You are continuing a process of exploration, reflection, and decision-making that may last your entire career. But right now, concretely, you will be focusing on your 2L summer job search.
How do I find a summer public interest job?
You can start by watching our most recent Rising 2L Job Search Strategy Session, checking out our summer public interest job search FAQs and monitoring our 2L summer job opportunities feed for the most recent summer job postings we receive. In addition, we have created this step-by-step guide specifically for the 2L summer job search.
Key goals for a 2L summer internship:
- Add data points to help you make future choices. Deepen your experience in the same area or practice setting where you already have experience, or explore a different issue area or practice setting of interest. Focus on the issue areas and practice settings in which you may eventually want to apply for post-graduate employment
- Continue to demonstrate a commitment to public service generally, and perhaps to a particular field of interest or type of practice specifically.
- Build your connections to organizations and practitioners working in fields that interest you, helping to inform your post-graduate job search and potentially your search for fellowship host organizations.
- Build marketable skills (e.g., client interviewing, drafting, etc.)
Job Search Timeline
Step One: Reflect, Plan, and Network (1L Summer)
- As you progress through your 1L summer internship, reflect on your experiences there as well as from 1L year, and start to plan your next steps for 2L summer.
- If you love your 1L summer position, you may want to think about exploring something related during 2L summer, to build a track record in that field. You might try the same issue area in a different practice setting (e.g., employment law in a non-profit rather than government setting), or a different issue area in the same practice setting (e.g., changing from employment law to consumer law, still in a government setting). Consider how your theory of change has remained constant or begun to shift, and how exposure to different work types or client communities may sharpen your perspective.
- If your 1L summer position hasn’t been the right fit, take the time to concretely note what isn’t working. (Is it your day-to-day activities? The issue area you’re focused on? The specific office environment?) If you find yourself stuck, make an appointment with an OPIA adviser to help you think through these questions and make the most of your 1L summer.
- Throughout your internship, network with attorneys in your areas of interest to learn more about summer job options and make connections.
Step Two: Identify Potential Employers (1L Summer)
- Develop a list of potential public interest employers, noting their application procedures and any early application deadlines. There are many resources you can use to find public interest organizations that may be of interest to you: OPIA advisers, the Helios public interest organizations database, our 2L summer job opportunities feed, the who worked where lists, our career guides, PSJD, HLS faculty, our list of public interest job search boards and databases, your own mentors and networking connections, and more.
- Make sure the organizations to which you wish to apply are eligible for Summer Public Interest Funding (SPIF).
- Review the list of employers that will participate in OPIA’s fall Virtual Public Interest Interview Program (V-PIIP), and keep checking back over the summer as more employers are added.
- If you are considering splitting your 2L summer between two public interest positions or between a private law firm and a public interest position, take a moment to review OPIA’s guidance about split summers. As you weigh opportunities and consider your time commitments, keep in mind that your 2L summer may also involve non-internship work, such as applying for clerkships and/or fellowship sponsorship.
- When considering potential 2L summer employers, also research and prepare to apply for any applicable fellowships or supplemental funding covering your 2L summer, such as the Rappaport Fellows Program or the Peggy Browning Fellowship Program.
- Make an appointment with an OPIA adviser if you need more guidance as you search for organizations that may be a good fit for you. Plan to meet with an OPIA adviser in July to discuss your list of potential employers and game plan for submitting applications.
Step Three: Prepare Materials and Apply (1L Summer through 2L Late Fall)
- Check out OPIA’s guidance on preparing materials like resumes, cover letters, and references, and take advantage of our templates as you update and rework your materials for 2L summer applications. Our summer job search FAQs also have plenty of tips and tricks for creating a stand-out public interest application.
- Submit your resume and/or cover letter for review by an OPIA adviser, noting the turnaround time of 10-14 business days. If you would like your materials reviewed and returned before you submit bids for V-PIIP, submit them by the deadline specified on the V-PIIP page.
- Polish your online presence. Employers may do an online search of you, and your online presence should be professional. Review your social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), email signatures, and voicemail greeting. Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and up-to-date.
- Submit applications to employers of interest.
- The number of applications you submit will vary depending on the type of work you are pursuing, the competitiveness of the organizations you’re interested in, your background, and the geographic locations you are targeting. Generally, for a 2L applicant, we recommend that you begin with a list of 5-8 employers, but an OPIA adviser can help you determine whether your list can be shorter or should be longer.
