Feature Stories Campus Events

Public Policy: Pepe Estrada ’19 and Jason Renner ’19 International Perspectives, Sophomores Pepe Estrada and Jason Renner participate in public policy discussions at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

“I walked away with a rejuvenated sense of my political prowess as a Latino and gained a better sense of how I can utilize the American political landscape to my advantage.” — Jason Renner ’19

Denis “Pepe” Estrada Hamm and Jason Renner, both sophomores at Washington and Lee University, spent Sept. 13-15 at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The students received funding for the trip from the Virginia Foundation for Independent College’s Excelencia Initiative, coordinated through W&L’s Career Development Office.

Renner, who is majoring in politics and minoring in computer science, said, “I’m interested in eventually working in public policy and analysis, and, as a student of Latino ethnicity, I thought this was a great way to get involved a bit more. I wanted to get off campus and open myself to new opportunities.”

Every year, the conference assembles Latino leaders, federal and local elected officials, corporate and nonprofit leaders, and supporters to participate in timely discussions of major policy issues affecting the Latino community and the nation. As noted in the schedule of events, panel discussions included such key issues as education, STEM, the economy, work force, labor, health and immigration.

“At this conference, everyone seemed to be united in their efforts to advance the community, even if some of us disagree how to do so,” said Estrada, a computer science and economics major. “I wanted to learn from and meet leaders in the Latino community, and I was most interested in the efforts being taken to address the immigrant crisis in the United States — specifically, how entities were trying to help these people become citizens.”

Renner thinks they were probably the youngest present. “The general vibe that I got was that we were the only college students there. Attendees were mostly from the public and private sectors, but all brought a unique perspective of how to engage more of the Latino community in their various sectors.” He noted that there is a “phenomenal growth of Latino communities, and they have a lot of purchasing power. It will be interesting to see how our numbers can influence public policy.”

While this is an election year, and immigration is a hot topic, Renner said that item is actually ranked fifth on a list of issues that concern the Latino population. “While immigration is important, the expectation that it’s high on our list is a stereotype. We don’t vote from a single platform. What individuals are concerned about is equal opportunity, education, housing and so on.”

Being present at such a large event gave the two students an excellent networking opportunity. “This conference allowed me to develop connections with the leaders of my community,” Estrada said, “and to learn information about everything from corporate structure to immigration law directly from the people involved in those things.” While he made a number of connections, he’s most excited about a representative from Microsoft who asked for his business card and résumé.

Renner, who also lined up several telephone interviews for possible summer internships, said, “I walked away with a rejuvenated sense of my political prowess as a Latino and gained a better sense of how I can utilize the American political landscape to my advantage.”

by Louise Uffelman | luffelma@wlu.edu

Photo: Pepe Estrada ’19 (left) and Jason Renner ’19 attended the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

Career Paths: Tyler Sanderson ’18L

Tyler Sanderson ’18L, a graduate of Centre College from Henrico, Virginia, spent the summer working for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, D.C.

tylersandersonprofile Career Paths: Tyler Sanderson '18LTyler Sanderson ’18L

What did you do for work this summer?

I worked as a law clerk with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, D.C.  Specifically, I was assigned to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

How did you find/get this position?

Having completed policy work in D.C. prior to law school, I knew that I wanted to get back to that arena my first summer after 1L year.  Fortunately for me, W&L is very well connected in Washington, and I was able to take full advantage of those connections when applying to intern with the House Judiciary Committee.  The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Bob Goodlatte, is himself a Washington and Lee Law alumnus.   A good friend of mine from a previous internship, who is also an alumnae of the undergraduate university, was working in Representative Goodlatte’s personal office on Capitol Hill at the time of my application.  I sent her an email and she responded immediately, offering to contact the intern coordinator and put in a good word for me.  W&L’s alumni network is truly phenomenal, and really helped me get my foot in the door with the Judiciary Committee.

Describe your work experience.  

