Grades and Employment in Public Service

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Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2013 1:06 pm

I know the consensus is that good experience is what government and non-profit employers are looking for.

However, is it relatively true that good experience can make up for poor grades for gov't or nonprofit? If so, what are some stories you've heard/experiences you've had? I'm starting to get some grades back and I'm feeling terrible about my prospects (for sure below median).

My goal is to get into a fed agency somewhere with DOL, DOJ, FTC, DHHS or related agencies. I'll be entering my 2L year in the fall, so I know there's time to improve (but that grades might not change that much).

Thanks.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed May 15, 2013 1:33 pm

I don't know enough about non-government PI jobs to comment on that. Unfortunately, most of the agencies you list are places that do seem to care about grades, because they can get applicants with both great grades AND great experience (DOL, DOJ, probably FTC - I don't know much about DHHS though). (I interviewed with one agency - not one you list but related-ish - and when I asked about the impact of the economy on their agency, they said, "We get MUCH better job applicants now!") Within DOJ, the immigration section may potentially be an exception. Most of the employers I've seen discussed as not caring about grades are state government employers (for instance, the PD's office in my state never asks about grades; I think the DA's offices are the same. NYC and DC are probably exceptions to this).

However, because hiring can vary so much within these agencies depending on who's doing it that year, I think it would depend in part on what kind of experience you're talking about. What are you doing this summer? Are you going to have the opportunity to work for any of these agencies during the school year, or do anything related to their missions? Do you have related experience from before law school? Fedgov is tough just because of the budget situation and infrequency of hiring, but yes, experience and making connections can help. I just think it's hard to speak very generally about your chances.

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Postby Myself » Wed May 15, 2013 1:52 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2013 2:25 pm

Thanks to both of you for the replies. Also, A.Nony Mouse, I PM'd you some extra details on my work experience, etc. I wanted to keep private.

So, Ajax, you think local or state agencies might be more forgiving? That'd be great. I'd be fine with state agencies. I'm just trying to look for:
-A decent paying gig with good benefits to those areas of law (b/c it relates to my experiences)
-Possible LRAP opportunities that I can add on top of the Income Based Repayment/Public Service Loan Forgiveness loan repayment plans.

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Postby Myself » Wed May 15, 2013 2:34 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2013 3:02 pm

Okay, thanks. I'm taking a look at some of those state and local agencies now.

Most fed agencies want to see at least top 3rd of the class right? I could get there by graduation. I'm much better at writing papers than taking law school exams apparently. I'd have more of a chance to boost by G.P.A. with some classes where the final grade calculation plays to my strengths.

Obviously, this hurts me for getting internships in federal departments which would feed into the federal agencies though. I'm hoping relevant experience might help with that, but I'm guessing it depends on the department.

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Postby Myself » Wed May 15, 2013 3:09 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Wed May 15, 2013 3:38 pm

I'll be a 2L in the fall.

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Postby Myself » Wed May 15, 2013 6:17 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby okinawa » Thu May 16, 2013 9:17 am

Below a 3.0 is a no go for most (I'd say all from experience but I'm sure there has been an exception somewhere) feds; for some, the cut off is more like 3.2. I didn't see what level of school you're going to, which is definitely relevant with some agencies.

I'd second the idea of doing biglaw OCI if you're at a school where most students get SAs through that, because hiring in the public sector is very weak and thus even more competitive right now.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby BeautifulSW » Thu May 16, 2013 5:48 pm

Here in New Mexico, the State agencies where I've been involved in hiring attorneys (several and all over the State), top third or 3.0 is an absolute cut-off where there is any competition at all. These days, it seems that there's ALWAYS competition.

School rank matters much less.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Thu May 16, 2013 9:41 pm

Not OP

1) Does anyone know how grades factor in to EJW-type jobs as opposed to government work? Would it matter less/more/the same? T14 if that matters.

2) I am currently doing a BigLaw SA but want to do PS long term. Can a fairly long-term externship + multiple times volunteering help demonstrate interest, or will it ultimately be meaningless? Guess I should also do clinics as well?

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Postby Myself » Thu May 16, 2013 10:05 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby linquest » Fri May 17, 2013 1:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:Not OP

1) Does anyone know how grades factor in to EJW-type jobs as opposed to government work? Would it matter less/more/the same? T14 if that matters.

From "2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Application Guide"-
http://files.equaljusticeworks.org/fell ... _guide.pdf
Fellowship Candidate Evaluation Criteria (p.6)
Traditional measures of academic achievement, such as grades, law review, and law school ranking, are not relevant to the Equal Justice Works selection process.


Anonymous User wrote:2) I am currently doing a BigLaw SA but want to do PS long term. Can a fairly long-term externship + multiple times volunteering help demonstrate interest, or will it ultimately be meaningless? Guess I should also do clinics as well?


