Archive for October, 2011

A Different Perspective: Access-to-Justice Issues in Canada

by Kristen Pavón

So, you may know that PSLawNet lists articling opportunities for Canadian law students. Articling is akin to an apprenticeship for law graduates, and it’s a prerequisite for practicing law in Canada.

In Ontario, an articling task force was created in response to a shortage of articling positions, especially those more oriented to social justice.

. . . 12.1 per cent of those [law graduates] seeking articles in the 2010-11 licensing year went unplaced, a big jump from a rate of 5.8 per cent three years ago.

The access-to-justice issue in Canada is twofold: First, sole practitioners, small firms and legal clinics do most of the legal work for low- and middle-income people and they do not have the resources to provide articling opportunities. Second, most articling opportunities are with medium and large firms that do not address social justice issues.

The task force’s final report should be out in June 2012. Read more here.

How would having an apprenticeship system in the U.S. affect our access-to-justice gap? Let me know your thoughts!

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Job o’ the Day: Disability Justice Attorney Position with NY Lawyers for the Public Interest!

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) is seeking applications for a staff attorney position in its Disability Justice (DJ) Program. NYLPI is a not-for-profit civil rights law firm that focuses on issues of racial equality and disability rights. NYLPI pioneered the practice of community lawyering in the five boroughs of New York City.

NYLPI breaks important new ground by drawing on a range of strengths: community trust; proficient organizing; media savvy; established lobbying channels, effective individual representation; and bold, creative approaches to litigation. The work of the DJ Program is founded on principles of equality of opportunity, self-determination, and independence for people with disabilities.

In partnership with individuals and community organizations, NYLPI uses organizing, legislative advocacy and litigation to assert the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities to equal access to a range of programs and services, including education, health care, housing, and police protection.

The DJ staff attorney position will include both systemic advocacy and individual representation, and will focus on the areas of housing, social security benefits, and vocational rehabilitation, among others.

If you’re interested, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Job o’ the Day: TWO Paid Summer Law Clerk Positions with the Environmental Law Institute in DC

I’ve got another twofer for ya! Happy Friday!

In partnership with Pfizer Inc, Beveridge & Diamond PC, and the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources, the Environmental Law Institute is looking for law school applicants for two Diversity Program Law Clerk positions for the summer of 2012.

The program’s goal is to encourage additional participation by minority students and students from disadvantaged households in environmental law, policy, and management.

Law clerks work on projects involving both domestic and international environmental law. Subject areas include, among others, wetlands and watershed policy, sustainable land use, biodiversity, environmental enforcement, long-term management of hazardous waste sites, public participation, and international environmental policy.

Law clerks conduct legal and policy research, conduct interviews, attend and report on events, and prepare written materials and scholarly work for publication. Part of a law clerk’s experience includes opportunities to attend ELI seminars on emerging issues in environmental law.

Law clerks may also assist with the editing and production of ELI’s publications, the Environmental Law Reporter (ELR), the National Wetlands Newsletter (NWN), and The Environmental Forum (TEF), as well as various books. Law clerks support editors of these periodicals by conducting research, bluebooking, monitoring and writing summaries of current events, and engaging in various tasks and special projects on an as-needed basis.

If environmental law is your thing, find out more at PSLawNet!

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The Legal Profession’s Regulation Debate: What Does it Do for the Access to Justice Gap?

by Kristen Pavón

So, there’s a debate brewing about whether the legal profession should be as heavily regulated as it is. In case you haven’t read the NY Times op-ed and the Atlantic piece, I’ll get you up to speed.

The crux of the argument in the New York Times op-ed is that

the barriers to entry [to law practice] exist simply to protect lawyers from competition with non-lawyers and firms that are not lawyer-owned — competition that could reduce legal costs and give the public greater access to legal assistance.

In the Atlantic’s piece, Jordan Weissmann disagrees with most of Clifford Winston’s arguments for deregulating the legal profession — except that he agrees that non-JDs should be able to own law firms for the sake of technological advances. He argues that

[l]etting more people become lawyers won’t drive down costs in high-flying corporate law. And although it could help control legal fees for the rest of us, we could wind up allowing under-educated people to represent important cases for families who can’t afford the high-flying treatment.

I haven’t formulated a complete opinion on this issue, but I have some questions — how would deregulation affect the access to justice gap? Would there really be a positive change, like Winston envisions, for effectively representing clients who would otherwise a) go pro se to settle their legal issues or b) not do anything to settle their legal issues? How low would legal costs go? Low enough for the poor? Would the public interest law arena remain unchanged?


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Not Sure if You’re Interested in a Public Interest Legal Career?

by Kristen Pavón

Not sure if a public interest legal career is for you? Not even sure what a public service legal career is? Check out PSLawNet‘s NonProfit PI Careers page.

