3L reflects on summer opportunity with U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor

Carolyn Purcell, 3L, spent her summer working at the Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia through the Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship. She was alerted to the opportunity by Professors Abrams and Levinson based on her interests, which includes labor and employment law.

During her time with the Office of the Solicitor, Purcell, a Louisville native, was called up to handle a variety of assignments, such as researching legal issues under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Mine Safety and Health Act, and the Davis-Bacon Act.

In addition to research, she drafted many documents, including one complaint, three sets of discovery, two memoranda, a motion in limine, and a motion for a protective order, which required a proposed motion and a memorandum of law in support of the protective order. Purcell also had the opportunity to observe many proceedings, such as oral arguments, opening statements, direct and cross examinations, depositions, pre-trial conferences, and many interagency meetings and conference calls.

“It was an illuminating and exciting learning experience,” she said.

Purcell’s favorite assignment was working on a full-length legal analysis, a memorandum she said took half the summer to complete.

“It was much like the memo that you would write for your legal writing class. I had to consolidate the facts that the OSHA investigator had uncovered from many different interviews and other texts, and then I had to decide which facts were important and organize them chronologically. At one point, I had the occasion to call the investigator to clarify some pieces of the facts,” Purcell said. “In this way, it was very unlike working on my legal writing memo, because when I discussed the case with the investigator, I was reminded of how everything I was doing would have an effect on the complainant, a real person in the real world. Thus, when I applied the law to the facts, I did so with this fact in mind.”

When this process was done, it was up to Purcell to decide whether or not the Solicitor’s Office should pursue this particular case.

“It was a great deal of responsibility, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been faced with that sort of responsibility during my summer,” she said.

Purcell’s experience at the Office of the Solicitor was made possible through a fellowship with the Peggy Browning Fund, a nonprofit organization that places law students with workers’ rights firms nationwide.

She will also attend the Peggy Browning Fund’s Workers’ Rights Conference in October in Baltimore.