Third-year Northeastern law student Phil Hancock, 29, was recently accepted into the prestigious White House internship program—his third Northeastern experiential opportunity and another step closer to a career in public-interest law.
Beginning in September, Hancock will spend three months in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, which coordinates with state and local officials to ensure that the needs of the country’s citizens are met. “This will be a great opportunity for me to learn the needs of the states and how they correspond to national needs,” Hancock said.
Simply put, he wants to be someone whom the public can depend on to get things done. “I would like to be one of these people who, when people say, “They ought to do something about that,’ they come find me,” he said.
That aspiration crystallized years ago in words he will never forget—those of an 18-year-old West Virginian town mayor. “Have you ever driven down the street and come to a bump in the road and said to yourself, ‘You know, they need to do something about that,’” Hancock recalled the young mayor saying. “Or have you ever seen a dilapidated house and said, ‘I wish they’d fix that.’ I always wanted to be the ‘they.’”
Hancock has had two previous internships as part of his Northeastern School of Law curriculum—first at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue in the litigation bureau, and then at Raytheon in the tax department.
He pointed to the Northeastern law school’s “nontraditional curriculum” as one of the main reasons he chose to attend the university. “One of the most attractive features of Northeastern’s law program is being able to go out and actually work as an attorney in training, and learn how to do legal research, legal writing and legal communication while still in school,” he said. “These are all transferable skills that will help in my position at the White House.”
Hancock’s pursuit of a career in public service began almost a decade ago when he ran for a seat in West Virginia’s House of Delegates. He lost that election, but continued toward his goal through efforts including becoming one of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s electors in the state’s electoral college.
The Bluefield, West Virginia, native counts President Barack Obama as one of his political heroes (“He has energized the young people of this country to be involved civically and in the issues of the day,” is how he put it), and dreams of helping the president shape health-care reform during his three-month stint in the White House.
The way Hancock sees it, people should never be made to suffer: “So many people don’t have health care in this country, and we end up paying for it regardless,” he said, “so why not let people go to the doctor for preventive care?” He continued, “We pay for it on the front end and save people’s lives, or we pay for it on the back end and so many people suffer.”