Learning about Opportunities in Public Interest and Government Summer Jobs

by Jenn Watson, Class of 2016

Throughout the year, the Office of Career Services hosts different panels and events to let us know about various career options. I attended one about public interest and government summer jobs with a panel of 3Ls who had pursued relevant summer opportunities. It may seem early to start thinking about this now, especially for 1Ls, but many desirable and interesting summer positions require applications to be submitted in December and January. As it gets closer to the end of the semester for us, our time will obviously be more taken up with exam preparations, so it is a good idea to get started rather than put it off knowing we will be even busier in another month or two.

The student panel was great– all the panelists stressed that the skills you learn and practice while working at a public interest or government job are easily transferable to any other career, so even if you aren’t sure that your ultimate career goals lie in the public sector, you should consider taking advantages of the opportunities that a summer job there can provide.

OCS

We also got a general overview of the types of government and public interest jobs available. Federal jobs can vary widely in type and location, and many departments have offices in a variety of places outside Washington D.C. State jobs can be found both in state capitals and state-wide, and a number of W&M students return to their home states to pursue summer job opportunities. Although many people first think of federal and state government jobs, municipal jobs can also offer valuable experiences. Municipal jobs can end up being almost analogous to firm work, where a municipal attorney will handle a wide range of claims similar to those a small business would require.

Public interest jobs can include things like working for Legal Aid, as a Public Defender, or for a non-profit organization such as the ACLU. One thing to make sure of while looking at non-profit internships is that they are looking specifically for legal skills or law students, as some of these internships, although they may be rewarding, won’t teach legal skills that can help advance our careers.

The second half of the presentation focused on showing us how to take advantage of online resources to find out about possible government and public interest opportunities. Both OCS’s website and the Wolf Law Library website offer a lot of information on government and public interest jobs. I attended because I am interested in this type of work. It was a great opportunity for me to gain useful information that will help me in my internship and job searches. Having students who have already gone through the process was especially valuable!

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