The Yellow Brick Pathway to Federal Employment

By: Maria Hibbard

Since it’s intern season here in Washington, D.C., many bright-eyed and bushy tailed students with hopes of potentially working for the federal government are streaming into the city.  I may or may not be one of them!  My name is Maria Hibbard, and I’m the resident PSLawNet Intern and Publications Coordinator for the summer. I’m a rising second year law student at Case Western Reserve University. Since I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and am now in Cleveland for law school, D.C.’s vast system of public transportation and plethora of free summer activities (see the Having Fun on the Cheap page!) definitely has a big-city allure for me as well. I’ll be blogging throughout the summer here while avoiding the D.C. heat in the air conditioned office, of course.

Until recently, the path to employment at a federal agency or department has been a mystical jumble of various opportunities only found through a great degree of research: volunteer internships, compensated internships, fellowships, short-term and long-term programs. Hopefully, this jumble will soon become clearer–when President Obama’s Executive Order 13562 takes effect on July 10, 2012, current students and recent graduates will have three clear paths to federal employment via The Pathways Program. To break it down, everyone loves a list:

  • Some aspiring federal employees may have heard of the Student Career Experience program (SCEP) and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP); both of these programs are being replaced by the all-encompassing Internship Program. While the program is still administered primarily by the hiring agency, students can possibly earn conversion into a permanent position after the completion of 640 hours of work experience.
  • The Recent Grads program is a new opportunity for recent graduates within two years of obtaining any degree. Like the internship program, it is administered individually by the federal agencies, but the one year program provides structured mentorship opportunities, 40 hours of formal training, and the creation of an individual development plan. After 1 year, the graduates of the program can be eligible for conversion to permanent employment at the selected agency.

Starting in July, agencies will have to provide information about both of these programs, their specific opportunities, and application procedures on www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads/.

  • Finally, the Presidential Management Program, while obviously not new, has been reworked to provide for a more seamless application process and administration (especially after last year’s acceptance snafu). This prestigious program, for professionals of all disciplines, places fellows at the center of federal policy making, provides at least 80 hours of formal training, and encourages the development of a performance plan.

We’ll remind you in July to start looking for opportunities on the reworked federal website; hopefully, the Pathways Program will lead more aspiring students and recent grads down the yellow-brick-“pathway” to federal employment.

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Here's How to Maximize Your Summer Public Interest Experience!

by Kristen Pavón

Yesterday, we hosted our Summer Success: Getting the Most from Your Summer Public Interest Experience webinar. Our presenters, Deb Ellis, the former Assistant Dean for Public Service at NYU School of Law, and Lindsay M. Harris, the EJW fellow and Immigration Staff Attorney at Tahirih Justice Center, provided some great tips on how interns/externs/volunteers can maximize their summers. If you were “there,” thanks for attending! :)

In case you missed it, the webinar recording should be available in the next week or so. In the meantime, here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Act as though your summer position is an extended interview.
  • Be realistic about your expectations for feedback (meaning, don’t expect to get comments and notes on every single assignment).
  • Make your supervisor your mentor.
  • Be indispensable and take advantage of all learning opportunities (some organizations take note of attendance and non-attendance).
  • Keep track of your summer work product.
  • If you’re in a new city for the summer, have fun! (Check out PSLawNet’s Having Fun on the Cheap page for suggestions!)

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Job o' the Day: Summer Internship at American Immigration Council in DC!

The Legal Action Center (LAC) of the American Immigration Council is looking for second-year law students to join the LAC staff as legal interns this summer. Interns must be dynamic, self-starters with strong research and writing skills and a commitment to the LAC’s mission.

Intern projects may include: monitoring and analyzing immigration decisions; legal research and memo writing; and drafting practice advisories, pleadings and briefs. The LAC advocates for fundamental fairness in U.S. immigration law. It is staffed by experienced immigration lawyers who play a leading role in immigration litigation across the country.

For more information, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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The Unpaid Internship Dilemma: What's Your Take?

by Kristen Pavón

You may have heard about the debate brewing over unpaid internships (mainly in the for-profit world). What’s that? No,  you haven’t? Ok, I’ll fill you in.

Because of the economy, the numbers of unpaid internships are on the rise and more and more people are stepping up and a) suing their former employers, b) calling unpaid internships at for-profit organizations illegal, unfair and exploitative, or c) fighting the push back and are lauding these opportunities as a win-win for all parties involved.