It can help, but you won't be able to predict if the rest of your profile will boost you over someone whose actually spending their summers doing public interest work. You should definitely do clinics too, esp if you don't have public service experience pre-law school. Not all PS employers feel the same way, but there's a good number of them who feel that if you're going to "sell-out" during a law school summer, it's likely that you'll do so later in your career as well.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby linquest » Fri May 17, 2013 2:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:However, is it relatively true that good experience can make up for poor grades for gov't or nonprofit? If so, what are some stories you've heard/experiences you've had?


I'm on my second Fed gig despite graduating ITE with a poor academic record. I work in a very narrow specialty, enforcing laws not covered at many law schools. I had internships, coursework, extracurriculars, pre-law employment, and undergrad degree related to this specialty. Like you, I'm also "much better at writing papers than taking law school exams." It took a lot of strategizing and networking to get enough specialized experience that would overcome my academic performance. ajax adonis' statement, "Keep doing things that will fit nicely into a narrative for why you want to go into a certain type of PS" encapsulates that very well.

I've also been an Honors Program interviewer, so I can speak from that perspective too. Experience that can make up for academics would have to be outstanding (as in, very specialized or unusually high-level work for an intern) and relevant to the agency's mission as demonstrated by work samples and enthusiastic recommendations from employers (the more detailed the better).

ajax adonis wrote:In regard to fed agencies, it's only after you've been in practice for 5+ years that your experience matters more than grades. Someone may have a different experience.


I lateraled agencies after 2 years to a non-entry level job that was an open posting on USAjobs.gov ; moved on to a larger agency with more name-recognition and a faster/higher promotional track. No indicators of academic performance on my resume (though I did list relevant coursework), didn't submit my law school transcript. Wasn't asked a single question about my law school work in two rounds of interviews. Had enough work experience to fill up 2-hour and half-hour interviews.

Also agree generally with A. Nony Mouse's first post.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 17, 2013 3:15 pm

linquest wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Not OP

1) Does anyone know how grades factor in to EJW-type jobs as opposed to government work? Would it matter less/more/the same? T14 if that matters.

From "2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Application Guide"-
http://files.equaljusticeworks.org/fell ... _guide.pdf
Fellowship Candidate Evaluation Criteria (p.6)
Traditional measures of academic achievement, such as grades, law review, and law school ranking, are not relevant to the Equal Justice Works selection process.


Anonymous User wrote:2) I am currently doing a BigLaw SA but want to do PS long term. Can a fairly long-term externship + multiple times volunteering help demonstrate interest, or will it ultimately be meaningless? Guess I should also do clinics as well?


It can help, but you won't be able to predict if the rest of your profile will boost you over someone whose actually spending their summers doing public interest work. You should definitely do clinics too, esp if you don't have public service experience pre-law school. Not all PS employers feel the same way, but there's a good number of them who feel that if you're going to "sell-out" during a law school summer, it's likely that you'll do so later in your career as well.


9:41 here. Thanks for the help.

1) That appears to be for the fellowship application, but I guess I'm talking about more along the lines of transitioning into public interest later in my career (which I've been led to believe by this board, at the very least, is not impossible). Can you apply for EJW as a 3L even though you did an SA? Seems like this would lead to an inevitable "why haven't you accepted your offer?"/"why did you do a BigLaw SA?" combo that could result in neither career panning out.

2) How could you "sell out" later? Unless you had really superb credentials (HYS, etc.), which I don't, it would seem unlikely to me that someone could go back to a big firm or to corporate in house work after switching to PS? I guess I know of one or two partners who have this resume now, but ITE I'm not sure this could be a reality. For personal/financial reasons I won't drag down the thread with, I will probably do BigLaw after I graduate. But on the off chance the opportunity came up before graduation to have PS work with which I could support myself, I would make the switch. But I will definitely try to get more experience as well.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri May 17, 2013 3:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:1) That appears to be for the fellowship application, but I guess I'm talking about more along the lines of transitioning into public interest later in my career (which I've been led to believe by this board, at the very least, is not impossible). Can you apply for EJW as a 3L even though you did an SA? Seems like this would lead to an inevitable "why haven't you accepted your offer?"/"why did you do a BigLaw SA?" combo that could result in neither career panning out.

2) How could you "sell out" later? Unless you had really superb credentials (HYS, etc.), which I don't, it would seem unlikely to me that someone could go back to a big firm or to corporate in house work after switching to PS? But maybe it isn't. For personal/financial reasons I won't drag down the thread with, I will probably do BigLaw after I graduate. But on the off chance the opportunity came up before graduation to have PS work with which I could support myself, I would make the switch.

You do apply for EJW fellowships during 3L. I think the poster's talking about *the* EJW fellowships, not generally about jobs with people who hire through the EJW job fair. Yes, it's probably harder to make a good case for yourself if you did biglaw during your 2L year, but there's nothing to *stop* you from applying during 3L.

