This summer I had the unique opportunity to work as a law clerk for the U.S. Department of Justice. This was an extremely rewarding and exciting experience, which taught me some of the finer points on how our country enforces its environmental statutes. Beyond just working hard, the law clerks were also invited to attend a wide variety of lectures and programs given by senior level government officials.
The Environmental Enforcement Section (EES) is the largest section within the Environmental & Natural Resources Division, and is tasked with the civil enforcement of environmental statutes. EES generally helps its chief client, the Environmental Protection Agency, take enforcement actions beyond the administrative realm and into the court room. I spent the majority of my summer conducting legal research and drafting memorandums, briefs, and motions on discrete issues that arose during lawsuits. I also got the unique opportunity to take an issue from the very beginning of its life as a potential lawsuit and develop the legal theories that the government will ultimately argue. This allowed me a much deeper understanding of the life of a lawsuit, and how the government initiates such a suit. This also allowed me to think creatively about a problem, and come up with numerous potential solutions that were pitched to senior level attorneys.
Beyond just a lot of interesting work, the DOJ put on a fantastic program of summer lectures and activities for the law clerks. For example, I was able to listen to Don Verrilli, the (then) Solicitor General of the United States speak about how the DOJ approaches arguing cases to the Supreme Court. I was able to hear the chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration speak about how the U.S. Government approaches the criminal prosecution of major drug offenses. I attended numerous different trial and appellate court hearings, moot-courts, depositions, and almost got to hear the U.S. Supreme Court announce opinions (I was 11th in line, and they only admitted 10 people). In total, this was an extremely exciting, rewarding, and fun summer in our nation’s capital. I learned a lot, met some fantastic people, and genuinely enjoyed every aspect of my summer.