It’s never easy for FORBES staffers to sniff out the 30 best and brightest Millennials making an impact on their fields. In law and public policy, where most people are barely out of law school by 30, let alone blazing trails in their fields, the task sometimes felt farcical.
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Thankfully, there will always be jealousy-inducing overachievers, no matter the area of expertise. With my colleague Daniel Fisher, I sussed out this year’s final 30 from a roster of more than 200 candidates, after interviewing dozens of legal experts, Hill officials, think tankers, academics, and law school and grad school admissions offices. By no means exhaustive, this year’s 30 Under 30 is the result of our efforts to leave no stone unturned while balancing the list with representatives from the private and public sector, big law and nonprofit work, entrepreneur-rich Silicon Valley and traditional academia.
We had help of course, enlisting three judges immersed in the worlds of law and policy: William Eskridge, John A. Garver Professor Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and a widely cited expert on statutory interpretation and con law; Greta Van Susteren, head of the long-running primetime news and interview program On the Record with Greta Van Susteren and former trial attorney; and Ronan Farrow, who will soon host his own MSNBC show, making him the youngest host on the network.
Farrow is a 30 Under 30 alumnus and with his new role at MSNBC, a news program for Millennials by a Millennial (a.k.a. advertising’s holy grail), it made sense to enlist his expertise in winnowing down our myriad hopefuls to a final 30.
Many of this year’s 30 under 30 boast the kinds of credentials one expects from men and women twice her age. Take Jonathan Fantini Porter, the Department of Homeland Security’s chief of staff who at 29 oversees management operations of a $5.8 billion Federal budget for 20,000 employees in 48 countries.
Then there’s Nate Levine, who cofounded OpenGov at the ripe old age of 20. OpenGov’s software platform helps governments make intelligent, data-driven decisions and communicate financial information with their constituents. In the wake of the federal government’s badly bungled healthcare.gov rollout, Levine’s startup, which supplies governments with good tools to access and apply their reams of data, is revolutionizing how cites share data and approach the budgeting process. Says Levine, “Better access to information allows officials to focus on the hard problems of governing. It’s especially important now that governments are being asked to do more with less.”
This year the 30 under 30 law and policy list has seen a marked uptick in men and women working in tech policy. With Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras’ NSA reveal arguably taking the mantle of 2013’s biggest story, it comes as no surprise that eight tech policy people from our feature work on privacy, spying and free speech issues directly related to the NSA disclosures. That includes Nabiha Syed, an attorney at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, who’s already considered one of the best emerging free speech lawyers at 28. She’s part of the team representing the Guardian U.S. in its ongoing national security reporting, as well as the cofounder of Drone U, an educational platform explaining drone integration into civilian airspace.
Lastly, none of the Supreme Court clerks nominated are featured among our 30. For one, the overall crop of candidates was superior to last year’s, raising the bar for entry even higher. Chalk up another reason to the difficult but not necessarily groundbreaking steps it takes to become a clerk for the highest bench in the country: top law school, big law or government internships, top of class, SCOTUS clerkship. This isn’t to belittle the accomplishments of the exclusive few who do clerk for the nine, but we felt strongly that there were other stories worth highlighting, like Adam Chandler’s. He’s the youngest lawyer handling the Federal government’s antitrust appeals, as well as the first entry-level attorney hired into the Antitrust Division’s Appellate Section in 18 years. He also came out in a widely read NYT op-ed in 2013. “It peaked at #2 on the Times’ most-emailed list (failing to unseat a recipe for spinach-and-chickpea-salad),” Chandler said. Not to worry, Adam. The spinach-and-chickpea salad didn’t claim a spot on this year’s 30 Under 30.