Archive for January, 2011

PSLawNet Jobs Report: January 31, 2011

Need a job or internship? During the last week PSLawNet has posted: 37 new attorney positions, 15 new internships, and 12 new law related opportunities. Additionally, there are currently 1,057 active opportunities in our job database. To search the database visit PSLawNet.

Featured New Jobs

The ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office is seeking a legislative counsel/lobbyist.  The Legislative Counsel/Lobbyist will be working under the supervision of the Chief of Staff/First Amendment Counsel. He/She will be responsible for a wide range of civil liberties issues but will focus particular attention on a portfolio of issues to be assigned, as priorities require.  For more information on this position, visit PSLawNet.

Also in Washington, DC, the National Disability Rights Network is seeking two summer law interns.  NDRN is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the P&A/CAP network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. NDRN provides training and technical assistance, legal support, and legislative advocacy, NDRN works to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equality of opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination.  NDRN is accepting applications for two summer law internships in disability rights law. Legal interns will develop their legal skills working directly with a highly experienced staff of 9 attorneys on cutting edge projects related to a wide range of disability rights issues. Typical law intern projects include research and writing on issues concerning abuse and neglect in institutions, disability discrimination, special education, employment and vocational services, and the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Other projects may include monitoring federal legislation and regulations and analyzing policy proposals.  Application deadline: 2/18/11.  For more information on these positions, visit PSLawNet.

Good luck!

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Public Interest Law News Bulletin – January 28, 2011

This week: cultivating the next generation of public service lawyers at UCLA; speaking of L.A., funding for law and order isn’t great; $125K for foreclosure prevention in the Windy City; aspiring public defenders may want to look into getting barred in Massachusetts; Equal Justice Works hits the Big 2-5!; legal services for Gulf Coast oil spill victims; a wrongful imprisonment emphasizes the need for the Florida Innocence Commission’s work; let’s all celebrate the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project; tough times and a leadership transition at the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council; the good work of the University of Louisville Law Clinic; a public-interest lawsuit targets allegedly excessive truancy fines; will Gideon finally be civil in California?; maybe he should be civil elsewhere, too.

  • 1.26.11 – in an indicator of the recession’s impact on state budgets, the Los Angeles County Superior Court system is bracing for continued fiscal strife.  From the National Law Journal (article may be password-protected): “Last year, the Superior Court, which employs 5,000 people and has 11 locations, laid off 329 employees and lost another 150 to attrition due to budget cuts, [Presiding Judge Lee] Edmon said. The cuts have resulted in long lines at filing windows and frustration among lawyers, she acknowledged. ‘Unfortunately, this pressure on the system will continue for some time.’ For the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30, the system appears safe from any drastic measures due to last year’s efforts, which generated new sources of revenue from civil filing fees and funds redirected from new construction and computer projects.”  But looming on the horizon is Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, which “would eliminate more than $100 million from the Los Angeles Superior Court — about 10% of its annual budget, Edmon said.”  The article touches on the fact that 9th Circuit federal courts are strained as well, with a judicial emergency having been declared in the District of Arizona in the Tuscon shooting’s wake (link to more detailed coverage by the Arizona Republic).  
  • 1.25.11 – here comes the unusual scenario wherein the recession could create a whole bunch of public interest lawyer jobs.  The Boston Globe reports on Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal calling for “the hiring of 1,000 lawyers under a new Department of Public Counsel Services within the executive branch, with up to 500 more support staff. The administration estimates its plan will save $45 million by eliminating the Committee for Public Counsel Services in the judicial branch and wiping out hourly legal wages paid out to roughly 3,000 lawyers who work on contracts.”  The proposal has caused a stir, particularly among those private counsel who are presently appointed, under the auspices of the judicial branch, to handle indigent defense matters. They argue that the program will result in cost increases.  How would Massachusetts stack up with other jurisdictions?: “According to the administration, 28 states have public counsel systems similar to the one Patrick outlined yesterday, and Massachusetts is one of six states whose public defenders fall within the judiciary.”   Beantown-based public radio station WBUR ran a piece on the controversy: “Although the findings show that public defenders are more effective in representing indigent defendants, the issue of cost is not as simple.”
  • 1.23.11 – the Dayton Daily News profiles the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project, “a local program that helps people who are financially strained find lawyers who are willing to offer ‘pro bono’ work, or free services … Since 1988, the GDVLP has provided lawyers in more than 21,000 cases, providing more than $10 million in donated services to the poor … The GDVLP is located at the Dayton Bar Association and is supported by Legal Aid of Western Ohio. The program has 1,000 lawyers from various specialties who donate services.”
  • 1.23.11 – the long-running funding woes afflicting Georgia’s indigent defense program persist.  The Associated Press reports that the incoming chief of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, who appeared to some a remarkable choice because of his background as a prosecutor, is inheriting a program that is short on funding, slated for additional budget cuts, and thin on staff as well.  Outside organizations have taken note of the GPDSC’s sorry state: “The specter of more legal challenges looms, as civil rights groups have filed one lawsuit after another that claimed the council failed its mission to provide adequate legal defense for Georgia’s poor defendants.”  Here’s information on a lawsuit filed last month from the Southern Center for Human Rights.   And here’s an additional blurb about discontent within the Peach State criminal defense community over th GPDSC’s present condition (from WALB, a Georgia-based NBC affiliate).  GPDSC’s new chief, Travis Sakrison, certainly does have his work cut out for him, and we wish him the best of luck. 
  • 1.20.11 – the Associated Press reports on a lawsuit initiated by the Philly-based Public Interest Law Center: “A federal lawsuit accuses a Pennsylvania school district of imposing excessive and illegal fines on truant children or their families, including one parent ordered to pay $27,000 and a 17-year-old student fined more than $12,000.   The suit against the Lebanon School District, filed Thursday in Harrisburg by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of four parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, targets the court-imposed fines it says were above the state’s limit of $300 per violation.

