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2018 Honors Attorneys

Pictured from left to right:  Celeste Borjas, Allison Hendrickson, Jay Payne, Faris Mohammed, Emily Jessup, and Eric Knapp.

Celeste Borjas graduated from Marquette University Law School. She clerked for the Honorable JoAnne Kloppenburg at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.  She received a B.A. in Political Science from Illinois Wesleyan University.  Celeste’s legal experience includes working for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Enforcement Division; Wisconsin Supreme Court; Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Inc.; State Farm Insurance, Inc.; and World Relief.

I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to begin my career as a DOT Honors Attorney. In my first year in the Honors Attorney Program, I completed rotations in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Office of General Counsel, Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings. In each of these rotations, I was entrusted with significant responsibility over a variety of matters, including initiating an investigation into commercial air transportation operations and providing technical expertise to AUSAs prosecuting transportation crimes. At the same time, the Honors Attorney Program offered weekly lunches with senior leaders, the opportunity to join various Departmental practices groups, and participation in several mentorship programs. This combination of talent development and challenging opportunities was invaluable to me. I would highly recommend the DOT Honors Attorney Program.  

Allie Hendrickson graduated from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She received a B.A. in English with a minor in French from Indiana University, Bloomington. Allie’s legal experience includes working for Judge James Worton presiding over Bartholomew County Superior Court I, Indiana University Student Legal Services, and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Being part of the DOT Honors Attorney Program has been my best career decision since graduating law school. Having completed an internship at the FRA while in law school, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect in terms of the legal work DOT had to offer after I graduated. I was surprised to learn how much more there actually was. In just one year, I gained experience in conducting niche legal research, crafting creative legal arguments, collaborating with attorneys and non-attorneys, analyzing and taking ownership of enforcement cases, and practicing oral advocacy. It doesn’t matter what kind of legal work you’re looking for, you can find it at DOT. And if you’re not sure what kind of legal work you’re looking for, the Honors Attorney Program gives you the opportunity to explore a variety of areas and find where you fit. One of the most beneficial aspects of the program, for me, was feeling free to try out different types of legal work in the form of meaningful, substantial experience without worrying about committing to one area prematurely. Another advantage of having been part of the program is the network of support and resources I got out of it. Being a new attorney is sometimes difficult and the learning curve is steep, but I always felt like I had people to reach out to when I felt stuck or overwhelmed. Whether it was my fellow Honors Attorneys, former Honors Attorneys who now work throughout the Department, or the people I met during my rotations, the mentorships and relationships I built during my time in the program are invaluable.

Emily Jessup graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law. She received a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia. Emily’s legal experience includes working for the Charlotte City Attorney's Office and the Orange County Attorney’s Office.

The DOT Honors Attorney Program is an excellent way to begin a legal career in the Federal government. The rotational aspect of the program enables new attorneys to try various kinds of legal work (regulatory, enforcement, etc.)  and experience different work environments (many attorneys, few attorneys, hands on supervisors, etc.) all within the first few years of practice. I completed rotations with the Federal Transit Administration, the Office of the General Counsel – Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, and the Office of Inspector General. I found this variety of experience to be immensely helpful in identifying the aspects of a work environment that are important to me, as well honing in on the kind of work I enjoy doing. In addition, as an Honors Attorney I was able to interact with attorneys and senior leaders from across the Department. I have already found these connections and friendships to be invaluable in expanding my knowledge base and providing insight that I might otherwise lack, especially as I now start my permanent position with the Federal Transit Administration. I cannot recommend this program enough as I truly believe I am set up for long-term success in my career because of it.

Eric Knapp graduated from Duke University School of Law. He received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Religion from the University of Mary Washington. Eric’s legal experience includes working for Legal Counsel for the Elderly; the Federal Communications Commission, Wireline Competition Bureau; and the Federal Trade Commission, Competition Bureau.

I am very happy to have participated in DOT’s Honors Attorney Program. I came into the program knowing that I was dedicated to public service and highly interested in policymaking, law and economics, and litigation. Throughout my three rotations—Federal Railroad Administration’s General and Safety Law Divisions, Federal Aviation Administration’s Litigation Division, and DOT’s Office of General Counsel’s General Law Division—I received exposure to all my interests while handling legal issues that ranged from minor to major importance. Each of my rotations challenged me to better my legal writing, research, creative thinking, and communication skills. As a DOT Honors Attorney, I found all the lawyers across all the modes, from line attorneys to chief counsels, to be very welcoming and always willing to provide professional advice and mentoring. I cannot speak more highly of the program that has exposed me to a variety of legal work, from regulations to appropriations law to tort liability, for sundry client across DOT. The DOT’s Honors Attorney Program has been an excellent starting platform for my legal career.

Faris Mohammed graduated from Emory Law School.  He received a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Faris’ legal experience includes working for the California Attorney General’s Office, Natural Resources Section; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The DOT Honors Attorney Program is a challenging and rewarding experience that transforms law school graduates into newly minted legal professionals. Over the course of the program, Honors Attorneys rotate to different offices within DOT. I completed four-month rotations in the Office of the General Counsel, the Maritime Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration. Each rotation presented new opportunities for professional growth, as I interacted with my client offices and confronted challenging legal issues. Despite the rigor of the Honors Program, I never felt unprepared to provide legal advice or tackle complex issues. The Program’s coordinators went out of their way countless times to make sure I had every tool to not only succeed in each rotation, but to grow and develop my own legal style. The DOT Honors Program is the perfect first step for someone who is eager to learn and ready for an exciting legal career.

Jay Payne graduated from The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.  He received a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.  Jay’s legal experience includes working for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of the Chief Counsel, Airport and Environmental Law Division; DOT’s Office of General Counsel, Office of Regulation (C-50); and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

I can’t imagine a better way to start a legal career.  The U.S. DOT’s Honors Attorney Program allowed me to practice law in a wide variety of subject-matters, explore multiple industries and technologies, develop my leadership abilities, and identify my professional interests.  My highlights within the Program include: (1) brief writing at the U.S. Court of Appeals, sitting second chair at the U.S. District Court, and attending D.C. Circuit oral arguments and DOJ moot courts; (2) conducing a regulatory compliance review of a Level 4 autonomous vehicle (i.e., a vehicle with no steering wheel, gas pedal, or brake pedal); (3) shepherding regulations through the Agency, Department, and OMB review process; and (4) authoring and reviewing proposed legislation and attending Congressional hearings.  The Department’s support of the Program ensured that we received the training, guidance, and feedback necessary to excel as administrative attorneys.