Sebastien Wadier ’12, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

My Princeternship started off smoothly enough. The Los Angeles Metro—or at least the Gold Line—was much faster than I expected, and I arrived at City Hall half an hour early. When I tried to get into the building, however, I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten my passport—my only form of government issued I.D. Without my passport, I couldn’t even get a visitor’s pass, and I certainly couldn’t get fingerprinted! I panicked and retreated to the food court. Fortunately, my host, Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough ‘75, soon showed up, calmed me down, and got me into the building.

Marcia spent the next hour or so talking to me and Silvia—the other Princetern she was hosting—about her childhood in Taos, New Mexico, her time at Princeton, and her career at the City Attorney’s office. Marcia has been working at the City Attorney’s Office for over thirty years, in a number of different capacities, from prosecutor to counsel to the fire department. Right now she is working in the Municipal Advice Section, which means that she provides legal advice to the Los Angeles City counsel and other municipal entities.

One of Marcia’s primary responsibilities is advising the oversight committee for the ‘L.A. for Kids’ program. ‘L.A. for Kids’ receives $25 million each year through a special tax assessed on all properties in the city. This money is used to build parks and play areas for children. By law, projects built with this money need to meet certain requirements, and Marcia helps city agencies and nonprofits understand what they need to do to meet these often complex requirements.

Our conversation with Marcia was interrupted by a phone call: a city agency wanted advice regarding a possible conflict of interest. After answering the agency’s questions, Marcia took Silvia and I to lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera street. On the way back to City Hall, she pointed out landmarks downtown. Then, after a tour of City Hall, we climbed to a balcony near the top of City Hall and saw the same landmarks from above. On the way, we ran into a councilman, Tom LaBonge, who was giving a tour to the Japanese consul general to Los Angeles. We went back to Marcia’s office, where we met other city attorney’s, including Phil Lam, the city’s intellectual property lawyer.

The next day, after I got fingerprinted and received a volunteer I.D., Silvia and I went to a city council meeting. Marcia had explained the agenda to us, so we were able to follow most of what was happening. Tom LaBonge, the council member we had met the day earlier, recognized us at the meeting. After the meeting, we went to lunch with Marcia in Little Tokyo, where, completely by chance, we met Charlie, a friend of Marcia’s. Charlie is a criminal defense attorney who takes only capital murder cases. After lunch, Charlie took us on a tour of the East Los Angeles Superior Court. We saw an arraignment, a prosecutor’s closing argument, and jury selection. In each court, Charlie explained what was happening to us.

On the morning of the last day of my Princeternship, Marcia gave Silvia and I several reports to read. The reports concerned the use of grant funds for the acquisition and development of property. The content of these reports is important because it is later used to support grant applications, and inconsistencies or errors in the reports can prevent projects from being funded. Marcia explained the comments she made on some of the reports, and then asked us to review two others for inconsistencies. After she discussed the reports with us, Marcia got a call she had been waiting for. The city agency that had called on the first day of the Princeternship called to get further advice on a contractor they believed might have a conflict of interest. Marcia explained that they were not prohibited from doing business with the client by municipal law under the circumstances, but could refuse if they thought it was too risky.

After she got off the phone, Marcia drove us to the Police Academy.

Sebastien and Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough

We ate lunch at a 50’s style diner, and then walked around the academy grounds. The area around the academy has been turned into a beautiful rock garden, with waterfalls, trees, and a meditation chapel. As we walked, Marcia explained the work she had done for the L.A.P.D. when she represented them.

We returned to the court house, hoping to continue watching one of the trials we had seen the day before. Unfortunately, the courtroom was empty, so we went to watch another trial. We saw a guilty verdict being read out, and then returned to Marcia’s office. There, we asked her a few more questions about her career, and she told us about her experience balancing her career with her family. We ended the day by going to a party where a judge who used to work in the City Attorney’s office was being honored by the Latino City Attorney’s Association. After the party, Silvia and I said goodbye to Marcia.

The last three days had been amazing. I have gotten to see how Marcia advised the city on legal issues, met attorneys practicing a number of different areas of law, and seen the city government and court system in action. I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to explore a career in law apply for this Princeternship if it is offered again in the future.

Ananda (Ruiwen) Zhu ’15, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

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

Ananda and Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough

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.