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Five Tips for Summer Public Interest Job Interviews

Last week we reviewed best practices in drafting cover letters and resumes for summer public interest jobs.  Today we offer interviewing tips.  Cover letters and resumes get your foot in the door.  Interviews get you jobs.  So, even if you tend to shine in interview settings, you should do as much as possible to prepare before meeting a prospective employer.

Five Tips for Summer Public Interest Job Interviews

  1. Do mock interviews.  There is simply no downside to this, and no reason not to practice interviewing in a consequence-free environment before you have to do the real thing.  Mock interviews are the surest way to a) identify questions that could trip you up, and b) get useful feedback from someone who has experience on the other side of the interviewing table.  You will likely be able to arrange mock interviews through your career services office.  If not, use your classmates, friends, and contacts in the legal community to set them up.
  2. Enthusiasm and confidence are palpable.  These characteristics are perceived immediately by an interviewer, and they set the stage for more fluid conversation during the interview.  It’s hard sometimes not to appear nervous, overly serious, or both during an interview.  Remember to make eye contact and to smile (at least occasionally) while answering questions.  (Smiling while talking also is enormously helpful on phone interviews because, believe it or not, smiling will change the tone of your voice so that you’ll seem more engaging and confident to the interviewer on the other end of the phone.  You’ll probably look like a weirdo, but no one will be around to see you anyway.) 
  3. Be prepared for “Why do you want to work here?” or “Why are you choosing this kind of work?” questions.  Everyone knows these questions are coming – often at the beginning of an interview.  A lot of law students will begin answering with “I’ve always wanted to do this work; it’s why I came to law school.”  If that’s the truth for you, then fine, you should say it.  But let’s tease this out a little further.  We think that employers are really asking two questions:  1) Why do you want to be a lawyer?, and 2)  Why are you interested in being this kind of lawyer?  You should be prepared to answer both and to connect those answers.  For example, if you just say that you think your abilities and skills make you well suited to be a lawyer, you still need to explain why public interest is a draw for you.  On the other side of the coin, if you say you are interested in working with victims of domestic violence, a good interviewer may come back with, “Well, there are a lot ways to do that, so why do you want to help DV victims as a lawyer?”  Think ahead about what experiences and influences directed you to law school, and why you are interested in exploring public interest law.  This “why are you here?” question is one that almost all law students can hit a double on, so you should think about how to hit a home run.
  4. Ask some questions of your own.  For example:
    • What does your interviewer find to be the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of their job?
    • What are the main characteristics they wish to see in summer interns?  (This is a tricky way to sell yourself even further by explaining how you possess those qualities after the employer names them.)
    • How many practice groups or other departments within the organization will you be exposed to during an internship?
    • How did your interviewer’s career path lead them to their current job?
  5. Send a thank-you note or email within 48 hours of the interview.  Strike while the iron is hot, i.e. while the interviewer will still remember you.  And while the thank-you note should be brief, it could include a line that will remind the interviewer about a highlight of your meeting.  

Harvard Law School’s Office of Public Interest Advising has some terrific, detailed guidance on interviewing, which we recommend you review. 

Good luck, and feel free to offer your own tips in the comments section!

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Can You Complete the Food Stamp Challenge?

We know that many of our readers – law students and attorneys – work with clients in poverty.  And while public interest lawyers are hardly raking in the bucks on payday, most of us don’t know what it’s like to try to make ends meet at or below the poverty line (although more and more families have relied on Food Stamps since the recession).  The Food Stamp Challenge is a small-but-signficant way to better understand your clients’ struggles.

