Creighton University School of Law’s GOAL (Government Organization and Leadership) program is entering its eighth year of sending law students to Washington, D.C., to work full-time for the federal government in the fall semester of their third year. Through the GOAL program, students earn dual degrees: a Juris Doctor and a Master of Science in Government Organization and Leadership.
The program was first developed during the economic crisis of 2008 when the employment outlook in many sectors of the job market, including law, was dismal. Creighton faculty wanted to find a way to set their graduates apart, prepare them to compete in a contracting workforce and strengthen the law school’s tradition of training lawyers focused on service. Placement with the government was the perfect opportunity to accomplish this.
“The government was still hiring lawyers, and they needed them in all sectors, and so that was the first thing that we thought: How can we create a program that helps leverage our students and prepares them to join the government legal workforce at the state, local or federal level,” says Professor Mike Kelly, director of the GOAL program for the past two years.
“This program was designed to give law students a skillset that can set them apart from other people who want to work for the government, and who don’t necessarily have the theoretical grounding or the experiential training through a full semester externship with a legal office in a federal agency that GOAL participants receive. That’s irreplaceable,” Kelly says.
Through the GOAL program, students work 40 hours a week in an externship with a federal agency, congressional committee or the office of a member of Congress, which provides 11 credits toward the GOAL degree. In addition to the externship, students take an additional five credits – two classes in ethics and counsel roles – that also count toward their JD.
“Federal agencies in D.C. have indicated to us that they are developing a preference for Creighton externs over externs from local law schools, whether it’s Georgetown, George Washington or American University, because those students only work a few hours a week. Creighton students work 40 hours a week throughout the semester. Having someone in your office who’s absorbing what you’re doing is much more utilitarian for a legal office than just a helper who comes in for a few hours a week,” Kelly says.
Graduates of Creighton’s GOAL program not only enter the job market with both a Master of Science and a Juris Doctor, but also four months of full-time legal experience in Washington, D.C.
“The GOAL program is the reason I chose Creighton over a few other schools,” says Kraig Hamit, MS’15, JD’15, who spent most of his law school years working for the government and did his externship in D.C. with the Department of Justice working in the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. “The program prepared me for the workload that comes with being a young attorney in an office that demands a lot of you. It helped strengthen the work ethic I brought with me to law school and solidified my desire to work in public service and for the greater good. I met great people, I did amazingly interesting work and had experiences you could never buy.” Hamit now works at the district attorney’s office in Grand Junction, Colo.
Another student who took advantage of the opportunities this program provides was Jenn Piatt, MS’12, JD’12. After graduating from Creighton, Piatt, who was in the first class of the program, worked with then Nebraska State Senator Brad Ashford, JD’74. Ashford was elected to Congress in 2014, and Piatt went to Washington, D.C., to work with Rep. Ashford there.
During Piatt’s time in Ashford’s office, she began working on immigration law. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein noticed her work and hired her as the immigration counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If you just take advantage of and embrace opportunities when they arise, you can go anywhere,” Kelly says.
Michael Bosserdet, MS’14, JD’14, also found his way back to Washington, D.C., after graduating from the GOAL program. He currently works in the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department, which is where he interned during his time in the GOAL program. “The GOAL program gave me valuable experience and professional contacts in D.C., and I feel it directly contributed to my hiring,” says Bosserdet. “I wanted to wind up in D.C. after law school, and I honestly don’t know if that would have been possible without GOAL.”