Maximizing Your 2L Summer to Crush Your 3L Government & Public Interest Job Search

Last year before the summer olympics, Morghan King, standing at 5 feet and weighing 105 pounds, lifted more than double her body weight, 220 pounds, over her head to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting team at the Rio Olympics. To accomplish this tremendous feat, King rigorously planned out her training schedule years in advance.

Her training regiment consisted of nine 2 1/2 hour training sessions per week, each focusing on one of the three lifts in which she competes, an extremely healthy diet composed of protein and vegetables, and 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Basically, Morghan planned out nearly every moment of her day for an entire year.

You’re probably thinking “that’s pretty cool but what does it have to do with my 3L job search?” Well, in order to position yourself for an effective 3L public interest and government job search, you must channel Morghan King and plan out your summer well in advance.

Why? Deadlines for many government honors and fellowship applications come up very quickly in the fall and you will feel like they are due as soon as you return to campus. These applications can be extremely time sensitive. Many of the best 3L OCI opportunities also come up very fast in early Fall.

So how do you begin to plan? Like Morghan King, you have a coach and like Morghan King’s coach, I  am going to help you develop a training plan.

Start with your 3L job search and work backwards. What types of jobs will you be applying for in the Fall and when are the deadlines for those jobs? As soon as your 2L finals conclude, make a spreadsheet of every job you will be applying for in your 3L Fall so your spreadsheet is done well before you get busy with your summer job. In that spreadsheet, track the name of the organization, deadlines, and what is required for the application (resume, cover letter, etc.)

Your #1 priority as you begin the summer is understanding what a public interest fellowship is and creating your fellowship application plan. 

So what is a public interest fellowship? In short, fellowships provide the clearest and most straightforward path to beginning your public interest career. PSJD has an excellent summary and bank of resources on postgraduate fellowships.  Basically, you can apply for organizational fellowships, where the organization hires you to work there for one or two years or a project-based fellowship, where you pick an organization and create your own project to work on during the time you are at that organization.

Project-based fellowships are funded by outside sources and usually are funded for two years. Notre Dame has two project-based fellowships, the Shaffer Fellowship and Bank of America Foundation Fellowship, dedicated exclusively to Notre Dame Students and for most students, this is the least competitive pathway to beginning your public interest career.

In 2018, through the Shaffer and Bank of America Foundation fellowships, four Notre Dame 3Ls are guaranteed public interest jobs and because they are project-based, you literally create your own dream job with any public interest organization you choose.

Other popular project-based fellowships include the Equal Justice Works, Skadden, and Soros fellowships. You can find additional project-based fellowships in Notre Dame’s fellowship database.

Organizational fellowships are funded by the organization and you can find a list of those in Notre Dame’s Fellowship database, by doing a search on PSJD, and by reading the Weekly Docket.

If you have any interest in applying for fellowships, make an appointment with me by June 15th to discuss your fellowship applications plan.

When are fellowship applications due?

Applications for Notre Dame’s internal fellowships, including the Shaffer Fellowship and Bank of America Foundation Fellowship, are due by 5pm on Friday, September 22, 2017. The Equal Justice Works Fellowship application is due the next week on September 27, 2017. The Soros fellowship application is due on November 1, 2017.

Organizational fellowship applications vary throughout the year, starting in September and going through spring. You can see specific application deadlines for those in Notre Dame’s Fellowship Database.

Please note that I am getting married and going on my honeymoon in September 2017 so I will be out of the office from Thursday, August 31, 2017-Sunday, September 29, 2017.

My last day in the office and thus last day to review fellowship applications will be Wednesday, August 30, 2017.

While I am gone in September, the other counselors in the CDO are happy to review your fellowship essays and applications but because I am the public interest counselor and have developed an expertise in crafting great fellowship applications, it is ideal if you have me take a look at your essays. For me to review your applications, I will need to see them by August 30th before I head out for my wedding.

