As the summer comes to an end, we asked several W&L Law students to reflect on their non-traditional summer work experiences. A law degree can lead to a multitude of professional opportunities – here are just a few.
Olivia is a rising 3L at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Originally from Clifton, Virginia, Olivia earned her undergraduate degree in Public Affairs at James Madison University.
When I chose to go to Law School I knew that I was not going to follow the traditional career path of most law students. Rather than seeking employment with a firm, I spent my 1L and 2L summers working with organizations that serve the public interest. This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern with PBS’s Office of General Counsel where I confirmed my desire to become in-house counsel for one of the nonprofit organizations that I respect and admire.
As mentioned previously, I came to W&L Law knowing that I wanted to seek a career that served the public interest, and I was specifically interested in working as general counsel to a nonprofit organization. When the time for on campus interviews and job applications rolled around, I realized that many of the jobs that were being posted were not the kinds of jobs that I wanted to pursue and decided to wait for a public interest opportunity. While some public interest jobs are posted earlier in the year, the timeline for hiring in public interest is later than the hiring period for firms, which can add further stress to the job search process as summer approaches. Even with this added stress, I was thankful that I waited for a job I was really passionate about, rather than jumping at the first job opportunity that came my way. Fortunately, I was able to secure my position with PBS in early March, allowing me to reallocate my stress to studying for Spring Exams.
This summer at PBS I have been surprised and challenged by all of the responsibilities that the General Counsel of a large nonprofit is faced with. Rather than focusing on any one area of the law, the attorneys at PBS specialize in a variety of topics, providing me with the opportunity to work with issues in many areas of the law. On any given day I might spend my morning amending a contract, move on to researching an issue for an FCC comment, and later work on a copyright question that one of the attorneys has asked me to research.
Frequently, the General Counsel’s office is faced with the challenge of balancing the creativity of other business units with the establishment of safeguards to protect PBS from any legal problems that may arise. In the ever changing world of digital media and the internet, the business units at PBS are constantly working to innovate and come up with new ideas or programs to educate and inspire PBS’s viewers. Along with the creativity that occurs in the interactive and programming departments of PBS, the legal department has to be creative with their solutions to novel problems or questions. For those issues, the attorneys often collaborate on how to best tackle a problem, or join forces to combine their expertise to come to a workable solution. This team approach to solving problems has only further encouraged my desire to work in-house, and I can only hope that other in-house legal departments operate in a similar manner.
Overall I could not ask for anything more from my time at PBS, I am fortunate to be able to work on a variety of projects, testing a wide range of what I have learned while at W&L Law. Most importantly, PBS has instilled in me their slogan to “Be More®” while pursuing my legal career in the nonprofit sector.
*BE MORE is a registered trademark of the Public Broadcasting Service. Used with permission.