Archive for March, 2011

Job o’ the Day: Show Me an Entry-Level Legal Services Attorney Listing

¿Habla usted Español?

Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s downtown Kansas City office has an immediate opening for a full-time Spanish-speaking attorney for our Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) Project.

Job duties include maintaining a caseload of victims of domestic violence, representing clients to obtain Full Orders of Protection and other remedies under the Adult Abuse Act, including custody, child support and return of property.  The attorney will explain legal rights and provide education in self-advocacy.  The attorney will do out-reach work with shelters and victim service organizations, inform providers about legal issues regarding domestic violence, and participate in regional planning council for domestic violence and prevention

For more details, view the full listing on PSLawNet  (login required).

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Job o’ the Day: Do You Love Animals and Nonprofit Corporate Governance?…

…because those two affinities are peas in a pod.  The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the global conservation organization, seeks an attorney with excellent research, analysis, and communication skills to serve as Assistant General Counsel. The attorney will provide advice on legal requirements and best practices relating to overall operations, with a particular emphasis on outreach and fundraising activities.

The position’s based in DC.  To learn more, view the listing on PSLawNet (login required).

Application deadline: 4/08/11. 

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U. of Chicago Law’s Kickarse New LRAP Program

Nice skyline, Chicago. Cubs still stink.

The PSLawNet Blog intended to cover this announcement out of the Windy City several days ago, but we succumbed to the flu last week.  So, better late than never…

From a March 11 announcement:

The University of Chicago Law School today announced a complete redesign of its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), making it the most generous program of its kind. The three most important changes to the program are that it now offers the opportunity for any graduate staying in public interest for ten years to go to law school for free, that all graduates who serve as judicial clerks will be eligible for the program, and that a generous $80,000 salary cap will make the program more inclusive than ever.

Hah – the law school’s communications department chose to refer to the new LRAP program as “dramatic.”  We’ve never thought of LRAPs as involving much drama.  That said, we describe the program as “kickarse,” so perhaps we shouldn’t appoint ourselves the modifier police.

We digress.  Here’s a voice of approval of Chicago Law’s new LRAP, emanating from North-side rival Northwestern Law.  Northwestern adjunct professor Steven Harper, an observer of legal industry goings-on, writes in The American Lawyer:

When law schools get it wrong, they deserve the scorn that comes with a public spotlight. When they get it right, they should bask in its warm glow. The University of Chicago Law School recently got it right. Really right.

A single line from the school’s website description says it all: “This means that a graduate who engages in qualifying work for ten years, earns less than the salary cap, and maintains enrollment in the federal Income-Based Repayment Program, will receive a FREE University of Chicago Law School education!

“Qualifying work” is public interest broadly defined as “the full-time practice of law, or in a position normally requiring a law degree, in a nonprofit organization or government office, other than legal academia.” It includes judicial clerkships.

The “salary cap” is $80,000 and doesn’t include spousal income. That combination seems to beat Harvard, Yale and Stanford. (Caveat: The differences across school programs can be significant and prospective students should consider their own circumstances, run the numbers, and determine which one produces the best individual result.)

Huzzah, U. of Chicago!

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Job O’ the Day: Wanna Save the Children?

Save the Children’s DC office is hiring an Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy who will strengthen and increase the impact of agency policy and advocacy related to Livelihoods, Hunger and Malnutrition, and Education and Early Childhood Development.

The Associate Director will:

  • Provide strategic vision and leadership;
  • Design and lead implementation of policy and advocacy strategies for these sectors which include legislative strategies;
  • Increase support in Congress and with other policy makers;
  • Collaborate closely with Save the Children departments to develop key messages;
  • Establish and maintain strong external relationships with key coalitions and non-governmental organizations;
  • Conduct policy research and analysis for contribution to publications in connection with this advocacy;
  • Plan and coordinate briefings or other events on Capitol Hill;
  • Coordinate with other Save the Children International (SCI) hunger and education advocates;
  • Support Save the Children’s annual Advocacy Day and support Save the Children’s efforts to build capacity in Public Policy and Advocacy

To learn more, view the listing on PSLawNet (login required).

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Cavalier with the Cash! Over $375,000 in Public Interest Summer Grants at UVA Law

The PSLawNet blog financed his summer public interest internships by relying on an $8/hour Federal Work Study award.  And eating a lot of peanut butter.  For lunch and dinner.  Sometimes breakfast.  So we’re generally happy, but also a little jealous, to learn about the recent summer grant awards that UVA Law’s Public Interest Law Association has bestowed on 1Ls and 2Ls.  They won’t be rich by law-firm summer associate standards, but they will make ends meet this summer.

