So you want to do PI?

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:02 am

worldtraveler wrote:There are more open PI jobs in housing law and access to public benefits (as in helping people access disability) than anything else. There is a huge need for it, and it's not very sexy so no one wants to do it.

Also lots of openings for working with immigrant juveniles on all of the new deferred action stuff.

Honestly if I were a PI person and didn't care so much about the issue and just really wanted to be in direct legal services, I would target housing law. Lack of affordable housing, evictions, and foreclosures are huge, growing problems but most PI lawyers want to work on other things.


cool, how about family law? specifically divorce, child custody/visitation/support, protection from abuse, guardianships, etc.

the pie chart in the HLS legal aid careers guide posted below suggests that it's the most prominent practice area in legal aid (at least among LSC funded orgs)
http://www.law.harvard.edu/current/care ... -guide.pdf

in addition, family law is a pretty major practice area for small firms (what folks on here deride as "sh*tlaw), so maybe doing a lot of legal aid work in family law would open up doors in that regard?

(really helpful stuff in that guide, btw...)

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:35 am

also, for direct legal aid jobs, are "ties" as important as they seem to be for firms? strongest ties are to PA and MA, tho i'd obviously be willing to relocate anywhere to escape "the Vale". have ties, albeit more tenuous ones, to NY, NJ, NC, and GA. onehell from JDU seems to assert that they don't care that much, but just wanna hear other perspectives from people applying to these kinds of jerbs.

worldtraveler, how many of your peers at boalt class of '12 who wanted PI are still stuck in the Vale?

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midwest17
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby midwest17 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:22 pm

Anyone have suggestions for volunteer work/internships for the pre-1L summer that would look good on a resume for PD positions? Or is stuff that early not going to matter anyways, so I should just enjoy my last summer of freedom?

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:33 pm

midwest17 wrote:Anyone have suggestions for volunteer work/internships for the pre-1L summer that would look good on a resume for PD positions? Or is stuff that early not going to matter anyways, so I should just enjoy my last summer of freedom?


I think it would be a plus to have some solid 0L volunteer experience that shows a commitment to serving low income folks. Just avoid anything that may make you look victim-friendly (i.e. working at a battered women's helpline, or something like that will make PDs raise their eyebrows)

I did immigration 1L summer, but my 0L WE working with Latino communities thru an AmeriCorps program and later at a DV agency was a huge plus.

Also, LEARN SPANISH!!!!

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midwest17
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby midwest17 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:35 pm

BlueLotus wrote:Also, LEARN SPANISH!!!!


Yeah, this is probably the most important thing for me.

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:45 pm

BlueLotus wrote:also, for direct legal aid jobs, are "ties" as important as they seem to be for firms? strongest ties are to PA and MA, tho i'd obviously be willing to relocate anywhere to escape "the Vale". have ties, albeit more tenuous ones, to NY, NJ, NC, and GA. onehell from JDU seems to assert that they don't care that much, but just wanna hear other perspectives from people applying to these kinds of jerbs.

worldtraveler, how many of your peers at boalt class of '12 who wanted PI are still stuck in the Vale?


I only know one person from 2012 still unemployed, and that has more to do with their own personal circumstances. I know she had job offers but had weird reasons why she wouldn't take them. As far as I know everyone has a job by now, but every year there are a significant amount of people on school funded fellowships, although the track record for turning those into a real job is quite high.

I think PI organizations are more likely to interview people with ties mainly because they know those people are more likely to accept an offer. This is more of a problem for orgs in smaller out of the way places. It will also depend on your school. If it's nationally known you are more likely to get an interview. For instance, I work in DC and we interview and hire summer interns from American or William and Mary but we've never had a non-t14 person from outside the area.

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:11 pm

how many hours a week can i intern w/o goin' crazy? taking the bare min. amount of credits, and none of them are "bar classes"

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:50 pm

also, for internships/pro bono i've been using the same 1 page resume per Career Services' conventional wisdom, but for fellowships (like EJW), is it OK to exceed 1 page, since obtaining such fellowships is all about showing long-term "commitment"?

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:56 am

bump, anyone?

btw, for those 0Ls who are considering the K-JD path--don't do it. This applies to the BigLawl gunners as well, but is especially pertinent to folks seriously wanting PI. Get solid experience and demonstrate "commitment". Apply for AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Fulbright, teach abroad programs, etc. Feel free to PM me about AmeriCorps if you wanna know more about the application process, experience, etc. tho this will vary widely depending on the program. I did City Year, which is esp. great for folks wanting to go into ed/juvenile law.

