2013 PFIG Recipient Casey Duggan
Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Leadership and Public Policy Major
2014 Graduation Year
Internship: Patton Boggs
Notes on the first week
This summer, I am one of seven undergraduate students participating in the Public Policy Internship Program with Patton Boggs LLP. Patton Boggs is a lobbying and law firm that specializes in public policy, litigation, intellectual property, and international and trade law. The firm is well known for its ability to integrate legal expertise and lobbying know-how with unmatched business savvy. Their highly regarded reputation has allowed for continuous growth, as illustrated by expansion to offices in ten different cities around the world, along with serving over 200 different international clients from over 70 countries.
As Public Policy Interns, each of my peers and I were assigned to Practice Groups within the firm under which we primarily work. Assignments to these groups were made based on a mutual selection process – a combination of our own general topic rankings (i.e., healthcare, foreign affairs, transportation, infrastructure) and input from practice group members. I was fortunate to be placed with the Technology and Communications Practice Group, which is led by several extremely knowledgeable, dynamic, and experienced partners and associates. The practice group covers a wide range of clients and issues, many of which I have very limited relevant background knowledge or experience. Although jumping into a previously unexplored subject has proven challenging at times, even after the first week, I have already gained significant exposure to the field.
Within the first week of the internship, I was assigned several projects pertaining to the field of technology and communications. First, I was asked to prepare documents and ensure that several logistical details were in place for a consultation between a cell phone manufacturing company and several representatives of the low vision/blind and hard of hearing/deaf communities. Recently passed legislation requires cell phone companies to integrate features that allow their products to be more accessible to both of these disabled communities. The consultation, which I was fortunate to be extended the opportunity to attend, was an overwhelming success – firsthand feedback from the representatives was offered concerning potential new features and future product development suggestions.
My second task entailed compiling news articles for an upcoming meeting between a Patton Boggs partner and an important, top-level client. I was given the responsibility of finding what I deemed to be the most relevant news pieces, and have them printed and bound for the conference attendees. Being given such free reign within the first week was both exciting and a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the conference went well, and both the client and the TechComm partner were pleased with my finished product as well as the thrust of the meeting overall.
Third, I was given the task of assembling Federal Register News pertaining to the field of Technology and Communications, which is to be sent out as a daily newsletter to members of the TechComm group. I have been instructed to stay up to date on relevant issues and news items produced by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). These federal government agencies come out with numerous notices, rules, and proposed rules to be read and commented on every day, all of which I would have remained completely unaware of had it not been for this internship program.
Over this past week, I have learned several important lessons. First, the internship program is described by our coordinator as a “Free Market” System, meaning that if we want more projects, to meet more people, or to attend more events, it is up to us to put ourselves out there and ask. We are not going to be spoon fed these opportunities, which is a lesson that seems to become more and more evident every day – not only in this internship, but in our everyday lives as students and soon-to-be young professionals. Second, we need to take ownership of the work we do. As my first week comes to a close, I have already witnessed that this internship program gives its participants a wide range of freedom with projects and assignments, and partners trust each of us to produce thorough and professional finished products. Any project, no matter the size or perceived level of importance, should be done well. Everything that we produce has our name attached, which increasingly carries a lot of weight. Last, as I learned on my first day, when working in a law firm, you ALWAYS have to be armed with a legal pad and pen.
When looking forward to the next two months, I have several goals, both general and specific, that I would like to achieve. First, I want to take advantage of every available opportunity. Patton Boggs is very generous in that partners and associates are willing to go out of their way to bring you to events, introduce you to other professionals, and share bits of wisdom. Whether it be attending a Congressional breakfast meet and greet or taking part in a short conversation in the elevator with an associate about tips for the years following graduation, I want to act as a sponge – absorbing all that I possibly can while here. Second, I would like to branch out and do projects for a variety of practice groups, gaining knowledge and experience in as many subject areas as possible. Third, I would like to improve my memo writing skills, as it seems to be the style of writing used most frequently at the firm.
