Ms. JD International: State Department, Part I
State Department, Part I: Student Opportunities
The State Department, perhaps the pinnacle of all things international, has fantastic professional opportunities for internationally-minded law students. The three core opportunities for students are: the Student Internship Program, STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program), and SCEP (Student Career Experience Program). Law students can extern during the semester in at State headquarters in DC for credit or intern at an embassy abroad. The Office of the Legal Adviser, otherwise known as “L,” offers a very small number of externships and paid summer internships specifically for law students, but law students interested in international law should definitely pursue internships in other bureaus. No matter where at State you intern, international law will touch upon the work you do, and your law studies will be viewed as a great asset by your supervisor.
More specifics on all of these opportunities after the jump!
Student Internships at State
The Office of the Legal Advisor is organized into sub-offices, both regional and functional. Thus law student interns can focus on a geographic area of the world, like in the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs, or focus on a specific area of law, perhaps in the Office of Nonproliferation and Verification. Interns get exposure to the drafting of treaties, international agreements, status of forces agreements, and legal advising of State Department personnel domestically and abroad. Rising 3Ls can pursue paid summer internships, and 2Ls and 3Ls can pursue externships for credit.
For more information, see: http://www.state.gov/s/l/3190.htm
The Student Internship Program is the flagship student program at State, and offers fall, spring, and summer internships for students. You can apply for both domestic and abroad unpaid internships. Small stipends can be offered to a very few, based entirely on your FAFSA. However, a few of the regional bureaus may offer free housing and cover the plane ticket for interns working at an embassy abroad. For a law student interested in an international career, securing a student internship at State is a phenomenal opportunity. These internships are absolute gems. I have held two internships through the program, one at an embassy abroad, and one in a domestic office, and the experiences were life and career-changing. If you have any interest in a career at the State Department or a career in international law, apply!
First, since law students rarely apply to the student internship program, your background makes you stand out in a very competitive application process. Second, you will obtain either a Secret or Top Secret clearance through your internship, an enormous asset for your resume and for the job hunting process in DC. Third, the substantive experience you acquire is profound: you will be involved in making, evaluating, and applying policy. You can create opportunities to do legal research and writing; domestic and international law principles impact very bureau’s activities. Finally, the networking! You will meet amazing professionals while interning at State, many of whom have JDs, who will give you invaluable advice on pursuing a career in the international sector.
Check out: http://careers.state.gov/students/programs
Student Employment at State: STEP and SCEP Programs
STEP and SCEP provide students paid employment opportunities. STEP is temporary and lasts while you are a student, while SCEP leads to a conversion of you student position into permanent federal employment once you graduate. Some offices have a policy of students starting as an intern, then acquiring a STEP, and perhaps later on a SCEP. These programs are catered to students since you can design your schedule around your classes, and your supervisor understands that you are a busy student.
To learn more, go to: http://careers.state.gov/students/programs
So, all you Ms. JD law students interested in an international-oriented career, consider pursuing an internship or student employment at the State Department. It was the best decision I ever made!