From the Virginia Law Weekly:

Public Interest Law Association (PILA) has awarded over $377,500 in the form of eighty-one fellowships to law students who will work in public interest positions during the summer of 2011. This year’s distribution included forty-four 1L and thirty-seven 2L summer grants.First-year students receive $3,500 and second-year students receive $6,000 to supplement the costs of taking a public interest position.

Good stuff, PILA!  The organization is able to raise this kind of cash through a diverse array of funding sources (which is a wise set-up):

Fellowships are funded through the Law School Foundation, the Dean’s Office, the Law & Public Service Program, and student, faculty and community sponsors. This year, PILA’s own fundraising events netted $88,000 — an increase from the $82,000 raised in the 2009-10 calendar year.

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Job O’ the Day: Immigration Law in the Big Apple

A new, daily feature on the PSLawNet Blog. We’ll pull a job listing from PSLawNet’s database and feature it here.

Today, we feature a Staff Attorney opening at Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project.

The Staff Attorney is an integral part of Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project, a legal services project that represents over 1,000 victims of domestic violence each year in immigration matters. Representation is provided in-house, as well as through the mentoring of volunteer attorneys. In addition, through trainings and participating in the immigration and domestic violence advocacy communities of New York, the Staff Attorney educates the public, the social service and law enforcement communities, and politicians about issues pertinent to immigrant victims of domestic violence…

The application deadline is April 1.  No foolin’.  To view the full job listing, log in to PSLawNet.

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Cash for Convictions in Colorado: Is a Prosecutor Giving Bonuses For High Conviction Rates? (And Is Anything Wrong with That?)

Here’s an interesting story out of Aurora, Colorado from Denver-based boobtube station KUSA.  A public defender has filed a motion to have a special prosecutor assigned in a case because the local district attorney may have a policy of giving financial bonuses to attorneys with high conviction rates.

The potential problem here is laid out by a local attorney (not the public defender who filed the motion):   

Aurora attorney Derek Cole says giving money to prosecutors who had high conviction rates at trial could encourage them to take cases to trial and not offer plea bargains.

“If I am representing somebody in a trial and there is an extraneous factor that I don’t know, we may get some resistance from the district attorney and it may be because they want a bonus and it’s just not acceptable,” Cole said. “It upsets the balance.”

But, the District Attorney, Carol Chambers, says that’s not what’s going on:

“We have not done anything unethical. We do not give people money for convicting people. That is distorted and it is untrue.”

Chambers went on to note that trial victories was only one factor in determining bonuses.  The office gave out almost $165K in bonuses in 2010, but it’s discontinued the practice as a result of budget cuts.

It seems to us that if bonuses were given based upon a number of factors, one of which was success at trial, that’s cool.  But if bonuses were tied solely or primarily to conviction rates, that could be a problem.  The story doesn’t say what bonus amounts were awarded to attorneys, so it’s hard to know how much incentive a bonus might be for a prosecutor.

PSLawNet Blog Verdict: we need more facts.  But we figured we’d post because it raises an interesting ethics question.

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Public Interest News Bulletin: March 25, 2011

This week: the NYT profiles an EJW Fellow doing holistic defense work; Project Salute is serving Michigan veterans; a legislative proposal to fund legal services for foster children in Nevada; how badly will the Granite State cut funding to New Hampshire Legal Assistance?; a slight bump in charitable giving in the 2010, according to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative; an LSC $ cut could badly gum up the works in Connecticut’s legal services system; the incoming ABA president comes out swinging for legal services funding.

