Fidelity, Bravery, Interning: My Summer at the FBI

Christine Yurechko ’13

I had no idea what to expect going into my summer position at the FBI. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I would be working there until two weeks before my expected start date—they were still adjudicating my clearance and talking to every roommate, neighbor, and employer I had interacted with in the last seven years. When I got the email at the end of May that yes, I would be allowed in the building, and no, they didn’t uncover anything they wanted to arrest me for, I breathed a big sigh of relief—and immediately commenced worrying about everything else.

For starters, I wasn’t placed in a traditional “legal department.” Instead of dealing with broad policy in the General Counsel’s Office or internal issues in the Office of Professional Responsibility, I was placed in a subject-specific unit (yes, I can talk about it; no, I am not sworn to secrecy about everything for the rest of my life; but no, I don’t want to post it on the Internet).  I had actually requested this; being at headquarters and away from a field office, I knew I would be somewhat removed from the action. My summer wasn’t a series of episodes from White Collar—I wanted to be at least tangentially exposed to active cases in the field.

FBI headquarters
My view as I walked into work every day.

From day three (the first day I met my unit), I knew that I had made the right choice for the summer. Besides constantly being made fun of for being in law school (remember, these guys and gals go to magistrates for warrants, consult in-house counsel for legal issues, work hand in hand with U.S. Attorneys to assemble cases, and testify for the cases they investigate in the courtroom every day, so they are exposed to many different types of lawyers), I was welcomed with open arms (though I had to be careful, because half of my coworkers carry guns at all times).

Most of the work I did over the summer consisted of policy interpretation, but my coworkers at the “Bu,” as it is affectionately referred to, wanted to make sure I received just as much training as I did work—they wanted to show me what the Bu had to offer and what I might do there at different points in my career. As part of my training, I saw a lawyer who had argued more than 80 cases in front of the Supreme Court speak about last term’s criminal docket, and learned about an espionage case the FBI investigated and how they finally brought the spy down.

On one drizzly afternoon, we drove a couple of hours into the countryside for part of a week-long bomb technician training class. We stood in a field while the instructors spoke about different components that went into bomb design and how they work, and covered our ears as they demonstrated each one. After the all-clear, we walked over and looked for telltale forensic signs—color of the ash, burn radius, and so on. That day was what I loved about my internship in a nutshell: fun, interactive, and extremely important for the work the FBI does.

In the FBI courtyard
In the FBI courtyard. The FBI logo beneath the sculpture reads: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

The men and women who work as FBI agents and analysts come from all walks of life—I worked with a former Big Law attorney, correctional officer, scientist, Marine Corps officer, and law school graduate, just to mention a few. What they all had in common is that they were successful in their past careers, but wanted to give more to their country—and so they left their families and friends behind to attend training at Quantico for six months, and in some cases, accepted major pay cuts or moved across the country after graduating from the Academy (which I also took a tour of—and yes, it looks the same as in The Silence of the Lambs).

White House
Visiting my boss's boss.

I left my summer internship with a profound appreciation of the work these men and women do, and not all of it is as glamorous as what you see on TV (trash pulls are a frequent source of “worst day at work” jokes). It was really a morale boost to see so many people dedicated to public service careers after second-guessing myself more than once for not going to a firm this summer, as many of my peers chose to do. I’m transferring to the New York office once the semester begins again, and while I may not be returning to 3L year with an offer in hand and a signing bonus in my pocket, I just might be lucky enough to observe a major drug bust or help analyze some data that puts a terrorist behind bars. And I’m okay with that.