Students who believe public service is going to be an essential part of their legal career were right at home among the many employers at The University of Oklahoma College of Law’s Public Interest Career Fair. The Career Development Office and the Public Interest Law Student Association (PILSA) hosted the Public Interest Career Fair in the Kerr Student Lounge at OU Law. On February 25, tables of employers lined the first floor to greet law students and introduce them to their perspective organizations.
The employers in attendance mostly engage in work that increases access to legal services for marginalized communities, or offers legal services to the general public. The Public Interest Career Fair is geared towards first and second year law students who are interested in securing a summer internship or externship that involves aiding the legal work of non-governmental organizations or governmental entities. The Public Interest Career Fair allows employers to meet students in a more formal setting than a lunch & learn but a slightly more casual setting than an on-campus interview (OCI).
Opportunities like the Public Interest Career Fair remind students why they chose to attend law school in the first place. Sometimes on such a large campus, students who want to pursue public interest careers can get caught up in the competition of law school classes or the prestige of OCI. But the talented lawyers gathered at the Public Interest Career Fair interested in goals beyond profits or promotions helped Public Interest students stay enthused about their future careers. “It's awesome that the law school provides its students with a career fair specifically for those of us that are interested in public interest work," states second-year law student Brett Farrar.
Most employers at the Career Fair were gathering resumes as well as interviewing students. Employers acknowledged many of their employees had been former interns. Because of this, employers like the Council on Islamic-American Relations was eager to give back to current students. Some employers, including Lauren Fagala of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Early Mediation Program, felt their internship or externship experience was how they launched their careers. “Externships are good for those individuals who do not know what they want to do with their law degree but are given the opportunity to explore different options and really find out what you like and the perfect fit," explained Ms. Fagala.
For many 1Ls, the Career Fair marked their first time interviewing with potential employers about legal positions. This daunting task got much easier through-out the day as students found the employers to be welcoming and informative. Some students were surprised at just how varied a “public interest” career can be. First-year law student Cale Padgett found the career fair was “a great way for students to explore the many different jobs and opportunities that are available in public interest.”
Second-year law student Pierron Tackes noted she was “really impressed by the turnout of employers.” Employers look forward to attending the career fair because they are able to meet so many different students. Child Support Services of Oklahoma explained they attend the career fair because “it is a great way to meet students face to face” and the “quality and diversity of students” make the fair worth attending every year. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explained that the career fair “allows employers to see the future of the profession and the amazing students who are dedicated to making a difference.”
OU Law’s own Legal Clinic and Externship Program answered student questions and encouraged students to participate in some type of public service during their time at OU Law. The OU Law Externship Program explained that: "externships are an invaluable experience and your placement is really only limited by your imagination." The OU Law Legal Clinic met many enthusiastic students at the career fair and expressed their gratitude that the fair “allow[ed] for them to make those connections and get students involved.”
Thank you to all those that attended! We look forward to an even larger Public Interest Career Fair next year.
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