While the public sector is extremely varied, most employers are looking for a core set of skills. These are skills you may already have and should continue to develop during law school through internships, clinics, and coursework. Additional qualities that employers value in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are increased flexibility and comfort with remote or hybrid work.
Practical Work Experience in Public Interest
Clinics are a fantastic way to demonstrate interest and build public interest experience in a variety of ways, from directly representing clients to writing appellate briefs.
Many employers want to see experience in their particular practice setting or issue area. For example, an environmental law organization may want to see that you have experience working with an environmental law organization, relevant government agency, or law school clinic.
Most employers are interested in candidates with strong writing skills. For some employers, writing skills are paramount because of the work the focus of their work, such as impact litigation or appellate advocacy. While traditional legal writing is an important skill, some employers are also interested in other forms of written advocacy that may address a non-lawyer audience.
Employers are interested in evidence of strong interpersonal skills that would make you a good colleague. Do you work well as part of a team? Are you excited about the work you are doing or applying for, and can you communicate that excitement in an interview?
OPIA offers individual mock interviews in advising appointments. Mock interviews are a great way to improve your interview technique and make sure you are exhibiting strong interpersonal skills.
Experience with Diverse Groups
Having experience working with diverse groups is particularly important to employers that work directly with clients. Are you sensitive to cultural differences that exist between you and your client? Are you a good listener? Are you respectful and able to build rapport with clients with whom you may not share a similar background?
Employers that focus on direct client work and international work highly value applicants with skills in languages other than English. If you want to work in these practice settings and have some basic skills in a particular language, consider any opportunities to improve those skills over the summer and/or throughout the academic year.