PPP’s own Steve Kennedy writes for Balls & Strikes about what law school advice gets wrong about public interest careers:
All law students know the gold stars they are supposed to earn: top grades, law review, moot court competitions, competitive research and teaching assistant slots, published journal notes, and so on. Much of this advice stems from the maxim that law students, especially early on, should keep their options open. In practice, this often means attending on-campus interviews and networking events with big firms, chasing prestigious summer associate jobs that are a ticket to a successful (and lucrative) legal career.
This advice, however, does not necessarily apply to all legal careers. If your professional future involves crushing workers trying to unionize, facilitating the destruction of the environment, or defending child slavery, yes, you may be stuck having to do law review. But for students who want to go into legal aid, public defense, labor law, civil rights, or plaintiff-side work, spending precious free time checking for italicized commas may not be the best use of time.
This is the upshot of a recent survey conducted by the People’s Parity Project, a nationwide network of progressive law students and attorneys of which I am the Organizing Director. We reached out to public interest employers and law school public interest directors to see if the typical law school advice makes sense for anyone who isn’t gunning for a BigLaw job or Supreme Court clerkship. Based on our findings, the answer is no. Instead, many public interest employers say one thing matters above all else: a demonstrated commitment to public interest work.