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Malisa Chokshi 2007
When Malisa Chokshi first came to Pace Law School, she knew she wanted to work in the public sector, but wasn’t thinking in terms of being a prosecutor. Her first experience with prosecution was as a legal intern in then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office. During breaks, she would walk down to observe at the DA’s office. What she saw piqued her interest, and a second internship with U.S. District Court Justice Kevin Thomas Duffy sealed the deal. After graduating cum laude in 2007, Chokshi secured a job at the New York County DA’s office, where she is now assistant district attorney in the Trial Division, Cyber Crime/Identity Theft and Sex Crimes Unit.
After four years at the DA’s office, Chokshi says she’s starting to get more difficult cases – felonies, computer crimes, sexual assault, domestic assault – lots of “victim crimes.” She handles all aspects of her cases on her own, from the initial screening to the final disposition, although there’s also a lot of teamwork within the office. In this atmosphere, she says, you’re constantly learning, and she finds the street-level criminal work to be very interesting. “I’ve always been interested in victim crimes,” she says, and as an assistant DA in New York City, you get a wide assortment of these.
Chokshi is a member of the South Asian Bar Association of New York and the National Association of Women Lawyers. As a woman, working on victim cases can get “intense,” but, she notes, it doesn’t serve anyone if you take your work home with you. “You learn pretty early on in this job, you have to separate what you personally believe from what the law says.”
Chokshi’s advice to law students: try to get a wide variety of experience while you’re in law school, including internships. To prepare, use trial advocacy and moot court to learn to think on your feet. If contemplating a career in the public sector, check out both the defense and prosecutorial roles. “It’s important to decide which side you want to be on, and why—because you will be asked that question in interviews.” Most of all, she says, “I think it’s important to have some sort of genuine interest in doing work in the public sector if you’re going to do this work, because you are a public servant in every sense of the word.”