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby Noodlebrain » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:14 am

BlueLotus wrote:bump, anyone?

btw, for those 0Ls who are considering the K-JD path--don't do it. This applies to the BigLawl gunners as well, but is especially pertinent to folks seriously wanting PI. Get solid experience and demonstrate "commitment". Apply for AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Fulbright, teach abroad programs, etc. Feel free to PM me about AmeriCorps if you wanna know more about the application process, experience, etc. tho this will vary widely depending on the program. I did City Year, which is esp. great for folks wanting to go into ed/juvenile law.


I'll second this. If anyone wants info on Peace Corps, feel free to PM. I'm currently serving.

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mr. wednesday
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby mr. wednesday » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:24 am

BlueLotus wrote:how many hours a week can i intern w/o goin' crazy? taking the bare min. amount of credits, and none of them are "bar classes"

I did 20 hours a week for a few semesters, though sometimes that turned into closer to 25. It was doable but staying under 16 hours/week would have been better so that I could limit interning to 2 days a week, have classes 3 days a week, and have weekends to do reading or anything else.

Ultimately though, if you're not a 1L and you have no chance at clerkships, your grades are pretty irrelevant. Maybe if you have less than a 3.0, you could try to bring that up so you don't get auto-dinged at places with a cursory GPA floor. But that's pretty rare outside of the fed gov't or the kind of jobs you'd need a clerkship to get.

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twenty
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:59 pm

BlueLotus wrote:btw, for those 0Ls who are considering the K-JD path--don't do it. This applies to the BigLawl gunners as well, but is especially pertinent to folks seriously wanting PI. Get solid experience and demonstrate "commitment".


Highly, highly agree. I know K-JDs who have succeeded in finding long-term PI jobs, but I've also seen way too many 0Ls who want to work in impact litigation right out of law school, and are trying to decide between Northwestern and UCLA. Interestingly enough, these people can usually be found roaming the OCI post come 2L.

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:17 pm

on my pro bono grind this winter break. CSWS. 8)

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Dec 26, 2013 7:37 pm

so, there's this TLS mantra that you don't need ties to get to NYC. Is that a BigLawl thing or does it apply to PI careers as well?

I have ties to NYC, albeit tenuous ones (lived there for a couple years in my childhood)

thanks again for this goldmine of a thread, twentypercentmore. :)

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worldtraveler
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby worldtraveler » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:28 pm

BlueLotus wrote:so, there's this TLS mantra that you don't need ties to get to NYC. Is that a BigLawl thing or does it apply to PI careers as well?

I have ties to NYC, albeit tenuous ones (lived there for a couple years in my childhood)

thanks again for this goldmine of a thread, twentypercentmore. :)


I think it depends on what you want to do. To work with big NGOs with headquarters in NY, all you have to do is explain that you are interested in the issue they confront and then it would make sense why the location. If it's legal aid, you might have to explain why legal aid in NY and not Atlanta, for example. But you don't have to make your answer all about ties, you can just make it about the issue or specific laws that interest you. For instance, if you are interested in protecting low income renters from evictions I don't think a NY legal aid office will question you too much about not having ties to NY, because that issue is bigger in NY or SF than anywhere else.

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twenty
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:00 am

I'd imagine a fairly prestigious DA's office would be more obtainable with ties than without (i.e, SF/NY). A few notable exclusions aside, I doubt ties to NYC matter for PI any more than they matter for biglaw (i.e, not very much)

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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby NYlawstudent » Fri Dec 27, 2013 8:37 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:It's Thanksgiving week, and there's nothing to do at work. I can either shoot the remaining coworkers still in the office with a rubber band gun, OR I can make a really long thread for people looking at law school for the purposes of getting PI gigs. I pick B.

Why should I care about what you say?

If you're not a 0L thinking you want to do public interest law, you probably shouldn't. There are plenty of people far more qualified than I to comment on the ins and outs of traditional legal hiring.

If you are a 0L planning on doing public interest law, there are two reasons. One, no one else seems to understand how public interest hiring works. I don't say that snobbishly -- it's just that the majority of folks on TLS, even 1Ls and 2Ls, seem to grossly misunderstand how the PI process works. They're then pretty quick to write the whole ordeal off as "more competitive than biglaw." Two, I've worked on security clearances and background investigations for hires at a federal agency, so I get to see the resumes and backgrounds of pretty much every attorney we employ.

What is public interest law?

