Jamie Bence

From the Seat of Power: Angelia Talbert-Duarte

Angelia Talbert-Duarte serves as the Deputy Chief of the General Law Division in the United States Department of Commerce. She received her Bachelor of the Arts degree in psychology from Salisbury University in Maryland, and spent one year after graduation working for a family law firm.  Angelia received her juris doctor from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in 1996. After graduation, she served as a Motions Clerk for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and  subsequently worked for two years in the Office of the General Counsel for the United States Postal Service. In 2001, she took a position as an Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of Commerce, where she now serves as the Deputy Chief of the General Law Division.

What factors led you to a legal career with the federal government? After graduating from college, I spent a year working at a small family law firm. It was a woman-owned firm and I had three wonderful female attorney mentors there. Based on that experience, I decided to attend law school. I spent my summers working for a private firm as well as the government. Ultimately, I chose to work for the federal government because it presented an opportunity to work on a variety of legal issues.  I did not expect my federal career to expand in the way that it has, but I continued for two reasons. Foremost, I really enjoy my current e practice area. Second, there is a great work-life balance which I really appreciate. Even though the financial benefits are not the same as you might find at a big firm, and the hourscan be long, there is a great satisfaction that comes with the work.

What does your current position entail in the General Law Division? We have a wide and varied practice area. The General Law Division serves a  a department which encompasses many diversebureaus, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau. Of course, one primary mission of the Department of Commerce is to foster international trade in order to promote the foreign and domestic commerce.

In general, our office gives legal advice on statutes and regulations of government-wide applicability, hat all offices must comply with including the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act and the Paperwork Reduction Act. We also conduct legal review of all inter and intra-agency agreements.  Our work is involves other federal agencies, non-federal entities, and non-profit organizations.  We also do a lot of work with appropriations bills. When Congress appropriates money, we get a lot of questions about how it can be spent and what amounts are available for certain activities.

About three years ago, our office added intellectual property law to our practice area  We now handle trademark and copyright issues for the department.  . In addition we work on many issues relating to social media. This has been a learning experience, especially because this area is still developing. 

How do you feel that your work-life balance compares to your private-sector equivalents? There is a perception that government attorneys do not maintain workloads as rigorous as their private-sector counterparts, but I think that is a misnomer. We are busy, but what makes the federal government unique is that we do have some flexibility. For example, in most cases, attorneys can take advantage of alternative scheduling and telework options which help to create flexibility.

How did you spend your law school summers? My first summer I spent working for a private law firm. I thought I had a strong interest in employment law, but the partners at the firm found that I was a better fit for corporate law. Looking back, I think that was a very good assessment, and I don't think I would have enjoyed being a litigator.  My second summer was spent working in the D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel, where we did a lot of work with child support. It was a nice tie-in to the family law work I had done prior to law school.

Was there anything that you did in law school which prepared your for a career in the federal government? At the Columbus School of Law, I participated in the clinic Columbus Community Legal Services. This served as an excellent training ground for me. I was a student attorney in the domestic violence clinic. The clinic impressed upon me the importance of giving back. I also did an externship with the U.S. Department of Education.  In the federal government, you are a public servant, serving the citizens of the United States. In the clinic, I was able to see the results of my work, and the impact on the clients we served. In the federal government, the connection is not as immediately visible, but it is still there.

I participated in Moot Court, which was a great way to sharpen my research and writing skills. I am not a litigator, but this has still been useful. In our office, we do provide a lot of legal support. This often means drafting memorandums on a wide variety of issues. Good research and writing skills carry over into any area.

Generally, I participated in as many extra-curricular activities as possible to figure out what I wanted to do. The Women's Law Caucus was especially helpful.

What advice would you have for law students who are seeking out opportunities with the federal government? A lot of law students assume working  as government attorney means working for the Department of Justice. While DOJ attorneys are often at the forefront of government litigation, there are many attorney positions that available in a variety of interesting areas. For example, students interested in environmental law might work at NOAA or EPA.  The Patent and Trademark Office offers wonderful opportunities to practice in the field of intellectual property.   If you are interested in getting into government work, look for honors programs, or intern programs, which usually run in the summer and may continue in the fall.

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Become a Member

FREE online community for women in the legal profession.



Subscribe to receive regular updates, news, and events from Ms. JD.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe