I stood there bewildered, gazing upon the vast array of shelves containing dozens of stacks of overfilled files. "You will be in charge of all cases beginning with the letters P, Q, R, S and T," said my supervisor as he handed me a large, heavy binder with the words "Mediator Guide" written across it. I felt overwhelmed with a sense of tremendous stress and uncertainty. It was at this time that I realized that my work with the state attorney general's office was going to be much more involved than I had anticipated.
It was my first day of work as a mediator at the Bureau of Consumer Fraud and Protection, and it became clear that I would have to put my feelings of uneasiness aside in order to perform by duties to the best of my abilities. It was my job to communicate with various citizens of New York State and assist them with claims of fraud against a wide array of private businesses. My duties started with opening a case file, reading the consumer's complaint and supporting evidence, and then attempting to contact the allegedly fraudulent business to try and negotiate. This process of mediation required me to write letters, fax documents, and call individual business owners and consumers. Once I had finally received an answer from the business about the complaint, I could close the file, report it to the consumer, and move on to the next. I was given an unexpected amount of discretion in handling my cases, and could decide when to close or re-open files. The cases ranged from someone complaining that they should receive a refund on their five dollar purchase, to a consumer being ripped off of thousands of dollars by a fraudulent advertising agency.
I gave each case equal importance and effort. It was not that I was technically able to enforce any laws upon the accused businesses, but rather that I served as a voice for the average consumer who may not regularly have a say in an often cold and insatiable business world. I served as a middleman who was able to settle disputes before they were forced to go to trial court, saving citizens valuable time and money. If I was not be able to recover some form of restitution on behalf of the consumer, it often fell on me to advise them on what steps to take next and which local court to contact. I soon began to enjoy this work, moving from case to case with diligence and efficiency. I kept meticulous notes of each step I took in mediating the complaints, and followed them to the end. I developed a bond with each and every one of the complainants, and my feelings uneasiness soon began to fade as I worked through their cases, often resulting in successful outcomes. As these feelings of being overwhelmed transformed into an attitude of confidence and certainty, my supervisors began to notice my diligence. I was eventually assigned additional case files beginning with the letter "A" due to my quick and effective work.
I soon began to realize how great it felt to help the public, who were fighting against financial injustice but struggling to find a voice. Assisting distraught citizens who were financially wronged during this economic downturn was one of the most rewarding things I have done to date. I developed a desire to go into a profession with the public interest at heart. My new found confidence in my work abilities have made me sure that I will succeed at this goal. I believe that law school is an essential step in achieving this career ambition, and my work with the attorney general's office has shaped my work ethic and desires for the rest of my life.
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