I am looking forward to a fantastic summer ahead! I cannot wait to see what each week has in store.
The Public Policy Internship Program at Patton Boggs has provided me with the unique opportunity to both contribute and independently complete a multitude of policy-related tasks and projects. First, as the Technology and Communications (TechComm) Intern, my day begins with compiling updates on notices, regulations, and proposed rules produced daily by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). These updates are sent in the form of a daily newsletter to members of the TechComm group. Second, policy interns are given the opportunity to cover and report on congressional hearings and other relevant events in the Washington, DC area. I have had the pleasure of attending various lectures and discussions at the Brookings Institute, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Aspen Institute. Patton Boggs partners and public policy specialists use intern-generated memorandums on these events to stay informed on relevant developments in each respective practice field. Third, along with covering these hearings, interns assist in compiling information for clients and partners. We are given access to various databases and resources accessible in the firm library to conduct research. Fourth, we are given the opportunity to shadow partners, associates, and policy specialists in their meetings with government staff and elected officials to discuss pending legislation.
Several aspects of the internship have proven to be challenging, yet beneficial. First, this internship has reinforced the importance of time management and organizational skills. The policy interns are often assigned overlapping projects, each with quick turnarounds and short deadlines. Time management and organization are imperative in ensuring that all finished products are submitted on time and are of high quality. Many of our projects and memorandums are sent to clients of the firm, meaning that our diligence and prompt submission are that much more important. These time management and organization skills are essential to master as we approach our last year at UVa and our first jobs in the professional world. Second, as the coordinator of our internship program has mentioned time and again, our experience with the Patton Boggs is governed by a “free market system.” If we are interested in taking on a project, shadowing a specific partner, or receiving insight on a particular topic, we are responsible for taking the necessary initiative to obtain it. This mindset seems to closely mirror the professional world; we cannot sit back and expect every opportunity to fall into our laps. This initiative, paired with a proactive mindset, is critical in reaching goals and achieving success. Third, the policy interns have had many opportunities to practice writing memorandums, which require a unique, straightforward, and concise style of writing. Any exposure to business writing, particularly the structure and style used in memoranda, will be beneficial in the future.
This internship has had a substantial impact on my views of political participation and the legislative process as a whole. As interns, we have learned just how important is it to stay abreast of current events and to voice clear opinions on issues about which one in knowledgeable and passionate. Realistically, politicians and policy makers will never be experts in every subject matter and cannot read the minds of their constituents. In our time visiting the Hill and scheduling meetings with Congressional staff members, we have seen just how easy it is to practice one’s First Amendment right of Free Speech; however, we see few individual citizens stepping up to the plate. If citizens do not remain both informed and outspoken, our government will never reach the utopian ideal of being truly representative.
In the second half of the internship, I hope to achieve two things. First, I would like to push myself to expand my professional networking, a critical facet of success in the political arena, and to ask for more detailed feedback on submitted projects. Both of these goals will help me to gain greater insight/advice into the field of public policy, and to further develop my writing and analytic abilities. Second, I would like to better hone my time management skills. Over the first half of the internship, I have been too willing to take on new projects without considering realistic completion timelines. All too often, “my eyes have been bigger than my professional stomach” – I have taken on too many projects and have had to stay in late several times to make deadlines. I need to learn how to better evaluate the time each project will take and to prioritize my work in order to ensure that each project will be finished in a timely manner – but more importantly, within the normal workday.
It is hard to believe that my time at Patton Boggs has come to a close. The Public Policy Internship Program has taught me so much, not only about policy-making as a whole but also about myself. Through this experience, I have learned exponentially more about my strengths and weaknesses, observed my own habits and coping strategies to perform under pressure, as well as explored and considered my interests and career goals for the future.
