Why become a prosecutor? This question has been asked of me repeatedly since the time I choose to leave a successful career and return to school in order to obtain a law degree. Why prosecution, family and friends asked. Even within law school, where the vast majority students are entirely focused on landing a big firm job, I get asked this same question. Why prosecution?
I find that there is no simple answer I can give that will satisfy any of these questioners. Maybe the answer is because it feels right. Like many drawn to public service, I don’t believe I would be satisfied in the private sector. I do not have an issue with making money, and I do not have a problem serving the interests of business. Rather, after thinking long and hard about it, I have found that I need to be surrounded by the stories of real people. Stories that are not necessarily as readily available when one works in the private sector. Whether it be a career in legal aid, criminal defense, or prosecution, all of these fields are equally impacted by the stories of the real people they serve. These stories, coupled with an undeniable a sense of making a difference, is what drives me to pursue a career in public service, and particularly prosecution.
Prior to law school I was an active duty Marine Corps officer. I worked hand in hand with some of the finest men and women in this country, and every day I encountered exceptional stories that one wouldn’t regularly believe are possible. Some were horrific, while others told stories of brave and selfless acts. All however, made me realize that I prefer to not work in a sterile environment, one in which things don’t change and monotony can take hold.
Public service jobs don’t have this problem. While many of the same defendants are brought before the court, there is always a different story behind what brought them there. Throughout the short amount of time I have spent in the world of criminal law, I have encountered incredible stories. I have also experienced the deep appreciation of a victim following the successful prosecution of the person who victimized them. These stories are what led me to conclude I wouldn’t be satisfied without working in public service.
As to why prosecution specifically, the ability to take in the entire story and thereafter decide from this holistic understanding what the appropriate way to proceed in order to best serve the ends of justice is an extraordinary amount of discretion available only to prosecutors. In this role, one is often called to make a judgment about whether justice requires formal charges, or something different in the alternative. The story behind each individual will allow the prosecutor to determine the best course of action. In looking at my background, I find I am especially well positioned to be able to exercise this kind of judgment.
Why prosecution? How about the incredible difference you make in the community, and the satisfaction you gain from never having a boring day of work. That sounds about right.
Alvin Williams is a 2L born and raised in Miami, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2009, and spent the next four years serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Following this, but before attending law school, he worked as an investigator for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. He is now focused solely on becoming a prosecutor at a state office in the Commonwealth of Virginia. When not preparing for a fascinating career in prosecution, Alvin enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his family.