Public Interest Law: An Intern’s Perspective

Public interest law may not be the sexy, high paying, high-intensity law that you see on TV. However, it is a necessary occupation that provides attorneys a rewarding and educational experience where they learn through the chaos and end up helping those who are unable to help themselves. As an intern at Equality Ohio, I’ve found that public interest law is a great opportunity. In my time with the legal clinic, I’ve come to learn that there are four key reasons why you should begin a life of public interest law. 

First, there is a significant need for people who are passionate about helping others. The Legal Services Corporation published a study that said 20 percent of the population with legal needs are under the poverty line. The programs that provide civil public interest services do not have enough attorneys to take on all of the needs that come from the community. Public interest attorneys provide a service to members of the community that can’t always help themselves. I have attended several legal clinics where my job was helping people get their lives back on track. Individuals who utilize public interest attorneys do so because they are unable to navigate the law, or they need a little extra help figuring out the best option for figuring out their situations. They can’t do it alone.

Next, public interest work is incredibly rewarding. If you are searching for a purpose or how to have an impact on the world, this is the work for you. At legal clinics, or meeting with clients, I found that the work we do touches people’s lives. Those people are eternally grateful. The look on someone’s face when you tell them you can help them and that you will do everything you can to solve their problem is very fulfilling. The feeling you get when someone cries because you helped them change their name or seal their record is indescribable. These people just want to get their lives together, and helping them is its own reward.

Third, coming to work every day, I had no idea what I would be doing. This type of law isn’t a stagnant, repetitive, monotonous process. I wasn’t locked in an office preparing documents or doing research. As an intern, I was engaging with clients all over the state and figuring out how to help them. The type of work I did changed every day as well. On some days, I would help someone with a divorce and on other days, I would attend hearings on discrimination. I helped people with their government housing and then from there I went and helped another with a protection order. Sometimes you’re not how best to help a client. There can be a bit of trial and error. That’s part of the fun of this type of practice. You get to figure it out as you go.

Finally, Oprah once said to “surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” From my experience at Equality Ohio, the people who are in this line of work are infinite sources of positive energy who only want to see you succeed. I cannot tell you how many times the people I worked with have brightened my day or have gone out of their way to open doors to success for me. The same thing happens to the people working in public interest law. Their passion drives them to help people and by joining them, your own passions will ignite and I guarantee, you will become a better person. 

For any more information on interning or joining the public interest world by working with Equality Ohio, check out our careers link.