded to a meeting with an engineer who was proposing a plan to renovate a golf driving range. Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough’s job was to oversee the legality of the project, and ensure the fulfillment of contractual obligations. It was interesting to see how nuanced the development process for building a driving range is when it seems so simple.

For the rest of the day, I reviewed files, reports, and transcripts related to various development projects around the city. The biggest lesson? Lawyers have to deal with a lot of paper!

The second day of my Princeternship started off with another meeting with engineers looking to develop a new park. Following that small meeting, we proceeded to a large staff meeting with engineers, project managers, and lawyers discussing several projects from a macro perspective. They looked over budgetary and logistical concerns, and debated the viability of certain projects. We walked to the historic district of downtown to have authentic Mexican food for lunch, and Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough described the history of the city, and also discussed her own experiences at Princeton. It was fascinating to hear about her transition from a small town in New Mexico to a foreign environment, and I heard many entertaining stories! Following a post-lunch meeting with more engineers, Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough continued to describe her Princeton experience, and also showed us a picture of some of the people in her class. She went person-by-person across the picture, and told us what they were doing now. Their professions ranged from renowned authors, to Federal Appellate judges, to entrepreneurs, showing just how strong the Princeton alumni network is.

The final day of my Princeternship started

Ray and Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough

off with a panel discussion with some political consultants about the 2012 Presidential race. Following that talk, we attended a City Council meeting in the spectacular Los Angeles City Council Chambers. Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough arranged a lunch with two other recent Princeton graduates at Homegirl Café- a restaurant devoted to helping at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth find employment opportunities. They graduated in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and talked about their own Princeton experiences as well as their career aspirations. We then toured City Hall, and got the chance to go to the top floor of City Hall where we had a 360 degree panoramic view of the city from the 32th floor!  Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough ended the day by sharing more Princeton stories, asking about our aspirations, and sharing advice she had for us.

The Princeternship ended quickly; I didn’t realize how short it was! It really gave me a deeper understanding about public service and civil law, and helped me narrow my career choices. I know that law is definitely something I want to seriously consider pursuing in the future, and this experience helped me solidify that notion.

My host was also an exceptionally important part of my experience, and she is definitely an inspiration. I am so grateful for her wonderful hospitality, and my Princeternship could not have been the same without her. I had an eye-opening Princeternship experience, and I am so thankful to Princeton, Career Services, and Ms. Gonzales Kimbrough for the amazing opportunity.