As for "selling out," there are 2 things. First, whether an employer thinks you'll run back to a firm the first chance you get doesn't have much to do with whether you could plausibly get a firm job at that point - it's more a concern about where your focus is. Second, depending on the area of law, you can sometimes switch. Someone who's done environmental law work enforcing environmental statutes, for instance, might be an asset to a firm representing companies trying to get around comply with those statutes. There are probably other examples. It's not probably the smoothest path, but it's not unheard of, either. But again, whether you think you plausibly could "sell out" after going into PI doesn't address an employer's concern that this is what you want to do. (People do burn out in PI, too, and switch to other stuff.)

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby worldtraveler » Fri May 17, 2013 3:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
linquest wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Not OP

1) Does anyone know how grades factor in to EJW-type jobs as opposed to government work? Would it matter less/more/the same? T14 if that matters.

From "2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Application Guide"-
http://files.equaljusticeworks.org/fell ... _guide.pdf
Fellowship Candidate Evaluation Criteria (p.6)
Traditional measures of academic achievement, such as grades, law review, and law school ranking, are not relevant to the Equal Justice Works selection process.


Anonymous User wrote:2) I am currently doing a BigLaw SA but want to do PS long term. Can a fairly long-term externship + multiple times volunteering help demonstrate interest, or will it ultimately be meaningless? Guess I should also do clinics as well?


It can help, but you won't be able to predict if the rest of your profile will boost you over someone whose actually spending their summers doing public interest work. You should definitely do clinics too, esp if you don't have public service experience pre-law school. Not all PS employers feel the same way, but there's a good number of them who feel that if you're going to "sell-out" during a law school summer, it's likely that you'll do so later in your career as well.


9:41 here. Thanks for the help.

1) That appears to be for the fellowship application, but I guess I'm talking about more along the lines of transitioning into public interest later in my career (which I've been led to believe by this board, at the very least, is not impossible). Can you apply for EJW as a 3L even though you did an SA? Seems like this would lead to an inevitable "why haven't you accepted your offer?"/"why did you do a BigLaw SA?" combo that could result in neither career panning out.

2) How could you "sell out" later? Unless you had really superb credentials (HYS, etc.), which I don't, it would seem unlikely to me that someone could go back to a big firm or to corporate in house work after switching to PS? I guess I know of one or two partners who have this resume now, but ITE I'm not sure this could be a reality. For personal/financial reasons I won't drag down the thread with, I will probably do BigLaw after I graduate. But on the off chance the opportunity came up before graduation to have PS work with which I could support myself, I would make the switch. But I will definitely try to get more experience as well.


You can apply for an EJW fellowship whenever you want, but since it's incredibly competitive you probably wouldn't be the strongest candidate. For other PI jobs, it varies by organization but they generally don't look at grades as much as other factors.

It sounds like you're thinking waaaayyy too far ahead though and planning 6 or 7 years in the future when you don't even know where you're going 2L summer and if you get a firm job. Take it one step at a time, or at the very least not 100 steps at a time.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 17, 2013 4:30 pm

Thanks everyone for the help. As I mentioned in my first post ("Not OP"), I do know where I'm going 2L summer, though (and I have done/already have arranged to do the other work I mentioned). That's why I asked. And circumstances permitting it may be sooner than 6 or 7 years.

- 9:41

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 19, 2013 7:40 pm

OP here

Thanks everyone, your responses have really been helpful. :) I'm glad to hear good work experience and internships can help me. I'll obviously keep working on my grades, but it's good to know I have some other strengths to work with.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 21, 2013 11:57 am

Bombed 1L year, gpa is below 3.0, but still really want Public Sector work. Think I can bring my GPA up to 3.0 over the next 2 years? Thats my main goal for now....

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Postby Myself » Tue May 21, 2013 6:19 pm

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 21, 2013 10:41 pm

Go to a T2, GPA around 2.9 now, might fall to 2.7-8 this semester. Great connections to state and local government though, which I will milk for dear life. No debt, so no drop out.
I'm concerned about having everything lined up but having a 3.0 ceiling hurt me. I'm fairly confident of being able to do better next 2 years, just wonder if two years worth of classes could lift my grades enough.
:\sigh

EDIT- since I have no debt, I really don't mind starting and slowly moving up in city/state government in NYC region.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Rootbeer » Sun May 26, 2013 2:44 am

Anonymous User wrote:Go to a T2, GPA around 2.9 now, might fall to 2.7-8 this semester. Great connections to state and local government though, which I will milk for dear life. No debt, so no drop out.
I'm concerned about having everything lined up but having a 3.0 ceiling hurt me. I'm fairly confident of being able to do better next 2 years, just wonder if two years worth of classes could lift my grades enough.
:\sigh

EDIT- since I have no debt, I really don't mind starting and slowly moving up in city/state government in NYC region.


Great connections are often far more important than any GPA in state/local government work, but it depends on what state you're in too. NYC places may care about GPA more than most others. Ask people who actually work in those places...few people on here will have information they got from anywhere other than their butts in regards to your locality's practices.

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Re: Grades and Employment in Public Service

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jun 16, 2013 2:56 pm

BUMP. This thread is relevant to my interests.

What's the scoop on PMF and grades?




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