Devon Damiano ’14 is entering the Department of Justice Legal Honors Program this fall. Damiano, who holds a Masters in Environmental Science and Policy (MA) from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment along with her JD, is joining the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. She recently completed a clerkship with Judge James A. Wynn Jr. on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
“The DOJ Honors Program represents a plum entry-level position for our graduates,” said Assistant Dean Stella Boswell, who directs the Office of Public Interest Advising within the Career Center as well as the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono. “Many Honors Program positions have been cut in recent years and so they are particularly selective, demanding highly detailed applications and comprehensive resumes. We are delighted for Devon who worked exceptionally hard to qualify for the position.” Boswell said she is also grateful to the various members of the faculty and alumni community who helped guide Damiano through the hiring process.
Damiano is certain that her dual degrees and the practical experience she gained in the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic helped advance her application to the DOJ. “When you go into an area like environmental law, it’s important to understand the scientific and technical aspects of the case,” she said. “My Nicholas School classes helped. And having worked on cases in active litigation with top environmental lawyers will help me hit the ground running.”
In the clinic, a partnership between the Law and Nicholas Schools, Damiano worked with Clinical Professor Ryke Longest on a challenge before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the relicensing of four Alcoa dams on North Carolina’s Yadkin River, and with Supervising Attorney Michelle Nowlin JD/MA ’92 in preparing a complaint and negotiating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered butterfly species in the Florida Keys. Damiano, who gained further exposure to environmental law and policy through an externship at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said that both clinic cases helped her learn about the complex regulatory issues involved in environmental law and came up in the course of her DOJ interview. Both Longest and Nowlin supported her Honors Program application.
In her first year at Duke, Damiano was connected with DOJ attorney Patrick Duggan JD/MA ’10 through the Office of Public Interest Advising’s alumni outreach program. She kept in touch with Duggan, an Environmental and Natural Resources Division prosecutor and an Honors Program alumnus, throughout law school and beyond. “Patrick has been a sounding board during the entire application process and introduced me to other alumni in his division,” she said. “That alumni network has been an incredible help, as has all the advice Michelle Nowlin has offered through the application process.”
Alumni are crucial to helping Duke Law students find a path to a practice that best suits them, Boswell said.
“More than ever, we count on our alumni to educate our students and our staff about opportunities in their particular agencies, nonprofits, and fields, about their work, about job openings, and about how a student can stand out in the hiring process,” she said.
Damiano, who held a second-year externship on the Fourth Circuit, credits her current clerkship with Judge Wynn and a prior one with Judge Francis Allegra of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., with helping hone her legal writing and litigation skills. And because all cases in the Court of Federal Claims involve DOJ attorneys, while there she was able to observe them in court, and also to build connections with judges and former clerks.