Jamie Bence

From the Seat of Power: Melanie Krebs

Melanie Krebs is a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture Section. Melanie graduated from Wellesley College, and spent time working as a paralegal and traveling in Portugal before law school. She attended the University of California Hastings School of Law. Following graduation, Melanie completed a year-long clerkship at the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a civilian appellate court which reviews appeals within the military justice system. She was subsequently hired by the Department of Justice in her current position.

What factors led you attend law school, and ultimately to the Department of Justice?  I had intended to move to California because I had a job as a consultant in the wine industry in Healdsburg, but when I got to the Bay Area, I completely changed course. I decided moving to rural California was not a good fit, and I moved to San Francisco to take a job as a legal assistant for a nonprofit. So even though I had not planned to attend law school after graduation, I enjoyed my job at the nonprofit and decide to apply to law school.

My current position is completely different from the clerkship I did after law school. The clerkship was all criminal military appeals. Now I do civil antitrust work, looking at mergers and anti-competitive conduct, mostly within agricultural industries. There is very little subject matter overlap. However, clerking was great in terms of getting experience writing, being able to draft opinions, and learning to think in a certain way.

What exactly does your current job entail?  I am a trial attorney for the Antitrust Division in the Transportation, Energy and Agriculture Section. We look to protect competition and consumers. I do a lot of merger review, and we try to make sure that firms are not able to engage in anti-competitive practices. My title is Trial Attorney but most of what I do is investigative. I don't really go to court despite my title; it's primarily investigative in nature.

Do you feel that your job affords good work/life balance?  I had a daughter about six months ago was on maternity leave for about three months, and I have been back for three months. I think the federal government is a good place to be if one has a family. I've seen an exodus from the private sector among friends because I think it's very hard to be in the private sector and be expected to be on call all the time. That's not to say that we don't work long hours in the federal government, because we do. But it's easier to achieve an acceptable balance, and I think the federal government is more flexible.

That's not to say that the federal government is the most family friendly place either, though. For example, the federal government gives you bare bones- maternity leave. But I would say that it is easier to achieve a good balance because the federal government more flexible and more understanding of a family schedule.

What advice would you have to law students and lawyers who would like to work in a capacity like yours? If they're interested in working in the Department of Justice, it's hard to do that right after law school. The hiring program is the Honors program. I'd urge them to look at that, and if possible spend a summer interning in an office that they might be interested in because I think that does carry a lot of weight in terms of the interview process. Try to make connections to an office you are interested in joining.

If you want to work for the Department of Justice and not through Honors, typically the Department of Justice tends to accept applicants after about five years of experience. Try and get good litigation experience, because the Department of Justice is always looking for experienced litigators.

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