Similar to most offices on Capitol Hill, my responsibilities and assignments generally revolved around what was happening that day.  As the only law clerk assigned to the Crime Subcommittee, much of my work focused on some of the nation’s larger stories and headlines that took place over the summer.  The week after the horrific shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, I was tasked with continually updating Subcommittee attorneys on the details surrounding the shooting and any information that came to light on the gunman.  In response to the shooting, I had the opportunity to draft a number of legal memos, one of which was requested by the Chairman of the Judiciary and pertained to the constitutionality of deactivating radical jihadist websites with the goal of combating self-radicalization and lone-wolf terrorism.  In addition, I also was tasked with researching and drafting legal memos on a number of different subject areas, including criminal justice reform, the constitutionality of prosecuting juveniles as adult offenders in cases of violent crime, and ongoing efforts to strengthen international law enforcement cooperation.

What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?  

My internship with the House Judiciary Committee was a fantastic place to spend the summer, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in public policy.  Not only was the work fascinating and academically stimulating, but the attorneys I had the opportunity to work under at the Crime Subcommittee were incredibly approachable and always happy to offer any career advice and suggestions.  I also greatly enjoyed the fast paced nature of the office.  While I often was tasked with lengthier research projects, there were plenty of times when I was asked to research issues surrounding pending legislation and report back quickly to our chief counsel, so that she could then pass along any relevant information to the Judiciary Chairman.

Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?  

While I knew that I had a strong interest in public policy coming into law school, my experience with the House Judiciary Committee has confirmed my desire to pursue a career in government.  It is my hope to be back in Washington, D.C. next summer, either working for a federal agency or a committee on Capitol Hill.

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Career Paths: Brian Wagoner ’18L

Brian Wagoner ’18L, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill from Burlington, NC, worked this summer for the USAID Governance for Inclusive Growth Program in Hanoi, Vietnam.  

brianwagonerprofile Career Paths: Brian Wagoner '18LBrian Wagoner ’18L

How did you find/get this position?

I found this position through Professor Rice, one of the upper-level professors here at W&L Law. After expressing my interest in international law and my desire to work abroad during my 1L summer to my Kirgis Fellow, I was directed to faculty that could help direct me figure out where to find opportunities. Professor Rice was able to put me in touch with the program director of the USAID program and assisted me in setting up a skype interview.

Describe your work experience.

I worked in an office of ~40 staff that was mostly locals. My work consisted of locating, analyzing, and comparing laws of various countries that were related to newly proposed laws, or reformed laws that the Vietnamese Government wanted input on. I then compiled my research into memos that the staff were able to use in preparing presentations and learning more about the issues. Additionally, I was able to sit-in on and contribute to meetings with counterpart organizations such as the Asia Development Bank and various ministries and departments of the Vietnamese Government.

What were some skills you developed this summer?

In addition to developing my writing skills, I also improved my interpersonal and communication skills. Being in a country where most of the population does not speak English and that has cultural norms that could, at times, be vastly different than my own required flexibility and adaptability. Learning to work in such an environment could be challenging at times, but was a highly rewarding experience nonetheless.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

During my first year of law school, I worked with Professor Rice in assisting in the development of codes of conduct for two law schools in Ukraine. We would video conference with our counterparts in Ukraine to assist and offer input from our own experiences. This was my first international work experience and my first time where cultural differences were so pronounced. Having this experience before going to Vietnam was useful and would prove to be just a taste of what I would experience in Vietnam.

Career Paths: Matt Donahue ’18L

Matt Donahue ’18L, a graduate of George Washington University from Benicia, CA, worked this past summer in the Office of the General Counsel at Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA.  

mattdonohueprofile Career Paths: Matt Donahue '18LMatt Donahue ’18L

How did you find/get this position?

Honestly, I thought about different agencies I might want to work with and Googled them. The District got back to me quickly and I had an internship lined up by mid-January, which was a relief.

Describe your work experience.

The best thing about this internship is that I received substantive legal work on day one. The Office of the General Counsel is a small office in a giant school district (40,000 students), so the work flow is immediate and fairly steady. Because the office focuses on general practice, the work is also quite varied. I wrote memos, conducted research, drafted court orders and responses, and wrote policy guidance documents. Ultimately, I gained experience in areas of law such as special education, contracts, torts, public finance, employment, and public records disclosure.

