What another recipe is for a chef, another industry is to Natalie Rosenfelt. A lawyer for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, the 30-something Penn Quarter resident says that one of the best parts of her job is learning new information about various industries and how they compete. Originally from Northern Virginia, Rosenfelt attended Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She recently spoke with WJW about why she chose to become a lawyer and work in the field of antitrust, her involvement with the American Jewish Committee, her Jewish identity and more.
What inspired you to become a lawyer?
My father is a lawyer at the Department of Education, and I was always inspired by him growing up. He was completely devoted, he is completely devoted, to helping children get a better education, and he’s always been very passionate about what he does. Growing up with that influence, I always knew that I wanted to be a lawyer for the government and do meaningful work that benefits the public. Tell us about your experience in law school. Fun, or reminiscent of The Paper Chase? The former. I was very lucky to have some amazing professors there who made the subjects come alive, and I really enjoyed the classes. I actually took a couple of Jewish law classes there, which were pretty interesting as well.
For those unfamiliar with the field of antitrust, what can you tell us about the importance of the government’s work in that area?
The government has an important role in promoting competition and protecting consumers through enforcing the antitrust laws. And competition is very important because it leads to lower prices, higher quality and more choices for consumers. Competition also ensures that businesses can compete fairly and on a level playing field.
What are some of the industries you’ve worked on?
Some of the industries I’ve worked on include health care, insurance, media, the paper industry and appliances. One of the reasons I really enjoy my job is because I really enjoy learning about different industries and learning about the facts about the industries, such as who the participants are, how they interact, how they make and sell their products and how they compete. One industry I’m very interested in learning about is health care, because there’s a lot happening in that area now with the Affordable Care Act. There are a lot of changes in that particular industry and a lot of those changes also affect the antitrust issues. So that’s an area I would like to really learn more about, and I think it’s very exciting. I also appreciate that my work contributes to protecting consumers from anti-competitive practices and preserving competition.
You recently took a trip to Germany with the AJC. What was the purpose of the trip?
The purpose is to build relationships between the American Jewish community and Germans. The trip brought together 10 young Jewish American professionals and 10 young German professionals to learn about modern Germany and its history. We met with German government and business leaders, and we visited important Jewish sites in German-Jewish history, such as museums and memorials. One of the very meaningful things that we did was that we visited a concentration camp with young Germans. That was a very moving experience.
On the trip, we really saw that, in all aspects of society, Germans are going to great lengths to confront their history and learn about the Holocaust, so it never happens again. After we visited the concentration camp, some of the German participants shared what their relatives were doing during the Holocaust. It was moving to see how conflicted they were about relatives that may have been involved with the Nazi party. I think that trips like these are important in building relationships with people from different countries and cultures, and can be very helpful in fighting hatred and prejudice. So I would love to be involved again in one of these trips.
What was your Jewish upbringing like?
I was raised Conservative, and I have a strong Jewish background. I grew up in Northern Virginia and I went to Gesher Jewish Day School from second to sixth grade. I also attended Camp Ramah during some summers. So I have a strong Jewish education.
Is the religion still a big part of your life now?
My Jewish identity is very important to me. I take classes at Sixth & I, including a Torah study class. I find that Jewish values are still very relevant today, and can provide guidance in everyday life. I’m also involved in and support activities of Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and others in the area. I also consider tikkun olam to be an important value in Judaism. In addition to public service, I try to do some pro bono work that helps low-income people receive legal advice. It sounds like you’re extremely busy.
Whenever you have free time, what do you do with it?
In addition to being involved in Jewish organizations and taking classes, I love music. I enjoy playing guitar. I’m also trying to do more cooking and really want to learn how to cook healthy foods. And luckily I have family in the area, and I really enjoy spending time with them. I have a little niece and nephew who live in Silver Spring, so I like to spend time with them.
What advice do you have for law students and aspiring lawyers?
I would recommend talking to lawyers in different areas of law about their work, and what they enjoy about it. And then choosing an area of law that really excites you.