For all our purposes, public interest law is:

- Working for a government agency as an attorney
- Working for a non-profit as an attorney
- Working for the military as an attorney
- Working in a JD Preferred/Advantage position for a non-profit, government or military
- Working overseas for a U.S. non-profit/U.S. government

Public interest law is not:

- Working at a large firm and performing lots of pro bono work
- Doing public interest legal work at a for-profit organization
- Running for partisan office/working on a campaign
- Working for a labor union/religious organization
- "International law"
- A back-up option if you strike out at OCI.

Why don't more people do PI?

There's a strange phenomenon where people that claim they want to do PI as 0Ls end up doing summer associate gigs as 2Ls. Really, though, it's not very surprising.

1) Debt sucks.

Even if you expect to rely on LRAP, you have to realize that your sticker-paying friends are going to be debt-free in 4 years of biglaw, while you're going to be stuck in public interest/government for the next ten years of your life. And if you bail, you're actually in worse shape than if you'd started biglaw from day one.

2) Salaries suck.

PI salaries are notoriously bad. After your friends pay off their debt in 4 years, they'll be making upwards of five times your salary.

3) Timelines suck.

Most PI hiring happens in 3L, or post-graduation. Most biglaw hiring happens in 2L. Are you really going to turn down 160k/yr + bonuses for the chance of getting a PI job that pays 40k/yr?

4) Lateral opportunities suck.

If you do a really great job in a PI gig, your reward is that you might be able to move to another PI gig. So your prize at the pie-eating contest is more pie. There are clearly some notable exceptions, but expect that most of your lateral opportunities will be in the same line of work for slightly more money and slightly more responsibility.

There are some notable exceptions to this rule (i.e, Manhattan DA's office), but many a young attorney comes to our agency from law school and leaves within six months because they don't want to practice labor/admin law for the rest of their careers.

5) Peer pressure sucks.

One fairly notable pitfall that does get under-covered by the PI law community is the peer pressure. PI legal hiring is also notoriously slow, and your peers may be working in biglaw for months before you even get an offer of employment. While all your friends have offers from large firms, you'll be that person who still has to worry about 3L grades, your friends will avoid talking about how great their summers were, and someone (probably your uncle/aunt) will suggest the ACLU, and that you should apply to lots of places.

If you still feel like you're willing to overcome all those obstacles:


How to get into PI law

You will hear this over and over again. Your grades do not matter. Your school ranking on USNWR does not matter. This is the hardest part for people to overcome -- all that work you did on the LSAT, all that debt you took out to go to a T14 school, and all those sleepless nights you put in during 1L to get decent grades are now wasted. The good news is, if you're a 0L, your grades/law school ranking/etc. don't really matter! Obviously you can't get Cs at a TTTT and expect to go work for the SEC, but there is very, very little difference between a A- average student at Cornell and a B student at Mercer in terms of PI hiring.

The biggest thing you have to do to get into PI law is hustle.

You must never stop hustling. Spend your last free summer working as a volunteer in an area related to the PI field you want to work in. Spend your 1L year (yes, 1L year) volunteering. Spend your 1L summer volunteering. Spend the winter break between semesters... you get it. A cooperative career services office is critical in this process.

If you want to work for the government, veteran's status helps tremendously*. Three or more years of prior full-time experience will also help you a lot.** If you want to work for a PI organization, everyone in the office should know your name, your dog's birthday, and your favorite color. I can not stress this enough. People complain about how insanely slow PI hiring is, but if you know people on the inside that can speak to your work product and dedication, it's like putting metaphorical rockets on a snail.

The federal government puts up 1-week long postings for jobs in order to meet administrative requirements, but they definitely already have someone in mind. Be that someone.

How does this affect my school choices?

IN MY PERSONAL OPINION you are better off going to law school in a large metro area with a strong career services office than a law school in a ruralish area with a weak career services office. Here's why.

1) Big metro areas are far more likely to provide you with local PI gigs than are small township areas. Also, big cities tend to care less about regional ties (yes, this is a thing in PI as well) than are small towns. Sorry Ithaca.
2) A strong career services office that has a vested interest in getting you into a volunteer PI gig is going to be essential. I have yet to see a T20 school that doesn't have a strong CSO, though there are plenty of T2 schools that meet this description.

Objectively speaking you should:

- Either go to a T14 school with the best LRAP program for your goals:

(An excellent thread by a handsome and brilliant poster can clear that all up for you: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=211835 )

- Or go to a regional school for free.

This advice is similar to the conventional TLS wisdom for people interested in going to law school for no particular objective. The mindset is that they will either end up unemployed and debt-free, or well employed; in which case debt isn't a big issue. The mindset here is that the name of the school doesn't really matter, you're realistically better off taking a strong regional school over a T14, even with a good LRAP.

