Four University of Virginia School of Law students will join the Department of Justice as attorneys next fall through the Attorney General's Honors Program. The program is the largest and most prestigious federal entry-level attorney hiring program of its kind, and the only way for newly minted lawyers to join the department in an attorney position.

Third-year students Will Montague, Sam Shirazi, Alison Vicks and Sean Welsh will join the department's criminal, civil and tax divisions. The honors program is highly competitive. This year, several thousand prospective attorneys applied for an estimated 54 honors program jobs throughout the three divisions.

Welsh, a graduate of American University who is from Westminster, Maryland, will work for the Criminal Division on cases involving asset forfeiture and money laundering. Part of his job will be prosecuting white-collar criminals who facilitate illicit enterprises.

"I will be handling complex asset forfeiture investigations and bringing cases which focus on professional money launderers, or the 'gatekeepers' to the financial system, such as attorneys and accountants," he said.

Welsh said his experiences at UVA Law have created a clear path to a prosecutorial career. Last year, he participated in the Extramural Moot Court Team and was a quarterfinalist in the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition. This year, he is in the Prosecution Clinic and has gained experience in state trial courts.

Shirazi and Vicks will both work for the Civil Division. Shirazi, who grew up in Woodland Hills, California, and received his undergraduate degree from UVA as well, will help defend the U.S. against claims as part of the Environmental Tort Litigation Section of the Torts Branch. Vicks, a University of Southern California graduate from Reno, Nevada, will work in the Commercial Litigation Branch, which both brings claims on behalf of the U.S. government and defends claims brought against the United States, and said she could end up specializing in civil fraud, government contracting malfeasance, or bankruptcy and other claims involving government money.

Montague, who grew up in Charlottesville and did his undergraduate work at UVA, will work as a prosecutor in the Criminal Enforcement Section of the Tax Division.

"Section attorneys directly manage or assist with prosecuting federal tax crimes," Montague said. "These can range from foreign banks charged with conspiracy for instructing U.S. taxpayers on how to conceal their offshore accounts to individuals charged with fraud for stealing people's identities in order to file fraudulent income tax returns claiming refunds."

Montague said tax prosecutions require a strong knowledge of criminal law, a solid grounding in the Federal Rules of Evidence, and some understanding of how the tax code operates. "I have been fortunate at UVA Law to have had excellent professors in all three areas," he said.

Montague said he also benefited from the Criminal Defense Clinic, which gave him the opportunity to appear in court as a student, to manage his own cases and to hone his advocacy skills.

Annie Kim, assistant dean for public service and director of the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center, said having four students selected for the program is an increase over recent years. She attributed the students' success to their hard work, which all four previously demonstrated at the Justice Department as student employees.

"In today's fiercely competitive public service market, seeking out every possible opportunity to work in public service counts," Kim said. "Our students went above and beyond to build their skills through internships and externships with the DOJ and other top government agencies."

Several UVA Law alumni also obtained jobs at the Justice Department this year through the honors program. Among them, Sarah Pergolizzi '13 and Lauren Bingham '13 will work for the Civil Division, in the Office of Immigration Litigation. Bingham is currently clerking for Gary Jones, U.S. magistrate judge for the Northern District of Florida, and Pergolizzi is a DOJ honors program attorney with the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Kim said the agency, with its staff of about 10,000 attorneys nationwide, has hired many UVA Law graduates over time.

"We have more alumni in the Department of Justice than any other federal agency," she said. "It's a popular destination for our students."

The students said they couldn't have landed their positions without the help of Kim and the Public Service Center.

"The center checked in regularly with me about my career goals, and they were wonderful with interview prep," Vicks said.

Shirazi said being paired with a current Justice Department attorney through the center's Public Service Alumni Mentoring Program helped his application as well.

"UVA Law's support system has given me the resources and confidence to pursue a career in public service," he said.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.