Annie Chen ’12 had a solid Plan B for her senior year Jan Plan: staying on Mayflower Hill and taking one of the more than 60 courses offered on campus. But in her heart of hearts, she kept hoping to find a way to undertake her Plan A: doing paralegal work in a New York City courtroom.

Annie Chen '12
East Asian studies major Annie Chen ’12, shown in Shanghai during her junior year abroad.

Thanks to Colby’s David Descoteaux Student Internship Fund, which offers financial support to students who can’t otherwise afford to take unpaid or low-paying internships, Chen is in Manhattan this January, pursuing Plan A and working for truth, justice—and a conviction in a high-profile public corruption scandal.

Chen, an East Asian studies major, will be an intern doing paralegal work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office that serves the southern district of New York. Having settled on law as a career while she was still at the Bronx High School of Science, she couldn’t be happier with the opportunity, and it’s hard to imagine a better entry on the résumé of someone determined to be bound for law school.

Chen’s interest in the law began with a mock trial team at her magnet high school and grew with her participation on Colby’s Mock Trial Team since she arrived on Mayflower Hill. “I definitely want to go to law school soon,” she said from her home in Brooklyn, in between first semester and the start of her internship. But she also said she may work as a paralegal when she graduates, both for experience and to save money for law school.

Chen will spend Jan Plan preparing evidence for the trial of Carl Kruger, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn who stands accused of making payments totaling at least $1 million in exchange for official actions as a legislator, according to a New York Times story.

Part of her excitement about the internship stems from her previous experience at the U.S. Attorney’s office. She did a summer internship there and worked on evidence for the Justice Department’s case that convicted David P. Rosen of bribing state legislators to benefit his health-care organization. “They let undergraduates do all the paralegal work to prepare evidence they use,” she said. “It’s really great training.”

“I get to sit at the government’s table and help with all of the government’s evidence,” she said. In addition, as an intern she gets notified when important phases of other cases are about to take place in a courtroom so she can run down the hall to observe.

The internship fund supporting Chen was established by David Descoteaux ’91 to support Colby students wishing to pursue an internship opportunity during the summer or in January, with preference to support a New York-based and/or financial-sector internship. It is one of more than two dozen funds Colby has established to aid students seeking career-related internships like this. The funds do not cover wages, but they do help with living and transportation expenses that might prevent a student from doing unpaid work.

Chen’s summer internship was so successful that the U.S. Attorney’s Office not only urged her to apply to be a paralegal when she graduates, it jumped at the chance to claim another Colby intern during January. Chen recommended Chloe Marmet ’14, and the two will both be prowling the halls of justice in Manhattan during Jan Plan 2012, the 50th year of the January Program at Colby.