Final Days to Apply! Ms. JD’s 2014 Summer Public Interest Scholarship

Congratulations to everyone for finishing up another semester of law school! Now that exams are over and you have some time to focus on your summer plans, we would like to remind you that time is running out to apply to Ms. JD’s 2014 Summer Public Interest Scholarship.

This opportunity is a great way to get involved in the Ms. JD community by sharing your post-exam tips, tricks, and advice. And, as if you needed any reminding, five winners will receive a $500 scholarship to help offset their summer costs. Applications are due no later than this Friday, May 23rd at midnight.

To apply, please respond to the following prompt in 1000 words or less by posting directly to the Ms. JD blog:

“What's the best advice you never got when it comes to law school, lawyering, or public interest law? Choose a situation and provide 2-3 concrete tips that would have made the biggest difference in how you tackled it.”

Use your Ms. JD account to post your essay and if you don’t yet have an account, register here:

In addition to posting your response, please send a resume, your anticipated employer, and any other sources of summer funding you will be receiving to Please include your Ms. JD user ID in either a cover letter or in the plain text of your email. 

Remember, applications are due by this Friday, May 23.

Time is running out, so get blogging and best of luck!



My name is Mariah McCullough and I just finished my first year at William S. Boyd School of Law in Las Vegas, Nevada. I will be interning for the Honorable Jessie Walsh at the Eight Judicial District Court for Clark County this summer. Law school is educating, intimidating, and very challenging. Compared to undergrad academics, law school is definitely a shock. The most challenging aspect of law school for me were the end of semester finals. Not only are the materials and concepts difficult to understand, but for most law school courses, the final is worth a vast majority of the overall grade. This aspect of law school terrified me. Grades are very important to me as well as to future employers, so one test that is worth so much is a daunting task. Personally, I was very unprepared for law school finals. I wasn’t sure how to study, what was important, or how to memorize so much material for the classes that did not allow any notes during the exam. I was overwhelmed.  Tips that would have made a huge difference in how I tackled law school finals include planning ahead and not procrastinating, supplemental materials, get to know your professors, and do not freak out. Tip #1: Plan ahead. My first semester, I did not start outlining (which for me was just condensing my notes into 30 or less pages) until the week before finals. I did not plan ahead. This was a mistake. I was so stressed and strapped for time during that week that I promised I would start outlining much sooner in the Spring semester. And I did, and it was very helpful. I was able to do practice exams, flash cards, and supplemental materials that week before finals rather than cramming all my outlining and studying into that time. So do not procrastinate. For classes in which the final exam is worth 90% of your final exam, you definitely want to plan ahead. Tip #2: Use supplemental materials. I personally benefitted from commercial outlines and lectures. I signed up for Barbri simply for the lectures and outlines. I still did my own outline, but I supplemented it and filled in the gaps with the commercial outlines. Then I would listen to the lecture as I read my outline. I would make notes on my outline if the lecturer phrased something in a different way or had a good illustration. That study technique helped me so much. Tip #3: Get to know your professors. If you get to know them, you can understand them better. For example, my property professor, who was an amazing teacher and person, loved future interests. I knew that future interests were going to be a huge part of the exam because I had conversations with her outside of class. You also get to know them on a personal level, which helps later on with recommendations on your resume as well as course planning for the next 2 years of law school. Tip #4: Calm down. Do not freak out. Yes, the final exam is a huge part of your overall grade, but it is not the end of the world. Everyone in your class is in the same boat as you. Also, everyone has their areas of confidence.  For example, contracts was very difficult for me because I had no experience in that field and had a hard time understanding the concepts throughout the semester. So I knew it was not going to my strongest final. And that is ok. You cannot ace every class. Do the best you can, and you will be surprised what an evening off of studying will do for you. Watch some Netflix, go out to dinner with your significant other or a friend. Bring some paper in case a good phrase or technique pops into your head while you are out. But take a couple hours and relax. It goes a long way to maintaining your sanity. Finals at the end of the first semester were so awful for me because I panicked and stressed and freaked out. Do not do this. It only makes the exam taking process worse. My second semester, I was much more calm and was able to focus more on what was important, like actually taking the exam. You have spent the whole semester learning this stuff and you are in law school because you are smart and willing to work hard. You’ve got this!