What were some skills you developed this summer?

The most important skill I gained during the summer was simply confidence in my ability to use my legal knowledge in a real-world context. At the beginning of the summer, it was a little jarring to think that anyone expected me to be able to conduct research and come to any sort of valuable legal conclusion. By the end of the summer, however, I felt much more comfortable giving my opinion and anticipating what needed to be accomplished next. Additionally, I was able to work on my memo writing skills each day, and I feel like that’s invaluable.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

Before attending law school, I was an elementary school teacher for four years. This was very helpful at times when I needed to “talk teacher” with administrators and other school employees, but it is certainly not a required experience. As far a curriculum is concerned, APLP was helpful for due process hearings, and I also drew on many concepts from contract law.

What surprised you about the work you did this summer?

The amount to which the interns were trusted in grappling with substantive legal issues and making recommendations was quite surprising. On my first week in the office, I was assigned as the “on call attorney” for district employees and students who need legal advice. It was very intimidating at first, until I realized I could just say “I’ll get back to you on that,” and ask my boss!

How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?

This internship allowed me to better understand which areas of law I am interested in–and which ones I’m not. For example, I loved contract review, drafting, and interpretation because of the structure, but I did not enjoy working to fire people–i.e., employment law. On a less academic note, I also realized how much I appreciate working in a social environment. Sitting alone all day in a cubicle with little interaction gets old quite quickly.

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Career Paths: Austin Woodside ’18L

Austin Woodside ’18L is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He spent the summer working for the International Legal Foundation in Nepal.

austinwoodsideprofile Career Paths: Austin Woodside '18LAustin Woodside ’18L

For my 1L summer internship, I interned for the International Legal Foundation. This organization is focused on establishing public defender systems in countries emerging from conflict. I worked in Kathmandu for the Nepal branch.

The Nepal branch was started in 2008, as Nepal was coming out of a civil war. Common problems that the judicial system faces in Nepal are the lack of representation, and more specifically the lack of effective council. This lack of effective council has led to enormously high conviction rates. The goal of ILF is to ensure that these individuals receive the representation that is necessary for a quality criminal judicial system.

My task was focused on creating a report to illustrate the negative effects that the earthquakes in Nepal had on the criminal judicial system. In 2015, Nepal had two earthquakes that killed over 9,000 people. After the earthquakes, many of the prisons were severely damaged or entirely destroyed. This led to many of the prisoners being put into unsafe and extremely uncomfortable living conditions. Some prisoners even lacked access to necessities such as drinking water.

The ILF, besides criminal defense, is interested in ensuring prisoner rights and is involved in litigation attempting to right these apparent wrongs. My job was to examine the data that we had created and organize this data into a written report. In this report, we integrated Nepal’s constitutional language along with international agreements that Nepal is a member to.  At the end of the report, we finished with recommendations that we believed would be beneficial.

Changing Perspectives: Hannah Falchuk ’18 Changing Perspectives, Shepherd Intern, Bowery Residents' Committee, New York, NY

“The introductions to policy and ethics were instructive, but the lessons in trauma and humanity were invaluable.”

This summer the Shepherd Internship Program allowed me to join a nonprofit whose 800 employees encounter homelessness each day. I was part of the transit outreach and case management teams at the Bowery Residents’ Committee, an organization that provides housing and health services to the chronically homeless of New York City.

I worked with another Shepherd intern during the early daytime shift, leaving our Brooklyn College apartment by 4:45 a.m. to arrive at the Manhattan office at 6 a.m. We finished work in the afternoon, with nearly the whole day to explore the ample (free) concerts and parks in the city.

I needed neither a computer nor a desk. We were “in the field” each day at train stations, shelters, and hospitals in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. The BRC transit program works with transportation officials to conduct outreach in each of the city’s subway stations. Although housing insecurity is not always observable, the outreach team tries to talk to anyone in the station who shows physical or behavioral signs of homelessness.

The job was far from easy. Many of the people we spoke to did not want to leave the train stations, and our offers of service were routinely refused. I learned the importance of meeting clients where they are — whether that is actually stooping to the floor or figuratively taking on their fears — and building rapport for the day when someone is ready to accept our services.

