Sachin Desai, 2L, is passionate about energy and committed to innovation. Last summer, he combined these interests with his internship at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.
The ARPA-E is a division of the DOE that works on commercializing small, innovative start-ups in the U.S. energy sector. It is a unique organization as its grants operate more within a venture capital framework than most government agencies. Instead of just disbursing funding, the agency enters into collaborative arrangements with its grantees and builds innovative funding structures into its contracts. This mission creates complicated contracts; there are three to four lawyers in a team of only 60 people. In addition to contracts, the legal scope also includes policy work in energy regulation. Since the U.S. energy industry is heavily regulated, innovative start-ups face significant regulatory barriers to commercial success. The second mission of ARPA-E is to work with other government agencies that are responsible for these regulations and draft memoranda of understanding (MOUs) surrounding ARPA-E’s projects. Since the agency is so small, legal interns have opportunities to work closely with the staff attorneys, even the General Counsel, and contribute extensively to the agency’s goals. Sachin’s assignments included legal research and writing white papers and MOUs. In addition, his presence in D.C. allowed him to meet other interesting people working in the energy field, and he stresses the importance of actively participating in events and networking.
Sachin knew that he wanted to work in energy before he came to law school, and once he arrived at HLS he took steps to integrate himself into the wider energy community. His advice to 1Ls is to follow their interests, even if it takes them outside of the HLS campus. In fact, he first heard about ARPA-E at the annual MIT Energy Conference, and additional resources can be found at MIT, the Kennedy School, or Harvard Business School. Sachin also stresses the importance of being pro-active in the job search. Though ARPA-E did not post a legal intern position, he applied anyway. One tip for students seeking to create their own positions: email the second-in-command, who actually reads his or her emails, and not the General Counsel.
The internship with ARPA-E was a logical step in Sachin’s overall career path. ARPA-E has significant name recognition in the field and helped him land his 2L summer job with Wilson Sonsini in California, where his work will focus on supporting venture capitalist firms interested in energy innovation. He is also writing a student note under the supervision of Professor Roin that examines innovative funding structures, building on his experience at ARPA-E. Overall, Sachin speaks highly of his experience with the agency and recommends it for students interested in energy who want a slightly different summer government experience.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Geng Chen