Washington and Lee University School of Law

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Law is Fickle, But Justice Isn't

James Collins is a rising 3L. He is interning with with the Antitrust Section at the Ohio Attorney General's office.

Unfortunately, I have precious few remaining days at the Ohio Attorney General's Office. The amount of knowledge that I have developed over the last 10 weeks is astounding, and I'm not sure what the 3rd year of law school will be like after living and dying by the heat of the battle.
 
Like most everyone completing law school, I am nearing my second decade as a professional student. If you would have told me when I graduated from high school that I would continue on to get both a dual undergraduate degree and a J.D., I wouldn't have believed you. For my great grand-relatives who lived barefoot in Kentucky and as coal miners in Pennsylvania, education was a luxury and the law was a fickle thing best left to people in far off places. As I pack up my notepads and tear down the countless post-its that are strewn about my office, I can't imagine how I got here or where I will be going next.
 
When I first started looking at law school, I spoke to a number of attorneys about their professions. Almost every single one told me not to do it. I would walk in with a suit and a smile and leave with a pat on the back and a head full of doubts. It was the lifestyle, they'd say, or the work – maybe the people they worked with or the people they worked for, it didn't matter. The song was always the same: get out now. My problem was that I hadn't spoken with anyone at the Attorney General's office.
 
I can't say whether every office in Ohio or every AG office across the states has the same determination and fortitude that ours does, but I'd hope that we're not just a fluke. The people here care about what they're doing, and I've grown to care about it too. It's not hard to get up in the morning when you know you're making a difference, and it's never bothersome to stay past 5 when you have the chance to right a wrong. Law is a fickle thing, I've come to suspect that, but justice isn't. You know when something is right or wrong. And to any would-be lawyers that may come across this, let me advise: stick to your moral compass and you'll come out just fine.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On the Trail of a Multi-million Dollar Scam

James Collins is a rising 3L. He is interning with with the Antitrust Section at the Ohio Attorney General's office.


 

I was staring out a window from the 23rd floor, admiring the highway as it cut through the Columbus suburbs, when a stack of papers hit my desk.  It was the complaint for what had become Ohio’s largest antitrust case ever. Today was the first day on the job, but the office needed everyone up to speed as soon as possible. Flipping through the first few pages, I uncapped a pen and began to make notations—trusting that I'd find my footing sooner rather than later.
 
The same highway is peeling away now as we head south to Cincinnati. A few weeks in the section and things had gone from possibilities to deadlines. We were piecing together a story of avarice and deceit culled from terabytes of documents, and the trail had taken us to the Ohio-Kentucky border. We were working against time; our office was feeling the pinch of the dragging economy as much as any other.
 
I like to think of life in a dramatic light as the dusk settles in; the long shadows of the skyline make everything more exaggerated. The people I'm investigating remind me of Robert Redford in The Sting, palling around in an attempt to pull the scam of the century. But the drama helps me keep in perspective that this isn't a casebook, it's the theft of millions of dollars from businesses, universities, and the cities that we live in. It's highway robbery in a time when people are shuffling down the streets of my hometown without jobs, shuffling past the shuttered windows and doors of honest businesses.
 
I love what I'm doing. I feel that with every word typed, I'm closer to uncovering the conspiracy. I'm just one intern, but in the antitrust department, I know I can make a difference.