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Hill Climbers: For Lawyer, Dream Job On Hill Was in the Cards

Law school graduate quit job with Nevada Legislature and moved to D.C. with hopes of finding luck on the Hill

Natalee Binkholder was working in the gaming capital of America when she decided to take a gamble herself.

After graduating from law school and spending four years working as legislative counsel for the Nevada Legislature, she decided the Silver State was not where she wanted to be. So she quit her job, packed up her car and drove to the District, where she was hoping to land a job on Capitol Hill.

“Nevada was a great place to get started, but it was not where I wanted to stay long term or where I saw myself long term,” said Binkholder, who in November was promoted to legislative director for Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. “So I took a really big risk, I quit my job … I packed up my car full of clothes and moved to Washington, D.C., without a job and with just some money in a savings account to get me through.”

Binkholder’s high-risk gamble paid off. Shortly after arriving in D.C., she was hired as legislative counsel in Mulvaney’s office in September 2011.

Working on the Hill is a dream job for Binkholder, who says that, as a legislative attorney, “There’s no better place to be than the mecca, which is Washington, D.C.”

She added that working for Mulvaney — whom she describes as very trusting and appreciative of his staff and their ideas — has been an amazing experience, and she hopes to stay with the congressman for as long as he’ll have her.

“I’m very lucky to have landed in Mick’s office,” Binkholder said. “Different members of Congress focus on different things. Some of them are more focused on the politics side, some are very focused on constituent work, some are more focused on policy, and Congressman Mulvaney is very policy-driven, which makes it a lot of fun for me. We can have really good debates about the different aspects of bills.”

For Binkholder, the excitement of working in the Capitol has yet to wear off, even after more than a year of walking the historic building’s halls.

“Every time I walk by the Capitol, it’s awe- inspiring to me that I work in this place,” she said.

Although Binkholder has landed a job she loves, she said finding her passion was a winding road. As an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Binkholder studied broadcast journalism and interned for a local television station.

It wasn’t until after graduation that Binkholder decided she wanted to attend law school. She stayed in Columbia, where she meandered through different sectors of legal study, including real estate and criminal law, before deciding on pursuing a legislative career.

As someone who has tried out different types of law and careers, Binkholder said one trait was a necessity across all fields: being a hard worker.

For those looking to advance their careers on the Hill, Binkholder said that those who work hard will have no trouble finding chiefs of staff, or even their member of Congress, to recommend them for bigger and better things.

“A great deal of [landing a good job] is very good timing,” Binkholder said. “But I think that no matter what office you’re in, hard work is the No. 1 thing.”

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