Becoming a legislative correspondent
By Ian Fisher
For UF Law grad J.J. Wilson (JD 07), a change of heart in law school led to her landing a competitive job with a United States senator.
Wilson serves as a legislative correspondent and staff attorney for Senator Arlen Specter, from Pennsylvania.
“When I applied to law school I did so with the intent of becoming an NCAA compliance officer for a collegiate athletic program,” Wilson said. “However, it is very easy to get caught up in ‘1Lism’ and so I found myself looking more to public interest law. After interviewing with various government agencies in Florida, I found myself looking more and more to ‘the Hill.’ ”
But landing a job with a United States legislator is not easy, especially when you don’t live in D.C., Wilson said. So, she took the daring step of moving to Washington, D.C., without a job. She noticed the position with Specter while browsing the online Senate Employment Bulletin. More than 100 people applied for the job, Wilson said, but the research and writing skills she learned in law school gave her the competitive edge.
Wilson has a number of duties in her position. She serves as a liaison between Specter and his constituents, handling requests, complaints and concerns with her legislative portfolio, “which includes business issues, financial services, social security, tax reform, and telecommunication issues,” she said. She also tracks legislation related to her portfolio and writes memorandum on bills, which includes making policy recommendations.
The recent $700-billion Wall Street bailout has been a big issue for Wilson. “As the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) falls under my portfolio, I have been experiencing an increased number of phone calls and letters,” she said. “I will also make calls to federal agencies such as the SEC and the Treasury requesting updates on issues related to the economic crisis and the EESA.”
Although it took Wilson several months to land her job, she stressed that it was worth it and any law student who is interested should persevere like she did until a job happens. She has some other advice for any other law students looking for similar jobs.
“If you want to pursue employment on the Hill or D.C. in general, my best advice is to start networking,” Wilson said. “The D.C. Gators is the second largest University of Florida Alumni Club in the country. Contacting the D.C. Gators is a great first step. If it is feasible for you to move up here, networking
is much easier, as is the application and interviewing process.