Fellowships‎ > ‎

PILA Stories

Ben Mann

(Class of 2010)
Dept. of Justice
Office of the Attorney General
Washington, D.C.

I spent the summer working for the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Mark Filip, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Justice Department in Washington, DC.

What makes working for the federal government so interesting is the fascinating people you meet on a daily basis. Every day I was able to interact with lawyers who had decades of experience and, in some cases, had worked for the government since the Eisenhower Administration! I helped organize Corporate Fraud Task Force Meetings while working closely with federal law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). These meetings covered a range of issues from the freezing of international organized crime assets to ensuring that federal law enforcement would be legally justified in assisting local law enforcement during disaster scenarios.

The DEA in particular offered great non-legal training opportunities. At Quantico Military Base in Virginia, we were given the unique opportunity to train with DEA Clandestine Agents. The training included a primer on how to recognize illicit drugs as well as tactical training involving firearms and battering rams -- hardly a typical day's work for a law student.

For a young lawyer, the combination of complex legal issues and on-the-job training at "Main Justice" is tough to beat. I highly recommend working in any of the Justice Department's many divisions.

Patricia Cooper

(Class of 2010)
Arlington Immigration Court
Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review
Arlington, Virginia

After spending over a year working as as English teacher in Ecuador and volunteering with Amnesty International and the Center for the Working Girl, I came to UVa Law School with the hope of one day working with immigrants and refugees, especially those from Cental and South America. Although I was certainly interested in working with an NGO, an opportunity arose for me to intern at the Arlington Immigration Court. And I figured that getting an inside view of how the immigration court system functions and what is important to the different judges in making their decisions would be a valuable experience. Thanks to PILA, I was able to take the internship without worrying about how I would fund my gas, parking, and a new wardrobe of business suits.

While at the court, I saw people from all over the world seeking asylum in the United States, and their reasons varied from escaping female genital mutilation in Kenya to fleeing religious persecution in Eastern Europe. Not only was it interesting to listen to the testimony but also to see how well the attorneys represented their clients. I was able to sit in on sevarl court proceeding and discuss the issues with the judges while they were making their decisions. The judges were very patient in explaining their legal reasoning, and it was interesting for me to compare the judges since they had varying judicial philosophies.

While I was in the courtroom some of the time, I was mostly busy writing judicial decisions on complex removal and asylum issues. The judicial law clerk would generally let me select a case I wanted to work on, and then I would listen to the testimony on a tape recorder and write up the decision according to the judge's directions. The most challenging part of a case was usually assessing the Respondent's credibility. This required me to sift through the case file, read the affidavits, the asylum officer's report, the I-589 asylum application, the Department of State country reports, and any other corroborating materials to see if the Respondent's story was consistent.

I learned so much about the intricacies of immigration laws from the judicial law clerks and judges and can't wait to use what I have learned to assist asylum seekers.