D.C. Semester in Practice Program Participants Share Their Experiences Working and Studying in the U.S. Capital

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 Gregory Fontela, Shay Cohen, Nancy Shalhub, Kelly Balkin, Ken Kanzawa, and Jewell Reddick

Left to Right: Gregory Fontela, Shay Cohen, Nancy Shalhub, Kelly Balkin, Ken Kanzawa, and Jewell Reddick​

There are few opportunities that allow law students to live, work full time, and take a full law school semester in the United States Capital, all the while remaining tied to their home law school. Last spring, seven Miami Law students were selected to participate in the first Washington D.C. Semester in Practice Program, taking classes with Miami Law Professor Charlton Copeland and receiving course credit for their placement with a federal agency.

Each student was selected and placed at different governmental agencies, ranging from the Department of Justice to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Miami Law students served in a number of positions, some of which were extended to the summer of 2014.

Then 2L Kelly Balkin worked for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division in the Litigation section, which handles investigations of merges and acquisitions within certain industries. “[My] section handled investigations of mergers and acquisitions that had either been submitted to the department by the merging parties for review, which is often required by law for mergers of a certain size or dollar amount, or were being investigated by the department because the merger was deemed to have potentially anticompetitive effects.”

Additionally, Balkin had the opportunity to participate in interviews of marketplace participants, attend strategic meetings, and read and analyze white papers submitted by the merging parties. “I worked closely with incredibly talented and experienced antitrust attorneys who are well known in the antitrust world and I felt that my work was valued and appreciated.”

Nancy Shalhub, a 2L at the time, worked for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in the Office of Legal Counsel, handling and reviewing religious freedom violations and constitutional issues for a number of countries in relation to U.S. Foreign Policy.

“Working for the USCIRF in spring 2014 was an incredible experience for a number of reasons, but mainly because it allowed me to combine my passion for international law, U.S. foreign policy, and national security and apply it to dealing with current and emerging constitutional issues in a number of countries,” said Shalhub.

She was able to work on the USCIRF Annual Report, attend Commissioner Meetings, and work with her supervisors along with individuals in the U.S. State Department on memos eventually submitted to the White House. Shalhub was able to review facts and circumstances of countries’ religious freedom violations and partake in policy recommendations that were later submitted to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

Former 2L Gregory Fontela worked with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Enforcement Division. “With this externship experience, I was able to gain greater understanding of the pressing and emerging issues relating to environmental law in the U.S.”

Fontela had the opportunity to work, along with his supervisor, on enforcement of important environmental issues, and even had the opportunity to sit in on enforcement meetings between the EPA and Clean Air Act violators. “This DC Semester experience allowed me to gain greater insight into the mechanisms through which administrative agencies operate at the federal level. It was also great to be able to pair this firsthand experience with Professor Copeland’s course on federal policymaking.”

During the spring of his 2L year Ken Kanzawa worked at the NASA Office of the General Counsel. “Being at NASA in a full-time capacity for the spring semester enabled me to thoroughly engage with the government procurement practice field, explore the relevant legal authorities, network with prominent attorneys, and test my legal skills. Throughout my internship, I developed a true passion for the work I was doing at NASA and, midway through the semester, when NASA offered me a position for the summer, I accepted the offer without hesitation.”

In addition to the participants’ work and semester experiences, the Miami Law students were invited to visit the Capitol office of U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as well as attend a White & Case event held by former Miami Law alum Carolyn Lamm in Washington, D.C.