Learning “the law” in law school is one thing, but practicing law for the Corps of Engineers is another. So the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Savannah District Office of Counsel now has four attorneys that arrived as part of the Chief Counsel Civilian Honors Program.
The program recruits high-performing students in their third year of law school, Master of Laws candidates, as well as those completing judicial clerkships, and puts them in entry level legal positions within the Corps.
“All of our Honors Program alumni are bright, talented, personable young people,” said Connie Baran, Savannah District deputy district counsel. “All four attorneys have successfully made a difference to our office from the day they arrived.”
Phillip Paradise, who supports the Counsel’s real estate practice, is currently the district’s longest tenured program alumni, having graduated in 2011.
“As an honors attorney you have an opportunity to learn a little bit about everything. Our new attorneys come out with law school experience but the law as it applies to the Corps is so unique,” said Paradise.
“We’re told in law school that, ‘Your technical experts will give you the information!’” Paradise exclaimed. “Well, we work in a building full of technical experts, and one of the things people working with new attorneys can do to help them is by explaining how we all fit together and what everyone’s role is in the process, which is key to a project’s success.”
Philip Olsen and Allie Vandivier, who work with real estate and contracting respectively, both came to Savannah in 2017, and Madeline Crocker, the district’s newest attorney, has been learning the regulatory practice since August 2018.
John Ballard, assistant district counsel, who’s been mentoring Crocker since her arrival, is impressed by her progress. “The typical law school education does not really prepare a new lawyer for the practice of regulatory law in the federal government but Madeline is quickly catching on to the district's regulatory program.”
Crocker and the other alumni are embracing working for the Corps.
“It has been interesting and challenging learning about the Corps programs,” said Crocker. “I interned in law school with other agencies and knew I wanted to work for the federal government but I was especially drawn to the Corps' environmental missions.”
As Paradise explains, being an attorney for the Corps of Engineers is unlike practicing law anywhere else.
“You work on these projects for an extended period of time and actually see something built, as opposed to just litigating for some amount of money…and that has been very rewarding for me,” said Paradise.