Lauren Thomas
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2018
Environmental and Natural Resources Division, U​.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.

Lauren Thomas at DOJLauren Thomas (3L) participated in Texas A&M Law’s Residency Externship Program in Public Policy in Washington, D.C. during the spring 2018 semester, serving as a law clerk for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a full-time clerk for the Environmental Enforcement Section (EES), Thomas assisted with a variety of federal environmental enforcement cases brought under statutes such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Clean Air Act.

“Combining a litigation-heavy clerkship with the policy externship program gave me the best of both worlds as I was fortunate to spend an entire semester learning about both environmental litigation and policy,” says Thomas.

Thomas supported EES litigation teams by assisting with expert witness selection, drafting counterclaims, preparing a motion to enter a consent decree, and drafting memoranda on topics involving administrative law, civil procedure, environmental law, and public policy.

“The types of projects I received were, as one attorney phrased it best, ‘heady,’” explains Thomas. “In other words, the work I completed under the supervision of licensed attorneys was not something that a typical intern does; it was closer to the type of work done by a licensed attorney in the EES section."

"I enjoyed both the type of work and the work environment in the EES, however, just the fact that I enjoyed the work alone proved to me that I was on the right path in my pursuit of becoming a practicing environmental lawyer,” said Thomas.

While in the nation's capital, Thomas not only enjoyed networking with attorneys, but also attended local events such as the D.C. Environmental Film Festival and the annual cherry blossom festival.

After this externship experience in D.C., Thomas spent her summer interning with Lloyd Gosselink, a leading environmental and water law firm in Austin, Texas. Through this internship, Thomas learned about local environmental legal issues facing political subdivisions across Texas. She had the opportunity to draft memoranda on numerous legal topics involving Texas civil procedure, the Texas Water Code, and the Texas Constitution. Thomas also assisted attorneys by drafting notice letters, response letters, and portions of briefs.

Along with this educational experience at a prestigious firm in Texas’ capital city, Thomas was also able to spend time with family and friends on the lake and exploring Austin’s fabulous food scene.

Philip Bedford
Spring 2018
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
Austin, Texas

Philip Bedford at TCEQPhilip Bedford (3L) externed in spring 2018 with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in Austin, Texas. Bedford worked under Stephen Tatum, Deputy Commissioner to TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker.

While at TCEQ, Bedford worked on issues relating to licensing and enforcement, and assisted in finalizing agency rules.

Bedford also accompanied Commissioner Baker on several work trips including to El Paso, Texas, Laredo, Texas and Pensacola, Florida. The El Paso and Laredo trips were conducted to facilitate conversations between Texas and neighboring Mexican states that focused on multi-media, cross-border pollution sources and remedies. The Florida trip was focused on the Federal RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act) and brought together every federal and state agency involved in distributing funds to continue developing a gulf wide strategy for reclamation and remediation of the BP oil spill.

“In Florida, we toured multiple locations in and around Pensacola where the funds were being used by the state to improve impacted habitats,” explains Bedford.

Bedford recalls how his first writing assignment—a memorandum on state incentive programs and the dormant commerce clause—was reviewed and considered directly by the Commissioners. 

“This type of important and influential work made my time at the TCEQ an enjoyable and valuable learning experience,” said Bedford.

Following his spring externship, Bedford clerked for the U.S. Department of Justice during summer 2018 in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division in Washington, D.C. Bedford worked with federal prosecutors in enforcing criminal provisions of multiple federal environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and Animal Welfare Act.

Much of his research and writing focused on evidence questions, such as how the ​​Constitution’s confrontation clause applies to non-testifying co-conspirators and how particular jurisdictions interpret self-authenticating evidence.

Bedford explains, “The types of cases I worked on varied widely form oil pollution to dog fighting, including the international trafficking of endangered species. I loved it! We literally put people in prison for harming the environment.”

With this highly exciting and interesting summer behind him, Bedford now hopes to have a chance at prosecuting similar cases in the future.

Hope SheltonHope Shelton
9 Week Internship
Summer 2017
General Counsel, Trinity River Authority
Arlington, Texas

Hope SheltonHope Shelton

During my time with the Trinity River Authority, I assisted in providing legal support to ongoing water rights permitting efforts, coauthored a law journal article on water reuse in Texas, and revised internal policies.

