If you’re thinking you might want a career in public interest law, it’s not too early to start planning, even while you’re still a law school applicant!
We recently devoted an entire podcast to this topic. Our show covers everything a law student heading to the public sector should focus on, from curriculum offerings at law schools, law school career services, financial support and much more.
In this Law School Podcaster segment, we gathered the following panel of experts to get their take on these questions and to take a closer look at this career path:
- David Stern, Executive Director, Equal Justice Works,
- Luke Bierman, Associate Dean for Experiential Education, Northeastern University School of Law
- Christina Jackson, Assistant Director, Public Interest Specialist at American University Washington College of Law
- Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher, Fastweb.com and FinAid.org
Our experts recommend you start by relying less on rankings and more on specific course offerings. As American University Washington School of Law’sAssistant Director, Public Interest Specialist Christina Jackson explains, “[t]he interesting thing is, particularly if you’re interested in the public sector, rankings, US News rankings, that type of thing isn’t quite as important, for two basic reasons. The first is the types of employers that you’re going to be targeting don’t necessarily use GPA, class rank, those type of… journal or lawreview, that type of criteria, as their defining criteria.
And the second thing is you need to look at what your school is going to offer you, in order to give you the experience that you need, to go to the employer that you’re targeting. So for instance, when you’re looking at law schools if you want to go into the public sector, you need to look at what are the experiential learning opportunities? What are the clinics? What are the externships? How are you going to get practical experience? Because for somepublic sector employers, there is no lag time, and there’s no training time — you must be ready to go directly upon graduation.
“You also need to look at what are the course offerings. The public sector employers tend to be a little bit more focused on subject matter knowledge than the private sector may be, or maybe going forward.
“The other thing you need to look at is the places that the alumni are going. Is the school known for being a public sector school? Or is it known for being a private sector school? And therefore, how are the resources allocated? What are the student organizations that you can join? What are the alumni that you’ll be able to be exposed to? Where are there gonna be the connections for the type of employers that you’re looking for? And that’s really the key. If you are interested in a public sector employer after graduation you need to look at the schools that are going to help you get connected with those employers.”