Internships/Externships

Haley Varnadoe
Summer 2020
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Haley Varnadoe Headshot

2L Haley Varnadoe is from Marietta, Ohio, and earned her Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Haley knew from a young age that she cared deeply about environmental causes and sought out experiences in the political and philanthropic realms before and during college. In college, she interned with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), a nonprofit organization focused on preserving and promoting philanthropy in the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. At FAO, Haley interned under the Foundation’s in-house counsel. She had always wanted to be a lawyer, especially since she grew up in an area with considerable pollution and environmental issues that needed regulation and remediation. 

When choosing a law school, Haley wanted a school with a strong environmental and natural resource program. She also had lots of family in Texas that were Aggies who encouraged her to come to Texas. While Texas is very different from Ohio and Kentucky, Haley said that Fort Worth has been a fun change. “[Fort Worth] feels like a great mix of big city and small city. I love the atmosphere. I also was looking forward to warmer weather.” Before beginning at Texas A&M, Haley spent the summer working at the Grand Canyon. 

During her 1L year, Haley attended the Environmental, Energy, and Natural Resource Systems Law Program (EENRSLP) networking events where the Program raffled off invitations to networking luncheons with local lawyers and law firms. Haley won an invitation to attend a Dallas Bar Association’s Energy Section CLE where she was able to network with numerous energy law practitioners. After attending the event, Haley reached out to Professor Gabriel Eckstein for advice on revamping her resume and cover letter in preparation for summer 2020 internship applications.

Among the various opportunities Haley applied for was the Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program (MLEIP) at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The MLEIP places students, both undergraduate, graduate, and law students, in full-time paid summer internships with the TCEQ. Through the program, Haley was placed in  TCEQ’s Office of Legal Services for ten weeks. During her time there, she conducted regulatory and case law research, attended public meetings and contested case hearings, worked on enforcement matters, and wrote numerous legal research memos for staff attorneys. With the rise of the COVID pandemic, Haley said that TCEQ worked quickly to adapt to the new situation, and she applauded their rapid transition to a virtual environment. “I was not sure what to expect, but they moved to a virtual internship quickly and still incorporated as many virtual networking events as possible,” Haley remarked.

Next summer, Haley plans to work with the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) with the Office of the Texas Attorney General. Haley met with EPD attorneys during some of the networking events organized by the TCEQ. She then followed up by expressing interest in the EPD’s program and ended up lining up a job for next summer.

Jaime Villarreal
Summer 2020
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Dallas, Texas

Jaime Villereal Headshot

Jaime Villarreal is a 3L at Texas A&M University School of Law. Before law school, he graduated from the University of Texas, Austin, then spent five years working for the Texas House of Representatives under Representative Eddie Lucio III. Jaime spent a large portion of that time working with the House Natural Resources committee focusing on water rights, groundwater permitting, and access to public utilities. He also received a lot of exposure to state water resource issues as well as public policy. In law school, Jaime has continued to focus primarily on those areas, which has driven his choice of internships.

This past summer, Jaime worked with Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Dallas. Jaime received this internship as a part of the State Bar of Texas’ Environmental and Natural Resource Law Section internship program. The program is open to law students who have a passion for environmental and natural resource law and provide them with internships at one of Texas’ eight natural resource-based agencies.

Since EPA Region 6 does a lot of work with hazardous waste generators, such as paper mills that produce large amounts of hazardous materials, much of Jaime’s work involved the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  However, he also worked on issues related to the regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) permitting and agricultural exemptions. Moreover, because Region 6 encompasses Oklahoma, he gained some experience with environmental regulation enforcement on tribal lands, which he said he especially enjoyed because tribal lands have their own environmental schemes that are different from those applied by the federal government.

Despite the challenges with the COVID outbreak, Jaime explained that he was still able to have a complete internship experience. While at the EPA, Jaime observed meetings with utilities and individuals subject to EPA regulation. In these meetings, during which the EPA compliance department would meet with regulated parties to explain their mistakes made by these groups regarding their compliance failures to comply with federal regulations like the Clean Water Act.

