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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Public Interest Resumes: Tips & Best Practices for Summer Job Applications

Yesterday we began a series of blog posts on public interest job application tips by covering cover letters. Today we’ll focus on résumés. Next week we’ll publish a post on interview tips.

As we noted yesterday, the first thing for 1Ls and 2Ls to do is visit your career services office.  Career advisors are going to help you with both form and substance on summer job applications.  As regards formatting, employers reviewing dozens upon dozens of résumés want to find the most relevant information quickly.  Clean, easy-to-read formatting is essential, and your career advisors know how to help you put your résumé in the most presentable format.  But more important is substance. Your career advisors know what language will jump out at an employer while they are reading, and advisors will also know how to frame your experiences and credentials in such a way that they will match up most effectively with the qualifications sought for a particular job.

And now…

Five Tips for Public Interest Résumés

  1. Like a cover letter, a résumé is a living document.  Different job listings will call upon you to emphasize different experiences and skill sets.  You should be comfortable with making tweaks to your résumé so that it highlights the things that a particular employer will want to see.  As a result, though…
  2. …you must have someone else proofread a résumé before you send it out – each time.  While tweaking a résumé is a best practice, it is also one of the easiest ways to inadvertently create typos, and/or language and grammar inconsistencies.
  3. Do not include an “objective” statement in a résumé.  It is a waste of space, and employers know your objective is to land a job.
  4. A résumé should, as specifically as possible, list your skills and experiences.  It should be driven by action verbs and cite to numbers where possible.  E.g.: “Represented 3 minor defendants as a student-attorney while completing an intensive, one-semester juvenile justice clinic,” as opposed to, “Juvenile Justice Clinic, Fall Semester 2010.”
  5. A résumé generally should not exceed one page.   This is a hard issue to give advice on because there are two separate variables at work in determining résumé length: how much relevant experience you have and how detailed (or lengthy) a job description is.  As a general matter, though, for summer jobs you should be able to capture all of your credentials and qualifications on a one-page résumé.  The folks at Harvard’s Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) list exceptions to the rule with which we agree: “Exceptions to this ‘one page rule’ are if you have an extensive list of publications or five or more years of work experience prior to law school.”  (We also recommend reading through the OPIA résumé tips in full.)  We can also speak from an employer’s perspective here, and the reality is that a one-page résumé just seems “cleaner” and less cumbersome to read.  If a law student sends a two-page résumé, that second page better have been necessary – i.e. filled with relevant past experience – or we’re turned off as an employer.  So our advice, to use a fancy legal term, is this: operate on the “rebuttable presumption” that your résumé should be one page.  If you come across a job listing that compels you to go over a page, talk to your career advisor about it.

Bonus Tips:

  • Italicized text is generally easier to read than underlined text.
  • Putting dates of employment or past experiences in the left margin makes for an easy-to-read format.

Remember to consult PSLawNet’s Job Search Fundamentals page for more tips.

Next Monday we’ll post interviewing tips. Stay tuned.  And good luck!

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PSLawNet’s First Foray Into the Entertainment News Biz: First Jolie Legal Fellow Named

So perhaps you are still deeply torn over whether or not Brad cheated on Jen with Angelina . . . or perhaps you don’t care at all and if stopped on the street and asked how many kids currently run in the Brangelina pack would not have a clue.  Either way, we here at the PSLawNet Blog thought you would be interested to learn that earlier this month Nathalie Nozile was named the first ever Jolie Legal Fellow.  Ms. Nozile is a 2010 graduate of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

The Jolie Legal Fellowship, created and funded by the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, supports the Government of Haiti’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the Haitian judicial system in the challenging post-earthquake environment. Jolie Legal Fellows are attorneys who will concentrate on the protection of Haiti’s most vulnerable children in the judicial system, by serving as special assistants to key Government of Haiti officials. Ms. Nozile leaves for Haiti later this month to begin her work.

‘I am thrilled that Nathalie Nozile will be our first legal fellow in Haiti – where the need to enhance child protection is so great,’ said Angelina Jolie. ‘Nathalie has a heartfelt commitment to improve conditions in her homeland, and brings to her work the unique perspective of growing up in an SOS Village. There, she learned firsthand the importance to a childhood of a stable and nurturing environment. Now, as a promising attorney, she will draw on her personal experience as she returns to help strengthen the Haitian judicial system. Nathalie will be working to help ensure equal access to justice and the protection of children’s rights in Haiti.’

