Amy Soenksen ’13 is no stranger to the busy streets and buttoned-up atmosphere of Washington, D.C. Soenksen, a government major, spent the spring semester interning and studying in the Capitol as a participant in Hamilton’s Washington D.C. Program. When the academic year came to an end, she wasn’t quite ready to head back to her home on the West Coast.
After hearing positive feedback about U.S. Department of Justice internships from three fellow Hamilton students, Soenksen decided to apply in the hopes of getting a taste of legal work on the federal level. With the expense of living in a city like Washington, D.C., Soenksen would not have been able to accept her unpaid Department of Justice Internship without the help of a stipend from of the Joseph F. Anderson ’44 fund, managed by Hamilton’s Maurice Horowitch Career Center.
Soenksen is interning in the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for prosecuting corruption cases against all federal elected and appointed officials. While the Department of Justice has been the subject of significant press coverage in recent months over the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation, the work of the Public Integrity Section is anything but controversial. The section combats illegal government spending and ethics violations by public officials, engendering a greater sense of “public integrity and the public’s sense of an honest government.”
Assisting paralegals and trial attorneys in preparing for upcoming cases, indictments and investigations, Soenksen redacts evidence (edits testimony so that it is admissible in court), creates files on witnesses, uploads and classifies evidence in department databases and updates case discovery logs.
One of the highlights of her work is watching attorneys prepare for an upcoming case via a moot trial in which they present their opening remarks for critique by fellow attorneys. Soenksen remarked that “the opportunity to work on such interesting and potentially high profile cases in a meaningful way [as an undergraduate intern] is unique to my experience at the DOJ.”
While the workday is long (many attorneys and paralegals work from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. when preparing for an upcoming trial), Soenksen says that her coworkers have made the job more enjoyable because they have “gone out of their way to make [her] feel welcome and appreciated.” While she works with a host of qualified and hardworking individuals, Soenksen draws the most inspiration from Hamilton alumna Tracee Plowell ’95 , who she says is “an excellent example of how Hamilton can prepare you for law school and a successful career.”
While compelling assignments and a productive work environment are key factors for a successful internship, Soenksen believes that the value her supervisors place on her work is the biggest reward. She says “I always feel like my time in the office is well spent and that I am assisting my supervisors and [the Public Integrity Section].”
Soenksen is not yet sure if a career in law is in her future, but she believes that her internship has nonetheless prepared her for whatever path she chooses. “I think it is really important to understand what the actual work will look like in order to make sure your time spent in graduate school is worth it,” she said. She noted that her work this summer has shown her the doors that law school can open even outside of the courtroom, including careers in lobbying and advocacy.
She recommends interning at the Department of Justice to any Hamilton student “even remotely interested in law school, as all of the trial attorneys are friendly, interested and more than willing to give career advice.”