Maryland Hunger Solutions is sponsoring the Food Stamp Challenge.  We’re a little late to the punch on this one: the official week-long Challenge period started yesterday and runs through 1/31.  But you can pretty much take the Challenge on your own time.  MHS’s Challenge is straightforward: could you live on a food budget of no more than $4.30 per day for a week?  ($4.30 is the average, daily food stamp benefit for an individual in Maryland.  You could find out the benefit in your area via the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website.  Those who are not intimately familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a/k/a “Food Stamps”, might be surprised to learn that it’s administered by the USDA, not by Health and Human Services, as is commonly thought.  There’s a ton of data online about the food stamp program generally and the signficant rise in food stamp usage as more and more American families slipped into poverty during the recession.  If you wish to learn more you can start with the USDA’s data.  And note that according to the New York Times, in 2009 Food Stamps were feeding 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 4 children.)

Here are the MHS’s Challenge Guidelines, which were shared with us by the good folks at AARP Maryland, who are participating this week:

What are the guidelines for the Challenge?

  1. Each person should spend a set amount for food and beverages during the Challenge week. That amount is $30 for all food and beverage.
  2. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.
  3. During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).
  4. Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions or briefings.
  5. Please keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week.
  6. Invite others to join you, including co-workers, reporters, chefs, or other elected officials.

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PSLawNet Jobs Report: January 24, 2011

Need a job or internship? During the last week PSLawNet has posted: 29 new attorney positions, 38 new internships, and 13 new law related opportunities. Additionally, there are currently 1,190 active opportunities in our job database. To search the database visit PSLawNet.

Featured New Positions:

The Criminal Division of the Nevada Supreme Court’s Central Legal Staff is accepting applications for a staff attorney position.  Under the direction of the court and the Legal Counsel for the Criminal Division, staff attorneys in the Criminal Division assist the court in resolving motions and screening for jurisdiction in criminal appeals, advise the court regarding all types of criminal appeals and writ petitions through written memoranda or oral presentations, and prepare written dispositions for the court in criminal appeals and writ petitions.  Staff attorneys must possess superior legal research, writing, and oral presentation skills, must be flexible, and must be capable of working independently. This position is located in Carson City, Nevada.  Application Deadline:  February 25, 2011.  Visit PSLawNet for full details.

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. (HRI) is hiring for unpaid summer internship opportunities for law students wishing to gain firsthand knowledge in immigration law and international human rights issues.  HRI strives to provide every legal intern with invaluable experience in immigration and nationality law and international human rights issues.  As such interns provide support to all members of the legal team in many different capacities.  Visit PSLawNet for full details.

Featured Public Service Career Resource:

Searching for a summer position or exploring options for a post-graduate position?  You should check out Harvard Law School’s Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising’s Networking, Interviewing, and Following-up Landing Page. The Landing Page leads you to additional information on:

  • Networking
  • Negotiating – Tips on Choosing a Better Job Offer
  • Interviewing and Following Up

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NALP’s FREE Online Apartment Exchange is Now Available

Each summer, NALP offers its annual FREE Apartment Exchange for law students.

The Apartment Exchange site is now live and ready for you to start your search for summer housing and/or find another law student to sublet your apartment during the summer months. Start the Housing Exchanges!

Note: This site will be available through May 15.

Not ready to start thinking about summer housing yet, still searching for your summer job?  Check out our tips on public interest résumé and cover letter writing.

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Public Interest News Bulletin: January 21, 2011

This week: LSC on federal budget chopping block?; everything’s bigger in Texas, and hopefully that includes state funding of legal services; it does seem to include funding for innocence clinics at four Lone Star State law schools; get hitched to fund legal services in Idaho; mourning Sargent Shriver’s passing; state budgets in terrible shape; death penalty debate in Illinois could signify changes in other jurisdictions; NYC public interest and pro bono lawyers racing the clock to help Haitian immigrants; an expanded LRAP program at Boston College Law; commendable pro bono contributions from New York lawyers; an appeal for more pro bono from Pennsylvania’s top jurist; how do you prosecute a defendant who is deaf, mute, and unable to read or understand sign language?

  • 1.20.11 – an editorial in the San Antonio Express makes the case for preserving state funding for legal services.  The piece notes that in its last session the state government “provided some much needed one-time support in the form of a $20 million allocation in anticipation that the economy would get better and the IOLTA funding would go back to its former levels.”  But the financial circumstances for the legal services community have not markedly improved; they are in fact still “in crisis.”  Texas’s attorneys have contributed $700,000 via bar dues, and they have given generously of their time through pro bono efforts.  But the legislature must step up to the plate again by sustaining its funding.
  • 1.19.11 – moving along to some better funding news out of Texas, the Dallas Morning News’s Trailblazers Blog notes that “…the $400,000 of funding allotted to the innocence clinics at the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, University of Houston and Texas Southern University law schools had not been slashed in the base House budget released late Tuesday night.”  The clinics have cleared 11 people who were wrongly convicted of crimes, and there is evidently more work to do in the Lone Star State.  We noted one of the more dramatic instances of a wrongful conviction’s undoing in our January 7 News Bulletin: a man who’d served 30 years in prison before being cleared by DNA evidence.

Keep reading . . .

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