  • 3.24.11 – the Detroit Free Press offers an update on Detroit Mercy’s innovative veterans clinic: “University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s (UDM Law) Project SALUTE is traveling across the State of Michigan in a mobile law office (a recreational vehicle custom designed, built and generously donated by General Motors Corporation) providing free legal advice to low-income veterans on their federal veterans’ disability and pension benefits claims. Utilizing a grant from the State of Michigan, Project SALUTE will host a veterans’ legal clinic in Detroit on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 … The state grant is also being used to establish a freestanding Veterans Clinic at the school dedicated to specifically addressing veterans’ disability and pension benefits matters.”
  • 3.23.11 – as state governments are tightening budgetary belts, we’ve seen a number of efforts made in the legal services community to ensure that the poor and vulnerable don’t suffer too much in the name of fiscal austerity.  The Reno Gazette Journal reports on a proposal to shore up legal services funding for children in Nevada’s foster care system: “Former Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley is promoting a bill in the Legislature to increase fees at county recorders’ offices and funnel the money to legal services for abused or neglected children … The bill would raise a surcharge for recording a document, deed, map or survey to $3 from its present $1, and direct the additional money to provide legal services to children in the foster care system … Three nonprofit organizations — Nevada Legal Services, Washoe Legal Services and Buckley’s organization, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada — would gain from the revenue.”  According to an official at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, half of the roughly 3000 children in the foster care system do not have representation.
  • 3.21.11 – the Connecticut Law Tribune reports that potential LSC funding cuts could wreak havoc in the Constitution State because its main case intake program relies on federal dollars: “A proposed $70 million cut in federal legal aid would devastate a Connecticut clearinghouse that assists 15,000 clients a year and further hobble three other agencies still reeling from a dramatic drop in state-based funds, officials said.  Janice Chiaretto, executive director of Statewide Legal Services, said her agency is receiving about $2.7 million this year in federal Legal Services Corp. funding. The proposed cut would mean a $500,000 reduction, or the equivalent of half a dozen staff positions and thousands of clients assisted. Statewide Legal Services is the only Connecticut agency to receive the federal funds, but others would feel the loss because many of their cases are pre-screened and referred by Statewide.”  Funding for the state’s legal services community has been greatly reduced as a consequence of the recession.  “[O]verall budgets at the Connecticut legal aid agencies are still down 18 percent from 2007 levels.”  Fifty lawyers at Connecticut Legal Services are taking once-a-month furloughs to help make ends meet.
  • 3.18.11 – a piece in North Carolina’s Asheville Citizen Times shows that it’s not just the ABA’s current president, but also its president elect, who’s going to bat for legal services funding.  President-elect Bill Robinson, at a recent engagement in Asheville, said, “The proposed cuts to legal services are going to hurt the most vulnerable citizens in our society…What has defined us as a constitutional democracy has been access to justice…If our most vulnerable citizens can’t get access to justice, access to our courts, then justice for all of us is compromised.”

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PSLawNet Public Interest Law News Bulletin: March 18, 2011

This week: the ABA president on an underfunded justice system; death, taxes and educational debt; the Lone Star State reckons it needs legal services funding; ditto the Tennesseans; ditto ditto the Pennsylvanians; the National Law Journal runs a multi-article feature, putting its finger on the pulse of civil legal services; a San Francisco prosecutor shines during a dark time; and she gets paid, unlike some prosecutors in L.A., the ABA says, “Fund legal services!”; and New Yorks’ prosecutors and defenders get some loan repayment help.

  • 3.17.11 – writing in The Hill’s Congress Blog, ABA president Stephen Zack laments that funding shortages hamper access to the justice system.  Courts are underfunded, the legal services community is facing Congressional funding cuts despite overwhelming demand for their services, and it is difficult for law graduates to make a living as “Main Street” lawyers.  (There’s more from the ABA and Zack specifically on legal services funding cuts a few stories down.)
  • 3.16.11 – one of the chief concerns among new public interest lawyers is loan repayment.  On the issue of how policymakers and the general public perceive the problem of student debt, a new report dispels the notion that a borrower must be financially comfortable if they are not in default.  From Inside Higher Ed: “Much of the discussion about college student debt revolves around the 15 percent of borrowers who default on their loans…”  And this leaves many with the impression that the other 85% are in decent shape.  “Yet a study released Tuesday by the [Institute for Higher Education Policy] suggests otherwise, showing that a majority of borrowers at least delay some loan payments, and a full quarter (26 percent) actually go into delinquency on their debt at some point during their first five years of repayment.”  The study looks at a cohort of grads whose repayment periods began before the federal Income Based Repayment program became available.  Nevertheless, we find the report’s findings compelling.  They highlight the fact that many borrowers who do not actually default still struggle with educational debt.  In a great blog post our friend Heather Jarvis notes the following about graduate students as reported in the study: “Although graduate and professional borrowers were less likely than other borrowers to have been delinquent or defaulted on their student loans, 42% couldn’t manage to make timely payments without either postponing their payments, becoming delinquent, or defaulting on their student loans.”
  • 3.15.11 – the Fort Worth Star-Telegram runs an editorial in support of state legislative proposals that would boost legal services funding, mainly via increases in court filing fees.  The editorial notes that the state’s two most significant legal services revenue streams – federal funding and IOLTA revenues – are, respectively, likely to shrink and already shrunken.  Anticipating cuts in Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding, “Legal Services of Northwest Texas already is planning to eliminate paid law school internships and not fill six attorney vacancies.”  A state appropriation to shore up legal services, which was made last year, is out of the question this year.  So the newest proposed solutions are the best bets: “This session, a bipartisan collection of bills has been filed to generate the revenue IOLTA accounts aren’t. Proposals include increasing District Court civil filing fees by $10 ($6.6 million over the 2012-13 biennium); adding costs for filing county records and for misdemeanor convictions in justice and municipal courts ($58 million to $68.9 million, split between legal aid and indigent criminal defense); and dedicating court-ordered restitution in consumer-protection lawsuits to legal aid in consumer cases (possibly more than $1 million).”
  • 3.14.11 – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that state funding for civil legal services would remain close to current levels under Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal.  “[Corbett] proposes to keep $5.05 million in legal services, funded through a Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) that involves federal funds targeted to urban or rural areas in economic distress, at the same level. He also proposes that funding for the Department of Public Welfare to contract with the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) to provide low-income people legal assistance be held at $3.01 million, down from $3.04 million in this fiscal year.”  But, because it seems that no good news about legal services funding can exist these days without some offsetting bad news, a filing fee revenue stream that had channeled some money to legal services is set to expire in early 2012.  And of course there is uncertainty about federal funding via LSC.


