Considering a Public Interest Career?

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There are many things to consider when planning your legal career. In addition to thinking about what types of law interest you, you should think about your lifestyle preferences and personal plans. It may be useful to consider the following questions:

  • Would you rather have corporate clients or individual clients? If you prefer individual clients, are you interested in working with individuals who are at a disadvantage?
  • Do you enjoy conflict and confrontation? (If not, you may not like the practice of litigation.)
  • Do you seek to be an expert in one specific area of law, or would you rather have a varied practice in which it is more difficult for you to be an expert but allows you to do many different things?
  • Would you rather have a consistent and predictable workload, or is variety and change more attractive to you when picturing your typical work day?
  • Is important to you to live in a big city (or small town)?
  • What personal values are important to you? Would you be troubled working for a large corporation accused of environmental dumping or tax fraud? Could you zealously represent defendants accused of violent crimes? Would you be troubled prosecuting defendants who might be innocent?
  • How important is it to you to make a lot of money? Are you willing to give up some fiscal comfort in order to feel good about what you do? What are your financial obligations, including paying back student loans?

Pros and Cons to a Public Interest Career

Pros* Cons*
Social justice oriented work Lower pay than large law firms
Focus on helping people Emotionally demanding clients/cases
Immediate legal experience Working with limited resources
Hands-on learning Training is often less structured
Generally heavy client interaction Permanent job offers often occur after licensure results
Generally lots of autonomy Recruiting process is less structured
Creativity encouraged There can be less job security when grants or government sources fund the job

*These are generalizations. Specific organizations will differ.

UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106 | Accessibility

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