The distinction between for-profit and non-profit/government is made because Department of Labor standards for unpaid internships only applies to for-profit companies. Employers must meet the following criteria in order to have an unpaid intern (from employment attorney Camille Olson’s Room for Debate post):

• the training is comparable to that given at a vocational school;
• the training must primarily be for the benefit of the student;
• the student must not replace a regular employee;
• the employer cannot immediately benefit from the student’s activities (for example, the intern cannot deliver mail, sort files, conduct market research, write reports, schedule interviews, or perform any other work that assists the employer in running its business unless the benefit received by the employer is outweighed by the training time that is provided to the intern);
• there can be no promise of a job following the training;
• and both the employer and the student understand that no wages will be paid.

This week, contributors gave their opinion for the New York Times’s Room for Debate . Among the five contributors was David Lat, founder of Above the Law. He was the only contributor who had experience in an unpaid public service law opportunity and because of that, I was interested in hearing his thoughts on the subject.

Lat interned with the federal prosecutors office in New Jersey and while he didn’t get a paid position with the office immediately, he did work there later on (I know this because he and researcher and author of Intern Nation Ross Perlin were guests on Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday).

Lat is in the answer “c” group — he believes unpaid internships are win-win. His only caveats are contract-based — the unpaid internship needs to be mutually beneficial and entered into freely by both parties.

I’m inclined to agree — in the public service/non-profit realm. While I do feel the unpaid interns’ pain on the cash-flow front, the experience I came away with was worth it. All of the orgs I worked for had structured or semi-structured intern/clerk programs and the attorneys were willing and able to teach me — this makes a huge difference when deciding whether or not to take an unpaid position.

Aside from practical legal skills, I also left organizations having made strong connections with public interest attorneys, which to this day I’ve found to be completely invaluable.

I know that if a position were to open up at any of the organizations I interned with, I would be a top (if not the) candidate for the job because they are familiar with me, my work ethic and the quality of my work product.

My advice is this: do your homework when looking at unpaid positions. You want to make sure it will compensate you in ways other than monetarily — ask questions about the internship structure, work space, supervising attorneys, mentoring, etc.

Where do you land on this issue? A, B or C?

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The 10 Biggest Mistakes You can Make While Interviewing at Public Interest Law Career Fairs

by Lauren Burke, Esq.

Lauren Burke is the co-founder of Atlas: DIY, developing immigrant youth, and the immigration attorney at the New York Asian Women’s Center. Lauren is a former Skadden Fellow at The Door, where she worked with Chinese child survivors of human trafficking. Since graduating from NYU Law in 2009, she has worked with over thirty law students in a direct and clinical capacity and loves sharing the advice she learned from tripping (literally!) in dozens of legal interviews.

1.    You Didn’t Do Your Homework

If you can pass civil procedure you can certainly take five minutes to look at an organization’s website and at least learn their mission statement! No excuses, just do it. I’ll quiz you on it, I will!

2.    You Dismiss My Training

Organizations are not particularly interested in training you for an entire summer if the biggest impact you think you will have down the road is “taking on a few pro bono cases” or that you’d like an internship “to get class credit.” We want to see how you are dedicated to the field, or, at least, want to apply our training and work to help others in need.

3.   You Take Me Too Seriously

It’s actually ok to relax in the interview and let your personality show. We’ll be working together late in the night working on an appellate brief and THEN get a call that a client was arrested…again! So we’re looking for people we can click with on a personal and professional level.

4.    …Or You Don’t Take Me Seriously Enough!

Yes, I’m 28 and a female but that doesn’t mean working with me isn’t tough or that I’ll beg for any law student to come crawling my way. You may be older and in many respects wiser but don’t forget who is interviewing whom.

5.    You Fabricate Your Language Skills

Conversational means you know how to say more than “what is your name” and “how old are you.” Proficient articulates that you can get the job done, literally, in the language you use. Don’t think you’ll get off without being tested, I often bring others who speak a language I need to test prospective interns’ chops.

6.    You Patronize the Clients

I’d rather not hear about how all you want to do is “help the poor people” and how having a law degree (or half of one)  makes you superman.  We love what we do but we also recognize why we are here and it’s largely because we love the population. You should want to learn as much, if not more, from the clients as you are able to provide and to recognize that in the interview.

7.    You Take a One-size Fits All Approach to Public Interest

I love an intern with variety but housing foreclosure for the elderly applies a different skill set than youth in foster care. Do issues  and talents overlap? Absolutely! But I want you to be able to speak about and articulate why this particular internship speaks to you.

8.    You Didn’t Ask Me Any Questions

If a law student doesn’t have questions at the end of an interview, I worry about their intellectual curiosity and genuine devotion to the position. Students should come to every interview armed with at least one follow up, “where do you find your client base” works in most situations!

9.    You Confused the Name of My NGO

This maybe goes with number one but, again, do your homework! Sanctuary for Families is different than Safe Horizons, and Advocates for Children is not the Administration for Children’s Services. Print out a page of each NGO you are interviewing with and highlight key items, review this sheet before each interview and you should be good to go!