  • 3.14.11 – The Recorder in California has a nice profile of San Francisco prosecutor Sharon Woo, who had sent warning signals to superiors about strange events at the city’s crime lab.  Those strange events blossomed into a full-on scandal, as a crime lab technician admitted stealing narcotics.  Woo successfully managed the thorny, politically charged fallout, and has emerged as a star in the office.  Woo has been promoted by the new district attorney to the “newly created position of chief assistant for operations.”
  • 3.14.11 – speaking of California prosecutors, a Los Angeles Times article begins this way: “Malibu resident Ashley St. Johns-Jacobs, 40, typically rises before 5 a.m. to get to her job at the Los Angeles city attorney’s office by 8 a.m. After a full day prosecuting misdemeanors, she often brings work home.  What she doesn’t bring home is a paycheck. With no position open, she has been working as an unpaid intern for nearly a year in hopes of eventually getting hired when a job opens up.”  The piece goes on to look at the phenomenon of would-be employees taking unpaid positions during an economic recovery that has been stingy about producing new jobs.  “Interns” are exempted from labor wage regulations, but is an “intern” an “intern” if they are essentially doing the work that a professional would do?  As you may guess, it depends on the nature of the “internship.” 
  • 3.11.11 – “In written testimony submitted to the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today, American Bar Association President Stephen N. Zack called on Congress to fund the Legal Services Corporation at $450 million, citing increased need for assistance for the poor and working class during tough economic times.  ‘Appropriations for the Legal Services Corporation is not just about funding another federal agency.  This is about providing legal services for the 57 million Americans at or below the poverty line, including 19 million children, who are eligible for assistance,’ said Zack.”  Here’s an ABA press release, and here’s the text of Zack’s testimony.
  • 3.10.11 – prosecutors and public defenders in New York State may now benefit from federal John R. Justice Act loan repayment assistance funds, which are being administered by the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation.  Here’s a press release with more info.  The application deadline is May 1, 2011.

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A One-Word History of Legal Services Corporation Funding: Vicissitudes

This is what a political football looks like.

We posted earlier this week about the National Law Journal’s multi-story feature on civil legal services.  One of those stories, “For LSC, a 30-year Funding Rollercoaster,” does a nice job of tracing the history of LSC’s congressional funding fluctuations amid shifting political winds.  The PSLawNet Blog is a history dork, but we like to think that this look back at the history of federally funded legal services will be useful for both students and newer attorneys alike.

A synopsis in quotes (emphasis ours):

…The Legal Services Corp. has its roots in the Johnson administration’s “war on poverty.”…

…In 1974, [President Nixon] signed the Legal Services Corporation Act [which established LSC as a stand-alone, quasi-governmental agency]….

…In 1980, Congress allocated a record $300 million to the LSC, which funded 1,450 local offices staffed by roughly 6,000 attorneys.  But when Reagan became president, the LSC became a major battleground between liberals and conservatives….

…[I]n 1982, the lawmakers cut its budget by 25%, to $225 million, forcing the closing of 285 offices and the layoffs of nearly 1,800 lawyers. It also began to impose a series of restrictions on legal services funds, for example, limiting lobbying and rulemaking….

…The arrival of Bill Clinton’s administration brought new optimism … Congress approved a record $400 million for the agency in fiscal years 1994 and 1995….

…The political landscape, however, changed dramatically with the midterm elections….

…[In 1995] Congress…cut the $400 million LSC budget by $122 million. It also imposed sweeping restrictions, including bans on class actions, lobbying, welfare reform advocacy, representation of most aliens and prisoners, and collection of attorney fees….

And today, the House has proposed slashing LSC’s budget by $70 million, which, according to LSC’s board chair, could result in over 350 attorney layoffs as well as office closures at a time when need among clients is extraordinarily high.  Finally, when analyzing changes in funding over time, it’s always useful to put things in perspective by accounting for inflation’s effect on the dollar.  In doing so, we see that LSC is mired in the past:

If the $300 million grant to the LSC in 1980, which was intended to properly fund legal services in America, were adjusted for inflation, [LSC board chair John] Levi said, the LSC’s appropriation would be roughly $750 million.

$750, even though that would be no more than what LSC was funded over 30 years ago, is pie in the sky.  LSC will be fighting to keep funding in the $400 millions in the current budget debates.

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