This week we feature Alison Garner, SJQ 2003- Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division. Alison lives and works in the Washington, DC, area. Last summer, she was involved in helping to hire Melanie Grayson to intern with the DOJ. You can read the (reprinted) feature on Melanie’s work at DOJ in this Career Brief as well.
1. What do you do? My practice involves litigation in Federal Courts, primarily defending federal agency decisions in cases involving allegations that a federal program or action violates Constitutional provisions or environmental statutes. Examples include suits alleging that a federal agency has failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by, for instance, failing to issue an environmental impact statement. More information about the Environment and Natural Resources Division can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/index.html. More information about the Natural Resources Section can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/ENRD_nrs.html
2. Where are you from and why did you go to law school? I’m from Bountiful, Utah. I received a BS from Utah State University. I went to law school because of my interest in environmental and natural resources law.
3. What kinds of activities did you do in law school? I obtained the Certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources law, and took classes like administrative law, natural resources law, and water law. I participated in the environmental law clinic, working for a local non-profit group. For the second half of my 2L year through the summer after graduation I worked as a law clerk at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Children’s Justice Division.
4. How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job? My first job out of law school was as a Patrick O’Hara Fellow at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Natural Resources Section. The fellowship is for two years, and after those two years, I worked on a contract basis for a Utah law firm for three years. I applied for my current job via USAjobs.com. I applied online and participated in a telephone interview a few weeks after applying. A few months later, I had in-person interviews with attorneys on the Natural Resources Section hiring committee and, separately, with the NRS Section Chief. NRS made me a job offer, which I accepted, and I was required to complete a background check prior to beginning employment. It took approximately 9 months from the date I first submitted an application until I started work.
5. What does a typical day involve for you/your work? I spend a lot of time at my computer responding to emails. I also generally spend part of every day on at least one conference call, either with opposing counsel or with client agency representatives and/or agency counsel. I often attend meetings with colleagues from the DOJ. I sometimes research and write briefs and motions and occasionally prepare for oral argument.
6. Best (and worst, if you want) parts of the job? I work with some really intelligent, hard-working, experienced and fun people. Sometimes the hours can be long.
7. What tips/advice do you have for jobseeking SJ Quinney students? Apply! I would encourage students to simply apply for any jobs that interest them. It may be a highly competitive position, and you may think you’re under-qualified or lack confidence in some way, but you’ll never get the job if you don’t apply. I know it’s difficult, but try not to get discouraged by rejection or if you don’t get a response.
As for applying for jobs in the federal government generally, and DOJ specifically, I encourage current students to apply for volunteer law clerk positions. Information can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/ENRD_Law_Students.html. I would also strongly encourage students to think of applying for government attorney jobs. The only method by which the DOJ hires out of law school is through the DOJ Honors Program (information found here: http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/entry.html). Other federal agencies have similar programs and I really encourage students to consider a career in government.
As to application materials, I think it is very important to have someone else review anything you submit to a potential employer for typos, grammatical errors, etc. Personally, I think it is important to include a hobbies/interests section in a resume. Most resumes are very similar and, in my opinion, I think it helps the employer break the monotony of reviewing hundreds of applications and allows you to distinguish yourself from other applicants.