You’ll find a quick overview of the types of jobs you can have in the public interest legal world and the kind of legal issues you may tackle as a public interest attorney.

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Public Interest News Bulletin – October 28, 2011

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  I offer abject apologies to regular readers (all four of you) for my skipping last week’s installment of the News Bulletin.  But it was nice to see so many folks at the NALP and Equal Justice Works events.  Today the Bulletin returns with a double issue.  There is much to catch up on, including:

  • ABA’s Celebrate Pro Bono Week and related events;
  • budget cuts take a toll on the nation’s DA’s, defenders, and court systems;
  • an American Bar Foundation report looks state by state at access-to-justice frameworks;
  • proposed DOJ antitrust field office closures cause a stir;
  • a recap: the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair;
  • bad legal services funding news from the Treasure State;
  • legal services volunteer programs for retiring Baby Boomer lawyers;
  • ACLU of Montana takes to task the state’s indigent defense program;
  • Michigan’s indigent defense program is under the microscope, too;
  • the NLG lawyers looking out for the Occupy Wall Street…occupiers;
  • ACLU of Pennsylvania takes to task Allegheny County’s (Pittsburgh) indigent defense program;
  • a pro-se assistance center in Maryland goes statewide with a hotline;
  • a novel, international-sustainable-development clinical program at Penn St.-Dickinson Law;
  • progress in launching a new legal services program in Wyoming;
  • the Shriver Center absorbs the Center for Legal Aid Education (CLEA). 

This week(s):

  • 10.28.11 – the ABA’s Celebrate Pro Bono Week is coming to a close tomorrow.  We at PSLawNet were deluged with news stories about lawyers and law students throughout the country participating in clinics and other client outreach efforts.  Kudos to the thousands who’ve gotten involved.  We couldn’t begin to recap all the news we read, but here’s a link to the official Celebrate Pro Bono site.  Also, I was fortunate to participate in the ABA’s Pro Bono Summit, which convened here in DC on Monday and Tuesday.  119 very smart people exchanged thoughtful ideas (I was attendee number 120, and I held up my end with un-thoughtful ideas) about where pro bono fits into the larger access-to-justice scheme during hard economic times. I’m looking forward to seeing what the ABA produces as a result of the work done at the Summit.  Here are remarks delivered at the Summit by Attorney General Eric Holder, and here’s NLJ coverage of ABA President Bill Robinson’s Summit remarks.
  • 10.26.11 – a well-reported AP piece looks at the toll taken by cuts to prosecutor, public defender, and court-system budgets throughout the country.  “Prosecutors are forced to ignore misdemeanor violations to pursue more serious crimes. Judges are delaying trials to cope with layoffs and strained staffing levels. And in some cases, those charged with violent crimes, even murder, are set free because caseloads are too heavy to ensure they receive a speedy trial.  Deep budget cuts to courts, public defenders, district attorney’s and attorney general offices are testing the criminal justice system across the country. In the most extreme cases, public defenders are questioning whether their clients are getting a fair shake.”  The piece looks specifically at goings-on in AL, CA, IA, NY, and elsewhere.  (The postal abbreviations may pose a challenge for our Millenial Generation readers who have never mailed a letter.  JKLOL!!)
  • 10.25.11 – I just got word of an American Bar Foundation report, Access Across America, which reviews the access-to-justice infrastructure in each state and Puerto Rico.  Here’s a link to a summary on ABF’s website, here’s a link to the report, and here’s some language from the report’s executive summary: “Access Across America is the first-ever state-by-state portrait of the services available to assist the U.S. public in accessing civil justice. The report documents, for the nation as a whole and individually for the 50 states and the District of Columbia:
    • Who is eligible for free civil legal information, advice or representation (civil legal assistance services);
    • How civil legal assistance services are produced and delivered;
    • How eligible people may connect with services;
    • How civil legal assistance is funded;
    • How civil legal assistance is coordinated
    • How both no-fee and fee-generating limited-scope civil legal services are regulated.”