As the program moved forward, interns were allotted progressively more independence. Rather than simply collecting information or summarizing hearings and events, we were tasked to provide our own analysis. In several cases, we were given the responsibility to establish key stakeholders and single out important areas of concern based on our own research and findings. For example, I was assigned a project in which I determined topics of interest based on recent legislation and current events for one of Patton Boggs’ higher education clients. Partners and associates overseeing our projects expressed interest in our unique insight and observation.
Members of the firm also trusted that we had developed the foundational knowledge and experience necessary to complete tasks with less supervision. For example, one of the policy specialists was going out of town and asked that I put together a weekly newsletter that she compiles and sends out every Friday. The newsletter is sent to several members of the practice group with the purpose of outlining current legislation and reports regarding the publishing industry and relevant privacy issues. I had helped with the newsletter earlier in the summer, but was expected to assemble the bulletin on my own. This independence was both challenging and rewarding. Although, towards the end of our program, our assignments became more difficult, we gained a heightened sense of self-confidence and ownership in our work.
This added independence, paired with ongoing guidance and support from policy specialists, associates, and partners, facilitated continuous growth and development throughout the second half of the program. Although there is always room for improvement, I further honed my time management skills and developed the ability to better prioritize tasks. The internship also reinforced the importance of being realistic about schedules and workload; as much as we wanted to take on every project, we had to realize that there was only so much time in the day. In times when work piled up, it was important to keep both fellow interns and superiors informed about progress made on individual projects. If a task was taking longer than expected, we learned that it was better to let our supervisor know as we were working than to miss the deadline and inform them of the delay after the fact. This constant communication helped to build credibility and trust with members of our respective practice groups.
Development of time management and communication skills was triggered by challenges that arose throughout the summer. There were several projects that took much longer than anticipated. It was through these circumstances that we were forced to identify and prioritize the most significant aspects of the project. The first lesson that we learned in response to these situations was mere acceptance. Acknowledging that under a time crunch, not every component of a project was going to be perfect was a surprisingly difficult concept to grasp. As previously mentioned, the second lesson that we learned was to communicate. It was difficult in these circumstances to admit that we needed an extension, but in most cases, there was no way of speeding up the process to meet a deadline while still fulfilling the requirements of the project thoroughly and professionally. Although the assignment may have been submitted late, our supervisors appreciated our honesty and consideration. These time management and communication skills will prove valuable moving forward professionally.
It is difficult to sufficiently articulate all of the lessons and skills that I have gained through the Public Policy Internship Program; however, there are several that stand out above the rest. First, the internship opened my eyes to the wide range of opportunities and specialties to consider in my pursuit of a career in the field of public policy. Throughout the course of the summer, I was given the opportunity to cover events and contribute to projects that spanned a wide array of subjects. Topics ranged from aviation and air traffic management policy to integration of accessibility standards to benefit the blind and deaf communities. I was taken aback by the variety of policy areas and capacities in which to get involved.
The internship also facilitated self-assessment; we were encouraged to identify and recognize our own strengths and weaknesses, and address both in order to improve our overall performance. For example, several policy specialists and associates in our practice groups took time to sit down with us to review our writing and provide advice and recommendations. One of the associates in the higher education practice group offered sound advice regarding future job searches – that we must be able to market our strengths and showcase our talents in the workplace, while still taking time to improve our weaknesses. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Patton Boggs, so much so that I am now considering going to law school. Although having a law degree is not essential, the foundational understanding, advocacy skills, and knowledge of terminology acquired in law school opens more doors and may well be a worthwhile investment for the future.
If I could pose a challenge to my fellow undergraduates, I would push them to be outgoing. Introduce yourself. Ask to grab lunch or coffee. Be a sponge – take in whatever experience and advice those around you have to offer, whether they are the managing partner of your firm or the policy specialist only a year out of college. In the words of Bill Nye, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” My experience would not have been the same at Patton Boggs had our group of interns not asked to chat with that one partner who worked on a topic of interest or that one specialist who was so approachable, yet we hadn’t had the opportunity to work closely with. People were more willing to offer insight and support in our endeavors than we could have ever imagined, but we would have never known if we did not make that initial inquiry.