My first day as a Princetern at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office began as I stepped into City Hall, situated amidst the bustle and excitement of downtown L.A. There a fellow Princetern and I met our host, deputy city attorney Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough ‘75. After a brief tour of her office and introduction to her colleagues, we began our three-day experience of the work of a city attorney.
The activities of my first day immediately gave me a clear idea of the nature of Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough’s work. As a city attorney, she plays the crucial role of providing legal counsel for a wide variety of issues and projects in the city of Los Angeles. I had the privilege of attending several meetings she had as the general counsel for the L.A. for Kids program, which procures and distributes funding for park and recreation projects in the city. Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough discussed various aspects of a large number of projects with not only other lawyers, but also landscape architects, whom we met on the first day to discuss a potential driving range in west Los Angeles, as well as civil engineers from the department of Public Works. We also met with the City Administrative Officers for the program and members of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which had an incredible number of projects underway yet was being dissolved due to budgetary constraints. Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough provided legal advice for these groups, particularly in terms of ensuring that all the details of their proposals for the community projects adhere to the city’s chartered rules and will be approved by the city council. She also looks over the legality of the multiple contracts that are a part of each project.
Though these meetings may seem tedious, I definitely felt that they were an irreplaceable part of the community, and that law, whether it is a bill passed by the council or an ordinance issued by the mayor, is made an inherent part of these government functions for the purpose of improving the lives of individuals in the community. I was particularly struck by the significance of Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough’s work when we drove by some of the very parks and sites for future development that were discussed in the meetings. By shadowing Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough, I gained a comprehensive understanding of the careful considerations, the compromises made, and the collective efforts of many individuals behind each park, recreation center, or children’s museum. I saw the testament to democracy at work through the process of turning a proposal into reality.
In addition to attending meetings with several branches of the city government, Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough also gave us the opportunity to attend a continuing legal education
lecture given by a Princeton graduate on several controversial topics, including the legalization of medical marijuana and responsibility dispute of city sidewalk repair. Furthermore, on the last day of the Princeternship, we also attended a City Council meeting and observed the passing of bills by the council members and comments made by community activists on the specific issues of their concern.
Aside from having the chance to observe the abovementioned meetings and government functions, meeting and hearing the stories of Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough herself, her coworkers and other Princeton alumni in southern California was, in my opinion, an extremely beneficial part of this experience. Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough graciously talked to us about her past experiences as a law school student, a prosecutor working in criminal law, and her transition to a city attorney. She also introduced us to her colleagues, who all kindly told us about their particular areas of legal expertise, and recent Princeton graduates. Gaining a glimpse into the work they do and learning about how they made their career choices gave me very helpful information with which I may, hopefully, make my own decisions about future academic and career pursuits. Of course, this Princeternship was also an invaluable chance to build professional relationships that you would not gain otherwise.
From this experience, I learned so much about not only the legal field, but also the practical application of law. I personally thought that this greatly influenced the way I perceive the career of a lawyer, which I believe is very meaningful and extremely multifaceted and interesting. If I had not observed Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough’s daily work, my academic or career decisions with regard to law would be based on postulation rather than facts and real experience. Princeternships provide a unique and rare opportunity to gain insight into a particular career and allow you to truly immerse yourself in the environment so that you can decide whether this is the right career for you. I am extremely glad that I chose to apply and participate, and I am very grateful to Ms. Gonzales-Kimbrough and Career Services for generously providing me with this opportunity.