The Attorney General’s Honors Program
The mission of the Antitrust Division is to promote fair and open competition and protect American consumers and businesses through the enforcement of the antitrust laws. The key to accomplishing this mission is the Division’s outstanding staff.
The Antitrust Division seeks to attract, recruit, hire, and retain a highly qualified and productive workforce reflecting our nation’s rich diversity. The Division believes that a culture of inclusion, in which all Division employees are encouraged to develop and thrive professionally, will most effectively enhance its ability to promote a vibrant and competitive economy, to the benefit of American consumers.
The Justice Department takes pride in the fact that it considers the “whole candidate” when making selections for employment. Selections are made based on many elements of a candidate’s background, including a demonstrated commitment to government service, academic achievement, leadership, law review or moot court experience, legal aid and clinical experience, past employment, and extracurricular activities that relate to the work of the Department and the relevant component. Selectees represent diverse backgrounds and interests, and come from law schools throughout the country.
The Honors Program is the only vehicle through which the Division hires entry-level attorneys and the Division is highly selective. For more information, see the Attorney General’s Honors Program at Justice.gov.
2011 Honors Program attorneys are (L-R) Katrina Rouse, Jennifer Hane, Susan Musser, Soyoung (Jenny) Choe, John Newman, Matthew Mandelberg, Nikhil Pyati, Diana Kane, Anuparna Sawkar, Joseph Vardner, Kayna Stavast-Piper, Stephen Yelderman, and David Lawrence.
Q-and-A with Antitrust Division Honors Attorneys
The following is a brief conversation with Kayna Stavast-Piper, a trial attorney in the Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, and David Lawrence, a trial attorney in the Telecommunications and Media Enforcement Section. Both attorneys joined the Division in October of 2011 through the Justice Department’s Honors Program. They shared their experiences of working at the Division and discussed their backgrounds.
Q: What is the main appeal of working for the Department and the Antitrust Division?
Stavast-Piper: For me, it’s really the excitement of getting up every day to represent the United States. It’s great to have that public service focus. Also, as the Division’s attorney, you get to work on interesting litigation and cases in a lot of different places for the American people.
Lawrence: I agree. As the Division’s attorney, I can focus on working for justice and American consumers. Wearing the government hat is a big perk.
Q: What are some interesting cases on which you have worked?
Stavast-Piper: The investigation into Google Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Admeld was interesting. It was focused on the online display advertising which most people encounter every day, but I initially did not know much about it. I conducted interviews and worked on the closing memo.
I also worked on the AT&T matter for a month. I worked with an attorney from the Civil Division and others who were not in my section. It was a great opportunity to quickly get to know other attorneys in the Division and the Department. I reviewed and edited expert reports and created digests for several depositions that had taken place. I learned a lot about the facts of the case through that project and became familiar with people’s different deposition styles.
Lawrence: Soon after I joined the Division, I was assigned to the AT&T matter. I worked on drafting court documents and doing legal research. It was a small team of people getting the documents ready for the court filing. In a case of this magnitude, I had to pay extra attention to every single detail. To be working on such a big case right after I started my job was a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’ll have an experience like that again in my career.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about working for the Division?
Stavast-Piper: It is fascinating to get an inside view of an industry by talking to people who have had years of experience and are decision makers in that industry. You learn about their motivations and why things work the way they do. It’s really cool to get such a specific and valid inside view of how things work in a specific market.
Lawrence: I really like working with opposing counsel. The kind of investigations that we do requires a lot of back and forth with counsel for the parties, on topics ranging from CID negotiations to what other information might be helpful. It’s interesting. It’s not a dynamic in which I had any experience, so I feel like I’m learning a lot from those interactions.
Also, I really like the collaborative atmosphere in the Division. People are professional as well as friendly. People are willing to sit and chat about a case. For example, you can just pop into someone’s office and start talking about some issues in the case and have a good discussion. I do appreciate that.
Stavast-Piper: That’s right. Whether it’s the law or the facts of the case or how things work within the Division or the history of the parties, you can learn so much in an informal, “pop-down-the-hallway-and-ask-a-question” setting in the Division. The attorneys are very willing to answer your questions and give background or feedback. Particularly during the summer when I interned here and was doing a lot of writing, the attorneys with whom I was working went through draft after draft after draft in a painstaking review of my writing. And it was tremendously helpful. Having that feedback was invaluable.
