Summer Government Litigation Positions
Government litigators face a variety of challenges, including small budgets, minimal resources and red-tape bureaucracy. "Whatever firm you're at, you probably have more resources than we did," notes one litigator at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Even if government jobs can be trying, they attract some very skilled litigators. Some lawyers believe that government litigators are sorely underrated. "I don't think there's any difference between the talents of a government litigator and a litigator at a private firm," says a senior FDIC attorney. "In fact, I think government litigators are much more resourceful."
Whether you're looking for a government job at an internship level or after graduation, and whether it's with a federal agency or your local prosecutor's office, there are some characteristics (in addition to grades) that government employers look for.
- Commitment. "The salary is significantly lower [than private practice], so we want people who have very strong reasons for wanting the job," says one employer.
- Resilience. "The conditions are not always great at government jobs," according to one court attorney in charge of hiring. "I look for people who are unfazed by the lack of resources."
- Strong communication skills. A government job involves interaction with people from all walks of life. You need to make yourself clear both in your speaking and in your writing. "I look for a good writing sample, first," says one court attorney. "It doesn't have to be brilliant, but I do want to see that the applicant can write clearly and simply."
- Genuine interest in social service. Government employers don't want to think that you're applying for a government job as a safety measure or because you didn't get the firm job of your dreams. Give them real reasons why you want to work for this agency.
- Knowledge of the field. If you're applying for a position at the district attorney's office, you need to have a strong grasp of criminal law. Generic knowledge isn't enough; the interviewer will probably ask you specific questions pertaining to your state's criminal law.
You will also need good grades, a confident manner and the stamina to endure multiple interviews. A government interview should be treated just as formally and respectfully as a law firm interview. Be as professional as possible!