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April 5, 2013

Andrew Engel ’10 Embarking on New Career as Honors Attorney

This fall, Oregon Law graduate Andrew Engel will inhabit the role of Honors Attorney for the Solicitor’s Office at the U.S. Department of the Interior, located in Washington, D.C. Engel carefully designed his academic career at Oregon Law, taking active steps to develop his legal skillset through dedicated study and the completion of several internships, before a professor wisely tipped him off to the honors program with the Interior Department.

By accepting the position, Engel has committed to serving the public as an honors attorney—a highly coveted position that saw more than 100 applicants—for at least three years. Throughout the first year, Engel will rotate between various divisions within the Office of the Solicitor to gauge where he fits best. With an eye toward his preferences, Engel will be assigned a permanent home at the office during his second year. 

Engel, who hasn’t spent any significant time in D.C. since middle school, is eager to commence his work in the nation’s capital and reconnect with friends living in the district. The capital won’t be lacking for fellow Ducks, either. Notable alumni Cory Smith '00 and Emmett Soper '05 are just two Ducks working with legal organizations in D.C. In fact, Engel interviewed for the attorney position via phone with a panel of interviewers that included Sidney Ottem '92, another Oregon Law alum.

Born in Michigan, Engel opted for an in-state school, receiving his undergraduate degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications from Michigan State University in 2006. Engel took a year off between earning his bachelor’s degree and enrolling at Oregon Law, working as a field manager for Clean Water Action, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect and improve the quality of the nation’s water resources. There he organized neighborhood support for various water-related concerns, knocking on 80 to 100 doors a day and managing a small field crew.

Engel was interested in journalism, but ultimately decided that attending law school was the best way to apply his strengths toward protecting the environment. He conducted independent online research on national environmental law programs, and noticed that Oregon Law garnered positive mentions. The university evaluator US News & World Report awarded the school an impressive rating; Oregon Law came in within the top 10 environmental law programs in the country. Engel had a friend in Portland who told him to come to Oregon for its relaxed culture and outdoorsy appeal. That settled it. He applied to Oregon Law and soon was accepted.

A water law class with Associate Dean Adell Amos sealed Engel’s interest in water issues. She aided Engel in his job search both before and after graduation, serving as a reference, recommending him to various clerkships and alerting him to the Honors Attorney opportunity. Engel was active inside and outside of class, participating in the school’s environmental law clinic with the Western Environmental Law Center for two semesters and co-directing the four-day, 3,000-person Public Interest Environmental Law Conference for Land Air Water, the nation’s largest student-run environmental law society. He was a managing board member of the Oregon Law Review, the longest-running law journal in the Pacific Northwest, and a Conservation Trust Project Fellow, which allowed him the opportunity to develop the handbook, A Guide to Instream Water Protection in Oregon (2010).

During his first year at Oregon Law, Engel decided that nonprofit and government work suited him, and began looking for summer internships that would give him the training he desired. He applied and was selected for an externship with Region V of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, Ill. This work experience made him appealing to other employers, and the following year he was chosen to be a legal intern for Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm with a northwest office in Seattle, Wash.

Upon graduating in 2010, Engel was elected to the Order of the Coif for his noteworthy academic performance. With his interests in mind, he applied to federal appellate and district court clerkships. He was able to find a clerkship with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis., which was conveniently close to home. A little more than two years later, he began clerking at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, Calif., where he’ll continue to work until he fulfills his position as an Honors Attorney in the fall.

In five years, Engel would ideally like to work in water resources law within his duties at the Interior. In addition to the environmental law faculty, Engel encourages incoming students to get to know Heather Brinton, director of the school’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, who served as a friendly resource to Engel during his law school years. In addition, he recommends students study hard while maintaining a healthy balance between school and outside activities.

Finally, Engel advises that students interested in environmental law and public service engage in student activities to expand their professional networks and develop valuable skills. He notes that at the Land Air Water conference he met legal professionals every which way he turned.

“Networking is the most important way to get your foot in the door, especially in this field, which can be smaller,” said Engel. “A lot of people know each other.”

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