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Why there are likely to be jobs in Public interest during this recession

published May 11, 2020

( 45 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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Public Interest Jobs on the Rise During the Recession

Why there are likely to be jobs in Public interest during this recession

Public interest positions in the legal field are among the most recession-proof specialties in law. Social justice issues such as the generational effects of poverty, racism, addiction, mental health issues, and addiction all come to the forefront during times of financial hardship. Attorneys passionate about the practice of law feel these issues deeply and are always on the front lines of fighting for change within the legal system.

Why does the state of the economy make a difference in the availability of public interest jobs?

Even when the economy is robust, some need government programs but struggle to receive the help they need. Problems like poverty and addiction balloon during economic hardships. When faced with a recession, the need for programs that address these issues increase. Financial stressors compound existing problems, and the most vulnerable in society are at heightened risks. As agencies and programs expand their services to meet rising demands, new job opportunities open for attorneys and other legal professionals and paraprofessionals interested in public interest work.

What are public interest jobs in the legal sector?

Public interest is a broad category of jobs that focus on serving the population at large or offer a particular focus on under-served populations.


Attorneys and other legal professionals work to influence the formation, application, or enforcement of rules and governance of agencies in the public sector. Advocacy takes place at every level, including federal, state, and local governments. Practitioners work to create and enforce regulations that shape the function of government agencies and programs that serve the public.

Community Education

This role is especially vital in under-served communities. Community education is a role that provides access to knowledgeable information about legal rights. Legal specialists in this field prepare educational materials that take complex topics and make them user-friendly for the target audience. Attorneys build strong working relationships with organizations that provide services to the same demographic and invest in community involvement to build trusted relationships.

Youth and Children

Legal staff who work in the public interest sector for youth and children may work with a variety of government entities or programs that serve youth and children. These include the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Children and Family Services, where attorneys strive to protect the legal rights of children involved with the foster care system. Legal professionals also work to protect the rights of children whose families are receiving services from the Department of Children and Family Services.

Many attorneys work directly with the juvenile justice system to develop, support, administer, or oversee programs directed to at-risk youth. Many risk factors place children and youth in need of these services, but during times of economic hardship, the demand for services increases.

Lobbyist—Lobbyist has remained one of the fastest-growing legal professions, and a recession will do little to slow the trend. An organization pays lobbyists to promote favorable positions in federal and state legislature. The lobbyist also works to change public opinion through information campaigns.

Many lobbyists are lawyers who once served in federal or state government. They are valuable for their insider knowledge and the contacts they made during their time in public office. Lobbyists prepare information to present to legislative members and officials and often help plan strategies to push through legislation.

Grassroots Lawyers

Though the term can have many meanings, in the broadest sense, grassroots attorneys work to establish community-based approaches to legal issues. These attorneys spend their days establishing a working relationship with the community they serve while also striving to form coalitions to tackle some of the toughest areas of social change. From fundraising to court representation, grassroots attorneys see a need and work with partners in the community to enact change.

Direct services to low income or other under-served individuals

Attorneys and paralegals in this field work to serve at-risk populations who might not otherwise have access to adequate representation. Some attorneys do this work part-time, while others work full time in legal aid offices and other resource centers. Many firms contribute a significant number of staff hours to these types of cases, both for altruistic reasons and for the positive publicity it can garner.

Working for a legal aid resource provider often requires a jack of all trades mentality as the attorney might see cases that range from pending criminal trials, civil rights cases, and domestic disputes or domestic violence. Attorneys may help clients find the resources for housing help, government programs, or provide help with employment law issues.

Because government and private grants often fund legal aid offices, salaries cannot compete with the private sector. Legal recruiters have to work hard to fill open positions in many of these organizations. However, there are often benefits such as more time off, flexible work schedules, or the ability to work from home. For many legal professionals, these perks make up for the lower pay as it provides time to focus on a life outside of the legal profession.

These are only a small sample of the legal positions available for attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals who want to work in the public interest field. Some aspects of public service legal practice are less driven by monetary gain and more interest in using their experience and education to serve the public good. Other areas, such as lobbying, can prove financially rewarding.

Paralegals also have a very special niche in the public interest field. Experienced paralegals can find it deeply satisfying on a personal level to use their skills for the common good. Many also realize that they have more freedom to use all their education and training to work directly with clients, with less oversight than they might experience in a typical law firm. Paralegals fresh from school often garner valuable experience in the public interest sector before moving on to work in a law firm or small practice.

Whatever the motivation for seeking public interest work, the legal positions in this field grow during times of economic hardships. A recession hits the economically disadvantaged hard and fast. With little or no safety net, at-risk individuals are more likely to need community-based services. Programs that support these services see increased government support based on increased need. Often, there is a shortage of legal staff for each open position.

In-house legal counsel for corporations often do public interest work as their companies strive to give back to the community. Using in-house counsel to support programs that serve the public interest creates excellent publicity for many corporations. For instance, in-house counsel for an oil and gas company might dedicate a portion of their time to supporting environmental legislation so they appear more eco-friendly than their competition.

The current recession, spawned by COVID-19, can worsen. There are no recession-proof jobs, but legal professionals willing to be innovative might find a wealth of possibilities for expanding their knowledge and experience while doing good in the world. Legal professionals use public interest jobs to pad a resume and give them an edge in a competitive market. Whether you are a recent graduate or an established attorney looking to expand your experience, the public interest sector will offer opportunities during the recession.
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