Adam Gordon '08 on Prosecuting Criminals in San Diego
Called to Serve is a series of Q&As with young UVA Law alumni working in public service careers.
Adam Gordon, a 2008 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, is a prosecutor in San Diego, Calif., as well as the founder and CEO of a startup company that develops software to help manage the jury selection process.
Gordon recently discussed his work as a prosecutor, his company, his time at UVA Law and why he thinks the Libel Show is useful for law students interested in pursuing a similar career path.
As a deputy district attorney for San Diego County, what are your main duties?
We are the responsible agency prosecuting mostly malum in se crimes — with some malum prohibitum thrown in there to keep us honest — that occur in our county of 3.14 million people. My particular unit is called the Superior Court Division, which prosecutes a wide variety of felonies from burglaries and batteries to mayhem and murder. As a trial lawyer, I spend a lot on dry cleaning, and average about a trial a month.
What is a typical day like for you?
I'm usually either in trial or prepping for trial. At any one time I've got about 20 total cases for which I'm responsible at various stages: pre-preliminary hearing, post-preliminary hearing, pre-status, confirmed for trial. Prepping for trial means meeting with law enforcement and civilian witnesses, visiting the scenes and writing our pre-trial motions. And getting the dry cleaning.
Could you describe your career path?
My 1L summer I interned for a criminal defense firm in San Diego. Great experience, but it wasn't my calling. My 2L summer and after graduation, I worked for our office. I was lucky enough to have been hired right before a hiring freeze took effect and was sworn in as a deputy district attorney in January 2009. Since then, I've been assigned to try misdemeanors, second-chaired a couple of lengthy gang homicide cases, and then spent the last several years trying felony cases.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced in your job?
The hardest part of the job is coming back to your office the morning after you do a closing argument (and maybe celebrated that night) and realizing that the next trial is just a day or two away. It's the type of job where you can't fake it. You say you want to be a trial lawyer — the common law criminal world is where you prove it.
Why did you want to be a prosecutor?
This is the toughest one to answer. I think that people either are prosecutors or aren't. You can have motivations for wanting to pursue a career as a prosecutor, but those don't always coincide with the necessary drive to be the representative of the people in trial. Our office spends a lot of time and collective energy trying to find these career prosecutors, and I consider myself lucky to be able to be part of the recruitment of our future classes.
In addition to working as a prosecutor, you're also CEO of a technology startup called Jury Box. What does Jury Box do?
Jury Box is a software program that digitally manages the jury selection process. It means I have a good work/work balance and a terrible work-life balance. The program was developed based on experiences I had earlier in my career attempting to organize jury selection during an officer homicide prosecution. I'm the founder and CEO of our company, which recently graduated from an incubator program, and now we are seeking our initial round of equity funding.
Were there any courses or clinics at UVA Law that particularly helped prepare you for your career? How so?
I loved UVA Law. It was my favorite academic experience, and the Prosecution Clinic was by far the most important academic experience I had in law school. It taught me countless lessons about seeking justice and acting professionally that I hope that I carry in my day-to-day career. I was assigned to the Waynesboro Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and enjoyed every minute of it. But frankly, to be a good trial lawyer, socializing with your buddies and being in the Libel Show is equally useful.