We accept and consider applications on a rolling basis throughout the year for internships and externships

The International Section of the NOAA Office of General Counsel provides year-round internship and externship opportunities for law school students and internship opportunities for law school graduates. In the past, interns and externs have engaged in research and writing and attended interagency working group meetings at the U.S. Departments of the Interior, State, Defense, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Commerce as well as at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 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 a strong research and writing background as well as a demonstrated interest in or experience with international environmental law, oceans law and the Law of the Sea.

Internship/Externship Application Process

  1. Who may apply?  Most applicants are in their second or third year of law school. However, we have had a number of successful first year law student applicants and we welcome such applications. On several occasions, we have accepted applications from college students who want some exposure to a law office before they apply to law school.  We have also had successful applications from L.L.M. and foreign law students as well as from law student graduates.

  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 writing sample. You may submit more than one writing sample; however one of the writing samples must be no more than five (5) pages in length.  We accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the year.  While there are no deadlines, 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. Please send all requested materials by email to Rebecca Reese with a copy to the 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 proposed tenure and explain clearly your interest in NOAA GC International Section, international environmental law, oceans law, and/or the Law of the Sea.

  5. How will I know if my application is being considered? All applications are reviewed.  Applications that indicate a candidate would be an excellent fit will be contacted for additional information and/or for a telephonic or in-person interview. 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 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).  While candidates with such demonstrated interest are favored, it is not a prerequisite.  Professionalism, maturity and international 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 over applicants who can only work part 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 of the International Section or one of the attorneys in the Section. If you accept the offer, you must complete several of 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 Peter Oppenheimer, Chief, International Section, NOAA Office of General Counsel, 1401 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room 48026, Washington, D.C.  20230 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 (PII).  See, e.g., U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the Chief Information Officer, “Department of Commerce IT Privacy Policy” and U.S. Department of Commerce, “IT Privacy.”

Frequently Asked Questions

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

  2. How many interns and externs do you normally have at one time? One to three 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 the spring and fall semesters, we ask for a 20 hour/week commitment for a minimum 10 week period.  During the summer, 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, part-time work opportunity of generally 20 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 to discuss your goals and objectives. With guidance from the Section Chief and/or one of the staff attorneys, you will develop a written plan outlining how you anticipate accomplishing those goals and objectives. A staff attorney mentor will be assigned to you to answer questions and otherwise assist you in pursuing your written plan. The 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 matrix 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 and attorneys. Attorneys will strive to provide opportunities to expose you to the interagency process through attendance at meetings, as well as to meetings and briefings with clients. Attorneys also will identify and encourage interns to attend brown bag lunch panels and seminars available at no-cost at NOAA, the Department of Commerce, and other federal agencies and local bar associations. Interns are invited to participate in monthly office staff meetings and other office gatherings. If requested, the office will provide a mid-term and end-of-internship evaluation. Interns are also encouraged to proactively seek feedback from the office’s attorneys throughout their tenure.

  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 their 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 or similar institution in the D.C. metro area.

  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 fellowship.   

  10. May first year law students apply for a position? Yes.

  11. Could an internship, externship, or fellowship 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

  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.  

  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?  All student interns and externs must be U.S. citizens.  Applicants who are no longer students are eligible if they reside in the U.S, and meet a number of other criteria.  Please contact the office for more details.

  15. Must applicants be law school students or law school graduates? Although the vast majority of our applicants are law school students or law school graduates, we have offered internships and externships to exceptionally well-qualified college students and graduate school students as well as to law school graduates.  

  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 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 April 2, 2019