Career Profiles

Mary Ashcraft ‘17

Extern, San Diego City Attorney, Economic Development Unit


Mary Ashcraft ‘17

What did you do during your externship?
I did a lot of writing and research! I started off by writing case briefs about the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in CA to gather background information because the Economic Development Unit (EDU) does a lot of redevelopment work. I drafted a comprehensive memorandum about a statute dealing with the applicability of prevailing wage requirements in low income housing projects. I also researched a lot about bonds and funding sources for development projects.

What excited you the most about your time with the San Diego City Attorney, Economic Development Unit?
Learning how the government works in this area. In Professor Kelly’s externship class, we filled out a goals sheet and I wrote that I wanted to learn how legal positions work in the government. I had no idea what my boss did before I started this position. I learned that my boss is not in the courtroom; rather, he is usually at his desk writing memoranda or advising the mayor and council members. Learning about what he does gave me insight into other legal jobs besides being a litigator or transactional lawyer. This job let me figure out how the government works in a legal sense.

How did you learn about the position?
On my own. I researched a variety of jobs and happened to find this internship opportunity on their website. I knew I wanted to spend the summer working for the government. Other lawyers told me they learned a lot during their 1L internships with the government, so I actively searched for government positions.

How did your education and experience here at Whittier Law prepare you for your externship?
My Lawyering Skills I class helped a lot. The first semester focused on drafting an internal memorandum and this helped the work I did. Also, this class, through the client letter assignment, emphasized the importance of being able to explain my analysis in a way everyone can understand. I applied this concept to the memoranda I wrote for the city attorney.

What advice do you have for other students seeking externships?
To apply to a variety of positions and go in with an open mind. There are a lot of different units at the City Attorney’s Office. I had no idea what the EDU was, but I decided to apply and accept the position and I ended up enjoying my experience there. You might think you aren’t interested or might be not be good at the work, but you won’t know until you try. Take advantage of the experience. I was nervous when I started the position because I did not have any prior legal experience. Professor Kelly’s class talked about important issues such as confidentiality and professionalism, which helped me be more confident. This position also helped me land my current internship with the Anaheim Angels. Talking about what I did over the summer helped me bond with the Angel’s General Counsel because he used to be a litigator in the construction field. You may think your job doesn’t apply, but there will always be something that carries over into the next internship.