Prosecuting/Criminal Law Attorney
Help others understand what the law means in real life, and use the law to improve the lives of residents. Criminal law attorneys can work in courtrooms to prosecute cases and represent the city.
Nnamdi Okoronkwo, assistant city attorney, Minneapolis
Why he shows up every day: My job is working in this community to learn, listen, and address problems, particularly related to livability crimes. Livability is defined as those things that lead to community unrest. Burglaries, the proliferation of gunfire, problem rental properties, things that make community members very upset.
The ability to actually work on things in the city that make a difference in people’s lives is rewarding. It can be a conviction, or getting a person removed from an area, or just guiding people through the administrative process—that can be difficult for a person who’s not familiar with city government. Even if we’re not the right office, part of our job is letting residents know who to call. People are always happy to speak to a real person, and we need to be responsive to people’s concerns. Even a phone call back, that goes a long way! I pride myself on being an advocate for good city service.
How he got the job (and how you could too): As a kid, probably third or fourth grade, I was interested in student politics at Tuttle School in Minneapolis, and in sixth grade I became president of the student council. I think I gravitated toward public service super early. I went to high school in Minneapolis, went to college in Minneapolis, and participated in debate forensics. My undergrad degree is in international relations-political science. I worked in television for about five years and decided to go to law school. I went to William Mitchell College of Law and worked at WCCO television all the while I went to law school. I worked for a corporation out of law school as an in-house attorney, but never went to court at all. I started doing pro bono work in equity skimming cases. I realized I really liked that kind of work a lot better. And it’s only in government that you can get into court and handle files in front of a judge right of way.
What’s the job like? My title is assistant city attorney, but my job is community attorney. I’m assigned to one of the police precincts in the city. Part of my job is covering mental health court and I also cover civil forfeiture cases for property that is involved in the commission of a crime. Part of my job is criminal prosecution, so I’m very familiar with laws in the city that we prosecute under. There’s also a lot of things that end up on my desk and I have to figure out who to call, or what to do with them—calls such as, “A person is living in my house and I don’t want them here anymore.” I work with them to try and come up with a remedy for that.
I also spend time educating people so they understand the court process. What I often tell people is, “Even though I don’t represent you, I don’t want to take pleas from people that are not fully aware of the collateral consequences of their plea.”
As a criminal prosecutor, just given the volume of work in our office, you need to prioritize your case load, you need the ability to communicate in a timely manner with people, and the biggest thing that works for me is having an outgoing personality to deal with many different types of people. I don’t mind going to court. I don’t mind standing up and speaking. That’s part of the thing that drew me to this job.
Are you interested in learning more about a city career? One great way to get advice is to contact someone in your own city or a city nearby. You can ask questions about the job and learn more about training programs that may be available. Connect to city websites and city contact information through the League of Minnesota Cities.