Jaime explained that he very much appreciated his time at the EPA despite not being able to go into the office. He said that “the class that was most helpful to my work was Agricultural Law with Professor Bradbury, especially when it came to the regulation of CAFOs.” Now that he’s back in school, Jaime has taken International Environmental Law, where he sees a lot of overlap between other countries' environmental schemes and our own. He explained that other countries are “so influenced by regulatory systems” that EPA has established an international law office. Looking forward, Jaime hopes to continue working in the water law field. Long term, his interest lies in resuming state work, whether through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Water Development Board, or with a state representative. This time, he looks forward to bringing his law school approach to the natural resources field.

Sarah TurnerSarah Turner
Finley Resources, Inc.



Sarah TurnerSarah Turner

Sarah Turner (2L) works as a legal intern at Finley Resources, Inc., an oil and gas company with mineral interests and operations in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Sarah currently works at the Fort Worth location and primarily performs legal and title research. She also reviews bankruptcy and class action filing notices and assists with mineral interest transfers.

What drew you to this particular field of law? Why did you choose to apply for a position with Finley Resources?

Oil and gas law, especially on the in-house side, has a tendency to be more laid back than other types of legal fields, which makes it a good fit for my personality. However, there is still a ton of work that comes into the office, but the office attire is much more casual and there are things like Thursday breakfasts to look forward to. Therefore, I found that this firm, in particular, was a good blend of the area of law I was interested in coupled with a work lifestyle I was looking for. Finley also has a great reputation in the area for treating its employees well and having good client relations.

What does an average day at work look like for you?

The two biggest functions I perform on an almost daily basis are research and creating/managing spreadsheets. I face a wide range of issues on a daily basis from being asked to look into the legal implications of certain actions to working on on-going projects relating to land and mineral title. Excel is generally the best way to keep up with this research and most effectively categorize the results, so a fair amount of my time is spent jumping between Excel and Lexis.

What are the biggest issues your firm faces on a day-to-day basis?

A week or two ago, I probably would have said matters relating to recent asset acquisitions and company mergers. But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent market plunge, the focus has shifted largely to the health and safety of employees and getting through these tough times.

Were there any classes or experiences you had at A&M that helped prepare you for your current job?

Contracts, civil procedure, and core commercial concepts have all been helpful. Contracts has probably been the most helpful (sorry 1Ls!). I am frequently asked to research issues relating to contract disputes and alleged breaches.

Describe some interesting aspect of your job:

It is difficult to pick any one thing about my job to describe as interesting, but I do really enjoy my job as it regularly requires me to learn about new things and different areas of the law. Sometimes I have to research issues relating to probate, sometimes land and mineral rights, and other times business filings. I always find it rather exciting to get assigned a new project that involves something I do not know much about and must then research and learn about. It is exciting for me to actually learn things as I go into real-life work.

What advice can you offer to your law student classmates? What can law students do to prepare for work in a firm like yours?

Really, just being prepared to do a wide variety of things every day. Working as in-house counsel at a small or midsize company, you will often be asked to wear many hats and do many different things. This type of job is great for someone who has a sense of spontaneity, or really enjoys switching tasks frequently and is always ready for the unexpected. Just try to always keep an open mind and work hard on the things you are asked to do, even if they are not the most exciting.

seth boettcherSeth Boettcher
Summer 2019
Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
Austin, Texas


Seth BoettcherSeth Boettcher

During summer 2019, Seth Boettcher (3L) interned with the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the Public Utility Commission of Texas, secured, respectively, through the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and the Oil, Gas, and Energy Law Section of the Texas State Bar.

As a law clerk for the TWDB, Boettcher said he assisted with a variety of issues surrounding environmental law, water law, bonds, and participated in the agency rule-making process.  He supported the legal team by preparing legal memoranda on the authorization of federal and state funds, requirements of contracts with government entities, and deference to agencies in rule making. “Working at the TWDB was a unique experience because the TWDB supervises water and flood planning and provides financial assistance for waterworks projects,” Boettcher said. “It takes the cooperation of engineers, scientists, lawyers, and financial players to carry out its mission to inform and assist in the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.”

