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Cyrus Nezhad, '03, Offers MLaw Students a Glimpse into Life as a Federal Lawyer 

By Jordan Poll 
November 28, 2016

Michigan Law has a strong tradition of supporting public service. Each year a substantial portion of the graduating class chooses to begin their careers in government service. The Class of 2015 continues that proud legacy with nearly 10 percent of the class accepting positions in government agencies and more than 17 percent accepting a judicial clerkship. The choice to enter government service, while rewarding, is not always clear nor is the path always an easy one. Our alumni play a vital role in ensuring current students are clear-eyed about the challenges of government service, but also understand the importance and rewards of that choice.nezhad.jpg

Cyrus Nezhad, '03, recently spoke to a room of Michigan Law students about the hard choices and fulfilling opportunities that encompass what it truly means to play a role in government. Nezhad has been an attorney for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the past eight years, working on nuclear programs. He shared many of his experiences with students in an attempt to spread awareness of the challenges facing young attorneys searching for a meaningful career.

In his seven years of work experience before the DOE, Nezhad spent a year in Washington, D.C., as a government contractor and real estate consultant before traveling to New York to join White & Case LLP, where he worked on the Enron class-action lawsuit. In search of a smaller office atmosphere, Nezhad later transferred to Bryan Cave LLP in Chicago before seeking out a completely new experience with the DOE. And while Nezhad is a big proponent of government service, having now found his spot at the DOE, he also believes that he gained very important experience working in the private sector as well.

Nezhad explained that his law firm experience built upon the foundation of values instilled in him by the Law School. The experience helped him develop his writing and research skills, exposed him to a variety of different cases, and gave him the tools for future success. Importantly, as it relates to government service, his firm experience also gave him confidence and clarity in his ability to uncover the truth and speak out for what is truly just. Working at a federal agency regularly challenges these values. "It is very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you work for a federal agency," Nezhad said, "but don’t stop being an advocate for truth and justice."

Using his own experiences as junior attorney at the DOE, Nezhad stressed that students should never let others deter them from making their opinions known. "I know you are all smart and eager. You will have a lot of the solutions. Just be humble," said Nezhad. "If you know the answer, then just hold onto it. Be patient and learn first. Once you have done your research and are convinced that you are seeing it correctly, then you should speak up in whatever capacity you can." Nezhad assured students that even if their stand does not make the change they hoped for, their voice will be heard and might still lead to great change. "Even though what you said didn't change the decision, people will remember that you did speak up for the truth. You stood for justice when no one else would," he said.

Despite the challenges facing federal agency lawyers today, Nezhad encouraged MLaw students to not be intimidated or discouraged. The tremendous responsibilities that accompany working for the federal government also come with amazing opportunities. "I really enjoy that my job has a mixture of law, politics, sociology, science, engineering, and technology. You just get to do really cool things," he said. "And you get to be an agent for real change. As long as you don't have an attitude of despair, but try to help fix the system, then you are doing something that has real purpose."

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