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Alumni share career paths to state government during PI Week

February 28, 2017

By Maria Biery C’18

On February 24, Penn Law, as a part of Public Interest Week, hosted a panel titled “Making an Impact as a Government Lawyer,” where Marsha Chien L’10 and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan L’10 answered law students’ questions about working in state government.

Chien works for the Washington State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit, and Gonzalez-Pagan works for Lambda Legal. In the past, he was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Massachusetts.

Gonzalez-Pagan described the process of getting into government work at the entry level, especially at the attorney general level, as “incredibly hard,” but he offered advice to those seeking to do so.

Doing research on the state attorney general’s office to see what cases they are known for is very helpful, he explained. He also mentioned that his time as an assistant to the district attorney was an “invaluable experience.”

Chien echoed Gonzalez-Pagan’s suggestions and reiterated: “Do research to see what these state AG offices are proud of.”

She also recommended that students find a certain aspect of state government that they are passionate about and then search for a job based on those interests.

In addition, Gonzalez-Pagan said, “Think of other agencies within government, or within the city that have similar responsibilities,” so that when a position in the division students’ want opens up, they will already be a known quantity.

On a day-to-day basis, Chien said that the work varies. Lately, she has been providing training to housing providers, giving presentations for people in jail who are about to re-enter society, and writing and rewriting amicus briefs. She also worked on the litigation against President Trump’s recent immigration order. Gonzalez-Pagan stated that he spends much of his time doing interviews for investigators.

Chien encouraged students to make sure they get to work on the things that they’re passionate about. “In a government agency, it’s sometimes hard to get your voice heard,” she explained.

“Be vocal about what you want to work on,” she said.

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