How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

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ladybug89
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How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby ladybug89 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:12 pm

Hi all. I'm applying this cycle and have a question about doing internships/getting experience in preparation for a job in public interest or government. Basically, I am interested in a very specific area of PI and a very specific area of the federal government (that is, I'm not just generically interested in public service but have no idea what kind). I'm not sure which of those two I want to pursue after graduation - so of course I want to do internships at both types of organizations. I'm concerned, though, that if I don't foc740044us on govt right away, that'll hurt my chances at e.g. SLIP or an honors program. Not sure if relevant, but during UG, I did intern at legal nonprofits and govt agencies in the two fields I'm interested in, but I'm not sure that's relevant.

What do you guys think? Is it very important to settle on federal government immediately if that's what I want to do, or is there a little wiggle room?

(FWIW, while I haven't heard back from any schools yet, I had a kb1 and will probably be going to hysccn.)

Thanks!

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NinerFan
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby NinerFan » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:48 pm

The earlier you can demonstrate a definitive interest in a specific area, the better. They want people who are serious about XYZ field of law. If the two are related, that would be nice, but I'm assuming that the two internships cover substantively different areas of the law. Incidentally, it's not a good time for hiring in the legal government, but I'm not sure how PI's are faring. Though, you'd be c/o 2015 so perhaps things will improve for you.

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mi-chan17
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby mi-chan17 » Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:32 am

I think, as a 1L, there is a little bit of wiggle room. It is true that the government likes to see some devotion to them; they don't like getting private-sector cast offs. However, if you have previous experience in government, and you can genuinely tell Fed employers (through your essays and, if you get to that point, through your interviews) some kind of story about wanting to use your degree for the public good, the fact that you worked PI as a 1L won't be in any way determinative.

All that said, you said that you were interested in some very specific areas of law. First, I'll remind you that during the course of your first year you might question those initial plans. Second, that might actually be a bigger issue than the PI/gov't distinction. There are some areas of law that can cut across sectors, and there are some that simply don't translate. If you want to be viable for SLIP, you're going to need to find some kind of way to make your 1L experience relevant (and you're going to have to have kicked serious ass on your transcript). Would you mind sharing what type of law you're actually thinking about? Because if you're talking PI in the form of drug decriminalization and Fed in the form of law enforcement...yeah, that's going to be a tough sell.

As to applying to honors programs as a 3L...at that point you'll have needed to made a commitment. Because the government has more former interns than entry-level spots, they can pretty much just require that you spent internship time with them. At that point, I think prior government legal (internship) experience is determinative.

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ladybug89
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby ladybug89 » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:32 am

Thanks for your input; that's very useful! The two areas are pretty different substantively but not drastically different philosophically: I'm interested in child advocacy for PI, and in fraud/predatory lending/consumer protection for government. Do you think those are too different? To me it seems like selling my general commitment to helping vulnerable people wouldn't be a huge stretch, but of course I don't know. I was also thinking about using clinics to try to get extra experience in both. Just don't want to shoot myself in the foot simply because I'm not sure, y'know?

thanks again!

(And when I said honors I meant after having done a federal internship 2L, not applying "cold.")

agalang
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby agalang » Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:59 am

NinerFan wrote:The earlier you can demonstrate a definitive interest in a specific area, the better. They want people who are serious about XYZ field of law. If the two are related, that would be nice, but I'm assuming that the two internships cover substantively different areas of the law. Incidentally, it's not a good time for hiring in the legal government, but I'm not sure how PI's are faring. Though, you'd be c/o 2015 so perhaps things will improve for you.


Sorry, didn't read anything you wrote but LOVE the avatar. PW is a BEAST!!!!!

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mi-chan17
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby mi-chan17 » Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:19 pm

ladybug89 wrote:Thanks for your input; that's very useful! The two areas are pretty different substantively but not drastically different philosophically: I'm interested in child advocacy for PI, and in fraud/predatory lending/consumer protection for government. Do you think those are too different? To me it seems like selling my general commitment to helping vulnerable people wouldn't be a huge stretch, but of course I don't know. I was also thinking about using clinics to try to get extra experience in both. Just don't want to shoot myself in the foot simply because I'm not sure, y'know?

thanks again!

(And when I said honors I meant after having done a federal internship 2L, not applying "cold.")


I think, from a philosophy standpoint, you'd be able to tell a lovely story in your SLIP application. However, I am kind of concerned that from a transferrable legal experience standpoint, you might end up coming up a little short.

Child/family law is basically all state-by-state, and you aren't too concerned with the big overarching federal policies when it comes to doing child advocacy. Fraud/predatory lending/consumer protection deals with a lot of federal statutes - those specific to that field of law (which, admittedly, is not one that I've worked in) and those that apply to all federal agencies (FOIA, PRA, FTCA, Tucker Act, etc.)

My SLIP interview was extremely substance based; I was asked specific questions about the area of law I was applying to work in, and they weren't softball questions. This isn't true of all SLIP interviews (and some components don't interview at all), my area of federal law was fairly specialized which is probably why they did it this way, but it is something they care about. They really liked, and asked a lot about, my experience with federal statutes in general (again, FOIA, etc.) and the statutes applicable to this niche area of law specifically. I have no idea if federal lending law is as specific as this, but it may be.

I don't know that the gap in the substantive law would be determinative, it may not be, but I don't think that these two areas of law lend themselves quite as well to a 1L PI -> 2L SLIP transition. Especially now that the SLIP is so intensely competitive. That said, I don't know a ton about lending law, and I could be wrong.

The good news, since you're a 0L, is that you have some time to do some research and find out what federal consumer protection agencies are looking for in their interns. I know I saw some folks over in the "Legal Employment" thread who got interviews for the Bureau of Consumer Protection; you might want to find them and PM them to ask how they got to that point, since I don't know as much about that area of law.

Best of luck!

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ladybug89
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Re: How important is it to specialize for PI or government?

Postby ladybug89 » Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:47 pm

mi-chan17 wrote:I think, from a philosophy standpoint, you'd be able to tell a lovely story in your SLIP application. However, I am kind of concerned that from a transferrable legal experience standpoint, you might end up coming up a little short.

Child/family law is basically all state-by-state, and you aren't too concerned with the big overarching federal policies when it comes to doing child advocacy. Fraud/predatory lending/consumer protection deals with a lot of federal statutes - those specific to that field of law (which, admittedly, is not one that I've worked in) and those that apply to all federal agencies (FOIA, PRA, FTCA, Tucker Act, etc.)

My SLIP interview was extremely substance based; I was asked specific questions about the area of law I was applying to work in, and they weren't softball questions. This isn't true of all SLIP interviews (and some components don't interview at all), my area of federal law was fairly specialized which is probably why they did it this way, but it is something they care about. They really liked, and asked a lot about, my experience with federal statutes in general (again, FOIA, etc.) and the statutes applicable to this niche area of law specifically. I have no idea if federal lending law is as specific as this, but it may be.

I don't know that the gap in the substantive law would be determinative, it may not be, but I don't think that these two areas of law lend themselves quite as well to a 1L PI -> 2L SLIP transition. Especially now that the SLIP is so intensely competitive. That said, I don't know a ton about lending law, and I could be wrong.

The good news, since you're a 0L, is that you have some time to do some research and find out what federal consumer protection agencies are looking for in their interns. I know I saw some folks over in the "Legal Employment" thread who got interviews for the Bureau of Consumer Protection; you might want to find them and PM them to ask how they got to that point, since I don't know as much about that area of law.

Best of luck!


Thank you so much! This is awesomely helpful; I will do some more research and hunt down some TLSers with the relevant experience.




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