Q: How did you become interested in antitrust law?
Stavast-Piper: In the fall of the second year in law school, the Networks and Technology Enforcement Section attorney Travis Chapman came and gave a presentation about the Division’s work generally. As an economics major, I found the topic interesting. Also, I took two semesters of antitrust law classes, and I really enjoyed them.
Lawrence: Although I didn’t take any antitrust class, I did a lot on law and economics in school. So, I didn’t know much about antitrust at all, but then in my district clerkship, I happened to have to deal with a private antitrust case involving the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936. It was an interesting case, and I ended up working on it a lot and it piqued my interest in antitrust law.
Q: What experience and background do you think made you an attractive honors attorney candidate?
Stavast-Piper: Something that came up in both of my interviews with the Division was having a demonstrated commitment to public interest. For example, I was a public interest coordinator for the student public interest groups at my school. Additionally, all of my internships as well as pro bono clinic experience were in public service.
Lawrence: You would have to ask the people who hired me (laugh). Well, I didn’t have the antitrust background, but I think my heavy focus in economics both in law school and college made me stand out. For example, I did a lot of labor law in law school in areas such as union and industrial economics. So, perhaps the recruiters saw an overlap there and figured that I could do antitrust. Having an economics background is important since we constantly work with economists on matters. Also, having strong academic credentials and clerkship experiences helped in my case.
Q: Did you participate in any summer internships or judicial clerkships prior to joining the Division?
Stavast-Piper: After the first year in law school, I worked for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma’s family law section, dealing with victim’s protective orders, bankruptcy, and eviction. After the second year, I participated in the Justice Department’s Summer Law Intern Program and spent the summer working in the Networks and Technology Enforcement Section of the Antitrust Division. During the semesters, I also interned at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and the appellate section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Lawrence: During the first summer in law school, I worked for the Rhode Island Public Defender’s appellate section. It was an interesting experience learning about the State’s criminal system and supreme court. During the following summer, I worked as a summer associate at Ropes & Gray LLC’s Boston office. After law school, I clerked for two years—one in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the other in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Q: Do you have a role model whom you admire in the legal field?
Stavast-Piper: I don’t have anyone in particular whom I see as a specific mentor in the antitrust field; but as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of attorneys in the Division who are great role models and are willing to help you out and have great expertise in different areas. So there are a lot of people whom I’d consider as my role models and mentors within the Division.
Lawrence: Both of the judges for whom I clerked. They have had a big influence on me and are important mentors to me.
Q: What do you think you’ll be doing in ten years?
Stavast-Piper: I look forward to taking advantage of the rotational/detail programs and possibly go to other sections and offices and develop different skills. There is so much opportunity for growth here, and being able to learn a lot in this environment is great.
Lawrence: I am really just focused on being here and making the most of the opportunities that the Division affords me. As young attorneys, we enjoy a lot of opportunity for training and career development within the Division.
Q: What advice do you have to those who wish to join the Division through the honors program?
Stavast-Piper: It’s important to do the best you can wherever you are. It’s important to get a great education, take classes with great professors, get involved in the law journal and take many opportunities to build connections. Also, I say this to any law student: take law school as an opportunity to purposefully develop the skills that you know you’re lacking.
Lawrence: If you have a vision of what you want to do, do things that look like that in law school because you’ll learn whether you really like that and you’ll gain skills and experiences that reflect your interest and that you can talk about during your job interviews. For example, if you want to work in the Government, find inroads in demonstrating interest in government service and public interest. I knew a lot of people in law school who wanted to do “A” but they were just moving along the path that everyone else in law school followed and wound up with a resume that didn’t really look like “A.” So, get vested in things that interest you in law school instead of what you think you’re supposed to do.
Q: Where did you go to law school? Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
Stavast-Piper: I went to the University of Oklahoma for both undergrad and law school. I was an economics and psychology major in college.
Lawrence: I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and New York University School of Law. I majored in physics in college.