Mikayla Ockerman
Transatlantic Middle East District Office of Counsel's summer intern Mikayla Ockerman during her June - August time with the District. (Photo Credit: Julie Shoemaker) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) leadership and team members have traditionally been staunch supporters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commitment to “building the bench” to help create future leaders. TAM’s efforts have traditionally focused on engineering or architecture but branch out to the legal field as well.

This year, the TAM Office of Counsel hired a summer intern interested in a career as an attorney.

In the Spring, Mikayla Ockerman reached out to TAM as a potential internship for her summer. She submitted her resume and was interviewed by the Deputy District Counsel Regina Showalter. Ockerman started in June.

“Mikayla came into Office of Counsel as a law clerk or legal assistant. She reviewed claims and in so doing, interviewed witnesses to assess involvement, took important factual information to support the government’s cases, and helped attorneys in negotiating settlements,” said Mary Ensogna, supervisory paralegal. “She worked on ethics issues, employment law, and touched on the Freedom of Information Act.

“She approached all tasks methodically, met all deadlines, showed incredible patience during interviews on multiple cases, and took interest in all that she’s done here,” Ensogna continued. “She is absolutely one of the best summer interns to come through our program.”

Ockerman worked with the complete legal team at TAM, both attorneys and paralegals. “This was my first ever experience in the law field, so I did really learn a lot,” she said. “During my time at TAM, I worked on projects that included appeals, claims, and legal research. For these projects I took witness statements, assisted with declarations, read through claims and affidavits, compiled legal research, and assisted with a settlement agreement.”

There was one case she worked where opposing counsel was arguing that their client deserved compensation because materials expired before they got onto the job site. Ockerman’s task was to go through a 70-page claim to try to figure out specifically what they were claiming and pull out any evidence she found. “Once I found the evidence that contradicted the opposing side’s claim, I told the attorney working the claim, Assistant Counsel Rebecca Bockmann, of my findings and we were able to win the appeal on the claim with a settlement agreement.”

She also worked with Ensogna and Assistant Counsel Mathew Tilghman on a litigation matter where Ockerman was responsible for interviewing witnesses and compiling relevant facts for the case. She reviewed multiple witness declarations, identified gaps in witnesses’ statements, and worked with the witnesses to confirm relevant details.

On her future in the legal field, she said, “I’m going back and forth between corporate law and international law, so USACE was a good in-between for me.” This week, she returned for her third year as a senior in the Political Science program at James Madison University. She graduates in May 2023.

Through her summer internship, Ockerman gained practical experience in a Federal legal setting and handled a variety of legal issues including matters involving government contract litigation, government ethics, and employment law. Her Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT, is scheduled for early September, after which she’ll know better which law school she may attend. But she is definitely interested in returning to TAM’s Office of Counsel during her Winter and Summer breaks next year for more valuable experiences in both of her areas of interest.