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Pathways to the Profession: Mickey Hartz L’19

August 24, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This post from Mickey Hartz L’19 is one in a series of firsthand accounts detailing how students’ summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. 

Hartz is from Bethesda, MD, and attended the University of Maryland, where he received his BA and MPP. At Penn Law, he is an active member of the Public Speaking Society and volunteers with the Veterans Law Project — a pro bono project that assists veterans through bankruptcy.

This summer, I worked in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the U.S. Department of Justice. My office — the Natural Resources Section (NRS) — defends federal agencies from environmental lawsuits, including suits brought by states (like California and New Mexico), non-governmental organizations, and Native American tribes.

Projects at NRS were enthralling and diverse. One lawsuit centered on the damage caused by a flood that breached an Army Corps of Engineers levy and submerged the nearby farmland. Another involved tribal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline’s potential environmental impacts. A third suit centered on the lack of official recognition of anthropogenic climate change.

I got firsthand exposure to the suits arising from the Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda. These cases gave me insight into the ongoing debate between those championing further regulations and those seeking to secure greater independence for our nation’s energy industry. Despite the political nature of these suits, I was impressed by the attorneys’ unwavering professionalism and dedication to creating good law.

Attorneys in the ENRD treated students like true members of the team. Beyond the official training and professional development programs, attorneys took time out of their days to make sure that clerks were understanding the issues, improving their writing, and developing as lawyers. Penn Law’s Legal Practice Skills (LPS) course was integral in preparing me for my assignments this summer, and feedback from my supervising attorneys allowed me to refine my writing even further.

This summer was an essential bridge between the academic legal world and the professional one. As a 1L, I often had difficulty seeing the bigger picture that surrounded the legal issues I dealt with. It was tough to understand the policy implications of laws, or to grasp the strategic considerations involved in litigation. This summer injected into my career a boost of much-needed practical knowledge that will both enhance my professional life and allow me to dig deeper into my future courses. After this summer, I look forward to returning to Penn Law, where I will be able to build off of my experiences with courses on climate change, economics, and administrative law.

- Mickey Hartz


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