LAW STUDENT INTERNSHIPS/EXTERNSHIPS & LAW GRADUATE INTERNSHIPS WITH THE NOAA OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL INTERNATIONAL SECTION

The International Section of the NOAA Office of General Counsel provides internship and externship opportunities for law school students and internship opportunities for law school graduates in the spring, summer, and fall. We are a workplace that is fully committed on diversity, instilling equity, and providing an inclusive environment where employees feel like they belong. Equity, diversity, and inclusion are an active process that requires continuous commitment to promote healthy people, healthy communities and the overall success of present and future generations. Take a look at NOAA's stance on Diversity Equity and Inclusion.

In the past, interns and externs have engaged in research and writing and attended – in person or by phone – NOAA client meetings and interagency working group meetings. The International Section strives to ensure that each intern and extern has an opportunity to complete a minimum of one substantial writing assignment. The ideal candidate will have strong research and writing skills as well as a demonstrated interest in and experience with international environmental law, oceans law, and the Law of the Sea.


Internship/Externship Application Process

  1. Who may apply? We prefer to hire interns who are either second- or third-year law students, but we occasionally consider applicants who have finished their first year of law school. We have also had successful applications from L.L.M. and foreign law students as well as from law student graduates. Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

  2. How can I apply for an internship or externship with your office? Submit cover letter, resume, Optional Form (OF) 301-14 (Volunteer Service Application-Natural & Cultural Resources), official or unofficial transcript, references and a short writing sample of no more than two pages. Please submit all requested materials to our Google Internship Application Form.

    - The application deadline for spring internships/externships is September 1.

    - The application deadline for summer internships/externships is December 1.

    - The deadline for fall internships/externships is May 1.

    We encourage you to submit your application as far in advance as possible of the time you would like to work in the office due to the competitive nature of the process. If you have any questions, please send your questions and/or concerns to our office email account.

  3. If I am no longer a student, may I nevertheless apply? Yes, you may.  Applicants who are no longer students are subject to slightly different eligibility requirements as set forth in NOAA Volunteer Program Operational Guidelines, NOAA Human Resources Guidance Bulletin #FY19-001 (March 7, 2019).  Please contact the office for additional details.

  4. Is there any additional information I should provide? Your cover letter should indicate prominently the time frame of your proposed tenure and explain clearly your interest in the NOAA GC International Section, international environmental law, oceans law, and/or the Law of the Sea. Your cover letter should also identify any internship requirements of your law school. For example, some law schools ask that we enter into an MOU or other written internship arrangement. Some law schools ask for a letter describing the internship, the nature of the work, and the type of feedback the intern may expect. Some law schools require an in-person site visit by its internship coordinator. We can generally accommodate these requirements so long as they are not inconsistent with the applicable Department of Commerce and NOAA policies and procedures we are subject to.

  5. How will I know if my application is being considered? All applications are reviewed. Candidates who appear to be an excellent fit will be contacted for additional information and/or for a telephonic or in-person interview. We also check references. The office is not always able to respond to every application.

  6. Will any interviewing expenses be paid? No funds are available to reimburse applicants for any expenses associated with interviewing.

  7. How do you decide whom to select for an internship or externship?  The successful candidate will have strong research and writing skills as well as a demonstrated interest in and experience with  international environmental law, oceans law and/or the Law of the Sea. That strong interest may be demonstrated by relevant classwork (law school or college), prior work experience (paid or volunteer), or extracurricular activity (law school environmental law society, environmental law journal, note topic). Because administrative law is a fundamental aspect of federal agency work, we prefer applicants who have taken a class in it.  Professionalism, maturity and interpersonal skills are also important factors we consider. The number of hours per week the applicant can work may also be a factor. Generally speaking, we favor applicants who can work full-time. We believe that interns or externs benefit most from the regular and in-depth exposure to the office’s work that a full-time arrangement provides. Our office also takes into account how the applicant may benefit from working in our office and whether that experience will assist the candidate in pursuing his or her career goals. Finally, we look favorably upon candidates who are veterans or have expressed an interest in public service.

Offer/Acceptance Process

How am I notified if I am selected?  If you are selected for an internship or externship, you will receive an offer by email from the Chief or the Deputy Chief of the International Section. If you accept the offer, you must complete the following forms, depending on whether you are a law student intern or a law graduate intern:

These forms must be filled out (online or typed where possible), printed out, and mailed to Rebecca Reese, International Section, NOAA Office of General Counsel, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room 48026, Washington, D.C.  20230-0001 at least thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the proposed start date.  Submission of the completed forms must be by mail using U.S. Postal Service’s First Class Mail, Priority Mail, or an accountable commercial delivery service (e.g., UPS) to ensure compliance with federal law, OMB guidance and Department of Commerce policies for the protection of personally identifiable information. See, e.g.NOAA IT and Information System Policies, and U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the Chief Information Officer, “Department of Commerce IT Privacy Policy.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is this a paid opportunity? No, the office only offers unpaid volunteer internships and externships. However, a transit subsidy for commuting expenses may be provided depending on the availability of funds.

  2. How many interns and externs do you normally have at one time? One to two per semester (spring, summer, and fall).

  3. How competitive is the application process? We receive the greatest number of applications for summer positions. Comparatively fewer applications are received for spring and fall positions.

  4. What are the duration and weekly work requirements? During all semesters, we ask for a 40 hour/week commitment for a minimum 10-week period.  Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.

  5. What is the difference between a law student internship, a law student externship and a law graduate internship?  Although the terms “internship” and “externship” are often used interchangeably in the context of law students, we use the term "internship" to describe an unpaid, full-time work opportunity of generally 40 hours/week in which students gain experience in our office while continuing to take classes. Interns may or may not receive credit from their school. We use the term "externship" to describe an arrangement in which those students who are receiving academic credit for their unpaid their work and therefore must meet a number of requirements imposed by the American Bar Association and their law school (generally 32-40 hours per week).  We use the phrase “law graduate internship” to describe a law school graduate working with us full-time on a volunteer basis.

