On the first day of the Princeternship, I arrived at the office at around 9 am. Since I live in the suburbs of Los Angeles, each day I was able to drive to and from the L.A. City Attorney office, which is located in the heart of Downtown L.A. The office is under a lot of security, so I couldn’t just walk in and meet my host. After getting past the guards, I had to go hand in my paperwork to a secretary. The secretary looked at my paperwork and then sent me to get fingerprinted at an off-site location. After coming back, I was finally able to meet Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough ‘75, my host. She was sitting in her office talking to Sebastien, another Princeton student, who would be participating in the Princeternship with me.
Marcia talked to us for a couple of hours in her office, telling us how she ended up where she is now. It was fascinating to hear about her Princeton experience. She grew up in New Mexico and was one of the first Latina women to attend Princeton.. She recalled living in newly built Spellman, which was so “in vogue” back then. She also told us about how Sonia Sotomayor was in the class below her, and that everyone at school had always known that Sonia would end up on the Supreme Court. After talking about her life, she told us about her job. As a municipal advisor for the Deputy City Attorney, she spends a lot of time advising on actions that politicians and various other officials should take, often regarding “Proposition K,” an important law in L.A.
Marcia then took us to lunch on Olvera Street where we ate great authentic Mexican food and walked around the Downtown area, including beautiful Union Station. Next we went to City Hall, which is across the street from the City Attorney’s Office but connected to it by a bridge on the third floor. City Hall was beautiful, and we were able to go all the way to the top of the building, where we could see a 360-degree view of the LA basin – it was amazing! Marcia knows so much about the history of L.A., so it was really valuable to hear everything she had to say. On the way down from the top, we ran into one of Marcia’s coworkers, another fellow Princeton alum! He graduated in ’88, and was a proud member of Tower Club.
Back in Marcia’s office, we met Phil, another of her colleagues. His work centers on intellectual property, and it was fun to talk to him about an area of law that is becoming increasingly important in the Internet Age. At the end of the day, Marcia went over the agenda for the Council Meeting we would be attending the next day.
Tuesday, March 20th
On Tuesday, we spent the morning watching the City Council Meeting. This happens every week, and each of the City Councilmembers of L.A. hears and approves or disapproves various measures. I was also able to sit in on a press meeting for the L.A. Fire Department.
For lunch, Marcia took Sebastien and I to eat sushi in Little Tokyo. As we were eating in Marcia’s favorite restaurant, we ran into one of her good friends, Charlie. Charlie is a criminal defense attorney who deals with death penalty cases. He is an extremely outgoing man, and he loves Princeton because his daughter went there. Charlie told us of his experience growing up African American in a poor area of Texas. Neither of his parents had been educated past elementary school in the segregated area they grew up in, so he had pushed many barriers when he went to UCLA and later law school. Charlie was so passionate about his job and excited to talk to us. For the rest of the afternoon, Charlie took us to sit in on some murder trials in the L.A. Criminal Court. This was extremely fascinating. Charlie seemed to know everyone in the court building – the security guards, the lawyers, the judges, the law clerks. He introduced us to everyone he knew and told us about how everything worked in the courtrooms. I was so glad that we ran into him earlier that day!
Wednesday, March 21st
On Wednesday morning, Marcia went over several documents with Sebastien and I. The documents dealt with various measures regarding public projects and parks, and she explained them all to us. For lunch, Marcia took us to the Police Academy of L.A. The Police Academy is located near Dodger Stadium, in Elysian Park. At the Police Academy there was an old-fashioned diner, where we ate a really good lunch. In the diner there were a lot of old pictures on the walls, which Marcia talked about in great detail. A lot of her previous work dealt with the Police Department, so she was really informed.
After lunch, Sebastien and I went back to the Criminal Court House to sit in on some other cases. We were able to see a verdict being issued in a murder trial, which was fascinating. At the end of the day, Marcia took us to a celebration for Latinos in the City Attorney’s Office. The celebration was at the top of City Hall, where we had been on Monday. It was really fun to see different employees recognized for their hard work, and there was really good authentic Mexican food served! It was a great ending to the whole experience.
Overall, I think the Princeternship was really beneficial on both a professional and personal level. It was really interesting to be in a professional law environment for the first time, and to see what being an “attorney” really entails! On a personal level, it felt awesome to meet so many Princeton alums, and see how Princeton prepared them and inspired them to do great things in the world. As a Los Angeles resident, the historical enrichment I got out of the experience was extremely valuable. Marcia knows so much about L.A. and was so enthusiastic about telling us all she knew. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given in this Princeternship, and I want to thank Marcia and everyone else that helped me along the way!