Career Story: Lawyer In A Public Interest Law Firm

Lawyer In A Public Interest Law Firm

Job Title: Lawyer

Type of Company: I work for a law office that does public interest work for poor people, primarily. Our mission is to protect housing and public benefits for the underserved.

Education: BA, English, Tufts University •• JD, University of Connecticut School of Law

Previous Experience: Right after college, I worked as an editorial assistant/secretary at Architectural Record for the managing editor for about 6 months. Then I didn't work again until my children were 8 and 10 and I had graduated from law school.

Job Tasks: Most days, I have to be in housing court or at a welfare fair hearing or at a Social Security hearing in the morning. In the afternoon, I may have a welfare fair hearing, but most often I am meeting with clients to learn about their problems, telephoning or writing to my clients' adversaries or other advocates who are working with them, or drafting pleadings (complaints, answers, motions) and briefs (essays about the laws I want the courts to consider in deciding my clients' cases). Of course, some time is given to preparing evidence for hearings and trials. In addition, I am a supervisor of the two units of my program that serve senior citizens and mentally ill citizens of our county. I consult with the junior attorneys in those units about their case plans and what is happening in their cases, guiding their research and strategies.

An example of a recent case is that of an elderly woman who failed to pay her rent for two months and lives in housing for the elderly. The housing program sued her in court, and she did not understand that she could lose her home if she did not pay the back rent. Before we knew about the case, the landlord had a judgment against her and the sheriff had removed her from her apartment. We went into court and had the court order that she could move back, provided the money owed was paid. We sent her to the welfare department, which paid the back money, and she has moved back to her apartment. In the future, her son will help her make sure the rent is paid on time.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is helping people deal with difficult and discouraging situations. I also enjoy exploring new legal theories and writing persuasive pleadings and briefs for the court.

The worst part of the job is that sometimes clients are urgently in need of help -- about to lose their homes or electricity or custody of their children -- so that I worry a lot about the people I'm trying to help. Also, I don't enjoy arguing in court!

Job Tips: There are lots of ways of being a good lawyer. Some lawyers don't enjoy writing, some don't enjoy the adversarial atmosphere of courts, and some especially enjoy political opportunities. Find the niche that's best for you, with your talents and personality.

Law is usually a very social career. You have to be careful about your manners, your appearance, and being well-prepared for the interactions a case or project requires. Generally speaking, clients, other lawyers, and judges don't expect a casual approach to the business.

Always remember the importance of client confidentiality. Don't discuss a case with someone not associated with it by naming the client or giving enough information that the client's identity can be discerned by the other person.

Additional Thoughts: Most lawyers have to handle many cases at the same time. Organizing the use of your time will be very important.

Another thing you will learn over time is that some cases are decided on the basis of a strict application of a law and some depend on whether or not a person's objective appears more fair and reasonable to the judge than his opponent's. Of course, you always try to bring to the judge's attention the special needs and hardships of your client whenever you can, even when the right legal outcome seems not to favor your client. Judges can often give losing parties a little leeway for adjusting to undesirable results.

Popular Schools offering Law School Programs

quickinfoThese schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles).

Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.

Matching School Ads
Platt College
Alhambra, Anaheim, Ontario, Riverside

Turn your talents into a career at nationally recognized and accredited Platt College.

  • Programs: Paralegal Studies
  • Degrees: Associate

Recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for: Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s 2017, Best Online Programs, Grad Education 2017 and Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s for Veterans 2017

  • Programs: Legal Studies - Homeland Security (Master of Science) - Online, Legal Studies - Law & Public Policy (Master of Science) - Online, Legal Studies - Criminal Justice (Master of Science) - Online, more...
  • Degrees: Master, Bachelor

For over 35 years, Keiser University has provided student-centered, quality career education. Keiser University Online offers degree programs online to prepare students for in-demand professions.

  • Programs: Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Degrees: Bachelor
Argosy University
Los Angeles, Ontario, Orange, Phoenix, San Diego

Welcome to Argosy University

Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges:  College of Behavioral Sciences, Graduate School of Business and Management, College of Education,  College of Health Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Creative Arts and Design, College of Clinical Psychology and Western State College of Law at Argosy University as well as certificate programs in many areas.

  • Programs: Criminal Justice (BS), Criminal Justice (BS) (Online)
  • Degrees: Bachelor

Pursue your education at Ohio Christian University.

  • Programs: Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Degrees: Bachelor
Institute of Technology
Clovis, Modesto

You can get started on a new career with Institute of Technology.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.iot.edu/disclosure

  • Programs:
  • Degrees:

Baker College is proud to be the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. With one of the highest graduate employment rates in the country, our mission is to help our students find meaningful employment.

  • Programs: Criminal Justice - Bachelor, Law Enforcement Academy (Police) - Bachelor
  • Degrees: Bachelor

Grantham University's 100% accredited online degrees are convenient, portable and designed so you can fit education into your life instead of arranging life around your education.

  • Programs: Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Degrees: Bachelor, Associate

Earn your graduate degree online with Northcentral University.

  • Programs: Criminal Justice - D.B.A., Homeland Security Leadership & Policy - D.B.A., Homeland Security - MBA, more...
  • Degrees: Doctorate, Master
San Joaquin Valley College
Bakersfield, Lancaster, Ontario, Visalia

San Joaquin Valley College - A Private Junior College.

  • Programs: Degree - Criminal Justice: Corrections
  • Degrees: Associate
Matching School Ads

Additional Career Stories for Lawyers

The inside stories from people actually working in the field.
Click a story title to show the story, and click the title again to hide it.

All Types

You are visiting:

Find a school near you

What are Career Stories?

Career Stories are concise, real-world career overviews written by people relating their personal career experiences and wisdom. They provide invaluable insights and mentoring advice to students and career changers.

Most stories include:

  • a typical day or project
  • tips and advice
  • best and worst parts
  • educational background
  • previous experience

Browse hundreds of Career Stories

More Details On This Career

Please also see our detailed information about Lawyers, including:

Back to Top