As a law clerk for the PUC, Boettcher assisted with a variety of issues surrounding administrative and utility law. During his clerkship, he prepared legal memoranda involving electricity rate and rate-expense cases, checked citation briefs for the court, provided suggestions on telecommunication providers for eligible telecommunications carrier/providers, and attended administrative law hearings.  Boettcher said, “I enjoyed working at the PUC because it is one of the few state agencies that litigates. The PUC is a party to every case that falls under its purview to represent the public interest.”

Boettcher noted that he thoroughly enjoyed both the work and work environment at both of these governmental entities, as well as getting firsthand litigation experience. After graduation, Boettcher said he intends to practice environmental or energy law in either a firm or government capacity.

alexandra lizano thumbnailAlexandra Lizano
Summer 2019
Environmental and Natural Resources Division, U​.S. Department of Justice
Sacramento, California


alexandra lizano thumbnailAlexandra Lizano

Alexandra “Ally” Lizano (3L) spent her 1L summer as a law clerk for the United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).  She was placed in the Natural Resources Section (NRS) field office in Sacramento, California. For Lizano, the placement worked out perfectly since she is originally from California and was able to learn from some of the best environmental lawyers currently representing the United States.

Lizano commented that she was extraordinarily lucky to be with ENRD as this internship allowed her to work with two incredible supervising attorneys, one of who was working on an original action in the United States Supreme Court. Both attorneys were great mentors and patient teachers.  Although they each worked on very different cases, Lizano said that they both excelled at their different aspects of environmental law.  Both attorneys made sure Lizano always had a project from each of them to practice jumping between different caseloads, facts, and causes of action. She added that she was able to see and experience almost every stage of litigation from the complaint and drafting an answer, to moot court practice, and post-trial brief editing.

Lizano was also able to have some fun experiences outside of work because of her geographical placement.  She attended the Federal Bar Association event, “Leveling the Playing Field: Addressing Gender Bias,” where she was able to meet U.S. Marshals, government attorneys, and various private lawyers in Sacramento.  There was also a farmers market on Capitol Mall every week in the summer where she went with another paralegal and fellow law clerk for some great food. Lizano also took advantage of every opportunity on the weekends to go home and see her family in the East Bay.

Building on her ENRD experience, the summer after her 2L year, Lizano accepted an associate position with the law firm Downy Brand, LLP.  She spent most of the summer in the San Francisco office, which was exclusively dedicated to land use and natural resources work.  However, she spent 1-2 days per week at the firm’s main office in Sacramento where their natural resources department focused on water rights and quality issues and traditional environmental law practice areas. Lizano said she loved every second of her time at Downey Brand. Not only were the clients and the work engaging, but also her supervising attorneys were smart, hard-working, and great people to be around, she explained.

The firm also hosted fun events for summer associates including golf and bowling tournaments, and invited the associates to Sacramento Kings Summer League games. The San Francisco office even took a field trip to the Exploratorium after work one day. As a result of her great experience, Lizano is excited and honored to go back to Downey Brand following graduation as a full-time associate in the firm’s natural resources department.

Yelvington AlexisAlexis Yelvington
Summer 2019
Environmental Protection Division (EPD)
Austin, Texas


YelvingtonAlexis Yelvington

Alexis Yelvington (3L) spent this past summer as a law clerk for the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in the Office of the Texas Attorney General. She explained that she was extremely excited for her placement in this position because of the wide variety of issues the EPD handles.

Yelvington’s said that her favorite assignments related to Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulations, the Clean Air Act, and the Open Beaches Act. Working with these regulations and statutes allowed her to recall topics she learned in the classroom and experience them in practice.

The Attorney General's office was also an extremely educational opportunity, Yelvington noted. She worked on many enforcement cases relating to public utilities and state administrative law. Although these cases were a little bit out of her comfort zone as she was not experienced in this area, Yelvington said that she learned from passionate attorneys and grew in her legal career.

One of the best parts of the clerkship, Yelvington explained, was the location. The EPD office is in the heart of Austin, Texas within the capital complex. Her daily walks to the complex also afforded her plenty of opportunities to stop at some great taco places.

Lauren ThomasLauren Thomas
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2018
Environmental and Natural Resources Division, U​.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.

