Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Dina Mishra of the US Department of Justice

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

While in public service for the federal government, I have led appellate briefing and delivered oral argument on behalf of the United States and its agencies on important issues with broad cross-substantive implications. Such argument has involved complex questions of federal jurisdiction, civil procedure, and influential administrative-law principles, including those reflected in the Supreme Court’s Chevron decision.

My advocacy recently persuaded the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to issue a favorable published opinion on statutory authority to conserve fisheries to the benefit of those partaking of their resources. I also prevailed in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upon my briefing and oral argument in defense of an Endangered Species Act recovery plan. That decision overturned a district court ruling to defeat a duplicative lawsuit and obtain a favorable published appellate opinion on a broadly applicable procedural issue.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

As a first-year attorney, I learned the importance and professional value of cultivating and sustaining a workplace culture of camaraderie and mutual support. When colleagues respect and support one another and feel comfortable seeking each other’s candid advice, their work product can benefit from greater access to information and new perspectives on the issues involved.

In addition, attorneys who feel valued in their workplace are generally more motivated to take on challenges and to invest in developing approaches to improve the quality of work and of the workplace experience for themselves and others. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have worked in places where people strive to treat every team member, regardless of their position or authority, in ways that recognize and help give full effect to their important contributions.

How do you define success in your practice?

I have had the opportunity to participate in legal practice in various respects, including through litigation, providing regulatory counsel, and managing legislative relations. Across these different approaches to legal practice, as well as my academic research, I have considered my success to be defined by the contributions that I am able to make to the service of others—whether clients, the court, the public, or those seeking to develop or understand the law. I feel a sense of responsibility and gratitude for the opportunity to utilize my skills and energy in a manner that contributes to something meaningful beyond my immediate personal circumstances.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I am most proud of my commitment to providing public service with integrity. I aspire and dedicate a great portion of my energy to performing my work and conducting my life in a manner attentive to my obligations, ethical and otherwise.

Various aspects of the legal profession, particularly in times of crisis or bad fortune, can become beset with immense amounts of pressure. And particularly over time and in greatly polarized environments, cynicism and inertia may threaten to subvert the motivation and direction of even the most upstanding attorneys.

I strive, regardless of circumstances, to remain honest and forthright in my work, and in my dealings with others in the course of it, even at substantial personal effort and risk. Even if perfection in this regard is unattainable, I deeply believe in the worthiness of the project.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

I have had the immense privilege of serving as a judicial law clerk to three great jurists: Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony M. Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States, and Judge Michael Boudin of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

My experience with these men has shown them to be of the highest integrity, committed firmly to the impartial application of law toward the ends of justice as they understood them. I also found them to be kind and generous with their mentorship, guidance, and support over the years even after my clerkships concluded.

I learned from each of these jurists a lesson that was strengthened by the experience of having worked for all three: despite differing perspectives or approaches regarding the law, there can be a unifying commitment to act according to neutral principles and in the pursuit of justice. I learned that attention to and respect for differing perspectives can strengthen the reasoning supporting a position or decision and can contribute to the ability to persuade and to bridge even an impasse that might seem untraversable. I remain always grateful for the experience of serving, and learning from, these honorable men.

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.

I enjoy jazz and soul classics, so my two favorite songs on my summer music playlist are “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong; and “Stand by Me,” performed by Ben E. King.

Dina Mishra (3d. from left) of US Justice Department and friends.
Dina Mishra and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Dina Mishra has served as an attorney at the US Department of Justice in the appellate sections of the Environment & Natural Resources and Civil divisions, as senior counsel at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and in other roles. Through her pro bono representation, Dina prepared prevailing petitioners’ counsel for the US Supreme Court oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges, the historic decision supporting same-sex marriage against state prohibition. Dina’s work was acknowledged in that counsel’s book chapter in “Love Unites Us: Winning the Freedom to Marry in America.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: MP McQueen at; Lisa Helem at

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