Once a client is ready, he or she is placed into a transitional stabilization or health program, while a case manager begins the application for permanent or supportive housing. I was able to shadow case managers on client meetings, visiting shelters and nursing homes to talk about any social or health issues that arise while adjusting to a new living situation.

Seeing the path to housing from both the outreach and case management sides showed me the necessity of providing a reliable support system at every step of the process. We listened to some clients consider the possibility of leaving the subway stations and helped others carry boxes into their new apartments. Many clients spoke openly about struggles they were facing and about their frustration with the slow pace of housing applications.

One of my biggest takeaways from the internship, though, was realizing the complexity and my own lack of awareness of common mental health disorders like schizophrenia and depression. This internship gave me the chance to learn directly from men and women typically ignored or discredited by society. The introductions to policy and ethics were instructive, but the lessons in trauma and humanity were invaluable.

Hometown: Hockessin, DE

Major: Politics

Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Philosophy

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Residential Life
  • Traveller
  • Real Estate Society
  • Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity
  • Compost Crew

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Interned with the advocacy group National Community Action Foundation as part of the Washington Term Program (Spring Term 2016)
  • Interned with Bastogne Venture Partners, a social real estate advisory and investment firm in Philadelphia, PA (Summer 2015)

Why did you apply for this particular internship? I have been interested in supportive and transitional housing programs since visiting a unique housing program for people who have been released from prison and are homeless. I wanted to gain a better understanding of homelessness — how it is created, why it persists, and what systems are in place that might cause or prevent it. I also was grateful for the opportunity to do this in one of the most ethnically and economically diverse cities in the county.

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How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? My poverty classes with Professor Pickett and Professor Brotzman (POV 101 and POV 102) gave me a social, philosophical, and historical context to poverty that I was able to consider and develop throughout the summer. Professor Hess’s Social Entrepreneurship course (BUS-381) helped me think more critically about the financial and practical operation of a social organization (whether non-profit or for-profit). I had recently finished the Professor Connelly’s Washington Term Program (POL-466) before arriving in New York, and the Madisonian perspective on competing interests followed me to my Shepherd Internship.

What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Internship experience? Everything I saw and heard in New York! I journaled in the park that was the real-life inspiration for the “valley of ashes” in The Great Gatsby and was a member of the audience for a free live taping of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I didn’t quite master the social aloofness of the city (especially coming from W&L), and I had countless conversations with strangers and friends that showed me bits and pieces more of what New York City can be.

Post-Graduation Plans: I would like to work and write for a few years before entering law school or a public policy program. With that said, my ideas about graduate and career choices have grown in my first two years at W&L, and I am not expecting that to change for the next two!

Favorite Class: Professor Pickett’s course on Martin Luther King, Jr. (POV/PHIL 243) fostered some of the most engaging and practically applicable discussions I have had at W&L.

Favorite Campus Landmark: The rocking chairs outside of Holekamp Hall

Why did you choose W&L? The strong academics and tailored attention W&L provides are unbeatable, and — although I did fall in love with New York City — I knew that I would gain a completely different set of insights from going to school in a rural setting.

Why did you choose your major? Politics combines the history of groups, the economics of society, and the philosophy of power. I chose politics, philosophy, and poverty because the three disciplines inform each other in study and define each other in practice.

What professor has inspired you? The energy Professor Radulescu brings to theatre and literature is both contagious and inspiring. Professor Pickett has also helped me think about situations critically while also bringing my thoughts back to the solid, real-life question of “What are we to do with this knowledge?”

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Don’t be afraid to talk to people outside of your friend circles. Call an alum with a cool job, visit a professor you’ve heard about, or talk to a chef you see every day in the dining hall. There are a lot of wonderful people connected to this school, and we all share some common experiences because of Lexington and W&L. It’s never too early — or late — to build a friendship.