Lauren Thomas at DOJLauren Thomas

Lauren Thomas (3L) participated in Texas A&M Law’s Residency Externship Program in Public Policy in Washington, D.C. during the spring 2018 semester, serving as a law clerk for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a full-time clerk for the Environmental Enforcement Section (EES), Thomas assisted with a variety of federal environmental enforcement cases brought under statutes such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Clean Air Act.

“Combining a litigation-heavy clerkship with the policy externship program gave me the best of both worlds as I was fortunate to spend an entire semester learning about both environmental litigation and policy,” says Thomas.

Thomas supported EES litigation teams by assisting with expert witness selection, drafting counterclaims, preparing a motion to enter a consent decree, and drafting memoranda on topics involving administrative law, civil procedure, environmental law, and public policy.

“The types of projects I received were, as one attorney phrased it best, ‘heady,’” explains Thomas. “In other words, the work I completed under the supervision of licensed attorneys was not something that a typical intern does; it was closer to the type of work done by a licensed attorney in the EES section."

"I enjoyed both the type of work and the work environment in the EES, however, just the fact that I enjoyed the work alone proved to me that I was on the right path in my pursuit of becoming a practicing environmental lawyer,” said Thomas.

While in the nation's capital, Thomas not only enjoyed networking with attorneys, but also attended local events such as the D.C. Environmental Film Festival and the annual cherry blossom festival.

After this externship experience in D.C., Thomas spent her summer interning with Lloyd Gosselink, a leading environmental and water law firm in Austin, Texas. Through this internship, Thomas learned about local environmental legal issues facing political subdivisions across Texas. She had the opportunity to draft memoranda on numerous legal topics involving Texas civil procedure, the Texas Water Code, and the Texas Constitution. Thomas also assisted attorneys by drafting notice letters, response letters, and portions of briefs.

Along with this educational experience at a prestigious firm in Texas’ capital city, Thomas was also able to spend time with family and friends on the lake and exploring Austin’s fabulous food scene.

Philip BedfordPhilip Bedford
Spring 2018
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
Austin, Texas

Philip Bedford at TCEQPhilip Bedford

Philip Bedford (3L) externed in spring 2018 with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in Austin, Texas. Bedford worked under Stephen Tatum, Deputy Commissioner to TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker.

While at TCEQ, Bedford worked on issues relating to licensing and enforcement, and assisted in finalizing agency rules.

Bedford also accompanied Commissioner Baker on several work trips including to El Paso, Texas, Laredo, Texas and Pensacola, Florida. The El Paso and Laredo trips were conducted to facilitate conversations between Texas and neighboring Mexican states that focused on multi-media, cross-border pollution sources and remedies. The Florida trip was focused on the Federal RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act) and brought together every federal and state agency involved in distributing funds to continue developing a gulf wide strategy for reclamation and remediation of the BP oil spill.

“In Florida, we toured multiple locations in and around Pensacola where the funds were being used by the state to improve impacted habitats,” explains Bedford.

Bedford recalls how his first writing assignment—a memorandum on state incentive programs and the dormant commerce clause—was reviewed and considered directly by the Commissioners. 

“This type of important and influential work made my time at the TCEQ an enjoyable and valuable learning experience,” said Bedford.

Following his spring externship, Bedford clerked for the U.S. Department of Justice during summer 2018 in the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division in Washington, D.C. Bedford worked with federal prosecutors in enforcing criminal provisions of multiple federal environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and Animal Welfare Act.

Much of his research and writing focused on evidence questions, such as how the ​​Constitution’s confrontation clause applies to non-testifying co-conspirators and how particular jurisdictions interpret self-authenticating evidence.

Bedford explains, “The types of cases I worked on varied widely form oil pollution to dog fighting, including the international trafficking of endangered species. I loved it! We literally put people in prison for harming the environment.”

With this highly exciting and interesting summer behind him, Bedford now hopes to have a chance at prosecuting similar cases in the future.

Hope SheltonHope Shelton
9 Week Internship
Summer 2017
General Counsel, Trinity River Authority
Arlington, Texas

Hope SheltonHope Shelton

During my time with the Trinity River Authority, I assisted in providing legal support to ongoing water rights permitting efforts, coauthored a law journal article on water reuse in Texas, and revised internal policies.

