Annie ChenThe workday flies by when you’re putting thugs, terrorists, and other assorted bad guys behind bars.

Just ask Annie Chen ’12, a paralegal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Chen recently found herself sitting in a courtroom with a terror suspect accused of bombing embassies in Africa and conspiring to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon. It’s a nice gig to get right out of college—one for which she laid some serious groundwork by completing internships in that same office in 2011 and 2012. But even with years of mock trial experience, when Chen first heard about the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she didn’t necessarily know what she was getting into.

Law and Order is all about the New York District Attorney’s Office. I didn’t even know there was a federal version,” she said.

Chen learned fast. Last winter, while on a Jan Plan internship, she was directly involved in the successful prosecution of State Sen. Carl Kruger of New York, who was convicted of accepting more than $1 million in bribes. Just a few months ago, Chen helped two witnesses in the trial of a man accused of assaulting two deputy U.S. marshals fine-tune their accounts and presentation. That kind of hands-on experience has offered her valuable insight into a career she’s been targeting since high school.

“I didn’t realize I was actually going to be able to be so involved in the investigation process and the legal process of prosecuting,” she said. “It’s been great.”

Chen’s success was made possible in part through the David Descoteaux Student Internship Fund, which offers financial support to Colby students who can’t otherwise afford to take unpaid or low-paying internships. She received support from the fund to pursue her Jan Plan internship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after which they offered her a permanent position. 

Even as she learns the ropes of prosecution, Chen says her ties to Mayflower Hill remain strong. She draws regularly on experiences she gained in mock trial and attends alumni events in New York City. She has even remained involved in Professor Adam Howard’s project examining the effects of affluence on students, turning interview data into full chapters for a book Howard is coauthoring with students and recent graduates.

Working in law has been Chen’s goal for a long time, and her experiences at Colby prepared her well for it. She says working in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office has solidified her intention to attend law school. It’s a demanding place to work, but also an opportunity to learn from and be energized by colleagues dedicated to keeping the public safe, Chen said. “Everyone’s here,” she said, “because they want to prosecute criminals and get criminals off the street.”