By Jane Whitehead
In 2009, fresh out of college, Joe McCarthy JD ’15 wondered what direction to take.
He briefly considered law enforcement and military service. Then he wrote up a resume and walked into the office of then-Rep. Ed Markey in McCarthy’s hometown of Medford, Mass.
The internship with now-Sen. Markey led to a job as a congressional aide and then as press secretary for the 5th Congressional District.
But he also grew frustrated by his own limitations.
McCarthy advocated for constituents who needed help avoiding foreclosure on their homes, or fuel assistance to get them through the winter. He found it rewarding to help people facing “pocketbook issues.” But he was devastated when cuts to programs like the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program meant he had to tell people they would no longer receive money to help heat their homes.
“There’s only so much advocacy you can do without a substantive education in these matters, be it contracts or property,” said McCarthy, who started at Suffolk Law in the fall of 2012.
With his experience at the sharp end of district-level government policy, McCarthy was keen to explore the other side: “the real nuts and bolts of how the government runs—how it’s funded, how [policies are] administered.”
A Rappaport Fellowship in Law and Public Policy gave him a ringside seat, as a legal intern in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) last summer after his first year at Suffolk Law.
From an office on the third floor of the State House, down the hall from the speaker of the House and president of the Senate, McCarthy managed an email account linking the governor’s Legal Counsel and public policy offices with the Fiscal Affairs Division of A&F. His job was to keep the consultation process on track and to review each proposed regulation before passing it on for approval.
One of the summer’s key lessons, he said, was that in the public policy arena “no one goes it alone, ever. When you get various stakeholders to buy in, everyone has something to lose and you have everything in the game.”