With the Public Interest Crawl coming up on September 26th, some of you may be wondering what do public interest lawyers do and how did they get their jobs. This month, PDO will focus on public interest and government legal careers in its “How I got my job” section of the Career Brief. In this edition, we start with Laura Boswell, a staff attorney with the Disability Law Center and a 2009 alum of the S.J. Quinney Law School. Keep reading for more information!
What do you do?
I am a staff attorney at the Disability Law Center, (“DLC”) Utah’s Protection and Advocacy agency for people with disabilities. My practice focuses mainly on issues of employment discrimination, and insurance denials.
Where are you from and where did you go to law school?
I am originally from Provo, but was happy to defect and attend law school at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
What kind of activities did you do in law school?
I was a member of PILO, and the Women’s law caucus. However, the vast majority of my free time was spent working as a clerk.
How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?
I attended a panel sponsored by PILO on public interest careers. One of the attorneys on the panel worked for the DLC. I knew I was interested in disability law, so I introduced myself after the panel. A few months later, when one of the career fairs rolled around, the same attorney was at a booth representing the DLC. She remembered me from the panel. I gave her a resume, and indicated that even if a current clerk position was not available, I would love to be considered should one open up. Two weeks later they called me to interview for the clerk position, and I’ve been here ever since.
What does your typical day involve for you/your work?
Some days are definitely more exciting than others. I may argue a motion in federal court, or write an administrative rebuttal for a case at the Labor Commission. I spend a lot of time meeting with new or potential clients, and educating them about their legal rights. I also spend a lot of time on hold with the EEOC, and leaving messages for doctors…which is just as glamorous as it sounds! From time to time, I also get to spend time looking at, and trying to address some of the more systemic legal issues facing people with disabilities, and attending forums and panels sponsored by various groups in the community which is always a nice change of pace.
What are the best (and worst, if you want) parts of your job?
Without a doubt, the best part of my job is getting a good result for a client. It’s not always possible, but when you help effect change in someone’s life, it’s a truly amazing feeling. Typically my clients have nowhere else to go . They don’t have the money to spend on retaining a private attorney, and in some cases their disability would prevent them from seeking help elsewhere. Advocating for someone’s voice to be heard over what can be a deafening fray never gets old…and generally speaking, I feel as though the legal services we offer are needed and valued.
The other best part of my job is the people I work with. Having the opportunity to spend time with people who are passionate about a cause and working towards a common goal is a pretty incredible thing that is probably not unique, but certainly very prevalent in the public interest sector.
What tips and advice do you have job-seeking students and/or alum?
Find out what you like, and what you don’t like. There are a number of amazing clinical opportunities where students have a chance to “try on” different types of law. Knowing what you don’t want to do is every bit as valuable as finding out what you do want to do. I learned pretty early on that I wouldn’t be happy in a typical firm setting, and knowing that helped me focus on what other options were out there.
Also, do your research. If you get a chance to interview somewhere, take the effort to learn something about that establishment. I am always the most impressed by clerk candidates who have gone to our website, and are able to ask specific questions about the work we do. It leaves a very positive impression.
Don’t freak out! I graduated in 2009 which was not the greatest year to be entering the job market, but I think most of my classmates would agree that things work out…they really do.