How Do I Gain Experience? In addition to course selection and student leadership opportunities on campus, you can gain experience in public service law by participating in an externship or volunteering your time in pro bono legal service. Students interested in externship opportunities are encouraged to contact Bryan McDermott, Director of Experiential Curriculum at To learn more about pro bono opportunities with local service organizations, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132 or

The law school offers summer stipend awards each year to first- and second-year law students with unpaid government and public interest legal internships. For more information about summer stipend applications visit the Summer Stipend Application page.

  • Federal, State and Local Government

    Federal Government: Executive Branch Agencies
    Most federal government agencies employ attorneys to provide legal counsel or to work in an alternative capacity, and the function of the attorney varies by agency. The general counsel’s office provides support to the other offices in the legislative and regulatory arena. Federal government attorneys provide legal advice on issues, draft legislation or regulations, write administrative opinions, represent the agency in administrative hearings, research and develop positions on issues, and review compliance with laws and regulations.

    To find Executive Branch positions, see:
    The Government Honors & Internship Handbook (contact OCPD for username and password)
    Presidential Management Fellowship Program

    Federal Government: Capitol Hill Offices
    While it is not a traditional practice of law, attorneys with Capitol Hill offices are employed on congressional personal staffs as Legislative Assistants (LAs) who monitor legislative developments, communicate with constituents, attend hearings, and brief the Member or senior staff. Attorneys are also employed as staff members of congressional committees and subcommittees.

    Capitol Hill jobs are extremely competitive and most offices strongly prefer to hire those with congressional and legislative experience. Serious candidates must intern on the Hill, and you will usually need to approach the member’s office or committee or subcommittee to express your desire to be an intern. Use connections and select committees/subcommittees which handle issues of interest to you.

    To find Capitol Hill positions:
    Contact the office of your Representative and Senators
    U.S. House of Representatives Employment Opportunities page
    U.S. Senate Placement Office
    District Daybook (contact OCSP for username and password)

    Additionally, OCPD offers a handout on Capitol Hill job searches which provides guidance on preparing for a legislative career, as well as a list of alumni working on Capitol Hill who are available to speak with students.

    State & Local Government
    Students interested in government positions should include state, county, and city governments, and target more than one major city in the scope of their search. Many of the tasks are the same and the positions will have similar areas regarding regulation and compliance.

    For students interested in opportunities outside of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area:
    State and Municipal Yellow Books (contact a reference librarian for username and password)

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132 or

  • Prosecutors

    Prosecutors, especially in large cities, regularly hire an entering class during fall recruiting. However, please be aware that hiring may depend on budget approvals and may be restricted to individuals who are already barred. P

    rosecutors’ offices typically have a three- or four-stage interview process, during which you will likely be asked hypotheticals or required to do a simulated court argument. It is difficult to make broad generalizations about the hiring processes of state attorneys general as size of offices, workload, and hiring practices vary significantly by jurisdiction.

    All offices want to know why an applicant is interested in being a prosecutor and whether an applicant understands that the role of a prosecutor is to do justice. Although prosecutors expect students to have performed well in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence, academic performance is just one indicator of an applicant’s potential. Evidence of practical experience, such as clinics, internships, moot court, and externships is highly valued.

    OCPD has a handout which provides guidance on preparing for a career as a prosecutor, as well as a list of alumni prosecutors who are available to speak with students. If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD, at (202) 319-5132 or

  • Public Defenders

    One of the largest job categories for public interest graduates is public defender offices, many of which hire classes of entry-level attorneys. Like prosecutors, public defenders look for students who have taken Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence, have strong interpersonal skills, and have gained significant oral advocacy experience through clinics, internships, moot court, etc. In addition, the offices look for people who are zealously client-protective and respectful of the client’s decision-making prerogatives. Unfortunately, the majority of public defender offices will not hire individuals until after they have passed the bar.

    To find public defender offices in the Washington, D.C. Metro area and throughout the country:
    Equal Justice Works Career Fair (held in October)
    The National Legal Aid and Defender Association

    OCPD puts together a handout which provides guidance on preparing for a career as a public defender, as well as a list of alumni public defenders who are available to speak with students. If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD, at (202) 319-5132 or

  • Direct Service Providers

    Direct service providers include legal services offices, which work on a broad range of issues, as well as single issue organizations, which focus their efforts on one issue or population (ex. advocacy on behalf of children or immigrants). With some exceptions, these organizations do not have the budget to hire entry-level classes of attorneys so they only hire when openings become available.

    As the mission of direct service providers is to serve many low-income individuals, work in this area involves close client contact and a substantial workload. Direct service providers value individuals who can efficiently provide high-quality written work and have experience in interviewing and advocating on behalf of clients, working with community groups, and negotiating with administrative agencies.

