As a JD/MFA student at Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Matthew Spikes (’14) never imagined he would find himself spending hours researching the financial and environmental impact of space trash. However, after two years as a legislative correspondent for a United States senator in Washington, D.C., very few research assignments surprise him anymore. Spikes works for Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin’s general counsel, providing research on various legislative issues and condensing what is often hundreds of pages of proposed legislation into streamlined reports. His work includes judiciary, telecommunications, cyber security, and human services research. He has worked on everything from the Family First Prevention Services Act to legislation regarding broadcasting, Russian hacking, off-shore wind energy, and racial profiling.
His route to Capitol Hill began in his third year of law school at Chapman, when he spent a year as a visiting student at Georgetown University Law Center. While there, Spikes worked to build his professional network with Chapman Law alumni and other attorneys in the area, taking every internship opportunity that presented itself. When the opportunity to apply for and eventually accept an fill time position on Capitol Hill arose, Spikes said he could not possibly pass up the chance.
“I had a mentor who once told me that he would have taken an internship on the Hill for free, and another said he could remember when African Americans were not able to get internships on the Hill,” Spikes said. “I knew it would be a rare learning opportunity.”
Essentially, Spikes says, his job is not too different from that of any practicing attorney: Senator Cardin is his client and Spikes spends his days researching to find the best answer to match his client’s goals. “I took the job not even fully understanding the impact that my work could have,” he said. “It requires a tremendous amount of research and working with many different agencies to understand how these decisions can impact the entire legal landscape. With each project that I take on, I have to look at what can possibly go wrong, whether jobs are being taken away or added, and where the money will come from.”
Although he has enjoyed his time in politics, Spikes ultimately hopes to transition into the entertainment industry as a film producer funding independent filmmakers. While it may seem like a jump, Spikes says that his on-the-job education on Capitol Hill, coupled with a dual JD and MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from Chapman, provide the foundation he needs to acheive his dream.
“When people think about entertainment, they always think about what’s in front of the camera,” he said. “But the entertainment industry really comes down to business and finance. You are dealing with securities laws, tax laws, entities doing business together, broadcasting regulations, and understanding how venture capital funds work.”