  • 10.24.11 – the Blog of the Legal Times covered last week’s Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair: “Resumes in hand, more than 1,300 law students from across the United States attended this year’s Equal Justice Works annual conference, and more than 1,100 met with employers at the conference’s career fair. [It] brought in 117 employers from 27 states to meet with students on Friday and Saturday. Law students waiting on line for a chance to speak with employers all said they held no illusions about their job prospects right now. Although some students were lucky enough to get formal interviews, many more were taking their chances at the informal ‘Table Talk’ sessions, where students waited on line to get a few minutes alone with employers.”  I feel for public interest law students these days.  It’s perhaps trite advice, but persistence and fortitude in carrying forward with the job search are essential.  (This is true even in better economic times, because there are always more grads interested in public interest than there are job openings.)  Keep using PSLawNet, including the cover letter, resume, and interview tips on our Job Search Fundamentals page.  And email us at if you’d have ideas about how we can help more. 
  • 10.24.11 – rotten legal services funding news from the Treasure State.  The Missoulian reports: “Poor people seeking divorces in Missoula County will no longer be able to get free legal advice. Likewise for low-income renters who get crosswise with their landlords. The Montana Legal Services Association has laid off attorneys, paralegals and support staff statewide as part of an anticipated $500,000 budget cut in 2012. That’s 15 percent of its total budget.   ‘We are cutting into bone at this point,’ said Alison Paul, executive director of the agency that provides legal assistance in civil cases to low-income people.” 
  • 10.24.11 – The civil legal services community cannot keep up with swelling demand for services.  Meanwhile, the Baby Boomer exodus from law practice has begun, as the oldest Boomers are at retirement age.  This being the case, what about providing public interest volunteer opportunities to  those lawyers who wish to leave fee-generating practice but also want to remain in practice?  The National Law Journal looks at D.C.’s Senior Attorneys Initiative for Legal Services (SAILS), a program which matches attorneys in or near retirement with pro bono cases (password-protected). SAILS isn’t the only program harnessing the experience and expertise of the profession’s elder statespeople.  In New York State, the Attorney Emeritus Program does something similar.  On the national level, the Pro Bono Institute’s Second Acts project facilitates the movement of retiring attorneys into volunteer work.
  • 10.21.11 – Michigan’s embattled public defense system is going under the microscope.  From Interlochen Public Radio (great name!): “A state commission began work this week to ensure that everyone who is accused of a crime in Michigan gets an adequate legal defense. Michigan allows every county to handle its own public defender system. The system is frequently cited as one of the worst in the country. That’s because some counties do a good job of ensuring even people who cannot pay get a good lawyer. Other counties are more haphazard. There are also no training standards for public defenders.”  Here’s additional coverage from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
  • 10.18.11 –  the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on criticism of the local public defense program: “Poor management and lack of training for new lawyers in the Allegheny County [where Pittsburgh sits] public defender’s office are violating the constitutional rights of those accused of crimes and costing the county millions of dollars in extra jail costs, an ACLU report has concluded…. The ACLU report, entitled ‘A Job Left Undone,’ relies heavily on the research done in a 2008 study for the county by a team led by investigator Alan Kalmanoff of the California-based Institute for Law and Policy Planning, a nonprofit policy and research organization.”  Here’s a link to “A Job Left Undone.”
  • 10.17.11 – The Baltimore Sun reports that a pro-se assistance center in one Maryland county has opened a phone line that will allow its lawyers to connect with Marylanders statewide: “The center has helped more than 10,000 people since it opened. However, a lack of space and tight budgets made adding walk-in centers in other District Courts out of the question.  But those in need of advice can now chat online with the center’s four lawyers. Users can remain anonymous and there are no income restrictions….In its first month of hosting live chats, 850 people have used the service. In comparison, the self-help center assisted a record 626 people in August. Officials said chats have been initiated by people in every county except Kent and Somerset.”
  • 10.17.11 – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on a new Penn State Dickinson School of Law sustainable development operating in cahoots with engineering and business students:  “Designed as an interdisciplinary collaboration between Penn State’s law school, its College of Engineering and Smeal College of Business, the clinic promises experiential learning through work with real humanitarian projects as part of a team for law students seeking international experience, said Jeff Erickson, professor at Penn State and the clinic’s director…. Mr. Erickson said that, to his knowledge, no other schools are using interdisciplinary project teams to launch international humanitarian efforts in the same manner. What makes the Penn State clinic the first of its kind is the clinic’s humanitarian mission — that its projects are internationally and not locally focused — and that students will design and develop projects themselves.” 
  • 10.16.11 – an Asbury Park Press editorial bemoans sharp state funding cuts to legal services in New Jersey: “Under [Governor Chris] Christie, state funding for Legal Aid has dropped from $29.6 million in 2010 to $19.9 million in 2011 to $14.9 million in 2012. That is unconscionable. Decency and fairness demand a restoration of most of those funds and the institution of a formalized program in which lawyers volunteer hours of service to Legal Aid or make a donation….  By next June, there will be only half as many staff attorneys as there were in 2008 to give free help to qualifying low-income New Jerseyans with civil cases.”
  • 10.15.11 – K2 Radio reports on the development of Wyoming’s new legal services program: “Officials say the new Wyoming Center For Legal Aid should be up and running in a year or two.  The program was established a year ago after the Wyoming legislature passed the Indigent Civil Legal Services Act during the 2010 budget session.   The center’s goal is to provide legal services for Wyoming residents who fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The center was officially established in April, and the Wyoming Center For Legal Aid Board of Commissioners recently hired a new law school graduate as its first employee.” 
  • 10.14.11 – from the Chicago Tribune, news of a merger in the legal services community: “Legal-aid charities have felt the impact of the economic downturn with declining funding and increasing demand. After revenues fell by 50 percent, the Boston-based Center for Legal Aid Education began considering a merger as a way to cut costs, reduce duplication of services and expand its reach. Its search has culminated in an acquisition by the larger Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, based in Chicago…. One of the gaps in [the Shriver Center’s] offerings was providing training to public-interest lawyers who want to work on complex litigation… The Center for Legal Education has been providing legal training in the New England region for years. When the economy crashed in 2009, the center lost about half of its revenues because many clients that provide legal services lost some of their funding.”  So this makes sense on both ends.  And the piece raises the question of whether more legal services mergers may/should follow.