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Career Paths: Lizzy Williams ’17L

Lizzy Williams, a 3L from Austin, Texas, graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in History and a Certificate in International Relations. Lizzy is Co-President of the Women’s Law Students Organization, a Burks Scholar, a Student Attorney for the Criminal Justice Clinic, a Lead Articles Editor on the German Law Journal, and a Research Assistant for Professor Todd Peppers. After her 1L year, Lizzy worked in Frankfurt, Germany at a German Law Firm. Before coming to Law School, Lizzy held a Government Fellowship teaching English from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs.

lizzywilliamsprofile Career Paths: Lizzy Williams '17LLizzy Williams ’17L

What did you do for work this summer?

I was a summer associate with Sullivan & Cromwell, LLC in New York City. I mostly worked on litigation assignments, although I did try my hand at a few corporate pieces.

How did you find this position?

I got a phone call from Assistant Dean Jarrett of the Office of Career Strategy at the beginning of August 2015. I was applying to law firms and he suggested I apply to S&C. I had a phone interview with a Litigation Partner and then flew to NYC for my call back interview where I got to meet a litigation partner and associate and a general practice partner and associate, along with recruiting staff and a recruiting partner who practiced in the Estates Group. This gave me a good sense of the firm. The next day, I got a call giving me an offer for the Summer of 2016.

Describe your work experience.

S&C’s NYC office is located in the financial district. The building, which they own, sits on the water, and from my office I could see boats floating in the Bay. I shared my office with a first year litigation associate which allowed me to have someone there, whenever I needed help. This summer, I got assignments through the formal assignment system, from my partner and associate advisors, and from lawyers that I met at networking events. This variety allowed me to work on a litigation project in most of the areas that S&C does litigation. I also took part in a wide range of projects within these fields, from researching, to drafting, to creating interview questions, to helping to organize facts. I was able to get a real sense of what kinds of projects are available to attorneys at S&C.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

Part of being a summer associate is juggling doing work with networking. I think my near over-involvement at W&L Law really helped me to keep both of those under control in the summer and to make the most out of all the opportunities. This summer I ended up drawing on things I had learned in Contracts, American Political Law Process, Complex Litigation: Injunctions, Close Business Arrangements, Publicly Held Businesses, Evidence and even Constitutional Law (for my pro bono project).

What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?

My favorite thing is also what surprised me the most! I was a little nervous about what the people would be like, because there are so many negative stereotypes about Biglaw and NYC lawyers and firm life. But, I am so happy to say that, in my experience, those people are the exception and not the rule! I met so many wonderful people across every part of the firm: from partners, to security. All of the lawyers loved their work, even when they wished for a few more hours of sleep. It was an intellectually stimulating world of people working hard.

Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?

I have a job! After graduation in May, I will be returning to Sullivan & Cromwell’s New York City Office, as a litigation associate.

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Career Paths: Kit Thomas ’18L

Kit Thomas ’18L spent her summer at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a non-profit trial level death penalty organization located in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a graduate of Centre College and is interested in a career in capital defense and criminal justice.

kitthomasprofile Career Paths: Kit Thomas '18LKit Thomas ’18L

What did you do for work this summer?

This summer I worked at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a non-profit trial level death penalty organization located in New Orleans, Louisiana.

How did you find/get this position?

I found out about LCAC from Professor Shapiro. I essentially went to Professor Shapiro’s office to introduce myself and to let him know about my interest in death penalty work, but I left with contact information for his daughter who is an attorney for LCAC in their Shreveport office. I spoke on the phone with Meghan Shapiro about my motivations and interest in the death penalty and at the end of the conversation she offered me a summer position.

Describe your work experience.

My work experience included a number of tasks and responsibilities. Each intern was assigned to a case that LCAC is currently working on as well as to a project the office was hoping to accomplish over the summer. I was assigned to a federal habeas death penalty case and a project, which required me to organize and orchestrate an in-house training on a particularized method of voir dire used by capital defense attorneys. With regard to my case, I was assigned numerous legal research tasks, including finding requirements to prove ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to mitigate and fees for Freedom of Information Act requests. I also had the opportunity to participate in a client welfare project, which allowed me to find, purchase, and ship items to our clients at Louisiana’s State Penitentiary (Angola). Additionally, I was able to travel to Angola to visit a number of clients and to discuss their cases.

