Considering a Public Interest Law Career? Experience Counts, Not Just Grades
• For those interested in pursuing a career in public interest law, experience and desire can outweigh grades. Public interest law employers always ask for candidates with a demonstrated commitment to public interest law work. Obtaining this experience also helps you become more competent. Your resume suggests competence, but working with particular organizations demonstrates it.
• The public interest law community is tight-knit. Experience will help you get to know the people and the organizations. Being known to the organization as a volunteer could lead to an opportunity to fill the opening when it becomes available.
• One of the differences in the public interest job search process is that jobs cannot be predicted very far in advance. Networking, putting yourself out there through volunteering, and being in the right place at the right time is key to obtaining a public interest job.
• If you are passionate about a particular issue, having experience with related organizations can also assist in your development of expertise in the particular area. All in all, experience helps develop maturity no matter what area of law you hope to pursue.
Public Interest vs. Pro Bono vs. Community Service
• Public interest law is the field of law encompassing service to the people through non-profit organizations, gov- ernment work, direct legal services and even policy and legislative work.
• Pro bono is legal work done in the public interest through volunteer efforts. Vol- unteering for a law firm, while a valuable experience, is not pro bono in that it does not reach the larger goal of pro bono: bringing services to an under-served or under-represented individual or group.
• Community service is a way to give back to the community. Community service can occur in a wide variety of locations and through a wide variety of work.
Pro Bono and Community Service Projects
The UF Pro Bono Project offers local placements, which provide valuable experience in assisting with children’s issues, prisoners’ rights, and the general concerns of people with low income, including access to public benefits, landlord tenant issues and more. There are also many other opportunities to do pro bono work in your hometown during breaks from school, or elsewhere.
To qualify for the Pro Bono Project, the following criteria must be met:
• You must be doing work that is legal in nature.
• Your work must be with a government agency, court, or non-profit organization.
• You must be supervised by an attorney.
• You cannot receive pay or academic credit for your work.
• Your work must benefit the under-served, under-represented, or those with limited resources.
• All other volunteer work that benefits the community falls under the Community Service Project. Consider participating in community service projects through APIL and CCS.
• To participate in the Pro Bono Project, check out the pro bono/community service links on the Career Services website or contact Assistant Director Sam Sarno in Career Services.
Fellowships: Post-graduate and During Law School
• Historically, fellowships were only designed to provide law grads with employment for one or two years following graduation. Today, however, it is not uncommon to also find fellowships available to law students for summer or for a year-long program.
• These highly competitive paid fellowships are funded through various sources and typically match law students or graduates with public service organizations or law school programs.
• Concentrations can include: civil and human rights, legal services to the disadvantaged, children and women’s issues, immigrants and immigration, innocence projects, farm workers, environmental and wilderness issues and much more.
• Deadlines for many fellowship opportuni- ties occur during the fall. To learn more,be sure to check out the PSLawNet “Fellowship Corner.” This resource includes a calendar of fellowship applica- tion deadlines, a PDF version of Yale’s Fellowship Application Tips for 2006 and Fellowship and Grant Resources, as well as Georgetown University Law Center’s Post-Graduate International Fellowship Guide. Students can access the Fellow- ship Corner at the top of the menu on the www. pslawnet.org/.