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Gabriella Passidomo

Semester in DC: Gabriella Passidomo at the U.S. Department of Energy

Gaby Passidomo is a third year law student from Naples, FL.  She is a staff writer for the Law News and serves as the law school’s Key Staff representative with W&L’s Outing Club.  Gaby spent the fall semester in DC interning with the U.S. Department of Energy.  She is interested in energy law and policy and will be doing state utility regulation with Florida’s Public Service Commission after graduation. Gaby, right, is shown above with her sister Francesca outside the Lincoln Theatre in DC.

I love Lexington. There, I said it. I love the mountains that encompass it. I love its small-town feel, the close-knit community, how people greet one another as they pass on the sidewalk. Lexington is the perfect place to spend three years of law school, or as it turned out to be in my case, two and a half years. Last year, as a 2L contemplating my third-year plans, a bit of luck struck. I submitted an application with the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Energy, presumably for a summer position. When I received a call asking if I would be interested in a longer term position during the fall, I immediately said “Yes!” Then I realized, wait, I’m still in law school.

While W&L’s DC Externship Program was a key factor for some of my classmates choosing W&L when they were prospective students, the program had not necessarily been on my radar. Plus, I was not sure how I felt about leaving Lexington for a semester (see above, love Lexington, friendly people, etc.). However, after discussing with students from past years in the DC Externship Program, I was sold. I was still not sure what to expect, as each placement varies, but I was excited. I have been interested in practicing energy law for quite some time now, and I could think of few better places for practical experience than the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

I worked for the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Electricity and Fossil Energy (GC-76) at DOE. Our office was small, fluctuating from three to six attorneys while I was there, but mighty. GC-76 is the lead departmental attorney for the Assistant Secretaries for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and Fossil Energy. While at first glance this may seem modest, it is anything but. The attorneys in GC-76 handle everything from electricity generation, transmission and distribution, the production, transmission, storage, importation and exportation of natural gas, oil production and storage, including the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to energy reliability, grid emergency authority, and cyber security. Needless to say, GC-76 attorneys wear many different hats.

However, the flood of work that comes through GC-76’s doors presents an unparalleled opportunity for law student externs. The office truly valued my help and was sure I would never have a day sitting around twiddling my thumbs. By the end of my externship, I was drafting internal memos, reviewing import and export authorizations, and writing orders that will be published in the Federal Register.

W&L’s DC Externship Program uniquely places students for an entire semester in an opportunity that will provide real, substantive work. My experience in DC was not the prototypical “intern” experience where I got the boss coffee and made copies. No, I produced real work product that my mentor attorney reviewed and critiqued with me, and improved my legal research and writing skills. Without a doubt, my semester in DC was invaluable.

I am back in Lexington now, happy to be home with my friends and community, but, I’ll say it, I miss DC. I miss my colleagues, my work assignments, my metro “community,” the food options, even the city. W&L’s DC Externship Program enables students like myself not to have to make that fretful decision– urban or rural, academic or experiential. I got the best of both words, and will be a more effective lawyer because of it.