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Most associates spend years doing paperwork at their desks before getting a shot at standing before a jury. But not for Peter Laufenberg. Now a fifth-year associate with Oakland, Calif.’s Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, he took some time off last year from the bad faith insurance cases he usually works on to complete a three-month stint with the office of Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff. Crosby, Heafey is one of a handful of San Francisco Bay Area firms that ship their associates off to local DA’s offices, where they work as temporary prosecutors in a trial boot camp of sorts. The programs are extremely competitive, as each year the firms select a couple of their most promising senior associates — and often those with a shot at making partner. Despite their years working in civil law, the associates work alongside first- and second-year prosecutors on drunken driving cases and other misdemeanors, learning how to put together a successful trial. Sworn in as a temporary prosecutor, Laufenberg was assigned a tall stack of misdemeanor cases his first day and was expected to handle everything from plea bargains to picking juries. “It gives you confidence in your cross-examination skills, your ability to think on your feet and in just understanding what goes on in there,” Laufenberg said.

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