World of Work: Scott Whitted ’74, Deputy Chief, District Court Litigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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Scott Whitted ’74
Deputy Chief, District Court Litigation Division, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
United States Government, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Williston, VT

Major: Political Science

What type of law do you practice and how did you choose that?
I’ve practiced civil law for my entire career, including private practice, with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and now at one of the agencies in the Department of Homeland Security. I’ve never been a full-time litigator, but before I started my federal job I spent some time in court, especially when I was in the Attorney General’s office. Although criminal law and criminal procedure were interesting classes in law school, I never wanted to practice criminal law. Civil law held more appeal for me.

What surprised you about law school and/or the practice of law?
One big surprise was how poorly many lawyers write. The textbooks for most law school courses are compilations of judges’ decisions that often are not well written. They tend to be too long and full of obscure language. Law students copy the style, which perpetuates bad writing. In addition, practicing law can be a real grind, with much tedium and little glamour. There are rarely quick resolutions to legal problems.

What changes have you seen in the legal job market?
With the current economy, the competition for jobs is heightened. It’s a buyer’s market right now. My office recently advertised for four openings and we received dozens of applications.

What advice would you have for students interested in a career in law?  What should they be doing now?
Take college classes that encourage you to think critically and analytically. Those skills will help you to identify problems (“issue spotting”) and develop realistic solutions, which are important aspects of a lawyer’s job. Also, learn to write clearly and concisely. Lawyers do a lot of writing, and unfortunately many lawyers do not write well.

In addition, don’t be afraid to work for a few years before you go to law school. Not only may you be able to save some money toward law school, but you’ll have the benefit of experience in the “real world” before you return to academia. Admittedly, I may be partial to this approach because I worked for five years between UVM and law school.

Internship of the Month: Federal Public Defenders Office

Chris Minott

Intern: Chris Minott
Class Year: 2012
Major: Economics
Employer: Federal Public Defenders Office
Position: Investigator Assistant
LinkedIn Profile:

How would you describe the various projects you did in for your organization someone who is unfamiliar with your field?

As an Investigative Assistant at the Federal Public Defender’s Office, my role was to help investigate the clients that the Federal Public Defenders represent. Investigating our clients required requesting information related to medical and criminal histories from various hospitals, substance abuse centers, courts, and summarizing client information and key findings. This information was used to decide what the best way to serve our clients might be. I also assisted clients during their supervised release period, a post-incarceration period when clients must adhere to conditions, including a permanent residence, drug counseling (if the crime was drug related), and informing a parole officer on any changes in location. I would help research potential residences where clients could stay, substance abuse centers where clients could do their counseling, and exact requirements for what a client had to report to a parole officer. Some of the work I did was more mundane and included data entry, filing, and copying. To balance out these activities, I was allowed to observe various criminal proceedings in the federal courthouse and sit in on client interviews.

What did you like best about this internship? What was most challenging?

What I liked best was a conference the Federal Public Defenders hosted to discuss legal defense strategies for child pornography and human trafficking cases. Through this one conference I was able to learn a lot about criminal law and the thinking behind many of the motions and appeals I had been reading throughout my time at the office.

The most challenging part of working for the Federal Public Defenders was learning about the hardships some of our clients have suffered. All of our clients are indigent, so they face some degree of financial hardship, but beyond financial hardship, some of our clients have come from abusive households and other suffer crippling addictions. To see that some of our clients have suffered so much and continue to face great hardship was tough to handle.

How did you gain credit for this internship?

I got credit for my internship through a service-learning course (EDSS 239). The course met periodically throughout the semester and required essays designed to integrate internships with supplemental readings. Credit is based on how many hours you work and how many essays you are contract to write.

What impact did this internship have on your career direction?

My internship had a large impact on my career direction. Before my time with the Federal Public Defender’s Office I was struggling with whether or not I wanted to go to law school. After completing my internship, I know I want to go to law school. Seeing how the criminal justice system works and seeing how I could impact the world I live in with a legal education has made me realize that a career in law is what I am interested in pursuing.

What advice do you have for students searching for internships?

Look for an internship where you will be doing things that push you out of your comfort zone. I didn’t necessarily want to be in a position where I had to interact with clients and their family members (both of whom who were going through a very hard time) but now that I have, I am grateful for the experience and can appreciate how ‘eye opening’ is was.

Why should students do an internship?

Internships are a great way to see if a career path you are interested in is actually what you want to do. Also, if a student’s internship turns out to be in the field where that student wants to pursue a career, an internship also offers valuable contacts. Finally, internships offer a nice transition from school to the working world where one can learn how to act in an office setting and get used to the 9-5 grind.

World of Work: Catlin O'Neill '99, Deputy Director of Legislative Operations for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Catlin will be the Keynote Speaker at the Washington D.C. Career Networking Night on June 6, 2011. Register online and learn more about the 30+ alumni networkers here.