What were some skills you developed this summer?

I found it difficult to begin a legal job after spending months reading case law and trying to figure out how to use legal search engines. During my summer job I gained a better understanding of how to craft a legal question and what to look for when trying to answer that question. Although courses during law school can help to prepare you for what is expected of you during a job, nothing teaches you better than being thrown a question and spending hours pouring over case law to try to figure out an answer. Coming away from my time at LCAC I feel more confident and competent with regard to my ability to conduct legal research and come to a succinct conclusion.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

A general interest in death penalty work and a strong interest in criminal defense work are certainly necessary to engage in this summer work. Criminal law was definitely the most useful course with regard to subject matter, but my legal research course gave me the background necessary to begin my research tasks at LCAC.

What surprised you about the work you did this summer?

I was surprised at the severe funding crisis that Louisiana capital defense attorneys have to deal with on a daily basis. Disclaimer: This may be an across the board experience for capital defense attorneys, but I can only attest to the situation in New Orleans. The funding cuts leave offices without a number of the resources that law firms have at their disposal, as well as being utterly under-staffed. I find this the most surprising because it is the legal work that deals with life or death, the most severe legal consequence imaginable; it’s hard to believe that a legal field that is so important deals with such terrible funding problems.

What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?

I loved everything about my job, but what I enjoyed most was being surrounded by fiercely intelligent lawyers who were passionate about their work in a way that I had never experienced. I find it easier to picture myself as a capital defense attorney because I have seen the career in action. The position may entail grueling hours, funding shortages, and frustrating decisions, but it also entails the most rewarding victories, compassionate individuals, and a tremendously important cause.

Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?

My time at LCAC easily reaffirmed my interest in being a capital defense attorney. Because capital defense work is such a niche area of the law, I don’t think that working at anything other than a capital defense office can give you a feel for what such a job would look like. I am glad to have had a chance to see the work on a day-to-day basis and to know that a trial level capital defense position would be something I could see myself doing long term.

How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?

My summer experience has only further focused my interest in doing capital defense work, which helps to give direction to my time at W&L. As a result of my job at LCAC, I have made a number of contacts in the criminal defense world that I believe will help further my career goals. For example, I am going to spend time during this academic year working for a lawyer I met this summer prepare for two upcoming capital trials that his non-profit capital defense office is handling. In addition, it gave me a sense of familiarity with death penalty case law such that I feel comfortable entering my 2L year enrolled in criminal procedure, death penalty, as well as VC3.

Career Paths: Bo Mahr ’17L

Bo Mahr ’17L spent the summer working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Office of the General Counsel as a Law Clerk. At W&L Law, Bo serves as vice-chair of the Moot Court Executive Board. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia. Bo received partial funding for his internship from the A. Paul  Knight Program in Conservation.

bomahrprofile Career Paths: Bo Mahr '17LBo Mahr ’17L

What did you do for work this summer?

I worked for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Office of the General Counsel as a Law Clerk. The CEQ is a part of the Executive Office of the President and helps coordinate and develop national environmental policies and initiatives. The Office of the General Counsel was a small team that included four clerks, four attorneys, and the General Counsel.

How did you get this position?

As a 1L interested in environmental law I was told to talk to Cameron Tommey (’15L). Little did I know at the time, he had previously worked as a Law Clerk at the CEQ. He helped me pull my application together and served as a great resource during the interview process.

Describe your work experience.

Both the breadth and depth of the work done at the CEQ were impressive, and being a part of a small team meant that I was able to contribute from the start. From memos over public lands to briefings about renewable energy credits, I covered more ground in three months than I thought was possible. Overall, it was working with incredibly qualified individuals who cared deeply about the work that set this experience apart.

What were some of the skills you developed this summer?

I refined my ability to communicate with those from other professional backgrounds. A good deal of my time was spent talking with experts in other fields than law. This meant that I had to come up to speed on the technical, economic and scientific side of the issue while being able to frame the legal and regulatory implications in an easily digestible manner. At a place where few people are generalists, this became a key ability to have.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?

