Trial attorney, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ Honors Program)
As a student at Duke Law, Patrick Duggan was editor of the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum. In conjunction with his JD, he earned a master’s of environmental science through Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
I am a trial attorney for the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of DOJ. Essentially, we prosecute people who violate the environmental statutes that carry criminal penalties. Our work is split between wildlife cases and pollution cases. On the wildlife side, we prosecute largely under the ESA and the Lacey Act. Those cases consist of prosecuting people who kill, sell, buy, and smuggle species that are endangered and/or covered by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The wildlife side of our job involves a good amount of international work. Our partners on those cases are largely U.S. Fish & Wildlife special agents, as well as the FBI.
The other large chunk of our work is criminally enforcing our domestic pollution statutes. In pollution cases, we prosecute people and businesses that pollute in worse-than-normal manner, such that civil remedies might not provide the necessary punishment or deterrent. These could be people who pollute in a particularly egregious way, people who have continued to pollute despite previous warnings, or polluters who have not been deterred by civil cases against them. The pollution cases also include vessel cases, in which we prosecute vessel owners and operators that pollute in our territorial waters or in other locations (if we can establish jurisdiction). The hallmark of working for the DOJ is that when I say “we prosecute,” I mean that I am actually one of the prosecutors, in the courtroom, despite being fresh out of law school. We get our own cases very quickly. In order to prepare me for that, I am currently on a six-month detail as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the D.C. U.S. Attorneys Office. Currently I am in court and in front of judges almost every day.
What part of your legal education at Duke best prepared you for practice?
Well, Duke's significant environmental resources, as a whole, did a great job. But more than anything, the practical experience I gained in the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic really prepared me.
What advice would you give a Duke Law student who wants to work in a government agency?
First, and most importantly — get a prior internship! A very large portion of the honors program folks that I came in with were previously interns at our division, and I have seen the same elsewhere. I would try to really focus on the internship and externship opportunities; try to complete one with your target division. It is amazing how many of the hires are previous interns.
Second — demonstrate a dedication to the cause you want to work in. Government work is incredibly fast-paced and interesting, but it pays less. The DOJ wants to know that you care enough about your work that you are willing to do stellar work for less pay. So find a way to show them that you really care about whatever it is you want to work in.
How do you like living in D.C.? What's your favorite thing to do in your off-time?
D.C. ...well, it is an interesting place. I am adjusting. I am used to bigger cities and smaller cities, but D.C. is neither a big city or a small city. In my free time, I have been getting outdoors and fly fishing when I can, but in lieu of that, in the winter, I painted a huge wall in my apartment with chalkboard paint and I am constantly adjusting the drawings. There is no better way to let (former classmate) Drew Crawford (’10) know exactly what I think of him than to draw it on my wall and invite him over!