I just finished my 2L year and currently interning for the Public Defender’s Office.  From the beginning my law school career, I have always wanted to enter the public interest law field as a public defender.  Today marks the 4th day of my internship and I have already encountered a personal dilemma.  Assigned to work in the juvenile and domestic relations court, I have met juveniles that I just want to hug.  Whether the reason they are in the system can be attributed to their unstable family life, or the result of bad choices, the juveniles seem like they just need someone to care about them. 
Considering this, Tip #1 would be to make sure you can check your feelings at the door.  As law students or new attorneys, we want to help everyone.  However, realistically, that is impossible.  Some people have long a long history with the court system and will continue to have a long history with the court system.  Therefore, it is important to remember that serving as their advocate is limited to the case you have in front of you.  You can’t save the world and the sooner you realize that the better.
Tip #2 goes hand in hand with the first tip.  You will get screamed at by clients so be prepared.  Today I witnessed a client’s mother wait for an attorney after court for nearly an hour.  She was pissed that she didn’t get what she wanted and couldn’t understand that the attorney did not represent her but only represented her child.  With that being said, If you want to be an attorney, especially a public defender, it’s a requirement to have thick skin.  If you are sensitive or wear your feelings on your sleeve, it may be wise to reconsider what you would like to do with your law degree. 
Tip #3: the pay sucks!  I’ve always wanted to be a criminal litigator, and the public interest loan repayment program sweetened the deal.  But I have learned that prosecutors make so much more than public defenders.  So my tip would be if you don’t necessarily love the defense side, but just want to be a criminal litigator, and you plan to participate in the loan repayment program, consider being a CA.  I’m sure you’ve heard people who are public defenders say they do it because they love it.  Now having first-hand knowledge of the pay differential, its seriously no other reason to work long hours with difficult clients other than because you love it.


The best advice I never received regarding public interest law is that you can actually achieve this admirable goal, still make a living, and possibly have your student debt reduced or forgiven. A primary reason I elected to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law was because of its strong emphasis on public interest law. As a rising 3L who is using government loans to attend law school, I am keenly aware of the pressures on law students to secure high salaried private legal careers in order to repay your student loan debt, as opposed to public interest jobs which tend to pay less. However, what most law students do not know is the there are different options for law students who pursue careers in public interest law to significantly reduce or forgive your student loan debt. I will describe three different ways to accomplish this goal of a public interest legal career and not be debt ridden. First - the law school level.  Many law schools have public interest law assistance programs. UNC Law for example, has two separate programs to facilitate public law career interest. There is the student summer grant program to assist law students in public interest career positions which encourage placement and assist the students with cost of living expenses accrued during the summer public law positions. This type of program strongly directs law students into public interest positions with the necessary practical experience and fosters this career path. I was successful in obtaining a summer grant to work in the Wake County Family Court, District 10, North Carolina, as a Judicial Intern. After law school, there is a “Loan Repayment Assistance Program” or LRAP. This program’s mission is to encourage students to enter permanent public service employment without regard to debt burden; and to assist graduates entering public service with law school loan debt. While the program is selective, those law graduates receive a one year “loan forgiveness” payment to get started in their new career in public interest law. I plan to pursue this option upon graduation after successfully obtaining a public law position, possibly as an assistant district attorney. Second - in addition to law school LRAP’s, twenty-three States also provide LRAPs to provide financial aid to public-interest lawyers. These programs are usually through the state bar associations. Finally - at the federal level, the William D. Ford student loan program allows “loan forgiveness” if you work in a public interest legal job providing you meet their requirements, work ten years in that public law interest position, and make your required loan payments for ten years. It is called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. While this program has many steps, if you work in either a government organization (federal, state or local), a non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization, or other specific non-profit organizations, your Direct Student Loans will be forgiven after ten years regardless of your balance remaining.
In closing, there are now many avenues law students can use to seek financial loan repayment or forgiveness while choosing a public interest law career, enjoy a good lifestyle and professional satisfaction, while providing a critical resource for our civil society

