Minnesota Law

Summer 2023
For the Record

Summer Experiences: James Kile, 2L

Legal Intern, Federal Maritime Commission, Washington, D.C.

James Kile, 2L, worked as a legal intern at the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, D.C. this summer.

James Kile, 2L, is from Hayden, Idaho. Before attending Minnesota Law, he completed his undergraduate degree at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. This summer, he worked as a legal intern for the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, D.C. He is looking forward to an internship at the Department of Transportation, serving as a staff member of the Minnesota Journal of International Law, and volunteering with the Asylum Law Project.

How did you find this summer opportunity?

Like most students interested in federal government work, I found this position through the USA jobs website. I applied broadly to the legal internships available in the government. I applied in January of 2023 and heard back near the end of March. 

How does your experience connect with what you currently envision doing with your law degree? 

Before applying, I knew I wanted to find a position in the federal government after graduation. I knew very little about the regulation of ocean-based trade, but I knew the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) handled a wide range of issues from antitrust, international trade, administrative law, and contract law. Working at the FMC helped to solidify my interest in doing agency work after graduation. I now have a deeper understanding of the regulatory system and a deeper appreciation for the policy factors which determine how administrative rules are shaped and promulgated.  


Please describe a “typical” workday on the job.

A typical day in Commissioner Bentzel’s office usually involves dedicating the first half of the day to meeting with industry leaders and strategizing agency rulemakings. On most days the office met with a diverse range of actors in the shipping industry from CEOs of major ocean carriers to defense contractors. Individuals from across the maritime world traveled to meet with the Commissioner to provide comments on potential rulemakings and to keep Mr. Bentzel updated on issues in the international supply chain. A typical day might involve speaking to attorneys from firms in DC to union leaders from Australia and officials from Belgium or the UK. On special occasions I had the opportunity to listen in on congressional committee hearings which were particularly impactful for the FMC such as the updated Ocean Shipping Reform Act.      

The second half of the day was normally reserved for writing memos and completing administrative tasks. During the summer I worked on research projects that tackled both big picture policy goals as well as intricate agency jurisdictional issues. Most of our time was spent strategizing and refining agency rulemaking on maritime data sharing. Commissioner Bentzel’s primary project has been to improve data sharing requirements among ocean-based supply chain entities through the Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI). As it sits now, products travel across the globe in enormous container ships that are not required to provide updated data points to other entities down the supply chain. As a result, ships carrying millions of dollars’ worth of cargo often enter a blackhole of communication while out at sea. This lack of data sharing contributed to the enormous log jam of ships docked at US ports during the pandemic which later resulted in increased inflation. MTDI’s main objective is to stop such a crisis from happening in the future.     


What is something you learned or experienced that was surprising or particularly compelling during this summer position?

As someone that has always lived far from an ocean, I never realized just how important the world’s waterways are not just to the supply chain but also to the environment and international security. The vast majority of the products we purchase are transported to and from international destinations by container ship. This brings the world’s market to our doorstep and contributes to a globalized and interconnected international landscape. However, with that landscape comes a host of challenges, some of which are tackled by the FMC and some of which will require global cooperation to remedy. With respect to issues like climate change and international security, the geopolitics of the world's oceans certainly needs to be in the forefront of our minds as we look to build a better world. Climate initiatives like green technologies and data sharing can be applied to global shipping and have a massive impact on alleviating climate change given the scale of water-based transportation. Also, with respect to global security the earth’s water ways continue to be a strategic battleground for the geopolitical dance between the US and China as well as NATO’s containment of Russia.  


What are a couple of your key takeaways from the experience so far?

Agency work plays an important role in effectively administering congressional and executive authority. In law school we naturally focus on the judicial branch, placing less emphasis on executive and independent entities that enforce congressional authority. While at the FMC I learned that agencies provide subject matter expertise in niche areas of law, support judicial economy by streamlining the resolution of certain disputes, and advance industry participation in the legal process. 


How has your summer experience compared with your expectations?

I didn't have many expectations going into the summer. I knew I would likely be asked to do typical intern errands like memo writing, Teams meetings, and administrative tasks. Government job descriptions can be a mixed bag and contextualizing the duties of the position within the structure of the agency can be difficult. Although it was a non-traditional role I decided to jump first and ask questions later. I am greatly appreciative of the individuals I worked most closely with like Commissioner Bentzel, John Young, and Clark Jennings. They each contributed greatly to making this internship an incredible learning experience for me. They fostered my growth both personally and professionally throughout the summer and for that I am very grateful.


What advice would you offer another law student thinking about working in a similar position next summer?

I would tell future students working in government to be open minded to tackling a wide range of issues and topics throughout the internship. Government work is different from working at a firm on many levels but can be beneficial because it shows you the inner workings of how statutes and regulations are created. 

How are you spending your free time this summer?

This is my first time in D.C., so I have slowly been accomplishing my civic duties by being a tourist and exploring the many monuments and memorials. 

What are you most looking forward to in returning to Minnesota Law this fall?

I am most excited to return to my friends and classmates to hear about what they have been doing this summer. I have met so many talented and hardworking students in my first year and I am excited to hear how they have applied their knowledge of the law to their internships across the country.