Finding Your Public Interest Job

Researching Organizations in Specific Areas of Interest

Below is a list of resources to help you find organizations in the public interest field. As you conduct your research, be sure to learn about their mission, projects, new initiatives they are planning, and the types of employees they hire.

  • Equal Justice Works
    Contains a list of public interest and government organizations that attend the annual fall Equal Justice Works Career Fair, the nation's largest public interest career fair. Learn more about financing a public interest career. Explore fellowship opportunities.
  • Idealist
    Search jobs and organizations in the public interest community. Positions are not limited to the legal field.
  • These handbooks have deadlines and application information for internships and post-graduate policy positions with non-profit and government organizations nationwide. You will need your AU log-in information to access the Handbook. They are frequentely updated so check back often!

  • OCPD Mentor Database
    The WCL Mentor Program enables students and alumni to contact practicing alumni for the purposes of networking, general career advice, and informational interviews. Determine if any WCL alumni work at organizations in which you are interested. Alumni are amazing resources for you to learn more about particular fields of law.
  • Martindale-Hubbell
    Determine if any WCL alumni work at organizations in which you are interested.
  • National Lawyers Guild
    Home for lawyers interested in social justice, this site has great links to public interest organizations, NGO's and human rights organizations
  • The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute contains a registry of international organizations working in many different public interest issues, including categories like assisting refugees, defending human rights, access to justice.
 

Applying for a Public Interest Job

There is no "best time" to apply for a public interest job. You should be exploring opportunities all year, during each you are enrolled at WCL. Many public interest employers begin their recruitment process in the Spring, as opposed to private employers who recruit heavily in the Fall. However, students interested in post-graduate fellowships should be aware that fellowship applications are a long and complex process, many of which must be started over a year in advance of graduation.

Resume & Cover Letters

Resumes and cover letters for public interest employers can be quite different than those submitted to private sector employers. The following steps can help you build a good resume and cover letter.

  1. OCPD Resume & Cover Letter Tips (Resumes|Cover Letter)
    Begin here to get a basic understanding of resume and cover letter requirements.

  2. OCPD Career Counselors
    OCPD career counselors are available to review your resume and cover letters and provide feedback. You can request your counseling appointment online with CareerLink. .

  3. Network!
    Because each industry and organization has its own jargon, try to learn what terminology would be best received by your prospective employer. The best way to know this terminology is to network with attorneys in the field in advance, and be able to reflect the language and shorthand they use when you have the opportunity.

  4. Review Third-Party Guides to Public Interest Job Applications
  5. There are many different sources of information about how to make your application stand out in a job market – and it is important to be a good consumer of information when one source’s advice contradicts another! There are many online articles and books that can help you through this search; the OCPD library does contain copies of some of the most well-regarded books in this area. See e.g., Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, by Kimm Walton, which highlights what makes a standout cover letter and is available in the OCPD library.

     

Post-Graduate Fellowships

Generally, public interest fellowships fund new attorneys for one or two years while they work to serve marginalized communities or causes. Fellowships normally start the fall after graduation from law school, so application deadlines begin as early as September of your third year. If you are interested in pursuing a fellowship, you should meet with the public interest specialist in the OCPD as soon as possible to begin developing your application. Visit the Office of Public Interest’s fellowship resources below to learn more.

Fall Recruitment

Several government and public interest employers participate in Fall Recruitment. Be sure to register on CareerLink to participate. Check out the document library or stop by OCPD to pick up important Fall Recruitment materials



Office of Career & Professional Development • American University Washington College of Law
4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016 • 202-274-4090 F: 202-274-4096