I attended meetings with TRA clients, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TCEQ, and the City of Houston. I visited the state capital for a House Committee hearing. I toured several waste water treatment facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a drinking water treatment facility, and the Lake Livingston dam and the construction of a hydroelectric power facility.

But, I believe the most important thing I learned this summer isn’t related to water at all.

I witnessed great leadership that resulted in a positive, impactful work environment. From the very top of the management, I saw leadership that emanated respect, selfless service, and integrity. This style of leadership flowed down among the ranks and ended with everyone each day making a summer intern feel a part of the team.

I was sad to leave my position as school began again because, while the work was fascinating, it was truly the people who made my internship so special.

REP-PP 2017 Henrik StrandHenrik Strand
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2017
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Austin, Texas

Meet Henrik

Why did you decide to participate in the REP-PP?
I want to participate in the REP-PP program because I am passionate about environmental policy and want to learn more about the administrative process that takes place at the Texas state level. I am excited to have an opportunity to work with policy makers in Austin and try to see the challenges inherent in the system and ways to work within the system.

What are you most excited about as your semester in the REP-PP begins?
I am excited to meet the people at my position and the people that I will work with as I hope that these are my co-workers as I graduate and start my career. I am also excited for the speaker series that the program offers to see different speakers throughout the state government to get a diverse perspective on available public policy careers.

What skills do you hope to gain from your experiences in the REP-PP?

I hope to gain practical experience in drafting and working with policy makers as well as networking skills and relationships that I can carry into my career.

How do you think this opportunity will help you develop as a lawyer?

I think this opportunity will help me learn on-the-job skills that are hard to learn in the classroom which will translate well into a public interest career, such as writing recommendation statements, reviewing government contracts, and other policy related documents.

How does your participation in the REP-PP demonstrate the Aggie Core Values?
(Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service)
This program requires excellence in personal responsibility, as we will be ambassadors of the school in Austin. The program also requires selfless service as the program focuses on public service and I would like to be a public servant as my career continues.

What are your personal goals for your semester in the REP-PP?
My personal goals are to work hard and make a good impression for myself on the people I work for and to represent the school with aplomb to continue the relationship that I will create between the agency and the school so more Aggies can get the position that I will have this coming spring.

On Integrity:

Henrik StrandWhen I looked up the definition of integrity as a prompt for writing this reflection, the first definition that came up was “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” This encompasses what we all think of as integrity: honesty in the face of negative pressure; the high road over the low; sincerity even when it is uncomfortable. However, this well known definition is not what I am going to spend most of my time on in this post. Indeed, it is important for Aggies to be honest and sincere in their professional and personal lives, and moral integrity is important for personal gratification and advancement. But this second definition for integrity was the one that really struck me when I read it: “the state of being whole and undivided; unity, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity.”

It is this type of integrity that keeps Aggies’ arms locked during singings of the alma mater. It is this type of integrity that stirs up images of the 12th Man, standing steadfast with his team if he was needed. It is not so easy to be a unified whole: Just look at our national political system and the division not only over the recent presidential election but the current fight over Cabinet appointments. Recent documentaries like O.J.: Made in America or I Am Not Your Negro exemplify the racial and sociopolitical divide that still exists within our country. In many ways, our country is more divided than ever. This is why the integrity between the leadership of the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) is all the more impressive during these trying times in our society.

During my time at the TCEQ, I have witnessed the true team that all of the staff is on a daily basis. Through organization-wide team events like the chili cook-off, which I participated in, brining together all the different departments of the TCEQ, who employs thousands of employees, for a few hours over Texas’ “national” dish. While I was chided a few times for my particular chili having beans—and chicken—I always felt like I was a part of a team, a solidified community of people working hard to protect Texas for future generations. This community approach led me to meet some fellow young professional working in the water division that I would never have met otherwise who have become some of my personal friends out of work.

Possibly the most impressive part of this event was how one of the winners were chosen. First, there was a blind taste-testing of all the different chilies to pick the overall winner. Then, there was a second award, called the “peoples’ choice award,” which went to the chili that attracted the most donations from the crowd. I felt this award continued to show the great community that was created coming together to support charity with our donations for our co-workers culinary creations.