I attended meetings with TRA clients, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TCEQ, and the City of Houston. I visited the state capital for a House Committee hearing. I toured several waste water treatment facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a drinking water treatment facility, and the Lake Livingston dam and the construction of a hydroelectric power facility.

But, I believe the most important thing I learned this summer isn’t related to water at all.

I witnessed great leadership that resulted in a positive, impactful work environment. From the very top of the management, I saw leadership that emanated respect, selfless service, and integrity. This style of leadership flowed down among the ranks and ended with everyone each day making a summer intern feel a part of the team.

I was sad to leave my position as school began again because, while the work was fascinating, it was truly the people who made my internship so special.

REP-PP 2017 Henrik StrandHenrik Strand
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2017
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Austin, Texas

Meet Henrik

Why did you decide to participate in the REP-PP?
I want to participate in the REP-PP program because I am passionate about environmental policy and want to learn more about the administrative process that takes place at the Texas state level. I am excited to have an opportunity to work with policy makers in Austin and try to see the challenges inherent in the system and ways to work within the system.

What are you most excited about as your semester in the REP-PP begins?
I am excited to meet the people at my position and the people that I will work with as I hope that these are my co-workers as I graduate and start my career. I am also excited for the speaker series that the program offers to see different speakers throughout the state government to get a diverse perspective on available public policy careers.

What skills do you hope to gain from your experiences in the REP-PP?

I hope to gain practical experience in drafting and working with policy makers as well as networking skills and relationships that I can carry into my career.

How do you think this opportunity will help you develop as a lawyer?

I think this opportunity will help me learn on-the-job skills that are hard to learn in the classroom which will translate well into a public interest career, such as writing recommendation statements, reviewing government contracts, and other policy related documents.

How does your participation in the REP-PP demonstrate the Aggie Core Values?
(Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service)
This program requires excellence in personal responsibility, as we will be ambassadors of the school in Austin. The program also requires selfless service as the program focuses on public service and I would like to be a public servant as my career continues.

What are your personal goals for your semester in the REP-PP?
My personal goals are to work hard and make a good impression for myself on the people I work for and to represent the school with aplomb to continue the relationship that I will create between the agency and the school so more Aggies can get the position that I will have this coming spring.

On Integrity:

Henrik StrandWhen I looked up the definition of integrity as a prompt for writing this reflection, the first definition that came up was “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” This encompasses what we all think of as integrity: honesty in the face of negative pressure; the high road over the low; sincerity even when it is uncomfortable. However, this well known definition is not what I am going to spend most of my time on in this post. Indeed, it is important for Aggies to be honest and sincere in their professional and personal lives, and moral integrity is important for personal gratification and advancement. But this second definition for integrity was the one that really struck me when I read it: “the state of being whole and undivided; unity, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity.”

It is this type of integrity that keeps Aggies’ arms locked during singings of the alma mater. It is this type of integrity that stirs up images of the 12th Man, standing steadfast with his team if he was needed. It is not so easy to be a unified whole: Just look at our national political system and the division not only over the recent presidential election but the current fight over Cabinet appointments. Recent documentaries like O.J.: Made in America or I Am Not Your Negro exemplify the racial and sociopolitical divide that still exists within our country. In many ways, our country is more divided than ever. This is why the integrity between the leadership of the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) is all the more impressive during these trying times in our society.

During my time at the TCEQ, I have witnessed the true team that all of the staff is on a daily basis. Through organization-wide team events like the chili cook-off, which I participated in, brining together all the different departments of the TCEQ, who employs thousands of employees, for a few hours over Texas’ “national” dish. While I was chided a few times for my particular chili having beans—and chicken—I always felt like I was a part of a team, a solidified community of people working hard to protect Texas for future generations. This community approach led me to meet some fellow young professional working in the water division that I would never have met otherwise who have become some of my personal friends out of work.

Possibly the most impressive part of this event was how one of the winners were chosen. First, there was a blind taste-testing of all the different chilies to pick the overall winner. Then, there was a second award, called the “peoples’ choice award,” which went to the chili that attracted the most donations from the crowd. I felt this award continued to show the great community that was created coming together to support charity with our donations for our co-workers culinary creations.

