POSTED ON August 02 2012

CAREER IS IN:

Introducing

U.S. Department of Justice's Jennifer Arbittier Williams

Occupation

Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office

Education

University of Pennsylvania - B.A.

University of Pennsylvania Law School - J.D.

Her first day on the job, Jennifer Arbittier Williams’s boss told her that "the most important skill for a federal prosecutor is the ability to juggle.” It’s a skill Jennifer now realizes is necessary not only in her work, but in balancing her responsibilities as a mother, too. And despite the ongoing challenge, Jennifer looks forward to the juggling act every day.

While Jennifer’s No. 1 goal is to place her family first, she also appreciates that her federal prosecuting duties require great responsibility: importance lies in not only catching dangerous criminals, but also in doing so justly. Mostly, Jennifer wants other woman to realize that a career in law is not only thrilling, but does allow for a work/life balance. “It’s very satisfying that I get to exercise both sides of my personality every day,” she says.

“The best prosecutors are the ones who stay true to their own personalities.”

At what moment did you decide you wanted to become a federal prosecutor?

Early on in my law career, I had the opportunity to observe federal prosecutors at work in the courtroom. I was impressed by their integrity, professionalism and passion, and I was fascinated by the important issues they were confronting. Every day, federal prosecutors grapple with serious constitutional issues that impact a person's liberty. It was then that I decided my goal was to be a federal prosecutor.

What does your typical job schedule and day look like? Does that change at any point during the year?

I tend to work normal business hours in the office and get home in time to have dinner with my family. But once my kids are in bed, I often put in a few additional hours of work from home. I like this schedule because it allows me to spend my evenings with my family. I feel very lucky I have a job that allows me this flexibility. Of course, this schedule changes when I'm on trial. During a trial, I have to work longer hours in order to do my best work. But I'm still usually able to spend time with my family in the evenings, even if it means sacrificing sleep to prepare for the next day in court.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my job is that I'm contributing to making my community a safer place by helping take dangerous people off the street. I'm proud to be able to tell my children that I'm in a career of public service. I'm also proud that I can be both a federal prosecutor and a loving mom at the same time. It's very satisfying that I get to exercise both sides of my personality every day.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

A job as a federal prosecutor comes with a tremendous responsibility. I'm responsible not only for catching and prosecuting dangerous criminals, but I'm also responsible for doing it justly. I must always protect people's rights and do the right thing. At the same time, I must do my job well. If I don't do my job well, then a dangerous person could go free and victimize someone else. (I'm a very over-protective mother because of what I see and do, for sure.)

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Maintaining a work/life balance is my biggest challenge and my No. 1 goal. I want my children to remember that I attended their recitals and concerts, put them on their buses in the morning, ate dinner with them and put them to bed every night. In order to maintain that balance, I have eliminated wasted time at work. I eat lunch at my desk and work diligently throughout my day with minimal breaks. And if I have more work to do, I'll just do it at home after my kids are asleep. As a result, I can get all of my work done and be around and available for my kids.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Family first. Be nice to others. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't be afraid of adventure. Give back to your community and teach your children the importance of community service. And find enjoyment in whatever you do.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful as a federal prosecutor?

My first day on the job, my boss told me that the most important skill for a federal prosecutor is the ability to juggle and he was right! I'm often working on many busy cases all at the same time, so organization is key. In addition, it's critical for federal prosecutors to have good judgment and a sense of civic responsibility. Everyone here wants to do the right thing. It's a great work environment and I admire my coworkers tremendously.

Do you need a particular personality to succeed as a federal prosecutor?

I've found that the best prosecutors are the ones who stay true to their own personalities. Some prosecutors are tough and aggressive in the courtroom, but that's not natural for me. I simply can't pull it off. I'm a warm and friendly, professional person. And that's the demeanor I maintain in the courtroom and throughout my day, regardless of the personalities of those around me. I stay true to myself.

What advice do you have for women who aspire to pursue a career in the legal sector, as well as for those who are on the fence about it?

I'm excited to be featured on this website because I want other women to see that a career as a lawyer can be satisfying, challenging, thrilling and rewarding and also allow for a work/life balance. If you're a woman considering a career in the legal sector, talk to other women who are practicing lawyers. Go watch a trial or two in your local courthouse. Consider a legal career in the public sector. And find a mentor!

I'm lucky enough to have had several supportive mentors in my legal career; male and female. People who have truly wanted me to succeed and provided me guidance and support along the way. As a thank you to my mentors, I also try to serve as a mentor to others. Having a mentor is a critical piece to succeeding in a competitive and challenging field.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Hopefully I'll still be a federal prosecutor five years from now. I cannot envision another job that's as interesting, rewarding and challenging, while at the same time allowing me to be the hands-on mother I want to be. I get immense satisfaction from having a career in public service.