The Job Market and Public Interest

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4 Responses

  1. David S. Cohen says:

    Lisa – this is a big issue for public interest students, but I think the even bigger issue for them is that public interest jobs have been declining for years now. We (law professors and law schools) make such an effort to instill in our students a duty to help others, whether through pro bono requirements, volunteer opportunities, stressing it throughout the students’ three years, etc. I don’t know about you, but I’m on my school’s admissions committee, and students who talk about wanting to work in the public interest and have a convincing story about it always are given attention.

    But are we doing our students a disservice? It would be wonderful if everyone who wanted to work in public interest could, and we all know there’s a need for them. But, if there are no jobs, what good are we doing for our students encouraging them to focus on public interest? My biggest heartbreak in this profession is seeing the student who does all the right things for a public interest career and then graduates into nothing — no public interest jobs and no hope that most other legal employers would hire him/her given the public interest resume.

    If the students are having such a tough time getting into public interest law, are we just making ourselves feel good by trying to train future public interest lawyers?

    I imagine things are different at Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and the like, where their public interest students can get jobs still. But for students almost everywhere else, is it fair to lead them down this path even if, in an ideal world, it would be the just thing to do?

  2. Isn’t So-called Public Interest (SCPI) Law more or less self-defined? As it is, I consider my bit of legal efforts on behalf of the Bush and McCain campaigns to have been in the “Public Interest” (still do!). Were I to pursue SCPI employment on a full-time basis, I’d want to be working with groups like National Right to Work, FIRE or the Pacific Legal Foundation. I suspect, however, that my thoughts about what constitutes SCPI do not mesh with many (most) of the posters here. If the reported dearth of these jobs means that ACORN isn’t hiring, well, so be it. That certainly doesn’t constitute an “unintended consequence” from where I’m sitting.

    Bottom line: We have no inherent right to be employed where and doing what we want…which is why I’m not playing outfield for the Orioles.

  3. David S. Cohen says:

    MC – I’ve had students who’ve wanted jobs at those places too, but they don’t have them either. This isn’t a left/right thing. This is a non-profit thing.

    And it’s not about having an inherent right to whatever job you want. It’s about whether law professors and law schools should be seeking out, cultivating, and encouraging students to devote themselves to something that really has no employment prospects.