Law students seek public interest work, full-time jobs in summer



As summer approaches, some Yale undergraduates are still scrambling to write cover letters and send out resumes in a last-minute search for internships. Most students at Yale Law, however, have already secured summer jobs with groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Supreme Court of Israel and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Law School funds students’ work in unpaid public interest jobs during their first summer, and many students take advantage of this opportunity. For students’ second and final summer, a large percentage work for firms at which most will ultimately receive full-time offers, Fadi Hanna LAW ’06 said.

CDO statistics show that last summer, 73 percent of first-year law students worked in public-interest jobs, with only 24 percent working for law firms. For second-year law students, the statistics had reversed and 78 percent of students were working for firms while only 19 percent of students were working for public-interest organizations.

Hanna will be working for “Immigration Equality,” a New York-based organization focusing on gay-rights and immigration issues. He said Law School students typically work for public-interest organizations their first summer, and for law firms their second summer.

“The Career Development Office, in some sense, really encourages people to work for a public interest place their first summer,” Hanna said.

Andrew DeFilippis LAW ’06 said many students were drawn to public-interest and government work by the Law School’s Student Public Interest Fellowships, which provide weekly stipends for students working in those sectors.

Law School Career Development Office Executive Director Theresa Bryant said SPIF funding helps many students find work in non-paying jobs for the summer. She said the SPIF funding provides $400 to $500 a week for up to 12 weeks.

“They’re basically available to all students who need them,” Bryant said. “When you’re a Yalie and you’re free, you’re a pretty powerful package.”

Hanna, who was born in Beirut to an Egyptian father and a Lebanese mother, said his family’s experiences with immigration helped motivate his search for organizations in that area. Hanna also wanted to find a job dealing with gay rights, he said.

“I knew I was interested in some sort of gay rights work, and I just started looking around,” Hanna said. “I was also interested in immigration work. [Immigration Equality] apparently is the only gay rights and immigration place.”

DeFilippis, who found a job in the privacy office of the Homeland Security Department, said he became interested in working for the Department after sitting at the same dinner table as Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge during an awards ceremony last summer. DeFilippis said he spoke with Ridge about opportunities within the Department.

“He pointed me in the right directions,” DeFilippis said.

Ryan Likes LAW ’06, who will be working for the U.S. Agency for International Development this summer, said his fellow students have shown great initiative in finding jobs.

“The Career Development Office is great here, but they’re not a job-placement agency,” Likes said. “They pretty much ignore us when we first get here.”

Bryant said the office sees its mission in terms of educating students about working with the law, rather than helping students to be hired in certain jobs.

“We’re a career development office; we don’t sort of see it as our view to get them jobs,” Bryant said. “We look at it in terms of we have three years to educate people about what to do with their law degree.”

Bryant said the CDO, and the Law School both aim to help students fulfill their potential in their careers.

“I think it’s important that we’re in tune with the Law School’s overall mission,” Bryant said. “The Law School really wants its students to go out and be what they can be.”

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