Ms. Nozile, who made it a priority to volunteer in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake in the SOS Office of Emergency Programs, expressed her gratitude for this opportunity: ‘It is a great privilege and honor to become the first Jolie Legal Fellow. I made a decision to obtain a law degree long ago so that I could return to Haiti to serve my country, now in such a critical state. I hope my commitment will inspire more young professionals to return to Haiti, because Haiti needs us all.’

Ms. Jolie concluded with her impression that . . .

‘Nathalie is a force … just wait and see. She will be doing many great things. She represents the best of Haiti. She is an extraordinary example. I am proud to know her and extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work with her.’

Congrats to Nathalie and best of luck with her work in Haiti!

If you enjoyed this bit of good news about recovery efforts in Haiti, check out our piece from last week featuring the pro bono work of a Rutgers University School of Law-Newark alum, Ralph Delouis.

Just can’t get enough of the Jolie Pitt Foundation?  To learn more about their efforts go here.

Lastly, we would like to thank our colleague Millie Bond, the NALP/Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program Fellow for giving us the lead on this story.  Check out her weekly Diversity Dish on the NALPComments! Blog.

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Public Interest Cover Letters: Tips and Best Practices for Summer Job Applications

It’s that time of year.  1Ls and 2Ls are scurrying about looking for summer internship/clerkship listings, checking deadlines, and putting application materials together.  Here, we start a series of job application posts we’ll publish over the next several days, offering tips and best practices. Today’s post will focus on cover letters.  

Before we get to our tips list, the first, most important, universal tip is that law students should immediately schedule an appointment in their career services or public interest advising office.  Your author, about 10 years ago, fancied himself a sort of rogue public-interest student who didn’t need the help of his public interest career advisor.  This was really, really dumb.  Only after I sent the job applications out did I see the typos (amazing how they jump out at you once the original letter has already been sent), the formatting inconsistencies, etc.  These are things that a trained eye would have caught in no time.  So by all means, speak to a professional who’s helped hundreds of students in the exact position you’re in now.

Without further ado:

Five Tips for Public Interest Cover Letters

  1. A cover letter is a “living document,” which means that each letter must be tailored to specific employers.  An employer is usually able to identify a form letter by the end of the first paragraph.  Then that letter is often thrown in the trash can before the second paragraph begins.
  2. cover letter should almost always be one page.  The chief exception may be if you have a wealth of experience related to a particular employment opportunity, and if the job listing for that opportunity is so fleshed out that you need more than a page to convey your qualifications.  This is not typically the case with law student positions, so try to keep it to one.  If you want a second opinion on a particular job application, ask your career advisor.
  3. A cover letter is a complement to the resume, not simply a reformatted version of the resume.  The letter gives you a chance to express your passion directly to the employer in a slightly less formal manner than a resume; it gives you a chance to say not only what your credentials are, but a) why your credentials will enable to you to do that job, and b) why you want that job.  A personal commitment to an organization and/or its mission is a chief criterion used by almost all public interest employers in evaluating job candidates.  This doesn’t mean that you should go over the top, writing something like, “As a child I fell asleep dreaming of handling public benefits appeals.”  But the cover letter is your opportunity to say that you want to use your degree to “ensure that the poor and others on society’s margins can achieve real, meaningful access to the justice system” and, if you can, to illustrate past experiences that reflect this commitment.  One cover letter format to consider is as follows:
    • Paragraph One: Who I am and, in short, why I want the job;
    • Paragraph Two: What I bring to the job by way of experience, interest, and credentials;
    • Paragraph Three: Fleshed out explanation of why I want the job – an expression of my passion for the employer organization and/or the work.
  4. Use the qualifications listed in the job description as prompts for points to hit about your experience/credentials. If an employer is seeking someone with an interest in juvenile justice issues, then you can write that, “My strong interest in juvenile justice issues has prompted me to gain experience researching juvenile sentencing trends for violent offenses, and to spend four weeks shadowing a legal services attorney who represents accused minors in criminal proceedings.
  5. Have someone – a career counselor, classmate, friend, etc. – proofread your cover lettersWe are always our own worst editors and proofreaders, so don’t rely on yourself to do it.

Bonus Tip: Follow application instructions to the letter.  An employer may send a job description to your school, and your school may post it on Symplicity.  This does not necessarily mean that the employer wishes to receive your application via a Symplicity email – even if the employer does want the application emailed.  If they direct you to apply by email, send the email directly to them yourself.

For more tips and best practices, be sure to visit PSLawNet’s job search fundamentals page.

NEXT UP: later this week revisit the PSLawNet Blog for a post on resume tips.

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