Washington and Lee University School of Law

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Law is Fickle, But Justice Isn't

James Collins is a rising 3L. He is interning with with the Antitrust Section at the Ohio Attorney General's office.

Unfortunately, I have precious few remaining days at the Ohio Attorney General's Office. The amount of knowledge that I have developed over the last 10 weeks is astounding, and I'm not sure what the 3rd year of law school will be like after living and dying by the heat of the battle.
Like most everyone completing law school, I am nearing my second decade as a professional student. If you would have told me when I graduated from high school that I would continue on to get both a dual undergraduate degree and a J.D., I wouldn't have believed you. For my great grand-relatives who lived barefoot in Kentucky and as coal miners in Pennsylvania, education was a luxury and the law was a fickle thing best left to people in far off places. As I pack up my notepads and tear down the countless post-its that are strewn about my office, I can't imagine how I got here or where I will be going next.
When I first started looking at law school, I spoke to a number of attorneys about their professions. Almost every single one told me not to do it. I would walk in with a suit and a smile and leave with a pat on the back and a head full of doubts. It was the lifestyle, they'd say, or the work – maybe the people they worked with or the people they worked for, it didn't matter. The song was always the same: get out now. My problem was that I hadn't spoken with anyone at the Attorney General's office.
I can't say whether every office in Ohio or every AG office across the states has the same determination and fortitude that ours does, but I'd hope that we're not just a fluke. The people here care about what they're doing, and I've grown to care about it too. It's not hard to get up in the morning when you know you're making a difference, and it's never bothersome to stay past 5 when you have the chance to right a wrong. Law is a fickle thing, I've come to suspect that, but justice isn't. You know when something is right or wrong. And to any would-be lawyers that may come across this, let me advise: stick to your moral compass and you'll come out just fine.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Constitution v. Robots

Lindsay Hitz, a rising 2L from Hershey, PA, is interning with the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) at NASA Langley Research Center.

In an attempt to achieve the complete NASA experience, I have been spending the last few weeks trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can about the science, research, and history of NASA. The 40-year anniversary of man landing on the moon presented a wonderful opportunity for my goal.  In honor of the anniversary, the Strategic Relations Office sponsored an advanced screening of "The Wonder of it All," an Apollo documentary. Adding to the excitement, the producer of the film came to NASA Langley to introduce the documentary and answer questions.  The film was fascinating and presented a unique take on the Apollo astronauts by focusing on how the experience of landing on the moon shaped each man's life.
Now that I have celebrated an anniversary, toured wind tunnels and lunar simulators, and learned about the practice of law along the way, it is just about time to leave my internship. During my last week, I will be finishing up the final component: a research project and presentation regarding a specific aspect of NASA legal practice. My project examines the evolution of First Amendment protections for government employees. I specifically looked into what effect, if any, the increased use of technological forms of expression, such as blogs, would have on the current standards.  I will be presenting my findings at a poster presentation session next week.
The poster presentation session serves as a showcase for all of the student research at NASA Langley, and over 200 interns will present their research at the event. It should be an excellent opportunity for me to learn a little bit about some of the experiments and fascinating research that other students in the hard sciences have been conducting this summer. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I will be able to educate these future scientists and engineers about one small aspect of the law. But I must admit, I'm fairly certain that the Constitution will have a hard time competing with the robots and other gadgets that some of my hard science counterparts will bring to the event.  Regardless of the popularity of my poster, this event is a wonderful way to end the summer and celebrate the work of all of the summer interns.
Looking back on my internship, of all of my exciting experiences, the most valuable have been my interactions with the NASA attorneys. The ability to work closely with many of the attorneys and the opportunity to get to know them as professionals and individuals has been invaluable.