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

Last week, 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? Right after 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 plan for applying to fellowships.

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. In short, 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 at that organization. Project-based fellowships are funded by outside sources and usually are funded for two years. Notre Dame has project-based fellowships, including the Shaffer Fellowship, dedicated exclusively to Notre Dame Students and for most students, this is the least competitive pathway to beginning your public interest career.

Through the Shaffer Fellowship, two 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.

If you have any interest in applying for fellowships, make an appointment with me by June 1st to discuss your fellowship applications plan.

Know that applications for Notre Dame’s internal fellowships, including the Shaffer Fellowship, are due the second week of September. The Equal Justice Works Fellowship application is due the day after Shaffer. Notre Dame’s Public Interest Fellowship Database contains a comprehensive listing of fellowships and host organizations for project-based fellowships. Take a good look at the database to make your list of the fellowships you plan to apply to. There are many fellowships and getting a handle on your options early will ensure you do not get overwhelmed. Plan to do this by mid-June at the absolute latest. 

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 on July 1. 

The best candidate for your host organization is the organization you are working for this summer or the organization you worked for your 1L summer. 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.

No matter how good your project proposal is, you always want to treat this summer acting 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. Create your spreadsheet of government programs you plan to apply to no later than July 1. 

Other government opportunities, such as state Attorneys General, courts of appeals, and prosecutor’s offices, arise through OCI so pay close attention to Ali Wruble’s recruiting updates.

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 coffees, 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 starts, your efforts will show when you return in the fall.

You can see Morghan’s olympic qualifying lifts here.

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