If you’re looking to build your career in New York, the New York Attorney General is an excellent place to intern. With over 20 bureaus, you can practice virtually any type of law, get substantive researching and writing experience, and have access to a strong summer program. It is hard to go wrong with this top notch internship.
Back in 2016, I met with Sandra Grannum, Chief of the Legal Recruitment Bureau, and Abbe Ross, Director of Recruitment Operations, Legal Recruitment Bureau, to learn more about their office, the work that the Attorney General does, and their hiring process.
What the New York Attorney General Does
As head of the Department of Law, the Attorney General is both the “People’s Lawyer” and the State’s chief legal officer. As the “People’s Lawyer,” the Attorney General serves as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens of New York, its organizations, and its natural resources. In his role as the State’s chief legal counsel, the Attorney General not only advises the Executive branch of State government, but also defends actions and proceedings on behalf of the State.
The office has 1800 people, including 680 lawyers. There are two executive offices: Manhattan and Albany. And there are 13 regional offices.
The Attorney General serves all New Yorkers in numerous matters affecting their daily lives. The Attorney General’s Office is charged with the statutory and common law powers to protect consumers and investors, charitable donors, the public health and environment, civil rights, and the rights of wage-earners and businesses across the State.
The legal functions of the Department of Law are divided primarily into five major divisions: Appeals and Opinions, State Counsel, Criminal Justice, Economic Justice and Social Justice.
The Attorney General has 26 different bureaus in which law students may intern. They are:
Whatever experience you are looking for, you can get it at the New York Attorney General and they get to handle some very interesting cases. For instance, the Bureau of Internet and Technology litigated fantasy sports cases, involving Draft Kings and FanDuel. The Consumer Frauds Bureau, in conjunction with 40 other states, launched an investigation into Volkswagen for allegedly putting devices on their cars to pass emissions tests. And the Antitrust Bureau investigated Turing Pharmaceuticals to assess whether they restricted the distribution of a drug to avoid generic competition.
If you are interested in interning with the New York Attorney General but are unsure of which bureau to apply to, come see a CDO counselor and we can talk it through with you.
New York Attorney General Hiring
Sandi and Abbe built an in-house application management system, which you can access here if you want to pursue a position with their office.
The AG’s office had 175 law student interns last summer, including multiple NDLS students. In fact, the AG’s office has taken Notre Dame law students for as many summers as I can remember. NDLS students working at the AG often take advantage of summer federal work study.
Law students apply to individual bureaus within the New York AG’s office and then the bureaus look at the applicants, decide who to interview, and then conduct their own interviews. For example, at the time this blog posting was published, the AG had postings in their Special Investigations and Prosecutions and Real Estate Finance bureaus. Each bureau is responsible for their own hiring. Each student has at least two interviews and needs at least two people to recommend her to get hired.
Different bureaus hire different numbers of interns. The Litigation bureau is the biggest bureau and takes the most interns.
The AG hires attorneys throughout the year based on its need and budget as well as volunteers into their Volunteer Attorney Program. Last year, the Attorney General hired 93 attorneys. If you are interested in working for the AG right out of law school, you can join them through their Volunteer program with bridge-to-practice funding. Contact the CDO to learn more about that opportunity. It is not guaranteed that you will be hired after the end of your volunteer period but it is possible.
Paid Attorney positions are located in the AG’s online system and as with summer positions, attorney positions are listed by bureau. As of the time this blog posting was published, there were 24 attorneys positions posted, including an Assistant Attorney General position in their Buffalo office, Assistant Attorney General positions in the Litigation, Tobacco Compliance, and Real Estate Finance bureaus among others, and a Bureau Chief position in the Investor Protection Bureau.
There used to be a prohibition on hiring paid candidates directly from law school. The prohibition is gone but the culture of the AG’s office is still to hire experienced candidates. If a bureau has a particular need, they can now hire directly out of law school although most attorney postings require a minimum of two years of experience.
A candidate has the best chance at being hired in a bureau in which she has interned.
The typical successful candidate has the background and experience listed in the job posting. Candidates come from all over, including from big firms, prosecutor’s offices, clerkships, and the New York City Law Department but the one thing successful candidates have in common is litigation experience and a demonstrated ability to juggle a large caseload.
What Interns Do
Interns work on cases and get real, substantive work. The AG does not give out “make work” and relies on interns to contribute to the office.
The AG’s program is very well established and structured and not unlike a big firm experience. They have programming with 2-3 events per week. Recently, they had a”Monday Matters” talk about fantasy sports cases. They also hold multiple brown bag lunches throughout the summer with the Executive Deputy Attorneys General, who oversee the legal divisions. Like big firms, they have social events, ice cream socials, and outings such as going to the museum.
The AG promotes networking through events and gives students access to each other’s names so they can stay in touch.
Sandi holds regular office hours to make herself available to interns to discuss professional development and career advice. Bureau intern supervisors perform exit interviews with all of the interns to review their performance.
What to do (and not do) in your application
In your cover letter, Sandi gave advice very similar to advice given in this blog to not regurgitate your resume. Sell yourself. Show why things on your resume are important to the interviewer. The AG looks for strong writing skills and you get the chance to show them off in your cover letter.
Make sure there are no typos. Sandi frequently gets cover letters addressed to the wrong office.
One of the oddest mistakes someone made in the application process was submitting a penmanship sample when asked to submit a writing sample. The candidate took the email from the AG asking for a writing sample, wrote it out in pen, and submitted it back.
Sandi’s career advice is to not burn a bridge. You want to allow attorneys to have a conversation about hiring you. She says that people need to feel accomplished in their work and is proud that her office makes attorneys feel that way.
Life at the Attorney General’s Office
Starting salary for newer attorneys is in the mid 50s-60s.
I asked Sandi (a former big law attorney who has also worked at a company and done just about everything) about her work/life balance and she said “Do I have a life now! Now that I have a sufficient staff, I get to travel and everything.” Last May, Sandi went to Cuba. Abbe agrees. Her family is in New England and she sees them often.
The AG has a generous vacation policy and attorneys enjoy a more sustainable work schedule which includes freedom from billable hours.
If you’re interested in applying to the New York Attorney General or an Attorney General’s office in another state, contact a CDO counselor and we can help you prepare your application.