When I worked as a chef at home and abroad, I have always been amazed at the transformative power that food has over any racial or political divisions. I once read a book about North Carolina BBQ that explained that the only day where African-Americans and whites would eat and celebrate together was over the celebratory BBQs at the end of the long tobacco-drying season. Food allows people to overcome their personal hang-ups and divisions to focus on what is important -- community sustenance. And in its own little way, the TCEQ’s chili cook-off embodies this idea of community created though cooking. It is good to see that at least one governmental agency is still holding up the Aggie value of integrity, and I am proud to be a part of it, at least for this one glorious semester.

Britt BrandonBritt Brandon
Residency Externship Program in Public Policy (REP-PP)
Spring 2017
Texas Railroad Commission
Austin, Texas

Meet Britt

Why did you decide to participate in the REP-PP?
The REP-PP Program allows me to gain practical experience in the field of law I wish to practice. I am interested in practicing Energy Law, specifically the environmental regulatory aspect of Energy Law. REP-PP will allow me to work directly with the agencies that engage in writing and enforcing regulations relevant to the energy industry.

What are you most excited about as your semester in the REP-PP begins?
I am excited to use the classroom knowledge I have gained during law school, and apply this knowledge practically on a daily basis during my externship. I am also excited about all the valuable information I will learn once I begin my externship.

What skills do you hope to gain from your experiences in the REP-PP?

I hope to gain a better understanding of the administrative process. Engaging in the administrative process on a daily basis will allow me to gain invaluable experience as I prepare for my future as a lawyer.

How do you think this opportunity will help you develop as a lawyer?

The ability to spend a semester during law school working under practicing attorneys in the city in which I wish to practice, is a very rare opportunity for a law student. The ability to make networking connections and gain practical experience prior to graduating will be beneficial to me as I begin my career as a lawyer.

How does your participation in the REP-PP demonstrate the Aggie Core Values?
(Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service)
Acceptance into the program means the participant has exhibited excellence throughout law school and prior experiences as well. The participants demonstrate leadership by representing Texas A&M School of Law as we travel into Austin and D.C. As the participants engage in quality work they will generate respect for the REP-PP Program and Texas A&M School of Law.

What are your personal goals for your semester in the REP-PP?
I am excited to experience Austin during a Legislative Session. I hope to get outside of my comfort zone and make new lasting connections.

On Excellence:

Britt BrandonVince Lombardi once stated, “perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can achieve excellence.” This quote embodies the idea that excellence is not achieved by accident; excellence is achieved by dedication to a standard above what is merely expected or normal. Merriam-Webster defines the suffix “-ence” as “the action or process,” and defines “excel” as “to be superior to; to surpass in accomplishment.” So excellence essentially means the action or process of being superior to others. This definition inherently means not everyone is able to achieve excellence—in order to be superior something or someone must be inferior.

Excellence is (in my opinion) the most important of the six Core Values of Texas A&M—for reference, the six Core Values are the following: Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect, and Selfless Service. Excellence is the “standard of review” for each of the five other Core Values. One is able to display the other five Core Values by a single action. But in order to display a Core Value excellently, one must display a Core Value above mere expectations or the status quo. The series of Texas A&M Core Values is not merely a checklist; it is a duty to continually pursue excellence in one’s display of each Core Value.

Ethical rules contain standards attorneys must abide. But to achieve excellence in the practice of law, it is important to go beyond these minimum standards. Throughout my externship experience in Austin, I have observed multiple examples of excellence. My classmates and I have heard from speakers who forge public policy in the State of Texas. While these speakers come from wide-ranging practice areas, each speaker had one thing in common: excellence. It was apparent that each speaker enjoyed the work they did; worked tirelessly to perform beyond their duties; and most importantly, served the citizens of Texas with excellence. 

My experience at an administrative agency has made it evident why it is important for agency employees to engage in their job with excellence. Agencies are allowed broad authority to promulgate rules upon actions or inactions within their jurisdiction. The advice Uncle Ben gives Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility,” is also applicable to state agencies. A state agency must recognize the authority it has been granted and use excellence as a standard when engaging in actions or inactions. Agency actions have the ability to greatly impact citizens of Texans in a positive or negative way. Through this lens, agencies must serve Texas and its citizens not to the minimum standard or status quo, but to a standard of excellence.