DOJ for the Summer

August 6, 2021

Students use summer fellowships to pursue internships with the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice’s competitive summer internship program for law students draws thousands of applicants every year. Three Richmond Law students landed spots in various sections for summer 2022.

This year’s remote program may lack some of the in-person interaction of a traditional internship, but the structure is a supportive one that promotes connectivity. Each intern has an intern coordinator and a lawyer mentor. Participants can join special topical lectures, as well as classes aimed at the internship experience. And a few in-person events have provided opportunities for networking – including an ice cream social staffed by none other than Attorney General Merrick Garland scooping up the sweet stuff for DOJ staff and interns alike.

Read on to learn more about the Richmond Law student experiences.

Alex Tillman, L’22

Government service isn’t new for Alex Tillman, who worked on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as a government contractor before enrolling in law school. Her summer position with the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section was the perfect next step: “My goal is to go back into government … in some capacity,” she explained.

Tillman decided on money laundering and asset recovery because “I thought it was an area that could apply to a lot of different types of jobs and a lot of different areas of the law.” Even so, the breadth of the field was a surprise. “It touches banking, it touches national security, it touches health care,” she explained. In short, “If they’re breaking the law and they’re using money, they’re probably laundering!”

Research and writing are the focus of her internship – including some of the most complex research topics Tillman has encountered. “It’s the first time I ever looked at an issue and there was not a clear-cut answer,” she said. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I really wanted to sink my teeth into some more complicated writing and research, because I know that is what differentiates someone from Richmond from another school.”

Amanda Short, L’22

Amanda Short decided to pursue her internship with the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit for a personal reason: During a trip to the Philippines, she was almost the victim of human trafficking, and after this experience she became dedicated to the anti-trafficking movement.

Through volunteering with anti-trafficking organizations and reading literature on human trafficking, she discovered that a close family member was a victim of labor trafficking. “Once I realized that someone so close to me was brought to the United States as a labor trafficking victim, it solidified my passion for anti-trafficking work,” said Short.

Landing the position with the Department of Justice was a dream job for Short. Situated within the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, interns with the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit provide research and writing support to assistant U.S. attorneys across the country – work involving domestic and international cases. Interns also support ongoing investigations and attend trainings on current trafficking issues.

The subject matter can be a challenge. To see “the way these victims are treated – sometimes it’s really difficult to process that information,” said Short. But it’s worth it: “This is exactly where I wanted to be, and it feels great to work with others dedicated to ending human trafficking.”

Kyle Durch, L’22

The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice might not seem like a natural fit for a student like Kyle Durch who’s interested in pursuing a career in environmental law. But, as Durch pointed out, there’s actually an interesting parallel between the fields. “In the history of energy law, there are a lot of anti-competitive concerns,” in areas ranging from pipelines to electricity transmission. It’s an area that can intersect with antitrust regulations, he explained. 

Situated in the Financial Services, Fintech, and Banking section of the Antitrust Division, Durch’s internship started off with research and writing on particular aspects of antitrust cases. He’s also had the opportunity to perform document review and sit in on third-party interviews. In the process, he’s learned that antitrust law “is different than other laws,” said Durch. “It’s more forward-looking than past-looking. It’s predicting what will happen due to actions of various companies,” many involving mergers. 

The breadth of topics has been a pleasant surprise for Durch – as have the work assignments themselves. “Interns normally just work on research and writing memos,” he explained. “I’ve gotten to do a little more in the weeds.”