    Competition for positions in urban direct services offices is greater than in rural offices. Those interested in urban areas may want to consider rural offices as well. They sometimes are only an hour or two from a city. Additionally, post-graduate fellowships are another great way to gain experience and get in the door of direct service providers.

    To find direct services offices throughout the country:
    The National Legal Aid and Defender Association

    Post-graduate fellowship information can be found here.

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132.

  • Impact Organizations

    Impact organizations focus on changing the law rather than serving large numbers of individual clients. They do litigation, policy work, or both. Specifically, these groups adopt cases they think will have a broad impact on its area of concern.

    Generally, impact organizations only hire entry-level attorneys through fellowships, either internal fellowships at the organization itself or project fellowships funded by an outside entity. Because impact organizations do complex litigation, they tend to value evidence of the ability to do research, writing, and analysis. They also look for clinical experience, internships at impact organizations, journal work, and judicial clerkships.

    In some instances, an organization that is policy-oriented will take direct legal cases or selected impact litigation. In other instances, a policy-oriented organization will focus solely on research and lobbying. This is an important distinction; for example, a person who is interested in litigating a certain issue, but is interning at a policy-oriented research institution, will not receive the litigation experience desired.

    Many public interest organizations are hybrids of direct service, policy and impact litigation organizations. You should research each organization thoroughly to ensure that its primary activities meet your interests.

    Impact organizations include:
    National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
    AARP Public Policy Institute

    Post-graduate fellowship information can be found on this page under Fellowships.

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132.

  • Associations

    An association is a nonprofit organization that represents its membership in a variety of ways. Associations provide relevant information, educate their members and others, and advocate their members’ interests in federal and state legislatures. Attorneys who work for associations monitor legislation, write newsletters to members, research issues and policies, coordinate annual meetings, and much more. Examples of associations include the American Bar Association, National Audubon Society, and National District Attorneys Association.

    There are a multitude of trade associations in the legal professions that offer student memberships. Student members may be allowed to attend seminars or conferences to learn more about the “hot” issues in a particular field and to network. Trade associations also organize panel presentations, hold meetings, and publish membership directories that can be used to identify people for potential informational interviews.

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132.

  • International Public Interest Work

    International public interest employers look for, among other things, field experience, specialized knowledge of international law, language skills, and the ability to write for various audiences. Geographic flexibility is also helpful.

    There are very few entry-level international jobs aside from fellowships, so this can be an extremely difficult field to break into. It is important for students to use their summers and time in law school strategically by completing internships and clinics, publishing a note on a timely human rights topic, or perfecting language skills, etc. Networking is also incredibly important in this field, and personal recommendations can be essential for getting a job. Employers are looking for candidates with experience.

    Outside of fellowships, international organizations hire primarily when they have an opening and typically seek to hire someone who can start right away. Compared with other legal hiring, this can be late in the cycle and there is no guarantee that students will get a job before graduation or before the bar exam.

    Through its Comparative and International Law Institute certificate program, CUA Law provides the opportunity for students to pursue a concentration of courses in the public and private areas of international law. Students interested in researching opportunities in international public interest law are also encouraged to visit International Career Employment Weekly (contact OCPD for login and password).

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132.

  • Public Interest Law Firms

    Public interest law firms typically concentrate on one or two practice areas, such as criminal defense, class action litigation, labor/employment, or family law. Unlike public interest organizations, these firms are private, for-profit institutions and do not receive 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. As public interest law firms are often small practices, they typically prefer experienced attorneys. Applicants are expected to have strong research and writing skills as well as experience in oral advocacy.

    Students interested in working for a public interest law firm are encouraged to visit PSJD.

    If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132.

  • Fellowships

    Fellowships are short-term (most are one or two years) post-graduate opportunities in a specific field of interest. Many have formalized training programs, loan forgiveness programs, housing and/or travel stipends and numerous other opportunities for networking.

    Legal fellowships constitute a significant share of the entry-level public interest job market. There are numerous benefits to being a legal fellow, including top-rate training and supervision, working in fields with organizations that usually only hire more experienced attorneys, a point of entry for continued employment, and employment contacts for post-fellowship job opportunities.

    Additionally, there are two main types of fellowships:

    1. Project-based fellowships - an individual develops a project with a sponsoring organization and the individual applies to a second organization for funding (for example, Equal Justice Works or the Skadden Fellowship Foundation)
    2. Organization fellowships - the candidate applies directly to the organization who has posted the fellowship opportunity (essentially, these are short-term positions at the organization).

    There are also academic, law firm, international, entrepreneurial and government fellowships. Visit the PSJD Fellowships page for more information.

    If you are interested in pursuing a fellowship, have questions, or would like additional information, please contact OCPD at (202) 319-5132 or