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A collaborative program with UT gives Y-12 access to top legal talent

Leigh Outten, Y-12 Legal intern, is something of a degree collector. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; two master’s degrees from MIT — one in nuclear engineering, the other in technology and policy; and an MBA from a French school. Now she’s in her third year of UT’s law program. What does one do with such a wide array of degrees?

Outten said her dream is to work at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and she thinks the laws associated with the handling of nuclear materials are really interesting.

Thanks to the Y-12/UT Field Placement Program, a unique collaboration between Y-12 and the University of Tennessee College of Law, she was able to find a setting that puts each of her unique educational experiences to use.

Y-12 Lawyer Chuck Young, who’s also an adjunct professor at UT’s law school, says the program offers students experience with things they can’t get elsewhere. A good example is the Federal Acquisition Regulation, a massive book governing the ways federal entities and often their contractors, like B&W Y-12, conduct their business and procurement operations. It details everything from how to plan for and solicit an acquisition to how the resultant bids are evaluated.

Young says he’d been practicing law for 15 years before coming to Y-12 and is still learning about the FAR. He also estimates that fewer than two dozen practicing attorneys in the Knoxville legal community understand them. He said that for a second-year law student to be exposed to things that some lawyers never encounter is a huge advantage.

The Field Placement Program is designed to give students a unique internship opportunity centered on the contractual, commercialization and compliance activities that take place at a federal site like Y-12. That includes work on numerous technology transfer initiatives, patent applications and other site-wide efforts to commercialize Y-12 innovations.

For Outten, the internship is an opportunity to work toward her IAEA dream. Young says the program not only gives law students experience in the federal complex, but Y-12 is putting more people out into the world who understand what we do, and that ultimately benefits NNSA as a whole.

About the photo:
Y-12 lawyer Chuck Young discusses the Federal Acquisition Regulation with intern Leigh Outten

Y-12 lawyer Chuck Young talks with intern Leigh Outten.