Now, of course, this should give you kind of a queasy feeling. By taking the regional school, you more or less lock yourself out of biglaw. If you're at all thinking you want biglaw, take the T14.

I don't really believe you when you say the school name doesn't matter.

Here's how the government hiring system works.

Your application (resume) gets sent to a round 1 hiring person. If you meet the minimum requirements for the job, you move on to round 2. This is basically almost everyone.

In round 2, your application is awarded points, and a new resume is created. Your new resume is a score card in which you are given a 1 to 100 score based on your first resume. You get points based on your competency related to the job you post for. You get 0 points for going to Harvard over McGeorge. This scorecard is forwarded on to round 3.

In round 3, your future boss will evaluate the scorecards and interview people in order of highest to lowest points. They usually have a cut-off of people they just won't interview. That could be below the top 3 candidates, or top 20. Does it help if you know this future boss by his first name and have been to his house for Thanksgiving? Absolutely. In short, if your future employer does not take the most qualified application (number 1), they must justify why they chose a less-qualified candidate. The employer is not going to do this for "some guy who volunteered at a non-profit during his 1L summer."

But HYS + Chicago and Berkeley!

HYS, Chicago and Berkeley all enjoy a very minor advantage in PI hiring (especially black-box hiring like DoJ) because their grades are unconverted. This tiny advantage makes no difference at 99% of PI/Govt jobs. For the most competitive PI/Govt jobs (particularly DoJ), this distinction sets these students apart from the hordes of other candidates looking to snag one of these spots.

*you get an extra 5 points, even above the 100 point total, for veteran's preference
**status is like tenure. This happens in federal, local and state government spots. You are vastly more competitive for these positions if you have this background.

It's lunch time. I'll add more stuff to this later.

Open to all helpful thoughts, angry rage-filled comments, and ideas.

=3.14

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BlueLotus
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby BlueLotus » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:18 am

are 2 page resumes ok for fellowship apps? for everything else ive been using the standard one pager

0913djp
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby 0913djp » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:16 pm

Just wanted to say thanks for this thread. I am going the T-14 & LRAP route (at a T6) route so hoping to follow these steps to attain something solid.

Question: How helpful is clerking before entering PI-related organization work (ACLU or ASA/PD)?

Thanks.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:21 pm

0913djp wrote:Question: How helpful is clerking before entering PI-related organization work (ACLU or ASA/PD)?

Very narrow answer, but: in some states, the AG or PD's offices have dedicated appellate divisions. Doing a state appellate clerkship is an excellent background for those positions. If you want on-the-ground trial-level state ASA/PD, I'm not sure clerking would be as useful, but I don't know as much about that (or about what the ACLU's looking for).

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twenty
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby twenty » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:15 pm

The ACLU usually looks for federal clerkships (preferably appellate), but a state SC clerkship can be just as viable. On the other hand, for PD, a local clerkship can be really helpful depending on what you're going for. I agree with Nony that if you want a front-line ASA/PD spot, a clerkship would probably only be of minimal value, and that you can frankly probably find better things to do with your time.

That said, I am loathe to say you should turn down any clerkship spot as a PI-seeking individual just because it will definitely not hurt your overall resume and is great for entry-level legal experience. And if you transition directly over to a PI spot, your year clerkship will count for LRAP.

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thewaves
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby thewaves » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:51 pm

Tagging as a resource. Just wanted to say thanks for the info!

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john1990
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby john1990 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:43 pm

3.141

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yeslekkkk
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby yeslekkkk » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:45 pm

0L here. I'm interested in doing family law, immigration, or refugee law. Ideally, I would like to end up working in San Diego or at least somewhere else in California. I'm from there, went to undergrad in NorCal, did a service year in Nashville, and then moved back to San Diego.

I know typical thought is to go to T-14 or regional school. Unfortunately, it seems like there is not a lot of respect towards lower rank CA law schools.

To work in California, do you think it would be better to go to a T-14 (like U Mich) or go to a school like USD and network?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: So you want to do PI?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:53 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:That said, I am loathe to say you should turn down any clerkship spot as a PI-seeking individual just because it will definitely not hurt your overall resume and is great for entry-level legal experience. And if you transition directly over to a PI spot, your year clerkship will count for LRAP.

Yeah, I totally agree that clerking really hurts anyone. If you have lined up some kind of entry-level PI gig without a clerkship, I would not recommend trying to get them to hold your job for a year so you can clerk, but otherwise I don't think it would be a problem. (And I could be wrong about getting them to hold you job, too - that's just my impression.)




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