Professor Jill Fraley, my Law and Geography professor, was key in my preparation for my summer clerkship. Regardless of the issue, legal or otherwise, the ability to write in a concise and understandable fashion was invaluable. While Law and Geography, a writing intensive seminar, covered environmental issues relevant to my work, it was the lessons over sentence structure and organization that proved most valuable.

What surprised you about the work you did this summer?

What really stood out to me was the opportunity to interact with stakeholders from across the country. As a part of the E.O. 12866 process, stakeholders from various States, nonprofits and companies came in and told their stories and were open for questions. Often I can be too consumed with the legal issues in front of me and I forget to step back and understand why I am doing this and for who I am doing it.

What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?

The gravity of the issues we were trying to solve was something I won’t soon forget. To be able to be a small part of an Administration that is tackling conservation and climate change with a renewed sense of importance was truly a great experience.

Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?

For all the progress that has been made, this summer reminded me just how far we have to go in solving many environmental issues. This experience served to reiterate the importance of working for an organization that is out there making a difference.

How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?

I have a new focus on what it is I want to do and where I want to do it. This means that when I take classes such as Professor Carr’s Federal Energy Regulatory Practicum I’ll be able to retain even more about administrative law than I would have otherwise. It also helps me put into perspective the impact that knowing administrative law can have on solving complex and important issues.

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Career Paths: Ashley Slisz ’17L

Ashley Slisz is from Williamsville, New York and graduated from Boston University with a degree in International Relations. At Washington and Lee she is the 2L Vice-President of the Student Bar Association and a staffwriter on the  Washington and Lee Law Review.

ashleysprofile Career Paths: Ashley Slisz '17LAshley Slisz ’17L

What did you do for work this summer?

I worked for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Disclosure Unit in Washington, D.C.

How did you find/get this position?   

I found this job through Symplicity, but I also spoke with a 3L who worked for the agency last summer and she helped me apply for the job. I would definitely recommend speaking to someone who has or has had a job that you want. It may not only help you get the job, but it helps you learn more about the position and manage your expectations.   

Describe your work experience.   

My duties included speaking with whistleblowers, gathering more information about their allegations, helping my supervising attorney determine if the allegations met our threshold, and writing the President of the United States letters informing him of the outcome of the agency’s investigations. I also had the opportunity to attend Senate hearings and the annual Whistleblower Summer Summit.

What were some skills you developed this summer?   

A skill that I improved on through my summer internship was being able to intelligently speak with someone about an intricate technical issue in which I did not have background experience. Most of the whistleblowers’ allegations were about agency issues that I did not have any background in. Therefore, I needed to be able to adjust to each case and figure out which questions I needed to ask in order to gather more information. At first this was very difficult, but after speaking with a few whistleblowers about complex issues, I honed in on certain techniques that I could use to help me get the information I needed out of the conversation and understand the whistleblowers’ allegations.

What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?   

Definitely Administrative Law with Professor Carr. Having the background about what an agency does and how it operates helped me my first few weeks with putting into context where I was within the agency and how the agency operates with the other branches of government. OSC works with a lot of different agencies and it is necessary to have a good grasp of Administrative Law going in. Professional Responsibility also helped because I interacted with lawyers outside of my agency about issues pertaining to the whistleblowers and being aware of certain professional rules allowed me to do my job professionally. Lastly, Legal Writing is a class that is necessary to any legal job. Employers expect you to know how to write coming in and the OSC was no exception.

What surprised you about the work you did this summer?   

This was the first time I worked for the government and seeing how much works goes into one small agency really surprised me. The work OSC Disclosure Unit does is important and helps keep the government agencies in check. OSC always has a heavy caseload and it sometimes felt like my desk was overflowing with files. But the attorneys that I worked with really care about their jobs and put a lot of time and thought into every tiny decision that they have to make.

Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?   

This experience showed me a different side to the law that I was unaware of-the regulatory industry of the law. I had worked for law firms and judges but I had never worked for a government agency. This experienced allowed me to explore the regulatory side of the law and is an area I am now considering practicing in my career.

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