Yasmean N. Tamoor

Hello! I have submitted my article for the 2014 Public Interest Scholarship. Thank you! Tune out the noise and get to work: Self-confidence as the key to success in your 1L year. At this moment, I sit in the back of a law school classroom, as a speaker teaches a group of pre-law students as part of an explore law event. Over the course of this program, I have met with talented, professional, and intelligent students that come from a variety of backgrounds. Some students are the first in their family to attend college, others come from a long line of practicing attorneys and judges. Regardless of their exposure to the law, common inquiries that I have received from students run the gamut, from: “My friends always tell me they don’t see me as a lawyer.”
“No one in my family has ever practiced law, I don’t know if I’m already behind.”
“My major is in Physics/Voice/European History/etc. Will I be prepared?” The answer to all of these questions lies in adequate preparation and the development of skills that will aid you before and during your first year of law school. Most importantly, Breaking down any project, regardless of size, has been the most helpful tactic I have used during my time as a pre-law student, during summer employment and the academic year. For example, when applying to law school, break down the process into: gathering recommendations, preparing for the LSAT, drafting personal statements, etc.
This methodology can be applied to any task in law school, from preparing for classes to preparing and acing final exams. In the spirit of following this method, here are some ways to prepare and develop self-confidence when applying to law school and during your 1L year. 1) Find your allies
It is absolutely crucial that you surround yourself with positive individuals that can encourage your dreams and provide constructive feedback and help. These people can include professors, family and friends that have your best interests in mind.
This includes evaluating the background and possible biases of the person that is giving you the solicited (or unsolicited, which can often be the case!) advice. Think to yourself: what experience does this person have and what is their personal perspective on the issue? During your first year of law school, surround yourself with positive, hardworking students that share some of the study styles that you do: this way, you can easily form study groups when finals come around. You will also avoid unnecessary conflict and stress from those who may have different attitudes toward law school or do not work well with others.
2) Constantly seek resources and opportunities.
There are countless resources available to Pre Law students and students at every level of the law school experience! A simple Google search will bring up countless exploratory law programs, scholarship opportunities and mentorship programs. Resources at your school include the Office of Admissions during the application phase and the Offices of Student Services and Career Development during your time as a student. Don’t forget to join student organizations that pertain to your area of interest: these organizations are lead by 2L and 3L law students that can give you insight into excellent classes to take or job opportunities
3) Tune out the noise and get to work
The first year of law school can be a very competitive and stressful time.  It is important to focus on doing your best work and ignoring distractions. Unfortunately, some students may brag about how many hours they spent briefing a case or how much work they put into their legal writing briefs, in an effort to “intimidate the competition.” Brush this off and focus on preparing the best you can every day for class, and most importantly, for finals! Most schools will base a student’s grades entirely on a single exam, so get to work on what matters. Tune out the noise! This advice also applies to the law school application process: There will be many people that will give you their personal opinion on your choice to apply and attend law school. It is very important to remember two words: your choice. It is ultimately your choice whether to pursue legal education. Take all opinions with a “grain of salt.” Success in applying to law school and in your first year of law school is highly dependent on focus, self-motivation and hard work.
4) Know you can be successful
Applying all of these factors can aid in your preparedness for applying to law school and excelling in your first year. Most importantly, they will help you develop the self-confidence to know that you are capable and ready to handle the challenges lie ahead of you. Be confident that you are ready and take the process one step at a time. After you have achieved your goals, make sure to give back to incoming law students and students considering applying to law school.

