Unconventional Internships: Student Spends Summer Tackling Maritime Law Issues


Erik Neff has always known he wanted to practice maritime law.

So when he applied to the University of Miami in 2009, he fully intended to capitalize on the city's vast maritime culture. He joined the Maritime Law Society, and later took courses like Admiralty Law I.

"I really wanted to take advantage of Miami Law's unique geographical location and opportunities for legal practice," Neff, a rising 3L, says. "Before deciding to go to Miami Law, I read about the amazing maritime faculty Miami has, and it pretty much solidified my decision to attend here."

Now, two years later, Neff is working at a highly competitive internship with the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) in Washington, D.C. Given his academic focus on ports and vessel regulation, the internship fits his interests and skills perfectly.

Every day at work, Neff experiences something different and exciting. From working on the Capital Construction Fund's citizenship issues, to sitting in on meetings with MARAD and the Federal Highway Administration and completing research on how United Nations resolutions affect Cargo Preference, Neff has his hands full this summer. And that's only the first week.

"It's also pertinent to note that the office building is right next door to Nationals Park," the avid baseball fan says.

Along with Miami Law faculty and administration, Neff credits his mentor Jeff Vogel and other alumni networking opportunities with providing just enough guidance to get his foot in the maritime law door. "The general counsel for MARAD, Denise Krepp, is a Miami Law graduate, as is my mentor, Jeff Vogel (a maritime attorney). It just seemed like a perfect fit."

This summer, Neff looks forward to completing traditional maritime law research, along with working on Title XI ship mortgage transactions and the Construction Reserve Fund. He will also work on joint projects with the Department of Energy, Customs and Border Protection, and the Coast Guard to help define the scope of the Jones Act concerning the emerging offshore wind energy industry.

"Since I will be working on the Jones Act quite a lot this summer, what I learned in Admiralty Law will be invaluable. Also, I am more than certain that Transnational Litigation will be extremely useful, seeing that I will be addressing international issues when assisting maritime industry queries," Neff says.

After graduation, Neff plans on obtaining a Masters of Professional Science (MPS) at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He will pursue a career in completing regulation and policy work with port authorities.

"I am more than excited to be working at MARAD this summer," Neff says. "All in all, it feels good to be a Cane in Washington, D.C."