By Allison Tinsey, L'18
Juneau, Alaska, is over 3,800 miles from Richmond. Anchorage is an 850-mile drive (plus a ferry ride) to the northwest. It's a long way from their east-coast homes for two Richmond Law students who have made their temporary homes in the “Last Frontier” state, honing their legal skills with summer internships.
"Alaska is like no other place," said Trevor Soderholm, a student from Leesburg, Va. "Every time I come here I don't want to leave." On this trip to Alaska, Soderholm has interned for the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG Corps), the legal branch of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy. "I used to be in the Army, so JAG was an obvious option," he said. "I help soldiers and airmen with various legal issues, ranging from wills and family law to landlord-tenant and financial issues," said Soderholm.
Christian Tucker "had no previous experience with Alaska, and didn't have any connections to the state before I took the job." This summer, the Pennsylvania native is an intern at Trustees for Alaska, a nonprofit firm with a concentration on environmental law. "My focus so far in law school has been environmental law, and I can't think of a better place to practice than Alaska."
There’s no typical day on the job for Tucker. "My assignments have varied from [Freedom of Information Act] requests, research memos, drafting comments on environmental impact statements, drafting motions, evaluating potential claims, and dealing with the whole alphabet of federal environmental laws."
Both students pointed out that environmental and Native American law are particularly prevalent in Alaskan courts. "Alaska has some of the most pristine natural resources in the country and is one of the few places left where people can truly live off of the land," said Tucker. "This creates a huge need to balance the exploitation of these resources and the preservation for future generations."
Armed with their new legal experiences, Tucker and Soderholm will return to Richmond Law this fall for their third year. After graduation, both hope to capitalize on their experiences in Alaska in their legal careers.
"This internship has supplemented my professional skills and exposed me to a broad array of law,” said Soderholm, whose post-grad plans include being a JAG Corps officer in the Army Reserves and working in real estate law.
Working for the Trustees for Alaska was Tucker's first time using legal and political strategies for advocacy work. "The strategic element to advocacy will have a lasting impact on my future work when it comes to claim evaluation and client identification," he said. Tucker plans to pursue a career in environmental law.
For those who may be hesitant to pursue a career or opportunity across the country, the Alaska interns had some advice: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it," said Tucker. "I spoke with Professor [Corinna] Lain when I was considering my job offer, and she told me that this kind of opportunity is something that really only comes around once and to just go for it. I'm very glad I listened to her."
"I would encourage prospective students not to limit themselves to a particular geographic region when it comes to summer work," said Soderholm. "[Your] summer internship is sure to lay down some of the foundational building blocks of your career, even if the geographic region or practice area completely differs from where you end up."
(Pictured above are Christian Tucker (left) and Trevor Soderholm.)