Lawyers care that I care. Fellow students care that I care. Employers care that I care. Caring has helped me overcome the odds, get positions in respected student organizations, legal internships and even an article published by the Huffington Post.
I am a second year law student at the University of Southern California (USC), and a cum laude graduate of the University of California at Riverside. At USC, I am the vice president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, the president of the Legal Aid Alternative Break, a committee member of the Student Bar Association and the Community Service Chair of the Black Law Student Association.
For the past year and a half, I have been offered a position at every organization I wanted and gunned for. These positions include internships at Neighborhood Legal Services, the California Women’s Law Center and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Yet, my grades are not stellar. I went to law school without any prior legal experience. I even made a spelling error once on my resume. But I care, and I got the offers when other people did not.
There are going to be people at your law school who do better than you, both academically and socially. But, you can still get the experiences you want by caring.
Caring means making sure you’re not just talking about the things that interest you—you have to do something about them. If, like me, you’re passionate about public interest law, make sure your resume overflows with volunteer experiences that show you care.
How do you show you care when you haven’t even decided you want to go to law school? Easy. You volunteer. Even if you are interested in going the BigLaw route —you need to volunteer. Here’s why:
It is a well-known fact in the legal world that public interest interns get the most hands on experience of any other type of entry-level legal intern. If you don’t know what “public interest” means, it is a legal organization that aids low-income persons for little to no cost in numerous areas of the law.
Public interest organizations are overrun by clients who need help. So students who volunteer get opportunities to work on real cases with real clients. You will get to write declarations that are seen before a judge, go to court for hearings, and improve your client-interviewing skills. The work you do may even save a life.
There are public interest volunteer opportunities all over the country that focus on numerous areas of the law and have positions for all experience levels. Most organizations receive little funding and have a high volume of clients, so they need our help. And, even though it will be unpaid work, you’re still going to get something big out of it: experience that shows you care.
Employers can train their new associates in how to practice law, but they can’t teach someone to care. Considering things from an employer’s perspective, I would rather hire the person who will stick with their projects and cares about the work than the person who was good at memorizing torts but doesn’t really care about the job.
So, show people your passion. I can tell you from experience it has definitely helped me.
To get you started, here is a list of some organizations where you can volunteer (click on the links for more information):
Bet Tzedek Legal Services (L.A.)
Colorado Legal Services (Colorado Legal Services)
The Legal Center (Elder and Disability Law)
- District of Columbia
Whitman – Walker Clinic Legal Department (HIV related legal issues)
Bay Area Legal Services (Tampa)
CARPLS (Cook County)
Advocacy Center (Elderly and Disabled)
Neighborhood Legal Services (Lynn and Lawrence)
New Center for Legal Advocacy (Bristol and Plymouth County)
Internet Representation Project (Northern Michigan)
Michigan Legal Assistance Network (for clients)
Michigan Poverty Law Program (for advocates)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
Neighborhood Legal Services (Buffalo)
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
Lane County Legal Services Programs (Eugene)
Homeless Advocacy Project (Philadelphia)
Neighborhood Legal Services Association (Pittsburgh)
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Texas Legal Services Center (State Support)
- West Virginia
– See more at: http://legalaid.uslegal.com/#sthash.IJj1E33s.dpuf
List compiled from http://legalaid.uslegal.com/.