Catlin O'Neill '99

Catlin O’Neill ’99

Deputy Director of Legislative Operations for Office of the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi

Washington, D.C.

Major: Sociology; Mass Communication & Culture

How would you describe what you do on a typical day?

I would first say, I don’t have a “typical” day. I spend a great deal of time trying to stay on top of current events – political, national and international – as they unfold while simultaneously doing my job. I work in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives – also known as the “Floor”. Predominantly, I act as a resource for Members of Congress on legislation considered by the House, the subsequent votes and the rules/procedures of the House. Further, I serve as a liaison between the Leader’s office and the Republican Leadership, their staff, the White House legislative staff, the Democratic Caucus, the Senate Leadership staff, the Officers of the House and the Parliamentarians.

What advice do you have for students searching for jobs or internships in your field?

There are several things that I would suggest to students interested in pursuing a career in public service. People often get involved because they are inspired by a candidate or elected official or cause. It is important to develop yourself as a resource – a willingness to get the job done regardless of the task or the time. Try to identify opportunities that diversify your skill set and further the cause. Read everything in order to develop an awareness of the nuances in politics/policy. A depth of knowledge increases confidence and ability. You can increase your value by recognizing that the government is a 24/7 operation made up of people, not unlike yourself, that need questions answered or problems solved in a timely fashion – to that end, be accommodating and responsive. Lastly, it never hurts to expand your network of contacts – ultimately government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

What three words describe your work environment?

Significant. Spirited. Inspiring.

Describe your best day at work.

I had three extraordinary days at work:

  1. January 4th, 2007 – the Swearing-In of the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
  2. January 20th, 2009 – the Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama.
  3. March 21, 2010 – the passage of Health Care reform.

What was your childhood dream job?

As a child I wanted to be a marine biologist…then I took biology.

If you’re interested in seeing all our World of Work profiles, click here. If you are a UVM alumnus and would like to be featured, please contact us at If you are interested in contacting a featured alum, check out the Career Connection alumni database or contact us.

Expand your professional network this summer! – DC Career Networking Night 6/6/11!

Thinking about internship or career opportunities in Washington, DC? This summer, get advice from successful UVM alumni on careers and the job search in Washington, DC!

Washington, DC Career Networking Night
Monday, June 6, 6:15-9:00pm

National Association of Homebuilders
15th and M Streets N.W., Washington, DC

Connect one-on-one with alumni from a variety of career fields:

Marketing / Research
Politics & Law
Nonprofit / International
Business / Entrepreneurship
Education . . . and more!

Keynote Speaker: Catlin O’Neill ’99, Deputy Director of Legislative Operations for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Learn about the 30 additional alumni networkers here: Washington, DC Career Networking Night

$10 Registration Fee  –  Light Refreshments  –  Professional Dress

Register TODAY: or call 1-888-458-8691.

World of Work: Allie Tompkins '10, National Prison Project Intern for the ACLU Foundation

Allie Tompkins '10

Allie Tompkins ’10

National Prison Project Intern for the ACLU Foundation

Washington, DC

Major: Political Science/Global Studies

How would you describe what you do on a typical day?

As an intern, I come into the office 5 days a week for a half day. I answer letters from inmates writing the prison project for assistance, and I work with a paralegal to do research on policy and prison programs for the attorneys on staff at the National Prison Project.

What advice do you have for students searching for jobs or internships in your field?

Look for the jobs that really speak to what you are interested in. I applied to a ton of internships, but the two places I received offers from were the places I was most passionate about working at. I think this really stood out on my cover letter and during my interviews.

What motivates you to go to work every day for this organization?

Even though I’m an unpaid intern, I’m motivated to go to work every day because the ACLU puts into action what I was most passionate about learning at UVM, Constiutional Law. In our project, we represent prisoners and provide them with information. I think this is important because they are a truly underrepresented part of society and it requires a lot of viligance to make sure that their rights are being upheld in prison.

How did your time at UVM, both in and out of the classroom, prepare you for your position?

At UVM I became really interested in Constitutional Law, and the ACLU is one of the best places to gain experience in this field. During my interview the attorney I spoke with was very happy that I knew a lot about the federal courts appointment process, something that we spent a lot of time on in my Political Science senior seminar. Outside of the classroom at UVM, meeting so many critical thinkers and people who are willing to question the status quo and ask important questions has really influenced the way that I understand what I do at my internship and how I interact with the other people at my job.

What was your childhood dream job?

My childhood dream job was a Marine Biologist (wasn’t that everyone’s dream job at some point?), somewhere along the way I also wanted to be a doctor.

If you’re interested in seeing all our World of Work profiles, click here. If you are a UVM alumnus and would like to be featured, please contact us at If you are interested in contacting a featured alum, check out the Career Connection alumni database or contact us.