Katherine Vernon

My name is Katherine Vernon, and. I am doing a legal internship at a non-profit public interest law office. The best advice I never got when it comes to public interest law was that you have to balance maintaining an emotional distance and remembering that the client is not just a file. Even as an advocate in SSI law, for example, the client is asking you to stand before a judge and convince that judge that this person is disabled, cannot work, and needs this $740-some a month. At that stage in the legal process, this person has already applied to receive twice and been denied, often has gathered records, and has proven that they are below a minimum income.
One situation where I would have loved the advice would be in client intake and in subsequently reporting whether the supervising attorney should take the case in SSI law. In client intake, a person walks in, and it is our job to interview them to see if the attorney should take the case. I can’t get into details for confidentiality reasons, but I can say that these people are down on their luck and in a tough city. After my first interview or two, my heart wanted to tell my supervising attorney to take each case. However, some people clearly did not meet the criteria to win them SSI benefits. I actually cried about it after only my second day on the job. Even if they have a strong case based on the interview, you have to know which information is relevant to make it a strong case; stories might break your heart, but they don’t mean your client qualifies according to a judge.  I would have loved the advice on how much I would really have to maintain an emotional distance and how it simply isn’t logical to have a ‘bleeding heart’. If I had had the advice, it would have made the job in public interest more emotionally tolerable. Remember to keep a distance and stay logical.
On the other hand, you need to remember that a client is not just a file. In the same situation, you need to try and not be dismissive. Perhaps their ‘creteria’, or those boxes we put people in to qualify for SSI, are met once we look at the medical records. This client is a living and breathing person; you owe It to them to try. The hard part, of course, is balancing when you should try and when you need to not. You need to use your best judgment and keep in mind that you may see them a lot. Had I known this from the onset, even after learning I had to keep an emotional distance…I would have treated people less like they needed to fit into boxes at the interview stage and as I looked at their files.
In short, my advice is to balance emotional distance and staying personable. Keep your chin up – don’t cry like I did. Also, remember that you really are helping people – not just trying to fit them into boxes


My name is Eliana Wilk, and here is my response to the 2014 Public Interest Scholarship prompt: As I am sure many people are, I am constantly frustrated with uncertainty. Even recognizing that the future is, by definition, uncertain, I often ask myself unanswerable questions like: will I be able to have the impact I want to have? Will the work I choose to do be as rewarding as I want it to be? It is inevitably difficult to envision our professional futures when we are still in the process of figuring out both what we are good at and how we can best use our skills and talents to achieve good things. And, it is difficult to recognize that this process is just that: a process. As a particularly impatient person, and one who has high expectations for herself, I often feel dissatisfied when I don’t achieve what I want to achieve, or when I don’t achieve things quickly. The way that I have dealt with my impatience and high expectations has been to push myself to overcome whatever challenge I am facing, and to always be on the path of “self-improvement.” Until only a few years ago, this strategy worked relatively well for me, and though I have certainly faced many challenges and failed at many things, for the most part I achieved whatever I set my mind to. And whenever I did fail, I figured it wasn’t because I was human, but rather because I was mediocre and in need of more improvement. Indeed, there was one challenge I had not yet overcome: I was not comfortable with failure. About three years ago, my attitude began to change. I graduated college with the idea that I could do “anything I wanted” and quickly realized this idea had an important caveat that to start doing what I wanted I first needed to get a job, which was not an easy feat. I struggled to get a job for many months, even with a shiny resume and the willingness to withstand many uncomfortable networking happy hours. When I finally got a job, one I considered a great public service, I found it to be full of challenges and only after some time did I begin to feel I was doing well and truly having a positive impact. I started law school a few years later, and so far, I have found this to be the greatest personal challenge yet. While in retrospect the year was full of achievements, throughout the year they were dwarfed by constant situations in which I felt I was falling short, failing to understand, and failing to succeed. So, the most valuable realization I have come to after completing my first year of law school is this: in order to succeed in anything, one must first be comfortable with failure. We all have faced, and will face, many situations of failure. In light of this, the two pieces of advice I never got that I would now give are: (1) be comfortable with failure, (2) invest in your long-term self, and don’t focus too much on your short-term self

One must believe in the eventual success of oneself. One must not be disillusioned with small losses, but rather focus on the big picture and believe in one’s ability to succeed in the long term. A lost battle is not a lost war, or an indication of mediocrity. Moreover, focusing too much on our “short-term” selves leads us to become too self-involved to truly see ourselves in relation to the world—that is, to see our goals and aspirations, our talents, our character, our relationships with people, our place in the world. I am convinced that to achieve great long-term success, however one chooses to define it, one must be comfortable with losing on occasion. I have yet to see a person who has achieved great success without occasionally failing in the process. A great investor can only make it big if she is willing to bear the occasional losses associated with a risky stock market. A great philosopher can only reach the highest levels of thinking by questioning and challenging her own thought process. A person with true integrity is one who realizes her mistakes and knows how to apologize and assume responsibility. To be great, one cannot interpret occasional loss or failure as a sign of mediocrity, but simply use that loss or failure to grow. One must believe in the eventual impact of one’s work, just like one must believe in the eventual success of oneself. A person who always expects immediate results will be easily disillusioned and her goals and aspirations may become weak, fickle, or impossible to achieve. It is important to be patient and accept that success is a process. So, we must invest in our long-term selves, by having the confidence to embrace failure when it comes and not allowing failure to undermine our trust in ourselves, or our admiration for ourselves.