When I worked as a chef at home and abroad, I have always been amazed at the transformative power that food has over any racial or political divisions. I once read a book about North Carolina BBQ that explained that the only day where African-Americans and whites would eat and celebrate together was over the celebratory BBQs at the end of the long tobacco-drying season. Food allows people to overcome their personal hang-ups and divisions to focus on what is important -- community sustenance. And in its own little way, the TCEQ’s chili cook-off embodies this idea of community created though cooking. It is good to see that at least one governmental agency is still holding up the Aggie value of integrity, and I am proud to be a part of it, at least for this one glorious semester.

Britt BrandonBritt Brandon
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2017
Texas Railroad Commission
Austin, Texas

Meet Britt

Why did you decide to participate in the REP-PP?
The REP-PP Program allows me to gain practical experience in the field of law I wish to practice. I am interested in practicing Energy Law, specifically the environmental regulatory aspect of Energy Law. REP-PP will allow me to work directly with the agencies that engage in writing and enforcing regulations relevant to the energy industry.

What are you most excited about as your semester in the REP-PP begins?
I am excited to use the classroom knowledge I have gained during law school, and apply this knowledge practically on a daily basis during my externship. I am also excited about all the valuable information I will learn once I begin my externship.

What skills do you hope to gain from your experiences in the REP-PP?

I hope to gain a better understanding of the administrative process. Engaging in the administrative process on a daily basis will allow me to gain invaluable experience as I prepare for my future as a lawyer.

How do you think this opportunity will help you develop as a lawyer?

The ability to spend a semester during law school working under practicing attorneys in the city in which I wish to practice, is a very rare opportunity for a law student. The ability to make networking connections and gain practical experience prior to graduating will be beneficial to me as I begin my career as a lawyer.

How does your participation in the REP-PP demonstrate the Aggie Core Values?
(Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service)
Acceptance into the program means the participant has exhibited excellence throughout law school and prior experiences as well. The participants demonstrate leadership by representing Texas A&M School of Law as we travel into Austin and D.C. As the participants engage in quality work they will generate respect for the REP-PP Program and Texas A&M School of Law.

What are your personal goals for your semester in the REP-PP?
I am excited to experience Austin during a Legislative Session. I hope to get outside of my comfort zone and make new lasting connections.

On Excellence:

Britt BrandonVince Lombardi once stated, “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can achieve excellence.” This quote embodies the idea that excellence is not achieved by accident; excellence is achieved by dedication to a standard above what is merely expected or normal. Merriam-Webster defines the suffix “-ence” as “the action or process,” and defines “excel” as “to be superior to; to surpass in accomplishment.” So excellence essentially means the action or process of being superior to others. This definition inherently means not everyone is able to achieve excellence—in order to be superior something or someone must be inferior.

Excellence is (in my opinion) the most important of the six Core Values of Texas A&M—for reference, the six Core Values are the following: Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, and Selfless Service. Excellence is the “standard of review” for each of the five other Core Values. One is able to display the other five Core Values by a single action. But in order to display a Core Value excellently, one must display a Core Value above mere expectations or the status quo. The series of Texas A&M Core Values is not merely a checklist; it is a duty to continually pursue excellence in one’s display of each Core Value.

Ethical rules contain standards attorneys must abide. But to achieve excellence in the practice of law, it is important to go beyond these minimum standards. Throughout my externship experience in Austin, I have observed multiple examples of excellence. My classmates and I have heard from speakers who forge public policy in the State of Texas. While these speakers come from wide-ranging practice areas, each speaker had one thing in common: excellence. It was apparent that each speaker enjoyed the work they did; worked tirelessly to perform beyond their duties; and most importantly, served the citizens of Texas with excellence. 

My experience at an administrative agency has made it evident why it is important for agency employees to engage in their job with excellence. Agencies are allowed broad authority to promulgate rules upon actions or inactions within their jurisdiction. The advice Uncle Ben gives Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility,” is also applicable to state agencies. A state agency must recognize the authority it has been granted and use excellence as a standard when engaging in actions or inactions. Agency actions have the ability to greatly impact citizens of Texans in a positive or negative way. Through this lens, agencies must serve Texas and its citizens not to the minimum standard or status quo, but to a standard of excellence.

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