UM Law Student Spends Summer at NOAA

horn_thumbLearning about the endangerment of leatherback turtles may not have been what Leigh Horn expected when she began Law School, but it’s one of the many things she experienced as an intern in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) General Counsel’s office. The highly competitive internship took place this summer in Silver Spring, Maryland at the NOAA headquarters.

Horn, a third year law student, was not always interested in environmental law, but after taking a few courses, she found her passion in Ocean and Coastal Law and began considering a career in it.


NOAA Headquarters

“I took Professor Stephanie Showalter Otts’ class, Ocean and Coastal Law, on a whim, and I really enjoyed it,” she explained. “Then, I took Water Law from Professor Catherine Janasie. NOAA came up all the time in both of those classes.”

Both Otts and Janasie’s classes peaked her interest, so Horn took an independent study class with Otts and began focusing on water law. She applied for the NOAA internship expecting not to hear back from them. Horn was chosen as the intern for the Fisheries and Protected Resources section of the General Counsel office. Because the internship was unpaid, she worked with Hans Sinha, director of the Clinical Externship Program, to receive class credit for her internship.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Horn. “I learned a lot about how the federal government works and all these interesting things that NOAA does.”

One of the most interesting experiences was working with Congress.

“We took statutes that Congress had recently passed, and it was the Agency’s job to take it and turn it into regulation,” said Horn. “They work with a group of NOAA policy makers and scientists as well as the General Counsel’s office to form concrete regulations to accomplish the goals of the statute.

“We also met with ambassadors from other countries on international fishery issues. If a country is not following the fisheries regulations that they are supposed to, we can have trade sanctions against them.”

Otts hopes that other students interested in ocean and coastal law will be inspired by Horn’s story to work hard and secure an internship.

“Pursuing a career in ocean and coastal law is challenging. Students must master complex scientific and legal concepts and break into a small network of employers,” said Otts, director of the National Sea Grant Law Center. “Here at the National Sea Grant Law Center, we are always encouraging our students to tackle those challenges and helping them follow their passions.

“Leigh worked hard during her second year to build a resume that would be attractive to the agencies and organizations that the Law Center works with. It was very exciting to see that hard work rewarded with a summer internship in NOAA General Counsel’s office.”