Practitioner Profile: Ryan Norman
As a Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch, Mr. Norman specializes in lottery fraud cases. In this field, he focuses on scammers located in Jamaica who cold call elderly individuals and claim that those individuals won the lottery. Then, the scammer tells the person to pay a mandatory fee to claim the lottery prize. These fraudulent fees can be anywhere from $500 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Consumer Protection Branch also specializes in Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act enforcement, consumer product safety, tobacco product litigation, and combatting the opioid crisis by seeking injunctions against doctors who overprescribe opioids and addressing other wrongdoing in the supply chain.
Mr. Norman knew he wanted to become a prosecutor from the age of fourteen. He grew up in Detroit where his mother raised him as a single parent. When crime began to touch him and his family more directly, and he watched his mother no longer feel comfortable and safe in her home, this fear motivated his future career path. Mr. Norman feels strongly about people being victimized based on the idea that one day someone can just decide to take something from you. Additionally, he believes in the importance of including people from diverse backgrounds in prosecution offices because, if we care about racial equity, we do not want a homogenous office making these decisions that directly affect people’s lives.
The onset of the pandemic greatly affected the ‘person to person’ aspect of Mr. Norman’s job. While he would previously travel to interview defendants and conduct proffers, he is now having those conversations virtually. Mr. Norman emphasized how, in his work, being able to observe a person’s body language and understand their emotions is necessary to assess credibility, and further, to build rapport.
For those interested in this type of work, Mr. Norman advises to start establishing yourself early on as someone truly passionate about this work and the public interest field. He recommended to take trial advocacy, and to take every experience you can to convince an employer you are dedicated to this field. As an alumnus of the Washington College of Law, Mr. Norman participated in the defense Criminal Justice Clinic. He stated that this experience helped sharpen his perspective and bring into focus the stories and backgrounds that contribute to defendants' lived experiences.
Mr. Norman described a defining moment in his career as an experience he had while prosecuting a man for a drug case. One morning during the trial, the defendant rushed into the courtroom, seemingly running late, and instead of having his tie on and already tied as usual, he was holding it in his hand. The defendant asked his attorney to help him tie his tie, but she was busy preparing for the day’s trial. Mr. Norman, observing the scene unfold, approached the defendant, and offered to tie his tie. The defense counsel appeared surprised that Mr. Norman was willing to assist the defendant. Mr. Norman was disheartened by this shock and wishes that there was more of an assumption that both sides are all just trying to do the right thing.
Mr. Norman has a strong passion for mentorship and is adamant that he would not be where he is today without the role that active, meaningful mentors have played in his life. The most influential mentor Mr. Norman has had is a Black attorney he met during his 1L summer as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Fast forward to 2016, this mentor helped Mr. Norman land a job at that office. He emphasizes that the key to mentorship is maintaining these relationships and not just a yearly call to check-in, but rather continuing to foster the relationships for years to come. For those who struggle with networking and making these connections, Mr. Norman says to shift the paradigm; these are just conversations, and thus there is no reason to be nervous.