UC Hastings Student Tapped for U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program

Each year, thousands of students and clerks apply for relatively few new positions as an Honors Attorney at the Department of Justice. This year, 3L Samantha Ricci entered this highly competitive field and was awarded one of only four positions available in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) at the DOJ.

“I am really excited to have landed my dream job,” says Samantha. “The DOJ requires a three-year commitment but this is a career I could see myself in for many years thereafter.”

The ENRD is the premier environmental litigation firm in the country. It is primarily responsible for bringing cases against those who violate civil and criminal environmental pollution-control laws, defending environmental challenges to government programs and activities, and representing the United States in matters concerning natural resources and public lands. There are nine different sections within the division that tackle every legal issue from enforcement and defense to land acquisition and marine resources.

Samantha was chosen to participate in this program because of her strong environmental background, which she credits to her mentorship from “amazing” Professors Gail Silverstein and David Takacs. “I came to law school wanting to pursue a career in environmental litigation after spending a summer working on environmental sustainability in the Maasai Mara in Kenya,” says Samantha. “Our environment and natural resources impact every single person, so I feel passionate about being able to make a difference in this area.”

Samantha has also been dedicated to public service both before and during her time at UC Hastings. She interned on Capitol Hill for Senator Barbara Boxer, spent her 1L summer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters in DC, and worked at the state level in the legal division at the California Public Utilities Commission. “I truly feel that there is nothing better than to give back through public service and doing so through the lens of environmental law is where I can make the biggest impact,” says Samantha.

Another key factor that set Samantha apart from other law student applicants across the country is her persistent hard work. “Samantha is a fine student and a lovely human being,” says Professor Takacs. “I’m guessing so were many of the other applicants to this DOJ program, but what made me most proud of Samantha was her moxie in approaching this opportunity. She studied her brains out, did multiple practice interviews, contacted supportive UC Hastings grads, and just went for it with all the diligence she could muster!”

Samantha will begin her position at the DOJ on the third week of September. Honors Attorneys are expected to hit the ground running and she should begin arguing cases in state and federal court on her own by January of next year.

About the Attorney General’s Honors Program

Since 1953, the Attorney General’s Honors Program has been recognized as the nation’s premier entry-level federal attorney recruitment program. Selections are made based on many elements of a candidate’s background, including a demonstrated commitment to government service, academic achievement, leadership, journal, moot court and mock trial experience, clinical experience, past employment, and extracurricular activities that relate to the work of Justice and the relevant component.