  6. My law school features a semester-long “externship” program, which allows me to work on a full-time basis for credit. Can the NOAA GC International Section accommodate me? Yes. Our office prefers semester-long “externs.” 

  7. What types of training, mentoring and supervising will I receive? At the outset, there will be a meeting with the Section Chief or Deputy Section Chief to discuss your goals and objectives. With guidance from the Section Chief or the Deputy Section Chief, you will develop a brief one-page written plan identifying your goals and objectives and describing how you anticipate accomplishing those goals and objectives. The Section Chief, Deputy Section Chief, or one of the staff attorneys will assign projects to you that balance your interests and the needs of the office. The projects will normally come from our “Parking Lot” of assignments – a spreadsheet that describes projects, identifies the supervising attorney, and notes the project’s relative priority (high, medium, low). The assigning attorney will inform you of the project deadline, format, audience, and facts and resources necessary to complete it. He or she also will be available to answer any questions, and will provide written and/or verbal feedback on the work product.  At the end of each week, you will be asked to turn in a log that identifies each of the projects assigned to you, their status, and your hours worked. The office has an informal open-door policy that facilitates regular communication between interns/externs and attorneys. Attorneys will strive to provide opportunities to expose you to the interagency process through participation (in-person or by phone) in meetings, as well as to meetings, telephone calls, and briefings with clients. Attorneys also will encourage interns to attend brown bag lunch panels and seminars available at no-cost at NOAA, the Department of Commerce, other federal agencies, and local bar associations, think tanks, and non-profit organizations. We encourage interns to take advantage of the International Section’s location in downtown Washington, D.C. to attend an argument at the U.S. Supreme Court or other federal courts located in the nation’s capital, view the Constitution at the National Archives, and take a tour of the White House, Capitol, and Library of Congress. We invite interns and externs to participate in monthly office staff meetings and other office gatherings. We provide constructive input on all work product and a mid-term and end-of-internship evaluation as requested. We emphasize that interns and externs should proactively seek feedback from the office’s attorneys throughout their tenure. Those interns who report having the best experience are typically the ones who take the most initiative.  Finally, we assign an attorney mentor if requested.

  8. May an intern or extern work remotely?  In almost all cases, work is done at our office in the main Department of Commerce building, 14th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.  Occasionally, an intern or extern may work for part or all of his or her tenure in Silver Spring, MD where NOAA is headquartered. There will also be instances where an intern or extern will be out of the office researching and writing at the Commerce Department research library, Library of Congress, or similar institution in the D.C. metro area. Other circumstances may also dictate that an intern or extern work remotely.

  9. May positions be extended beyond the time frame initially agreed? Possibly, if work and other circumstances warrant an extension. A small number of interns and externs have been accepted for a second student internship or law graduate internship.   

  10. May first year law students apply for a position? Yes.  See “Who May Apply” above.

  11. Could an internship or externship lead to a paid position? Hiring of full-time or paid term attorneys by NOAA depends on several factors, including vacancies, qualifications (including admission to a state bar) and the availability of funds. Qualified interns and externs may be considered should an attorney-advisor position become available. All such openings are publicized on www.USAJobs.com.

  12. May I receive credit for the position? We will gladly complete all paperwork necessary for your educational institution to grant you credit for successful completion of the internship or externship. Based on the success in the past, a favorable consideration may be given to applicants that would obtain class credit, stipend or other support from their educational institution in furtherance of the development of experience in international marine environmental law, oceans law, and trade and environment law.  

  13. Is a security clearance required? Yes, before you can receive a badge (which is a prerequisite for all positions and required for access to federal government facilities), you must have received a security clearance from the Department of Commerce Office of Security.  In filling out the required forms described above, you will be required to answer questions, including with respect to any past unlawful activity which is a matter of record or for which you were fined or penalized. Any affirmative answers will have to be explained to the satisfaction of the Department of Commerce Office of Security, and that Office will determine whether you are eligible for the required security clearance.

  14. Is U.S. citizenship a requirement for a position? Yes. All student interns and externs must be U.S. citizens. 

  15. Must applicants be law school students or law school graduates? Applicants who are no longer students are still eligible if they reside in the U.S, and meet a number of other criteria.  Please contact the office for more details. 

  16. I am a veteran.  How is that taken into account? There is no formal rating system for applying veterans’ preference to attorney appointments in the excepted service or, by extension, to a volunteer internship or externship in an attorney office.  However, we consider veteran’s preference eligibility as a positive factor in considering applications. Applicants eligible for veterans’ preference must include that information in their cover letter or resume and attach supporting documentation (e.g., the DD 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty or other supporting documentation) to their submissions.

  17. Is volunteer service as an intern or extern creditable for leave or any other employee benefit to which federal employees are entitled?  No, volunteer service is not creditable for leave or any other federal employee benefits.

Department of Commerce/NOAA Resources

NOAA’s Office of Education web site has additional information on other student opportunities available throughout NOAA.

The Department of Commerce (of which NOAA is a part) has a Legal Internship Recruitment web page.

Additional career opportunity resources within the Department of Commerce include the job career and student career opportunities websites.


Additional Resources


Consistent with Executive Order 13583 (Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce) and Department of Commerce Administrative Order (DAO) 215-3 (Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program), the Office of General Counsel upholds federal policies on equal opportunity recruiting and works to generate diverse applicant pools consistent with race, national origin, and gender percentages in the civilian labor force.

 Last updated August 03, 2021