I want you for public service

Recent graduate encourages law students to consider a legal career in public service

We go to law school, and, when we think about jobs, we think about law firms. Most of the OCIs are law firms. The 1L mixers are hosted by law firms. Law firms play a prominent role in our law school experience. Through three years of law school, and my first post-graduate job, I have worked exactly zero minutes for a law firm. Why? Because I felt another calling: public service. After 1L year, I interned with the U.S. District Court in Kansas. Next year found me with the Solicitor’s Division at the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Now, I am a Research Attorney on the Kansas Court of Appeals. I love public service because it gives me unique opportunities that a private law firm could not provide.

Working in public service gives you, quite obviously, the chance to serve the public. For me, that truly is a calling. So few people have the chance to attend law school. People helped me get to where I am, so I relish the opportunity to give back. We have been blessed with an amazing opportunity. Everyone should take the chance to serve to the people around them. Law firms do important work serving their clients’ interests, but public service often focuses on the bigger picture. Private law firms must focus on what their clients need now. In public service, there is always a similar immediate goal, but it is in the service of a bigger goal. 

Public service also offers a personal benefit, too. Law firms frequently have their summer associates work on projects that might play a small piece in the overall puzzle.  Public service cannot afford that. If you work in public service, you are going to work in public service. My jobs immediately threw me in to working on substantive matters where my work product was actually used. There was no time to waste, as work needed done. I can remember several of my friends talking about how a line from their memo ended up in their firm’s brief. I never got to say that. Instead, I could point at the brief itself and say, “That was my work.” That is rare for a law student. Because of these jobs, I graduated from KU with real world experience working as an attorney. That experience is priceless. I start my first “adult job” with a good idea of my skill-set and experience doing the work.

My time in public service was my favorite part of law school (except Law Review). It was more than a job. It was a calling. Public service gives you the chance to work for others and the opportunity to get a real taste of what a working attorney does. Can the pay, if there is any, compete with a private firm? Not even close. But the opportunities it provides are priceless. If you are looking for the best hands-on experience, public service is your route.

— Ryan Ott, L’19