Penn State Law student Devan Flahive: Budding antitrust attorney

For three years before law school Devan Flahive lived, ate, and breathed dairy science as a nutritionist at Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. After one year at Penn State Law, she is up to her elbows in agriculture once again, this time as a budding antitrust attorney.

Flahive is spending her summer as an intern in the Antitrust and Public Protection Division of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office as a Janet D. Steiger Fellow. Some of her responsibilities include writing legal memos about potential anticompetitive practices, drafting complaints and consent decrees, and participating in meetings during which attorneys decide how to draft responses to opponents’ motions.

Flahive, who has an undergraduate degree in animal science from Cornell, said that her interest in antitrust stemmed from her involvement with agriculture. “While employed as a dairy nutrition consultant for Cargill Animal Nutrition, I had the privilege of working with many large-scale dairy businesses. As profit margins dwindle and commodity prices become increasingly volatile, many dairy producers opt to expand their farms in order to capture volume efficiencies and invest in technology to make their cows more comfortable and productive. Thus, larger, corporate farms are progressively more prevalent. I forecast that dairy producers will ultimately follow a similar path as poultry farmers. Recently, both poultry mergers and the activities of United Egg Producers have been the subject of DOJ scrutiny and antitrust actions. Eventually, I hope to represent the interests of American agriculture as an antitrust attorney,” she explained.

And she’s gotten plenty of experience this summer working on a case that involved agricultural marketing cooperatives. “Cooperatives have a unique existence, since they enjoy a limited exemption from antitrust laws under the Capper-Volstead Act. Yet, as milk marketing cooperatives have grown in magnitude, their transparency and accountability has become a concern for farmer-members,” Flahive explained. “Both the federal government and State Attorneys General must ensure that large cooperatives are not entering into unlawful agreements with milk processors. In order to ensure the viability of its dairy industry, the Vermont Attorney General advises the legislature on issues relating to competition law.”

In addition to gaining a better understanding of antitrust law, Flahive said her internship has allowed her to witness the complex rules of civil procedure being played out long before attorneys ever set foot in the courtroom through the filing of such motions for remand and abstention. “At times the procedural complexities of one particular case seemed right out of a law school exam. Between the interesting variety of cases that I handled, and the supportive Assistant Attorneys General with whom I worked directly, my fellowship has left me even more enthused to practice antitrust law!”

When she’s not interning at what is known as the “largest law firm in Vermont,” Flahive said she enjoys training horses, competing in equestrian gaming shows, and hiking with her Siberian husky through the beautiful trails of the Green Mountain State.

Of the 785 law students who applied for a Steiger Fellowship, Flahive is one of only 25 from across the country to be accepted into the program. Initiated in 2004 in cooperation with the national Association of Attorneys General and sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Section, Steiger Fellowships provide law students with the opportunity to work in the consumer protection and antitrust departments of state and territorial offices of Attorneys General throughout the country.

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Last Updated August 14, 2012