This is a good timeline you can use for your fellowship application process:

June 1-June 15: Using the resources above, research fellowships, public interest organizations, and host organizations

June 15: Schedule an appointment with me to go over your public interest job search

June 15: Complete spreadsheet of organizational and project-based fellowships you plan to apply to

July 1: Solidify a host organization to sponsor you for your project-based fellowships

July 10: Send me your first application and essay drafts

July 15: Ask for letters of recommendation

August 15: Finalize essays and applications with me

September 22: Apply for the Shaffer and Bank of America Foundation Fellowships

September 27: Apply for the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Fall and spring: Apply for other fellowships you are intersted in

What is the first step in applying for fellowships?

Find a host organization for your project-based fellowships and make a list of organizational fellowships you’re going to apply for. If you intend to apply to fellowships, you must find a host organization as early in your summer as possible. You want to find your host organization very early in the summer because most organizations decide who they are going to sponsor in June. Also, you want to spend July and August writing your project proposal and honing your essays with me.

Developing project proposals requires a great deal of back and forth with your host organization so getting the first draft of your essays done early is imperative. Plan to send me the first draft of your project proposal by July 10.

How do I pick a host organization?

Talk to me about your goals for your public interest job and I will get you started. The best candidate for your host organization is the organization you are working for this summer or an organization you worked for previously, whether that was before law school, in an externship, or during your 1L summer.

Beyond organizations where you have worked, the best resource for finding host organizations is Notre Dame’s Public Interest Fellowship Database and psjd.org. Some host organizations consistently have success in securing Equal Justice Works Fellows while others have consistent success in securing Shaffer Fellows so if you find a host organization you like, talk to me about it so we can discuss strategy.

The public interest job search outside of fellowships

No matter how good your project proposal is, you always want to treat this summer as though you will not be awarded a fellowship. Imagine that the fellowship application process does not go as well as you had hoped. What will you wish you had done? Do that. The answer is you will wish you had networked extensively with public interest and government employers in your geographic area of interest. You will wish you had developed a vast web of contacts to connect you with people and job opportunities.

So using your spreadsheet of all of the organizations you are potentially interested in working for, go down the list and contact attorneys at every single one of those organizations this summer. Have coffees and lunches until you have met someone from every single organization. That way, you are entering your 3L year with contacts at every single organization you would potentially want to work for and that is huge. That is the difference between sending your resume into a big black whole and having someone you can email to ensure it gets read.

Government honors deadlines are usually in September but there are many deadlines scattered throughout the year so make a game plan for applying for government jobs early.

Go to the Arizona Government Honors Handbook for government honors opportunities. The Arizona Handbook contains a comprehensive list of all honors programs with application deadlines, including the DOJ, Department of Education, other federal agencies, and even many state opportunities such as the New York Mayor’s office. Most of these applications are due in September and some of them are very involved. The DOJ honors application is open from July 31-September 5.

Create your spreadsheet of government programs you plan to apply to no later than July 1. 

I have developed an expertise in crafting successful government applications and I look forward to helping you with yours. Remember to send me your applications before Wednesday, August 30th, 2017 so I have plenty of time to review them before leaving for my wedding and honeymoon.

Other government opportunities, such as state Attorneys General, city law departments, courts of appeals, public defender, and prosecutor’s offices, arise throughout the year and at OCI so pay close attention to CDO emails, symplicity, and the weekly docket.

Make your application plan and repeat the networking strategy stated above. Meet someone working at every government agency where you would potentially want to work. That way, when you apply your 3L fall, every cover letter you write will state that you talked to someone working at that organization and in every interview you have, you will be able to refer to a conversation you had with someone working there. When you are trying to answer the “Why do you want to work here” question, being able to point to specific insights you gained from someone inside the organization will be invaluable.

So make your spreadsheets, go out on your networking meetings, and never hesitate to reach out to the CDO for advice and resources. We can identify organizations for your spreadsheet, help you craft great networking outreach emails, talk with you about how to have a successful networking meeting, and answer any other questions you have.

You don’t have to endure nine 2 1/2 hour training sessions per week but if you start planning your Fall application and networking strategy before your summer job gets really busy, your efforts will show when you return in the fall.

You can see Morghan’s olympic qualifying lifts here.

Above all, if you take away anything from this blog post, bear in mind that if you have any desire or tiny seed of interest in applying for public interest or government jobs, email me and we can get the conversation started.

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