10.    You Didn’t Show Up

Interviews at these fairs are lightning fast and you’ve got to make an impression (and not the kind where the interviewer is left sitting at a table alone staring into space.) Even if you have a job offer that you would like to take, contact the employer in advance of your interview so that they have a chance to talk to someone else. You never know who you’ll want to interview with in the future and trust us, we talk!

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Job o' the Day: Legal Intern at Wikimedia Foundation in San Fran!

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that runs Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, is looking fo legal interns for the Summer of 2012! The Office of the General Counsel runs a legal internship program to educate and train promising law students or in the areas of internet law and free knowledge organizations. The interns would work 40 hours per week at the Wikimedia Foundation’s downtown San Francisco office. The Wikimedia Foundation faces a myriad of legal issues ranging from complex copyright questions to international freedom of speech issues to mobile development to internal corporate compliance.

Because of the wide array of legal issues, the interns will be assigned challenging projects based on their particular interests and strengths. These projects could range from researching a particular legal question to drafting licensing agreements to developing internal and external policies. Each intern will receive individualized projects that they will be expected to spearhead under the supervision and guidance of an attorney from the Office of the General Counsel. Interns will work closely with their supervising attorney — attending and participating in internal and external meetings, collaborating on projects, receiving feedback and support, and generally learning about the practical dimensions of practicing law in-house at a web-based company. The Wikimedia Foundation values and promotes diversity. We invite applications from candidates regardless of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Interested? Check the listing at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: Juvenile Justice Policy/Advocacy Internship at Campaign for Youth Justice in DC!

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is accepting applications for its spring semester internship program.

CFYJ seeks interns interested in being introduced to the “nuts and bolts” of juvenile and criminal justice reform and issue campaign organization and management. This may include everything from poring through government reports, statistics, records, and data to working on the communications strategy associated with a state-based campaign/ initiative or analyzing legislation with clear policy implications.

Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

 

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Job o' the Day: Attorney Internships (with possibility of permanent employment) with the Eviction Defense Network in LA!

While this opportunity is unpaid, there is a possibility of permanent employment after the internship training. Check it out —

Eviction Defense Network (EDN) is a network of trial lawyers founded in 2003 that advocates for tenants. EDN is dedicated to defending the right to affordable housing and ensuring access to justice in housing matters to tenants in Los Angeles County. EDN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to tenants facing eviction.

Eviction Defense Network (EDN) is be expanding its services starting with a two-month training opportunity for four attorneys.

From January 28, 2012 through March 30, 2012, EDN is offering a training opportunity with possible salaried positions at the conclusion of the two-month training.

This is a two-month unpaid Internship Program for attorneys interested in then applying for 4 possible job openings at the conclusion of the training.

The training starts with a half day orientation on January 13, 2011 and 1 full day of classroom training on January 14 (Saturday).

Is this position for you? Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: Summer 2012 Internship at the Urban Justice Center in NY!

The Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center is currently seeking interns for the summer of 2012.

The mission of the Street Vendor Project is to advance economic justice and political power among the approximately 15,000 people who sell food and merchandise on the streets and sidewalks of NYC. Vendors, who are primarily recent immigrants and U.S. military veterans, have serious problems: they have been denied access to vending licenses and driven from their vending locations. Fines reach as high as $1,000 per ticket for trivial violations.

The Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center is a membership-based organization that provides legal representation and small business training to individual vendors while organizing them to speak together in one unified citywide movement for justice and respect.

Interns will have the chance to represent vendors in administrative hearings, where you can present evidence and cross-examine police officers. You will also attend organizing meetings and help plan demonstrations, rallies, and other events.

Sounds interesting, right? Find out more at PSLawNet!

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Job o' the Day: Paid Legal Internship with the Anti-Defamation League in NY!

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Brodsky family have established the Edward Brodsky Legal Internship Program in order to inspire and facilitate the emergence of new young leaders in civil rights law. Edward Brodsky was a well-respected member of the legal community and a passionate leader committed to the furtherance of civil rights law. This internship was created in his memory through the generosity of the Brodsky family.

Brodsky Interns will work in the League’s National Office in New York, NY and will be afforded the opportunity to participate in critical day-to-day legal work on exciting issues on ADL’s docket, including First Amendment issues such as separation of church and state, religious freedom, free speech, as well as civil rights and discrimination issues. Brodsky Interns will engage in legal research and writing under the supervision of ADL attorneys, and be given the opportunity to assist in the preparation of amicus curiae briefs, testimony, model legislation, op-ed submissions and ADL Civil Rights Division publications when appropriate.

Are you a first or second-year law student with a commitment to First Amendment issues? Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!

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