One of the biggest drawbacks of government jobs is that they don’t have the early hiring process and job offer timeline that big law has. It’s very rare for government offices to interview 2Ls during fall of 2L year for a job that starts the next summer that is supposed to result in an offer for a post-graduate position. But starting this year, one government office is doing just that!
Last week, I got a call from Kenneth So, Deputy City Attorney, San Diego City Attorney’s Office. Kenneth called to tell me all about the San Diego City Attorney’s Office’s new paid 10 week summer program, where summer interns are expected to get post-graduate offers at the end of the program. So let’s get into it!
First of all, if you want to apply for the program, you can do so here. Applications are due on Friday, August 30th at 5 PM Pacific, 8 PM Eastern.
The internship itself is split into 5 week periods: one in the Criminal Division and the second 5 weeks in the Civil Division. The office offers interns a broad array of practice areas and gives interns the chance to see opportunities for growth in the office.
The internship pays $20/hour for the summer and will pay something similar for the post bar position until candidates pass the bar.
At the end of the summer, they plan is for interns to get an offer to be a paid post bar clerk and then a full-time attorney offer in the Criminal Division conditional on passing the July 2021 California bar exam. The opportunity is only open to current rising 2L students.
To apply for the internship program, go to this link and upload your resume, writing sample, transcript, and cover letter through that site.
Ideal candidates are students interested in both criminal and civil law because the initial post-graduate job would be an attorney position in the criminal division in the general trial unit. As entry-level attorneys gain experience, they can apply to more specialized criminal sections or to the civil division.
Kenneth explained the reasoning for starting this program by analogizing to professional sports teams. You can either improve the team by acquiring free agents or through the draft. Through this program, the City Attorney is going more to the draft and trying to attract all star quality law students. Then, their office will train the students, guide them, and show them opportunities in their office with the hope that they can get them to fill needs in their office.
I asked Kenneth more about the summer experience in their office and he told me that one of the neat things about the City Attorney’s Civil Division rotation is that unlike a traditional internship where you get all your projects from one supervising attorney, their office has opened up their entire Civil Division (70+) attorneys to working with their interns. Kenneth explained that when interns get all of their assignments from one attorney, it limits opportunities for the intern because they’re only seeing one small area of what that office may do and interns can’t select the assignments they are going to do.
So, instead, in the City Attorney’s office, they have a customized website portal that allows any attorney in the Civil Division to post an assignment on the board and interns have access to the board. Interns check the board and then decide who is going to take on which assignment so there is an element to being able to select assignments that most interest the intern. Their office has found that allocating work this way results in a better work product because interns are more interested in the projects they are completing. This method of assignment allocation also helps interns develop soft skills like collaboration, teamwork, and communication. Their office wants interns to think of themselves as a law firm and the client is the attorney posting assignments. That helps bond the internship class and they are working together and end up being friends long after the internship is over.
I asked about opportunities for interns to sit on things like depositions and hearings. Kenneth said that attorneys can also post experiential learning opportunities to the job board such as a deposition they’d be willing to have interns attend. Other commonly posted opportunities include settlement conferences, mediations, client meetings, and meetings with city departments, the mayor’s office, and the city council’s office. Often times, these opportunities can allow interns to see the end result of their own work and they may even get to brief an office on the research they did relevant to the project. Kenneth said that this happened this summer with a sidewalk vending ordinance. They had ongoing meetings with the mayor’s staff about this ordinance and one of the interns got to brief the mayor on aspects she researched. (She drafted a part of the ordinance.)
If you want to learn more about the summer internship experience, the 2018 internship class made a video of their summer experience, which you can watch here.
The hope and expectation of the City Attorney is to give post-graduate offers to everyone in the summer class.
Regarding the writing sample, Kenneth said it should be no longer than ten pages and he usually just skims it.
Kenneth said there is hard GPA cutoff but it will be a highly competitive program. (For Volunteer positions in the Civil Division last summer, they had over 200 applicants for 8 spots.)
This is a rare opportunity to get into a great government office on the same timeline and with the same job security as big law so if you’re interested, it makes sense to put substantial effort into your materials.
And don’t forget that we have NDLS alumni in their office! I interviewed one of them last year.
If you’re interested in applying and want help with your application documents, the CDO is here to help!