Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273408
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 21, 2013 9:51 pm

This is my second year on the hiring committee for a non-profit so I thought I would try and help applicants for summer positions (mainly 1Ls) understand how to do a better job applying. I see a lot of BAD applications, many which come from applicants with decent resumes but who just cannot write a cover letter or just do not try to put together a quality application. Some of this is probably appropriate for private sector applications too.

I won't answer specific questions about where I work. It's a non-profit that does a range of legal services work and has a pretty large summer program.

1. Do not submit materials which we do not ask for. If the call for applications asks for a resume and cover letter, don't send me a writing sample and a transcript. This just makes me think you can't follow directions or are just spamming every place with the same things without paying attention. This is especially true if you send a bad writing sample or your grades are bad. I generally don't care about grades of an applicant but if they send a transcript, I will check it. Don't do that to yourself.

2. Don't describe the 1L curriculum to me and tell me you are qualified for the job because you took torts and con law. So did everyone else. It's a waste of space in a cover letter. Don't describe the LRW process to me, either.

3. Don't spend the whole cover letter talking about every law school club you are in and about what you do on a journal. Journals are all the same, and club work really isn't that useful. If you did do something more original, like start a legal services clinic or do pro-bono work, that is a much better subject.

4. You don't have to have a PI background to be a competitive candidate, especially for 1Ls. Just try and connect your experience you do have to how it will work in the position. A lot of PI work is the same research and writing you do anywhere else, and private sector work prepares you for that. If it's more direct services, talking about customer service experience or giving sales presentations can actually be fairly relevant if you successfully explain it.

5. Pay attention to what skills you will need for the job. Don't talk about how you honed your legal research and writing for the whole time if the position is doing intake at a foreclosure defense clinic. A lot of PI work in legal aid or similar organizations is more about people skills than research or writing.

6. Don't oversell your accomplishments. If you are not fluent in Spanish, don't say you are.

7. Talk about things that are not on your resume. Usually these are personal things that make you more able to relate to people from different backgrounds, or understand working with trauma victims. You don't have to get ultra-personal, but if you grew up relying on foodstamps and you want to apply for a job helping others access government benefits, that is a really good thing to discuss in a cover letter.

8. Say whether you have funding. If you do, you are honestly more likely to get an interview. If the organization can't pay you, it can be a waste of time to interview people who will ultimately decline because they can't take an unpaid job.

9. Be careful when discussing religious activities. If it's something like working in a soup kitchen run by a church, that's a good thing. But sometimes I can't tell if someone is talking about their love of public service or their love of converting non-believers. Leave proselytizing stuff off your resume, if possible. In a legal aid setting you encounter people of all faiths and backgrounds, and it is not good to have a legal intern try and have a Catholic prayer with a Muslim client (I have seen this happen).

10. Really short term experiences are kind of useless. I've seen a lot of applications that talk at length about how exposure to poverty while on a week long spring break trip changed their lives. That honestly just makes you sound pretty sheltered. In addition, if you are talking about prior clients who inspired you, keep the focus on you and not the person who inspired you. You are trying to get yourself a job, not them.

This all might seem quite simple, but it isn't for a lot of people. Maybe this will mean I can read some better applications this year.

User avatar
Foxtrot2013
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:13 am

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby Foxtrot2013 » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:24 pm

Thank you for the post. My career focus is in public service, and this is quite helpful.

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 2428
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:07 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby BlueLotus » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:15 pm

This is a really good post. Thank you!

adonai
Posts: 1033
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:09 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby adonai » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:59 pm

I hope your non-profit isn't practicing #9 when it comes to hiring decisions.

User avatar
dresden doll
Posts: 6802
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 1:11 am

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby dresden doll » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:02 pm

Excellent advice. Perhaps this thread could be stickied.

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 2428
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:07 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:14 pm

adonai wrote:I hope your non-profit isn't practicing #9 when it comes to hiring decisions.