- Note that some employers will begin to hire (or will complete their hiring) in August and early September. Employers with early hiring include the U.S. Department of Justice’s Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP), the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser, some national non-profits, and some private public interest law firms.
- Submit bids for PIIP in accordance with the published schedule, and participate in other fall job fairs like the Massachusetts Law School Consortium (MLSC) Government/Public Interest Recruitment Program and the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Career Fair.
- Ensure that you stay organized and keep track of application deadlines and procedures for employers not participating in the programs above. Where deadlines and procedures are not clear, reach out to employers to express interest in applying and clarify their preferred process.
Step Four: Interview and Manage Offers (Early 2L Fall through 2L Winter)
- Starting to get interview requests from employers? Check out our summer job search FAQs and interviewing guidance. Refer to our sample emails to employers and professionalism guide for guidance about how to respond to employer communications.
- Remember to respond to all employer emails and phone calls within 24 hours, and to send thank-you notes within 24 hours after an interview.
- Err on the side of formality. Use last names, and don’t start an email with “hi,” “hey,” or no greeting at all.
- Want some interview practice before the real thing? Make an appointment with an OPIA adviser for a mock interview.
- Not hearing back from employers after two weeks or so? Don’t panic; pivot! Follow our guidelines for following up on applications. Make an appointment with an OPIA adviser to strategize about how to keep your search moving.
- Review our guidance about evaluating and negotiating offers. Do not accept an offer and later withdraw. If you need quick guidance from an OPIA adviser as you navigate offers, competing application timelines, or requests for extensions to accept or decline offers, come to drop-in office hours.
- If you have secured a summer position in the federal government or are in pursuit of one by February, consider applying for the Heyman Summer Internship Program to take advantage of this learning and networking opportunity.
Step Five: Secure Funding, Visas, and Housing (2L Winter through 2L Spring)
- Ensure that you have submitted all required materials for SPIF. Check out options for supplemental funding, and apply if you qualify.
- Explore housing options and secure a place to live for the duration of your internship. Employers and former interns may be able to help with this. If you are looking for an apartment to sublet for a few months, one way to start your search is by looking online for housing/subletting groups for the area where you will be living. Another good place to start is a university in the town or city where you will be living, if applicable.
- If you are an international student and will be working in the United States, talk to the Harvard International Office about F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) requirements.
Step Six: Make the Most of Your Summer (2L Spring through 2L Summer)
- After accepting your offer, ask your employer whether there are any steps you can take to prepare for your summer internship. Check out the who worked where lists and reach out to other HLS students who have worked in that office to ask them for any advice.
- Review our professionalism guide for tips on workplace attire, email etiquette, and workplace conduct. Bring a notepad with you everywhere you go and take notes when receiving assignments. Always submit your best work, and remain positive and open-minded when it comes to feedback and constructive criticism.
- Say thank you – including to support staff, your supervisor(s), and any formal intern coordinators who might be part of your summer experience.
- Where your schedule and assignments permit, attend any brown bag lunches or networking events, and take advantage of any other opportunities to learn more about careers and contacts.
Step Seven: Prepare for Your 3L Year and Post-Graduate Job Search (2L Winter through 2L Summer)
- In the early spring, take the time to start thinking through the initial steps of your post-graduate job search.
- If you plan to apply for fellowships, a common post-graduate entry point into public interest work, schedule an appointment for fellowship advising with OPIA’s Fellowships Director, Judy Murciano, in the spring to develop a personalized game plan. Attend fellowship information sessions and note any spring or early summer deadlines to apply for sponsorship at particular organizations of interest. Review our fellowship application calendar and begin monitoring our fellowship and entry-level deadlines feed.
- If you plan to apply for clerkships, make an appointment with a clerkships adviser in the Office of Career Services and review their clerkship advising resources in anticipation of applications in June.
- If you plan to apply for government honors programs, schedule an appointment for government advising with OPIA’s Assistant Director for Government Advising, Joan Ruttenberg, over the summer and pay attention to early deadlines.
- If you plan to apply for entry-level public defender or prosecution positions, make an appointment with an OPIA adviser over the summer, and pay attention to early deadlines.