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Free Webinars from Immigrant Legal Resource Center

by Kristen Pavón

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center is offering two free webinars on November 9 and 15. Topics include marriage-based immigration, LGBT couples and best practices for working with and representing LGBT immigrants.

Check ’em out here.

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Job o’ the Day: 2012 Workers’ Rights Fellowship with AFL-CIO in DC

The Legal Department of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (“AFL-CIO”) is offering a one-year fellowship beginning in September 2012. The fellowship offers an excellent opportunity for recent law school graduates to work with experienced union-side lawyers on a wide variety of issues.

The AFL-CIO is a voluntary federation of 55 national and international unions which represent 12.2 million working women and men in the United States. The AFL-CIO works on a variety of fronts to improve the lives of working families, to secure social and economic justice in the United States, and to protect the interests of working people in the global economy.

The Legal Department works on a wide range of litigation, policy, regulatory and legislative matters, and assists with organizing campaigns, corporate governance issues, and other AFL-CIO initiatives. The Legal Department also administers the Lawyers Coordinating Committee, a national organization of union-side attorneys, which issues various publications and holds educational conferences on a regular basis.

The AFL-CIO Fellow will work with lawyers in the AFL-CIO Legal Department and with other union lawyers around the country on a wide range of activities. The Fellow will assist experienced lawyers working on cases and regulatory matters that affect the labor movement and the rights of workers.

The AFL-CIO’s litigation caseload includes cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, the NLRB and a small number of state appellate suits. In addition, the AFL-CIO Legal Department frequently presents the views of the labor movement on federal regulatory initiatives affecting workers. The AFL-CIO Fellow will also participate in Lawyers Coordinating Committee activities, including preparation for attorney conferences, outreach to new labor lawyers and law students, and regular opportunities to attend LCC meetings and conferences.

If you’re interested, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Coverage of Last Week’s Equal Justice Works Career Fair (and Some Advice for the Public Interest Job Seeker)

By: Steve Grumm

The Blog of the Legal Times was on hand at last week’s event:

“Resumes in hand, more than 1,300 law students from across the United States attended this year’s Equal Justice Works annual conference, and more than 1,100 met with employers at the conference’s career fair. [It] brought in 117 employers from 27 states to meet with students on Friday and Saturday. Law students waiting on line for a chance to speak with employers all said they held no illusions about their job prospects right now. Although some students were lucky enough to get formal interviews, many more were taking their chances at the informal “Table Talk” sessions, where students waited on line to get a few minutes alone with employers.”

Let’s not mince words: the public interest job market is tight, and times are tough for law students.  It’s perhaps trite to offer this advice, but persistence and fortitude in carrying on the job search are essential.  (This is true even in better economic times, because there are always more grads interested in public interest than there are job openings.)  Keep using PSLawNet, including the cover letter, resume, and interview tips on our Job Search Fundamentals page.  And while I know this piece of advice can seem trite, there is simply no better job search tool than professional networking.  Every good job I’ve gotten has come, to some degree or other, as a result of deliberate efforts I made to get to know public interest lawyers/law students/etc.  Here’s guidance on networking from Harvard’s Office of Public Interest Advising.  Finally, email us at if you have ideas about how we can help more.

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Job o’ the Day: Assistant Dean for Cardozo Law’s Office of Career Services!

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, founded in 1976, is firmly established as an international and national leader in legal education. Within the school, the Office of Career Services (OCS) is dedicated to helping law students and alumni develop their individual interests, explore the range of career options and access opportunities that will further their professional goals.  

The OCS is currently seeking an Assistant Dean. The Assistant Dean will be responsible for long term strategic planning, monitoring and anticipating employment trends, assessing needs of students and alumni, setting goals for OCS, and devising innovative programming to maximize success of students and alumni.

The Assistant Dean will conduct outreach to potential employers, engage professional organizations, and work with alumni groups. Furthermore, the Assistant Dean will work closely with JD and LLM students along with other departments and student groups to purport job search strategies and career development.

Not sure what your days may look like as Assistant Dean of Cardozo Law’s career services office? Check out A Day in the Life of a Law School Career Counselor!

Interested? See the listing at PSLawnet!

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