Ms. JD

Avenues to Public Interest

Editor's Note: Ms. JD's annual conference, Avenues to Advancement, was held November 20-21 in Chicago. These are five tips from the Avenues to Public Interest panel.

1. Don’t limit yourself geographically.

Public interest offices are often located in areas near the clients they serve. Geographic flexibility can significantly increase your chances of finding an internship, fellowship, or career in your interest area. 

2. Show your commitment.

Personalize your application package, listing relevant volunteer and course work and explaining your personal link to the agency or interest area. If possible, tailor your writing sample and include any related materials that demonstrate your commitment. One panelist described a student who submitted copies of his published "Letters to the Editor," rather than a traditional legal writing sample. The candidate got the job.

3. Be passionate and intentional.

Public interest organizations seek interns, fellows, and employees who are sincerely devoted to the organization's mission. Demonstrate your passion by engaging in volunteer and work activities with sincerity and vigor.There is no substitute for genuine enthusiasm!

4. Be familiar with the organization.

Read the organization's website. Understand the organization's mission. Attend community events sponsored by the organization. Interviewers will be impressed by your knowledge and participation.

5. Emphasize your non-legal skills.

Many organizations, particularly smaller organizations, seek people who can wear many hats. In addition to outstanding legal writing and research skills, apprise the organization of your other skills or qualifications. Administrative experience, event planning skills, or computer know-how, for example, can be enormously beneficial to a small office.


Moderator:  Susan Curry, Executive Director, Public Interest Law Initiative
Hannah Brenner, Lecturer in Law, Michigan State University Law School
Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Kate Pomper, Polikoff Gautreaux Fellow, Business & Professional People for the Public Interest  

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