I get your point, but avoiding an overzealous fundy intern that may potentially alienate clients is a legitimate concern--working in legal aid necessarily exposes you to diverse (religiously and otherwise) clients and you have to be OK with that.

adonai
Posts: 1033
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:09 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby adonai » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:07 pm

BlueLotus wrote:
adonai wrote:I hope your non-profit isn't practicing #9 when it comes to hiring decisions.


I get your point, but avoiding an overzealous fundy intern that may potentially alienate clients is a legitimate concern--working in legal aid necessarily exposes you to diverse (religiously and otherwise) clients and you have to be OK with that.

I also understand the point of it. Practically speaking, if you want to get the job from this particular employer, you'd probably want to leave it off. But let's substitute the other protected classes in Title VII and see how ridiculous it really sounds (e.g. "Leave Black Law Students Association off your resume, if possible. In a legal aid setting you encounter people of all races and colors...."). It also assumes someone who has done something religious-oriented is a fundamental zealot, is closed minded, and is out to convert everyone. It is one thing to have personal dislikes and stereotypes. But the OP is someone who, from how it sounds, is using that as a hiring consideration which is against the law.

User avatar
worldtraveler
Posts: 7669
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 4:47 am

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby worldtraveler » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:22 pm

adonai wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:
adonai wrote:I hope your non-profit isn't practicing #9 when it comes to hiring decisions.


I get your point, but avoiding an overzealous fundy intern that may potentially alienate clients is a legitimate concern--working in legal aid necessarily exposes you to diverse (religiously and otherwise) clients and you have to be OK with that.

I also understand the point of it. Practically speaking, if you want to get the job from this particular employer, you'd probably want to leave it off. But let's substitute the other protected classes in Title VII and see how ridiculous it really sounds (e.g. "Leave Black Law Students Association off your resume, if possible. In a legal aid setting you encounter people of all races and colors...."). It also assumes someone who has done something religious-oriented is a fundamental zealot, is closed minded, and is out to convert everyone. It is one thing to have personal dislikes and stereotypes. But the OP is someone who, from how it sounds, is using that as a hiring consideration which is against the law.


No one tries to recruit other people to be black. The OP is talking about prosyletizing, not just religion.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22854
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:44 pm

adonai wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:
adonai wrote:I hope your non-profit isn't practicing #9 when it comes to hiring decisions.


I get your point, but avoiding an overzealous fundy intern that may potentially alienate clients is a legitimate concern--working in legal aid necessarily exposes you to diverse (religiously and otherwise) clients and you have to be OK with that.

I also understand the point of it. Practically speaking, if you want to get the job from this particular employer, you'd probably want to leave it off. But let's substitute the other protected classes in Title VII and see how ridiculous it really sounds (e.g. "Leave Black Law Students Association off your resume, if possible. In a legal aid setting you encounter people of all races and colors...."). It also assumes someone who has done something religious-oriented is a fundamental zealot, is closed minded, and is out to convert everyone. It is one thing to have personal dislikes and stereotypes. But the OP is someone who, from how it sounds, is using that as a hiring consideration which is against the law.

Being a member of a religious organization is one thing, proselytizing is another. Like WT says, the OP was very clear that it wasn't religious belief that was the problem, it's the need to convert others. I'm not sure how this plays out in hiring, but an employer isn't required to accommodate an employee's proselytizing if it disturbs other employees or interferes with company efficiency, and I would think that proselytizing at a legal aid organization is likely to do both.

User avatar
transferror
Posts: 816
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:42 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby transferror » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:53 pm

worldtraveler wrote:No one tries to recruit other people to be black.


Speak for yourself. I've converted a few.

User avatar
wbrother
Posts: 499
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:02 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby wbrother » Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:49 am

transferror wrote:
worldtraveler wrote:No one tries to recruit other people to be black.


Speak for yourself. I've converted a few.

+1

User avatar
BlueLotus
Posts: 2428
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:07 pm

Re: Tips for Applying for Public Interest Summer Internships

Postby BlueLotus » Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:00 pm

Anon OP (or worldtraveler), would you say that this advice holds for applying to FTLT jerbs as well?




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.