Ileana Garcia

The best advice I never got in law school was that you need to seek out as much help as you need. It does not matter if you think you will come out as an annoying student. At the end of the day, you are paying for all these services so it is up to to you use them or lose them during your law school career. You will not lose anything from seeking out as much help as you can, you will only benefit from asking for help. Below are three tips regarding seeking help in law school which will only help you become a better student and an even better attorney in the long run. 1. Visit your professors Your best resource in law school are your professors. They can tell you exactly what you need, how you need to learn it, and how you should phrase it on the exam. Go to your professor’s office hours as much as possible. Even if you do not have any questions, just sit in there and listen to the other student’s questions. This will spark up questions that you did not think about, and will help you view things in a different way. Also, the professor will remember your name, you will be a familiar place, so when the time comes around and you need a recommendation letter, this professor will not hesitate in providing you with one ! 2. Get to know your classmates When I first started at my school I had every intention in transferring out. As the semesters flew by, I made some great friends and had a few unforgettable experiences. Some people, just go to class and leave. The people you meet in law school are so valuable to your career. When we all graduate, guess who’s going to recommend you to an employer or connect you with that person that you need to meet? Your classmates! Your classmates are cooler than they appear from the outside, so take the time out to get to know them! 3. Apply for everything! When I would learn of scholarship opportunities, I would always think that I would not get it, or someone needs it more than me. I am just a very humble individual, and am thankful for the little that I do have. But HEY, I came to the conclusion that we all are in the same predicament and not one person is better or worse than me. Sooooo whenever an opportunity comes around, TAKE IT! You are worth it, and if they can’t see how gifted you are that is their loss. In essence, never be afraid to seek out for help. You can’t do this alone, no one ever did it alone. It takes a team!


Telling your story
We all have a compelling story, listening to other law students is both inspiring and daunting. Our stories inspired us to become who we are and had some part in our decision to go to law school. I know mine did, but I’ve always been a bit hesitant to tell my story to others, especially to prospective employers. But telling my story led directly to having two summer employment offers before Christmas breaks.
When I first when into the career development office my impersonal resume and cover letter detailed my long work history in accounting and finance. My advisor asked me why I wanted to work in public interest when I had such extensive accounting history. It was a common question – my work history began to feel like a liability rather than an asset. (Accounting pun intended).
I told her my story. I was a prior foster kid, I always wanted to go to law school to help other foster children; be the voice I never had. I choose the security of accounting to begin with, but the longer I was in accounting the more I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied without fulfilling my dream of going to law school and lending my voice to children whose situation I knew all too well.
It’s a personal story and sharing it with complete strangers is a bit uncomfortable. Together we developed a “10-minute elevator speech” and a cover letter that shared the story that explained my passion and dedication. Whether you’re going into public interest or corporate law – we all have a story and a passion that impacts what we want as our ‘dream job’. I’m not the top of the class – far from it but when I explained my passion – grades were secondary. I got two offers from interviews at the Equal Justice Career Symposium. Each one told me how they had been excited to meet and talk to me. I ended up landing my dream job this summer and turned the other offer into an internship during the spring semester.
The best advice that I would give anyone hoping to land their dream job in the public interest field is tell your story in three areas – your cover letter, resume and during the interview.
First your cover letter, this is your first introduction to your dream job. It’s your opportunity not to just reiterate your resume – or say what everyone else says. Explain what made you passionate and how your experiences fit into that passion. I want to go into child welfare so I explained about my history in the system and how my classes and extracurricular activities are helping to empower me to enact change.
Second your resume, whether you come into law school straight from undergrad or with years of unrelated or related experience your resume can reflect your history. When you’re passionate about something it will be reflected through your activities, make sure that those experiences are reflected in your resume. 
Finally, the interview.  Here’s your time to shine and let your passion come through. Don’t be hesitant to share your story and passion. It’s not only what people look for it’s what we need in the public interest sphere.  Reflect and know what makes you incredible and inspired –and share that with the world. It won’t only make it easier to be hired; it will help make you be a force to be reckoned with.

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