Archive for January, 2012

Be Bold…In Your Job Search & For Your Professional Development

by Kristen Pavón

One of my favorite inspirational quotes is “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid” — although, I’m pretty sure that that’s a paraphrased version of the actual quote…

Regardless (or irregardless if you’re from Miami — have you seen this youtube video?! I won’t link to it here because, well, it’s not appropriate — but google it, it’s hi-larious!), it’s a quote that, in this economic climate, should really be put to use.

In an article on National Law Journal by Ari Kaplan, author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace, explains that he was given the advice to “be bold” by Richard Susskind when he asked how he could expand his career opportunities in 2012. Here’s a snippet of what Kaplan wrote:

I have spent much of the past two months considering the meaning of boldness, both personally and professionally. The idea intimidates me, but also reminds me of trying to meet Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1996 while working in the Office of Foreign Missions during my second summer of law school.

I simply walked into his office suite and asked his assistant whether he was free. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’m Ari Kaplan, is the secretary available?”

Confused pause.

“Who are you?”

Signature smile [a cross between Seinfeld’s Kramer and Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura].

“Yes, I’m Ari Kaplan, I work here.” [Badge connected to the traditional Washington silver ball chain hanging from my neck swings proudly.]

“Who?” [a common repeat question in the sitcom that is my life].

Less confidently, “Ari Kaplan.”

She stands with authority.

“Excuse me.”

She walks away.

I can’t believe this is going to work. What a great story. Why are these people watching me?

She returns. “I’m sorry the secretary is busy.”

Undeterred. “I just want to introduce myself; I work here.”

Unpersuaded. “I’m sorry.”

Dejected. I walk away.

The nearby guard enjoying the dialogue asks: “Where are you from?”

“Brooklyn,” I respond.

He laughs. “You’ve got chutzpah, kid.”

Sure, trying to get in an impromptu meeting with Secretary Warren Christopher didn’t work out for Kaplan, but so what? His story resonated with me because nothing bad happened to him after trying his luck. A piano didn’t drop from the ceiling onto his head because he took a bold step that didn’t work out the way he hoped it would.

So, I guess I’m saying — take a leap. Make bold moves for the sake of your career because you never know what will come of it.

Yesterday, my colleague and I went to a discussion on legal pipeline programs. One of the speakers, Veta Richardson, shared a story with us about how a risky choice paid off early in her career.

During her second year of law school, she came across a paid internship with Sunoco. By the time she applied, the 5 spots were already filled. Regardless, Richardson wrote a letter to Sunoco’s general counsel and told him that she would work in the legal department for the summer for free if he would just give her a shot. Well, he did. And at the end of the summer, she was one of the two interns who were offered permanent positions.

Thoughts? How have you been bold lately?

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Job o’ the Day: Staff Counsel at the National Abortion Federation in DC!

The National Abortion Federation (NAF), the leading pro-choice organization representing abortion providers and their patients, has an immediate full-time opening for the position of Staff Counsel.

NAF is a 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to ensuring that abortion is safe, legal, and accessible. Our members include 400 clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices in the United States, Canada and Mexico City. Our dynamic and innovative programs span a wide range of services designed to meet the unique needs of abortion providers and the patients they serve. NAF’s programs include: accredited continuing medical education; quality assurance and improvement; clinic security and law enforcement education; clinical, legal, and consumer publications; public education; public policy advocacy; group purchasing and a national toll-free hotline.

To learn more, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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New Housing Regulation to Protect LGBT People From Discrimination

by Kristen Pavón

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s new rule, Equal Access to Housing in HUD Program — Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, aims to “ensur[e] that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulation goes into effect 30 days after final publishing.

On its most basic level, the rule requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing and FHA-insured mortgage lenders to make housing/mortgages available without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant.

One interesting aspect of the new rule is that it not only protects against FHA-insured lenders making lending decisions based on actual sexual orientation and gender identity, but also on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Meaning, a person does not have to be LGBT for protection under this rule — the lender only has to believe the person to be LGBT and determine eligibility or alter existing terms for mortgages.

You can read HUD’s press release and the final rule here. Thoughts?

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Job o’ the Day: Street Law Summer Law Student in Residence in Silver Spring, MD!

Street Law, Inc. is an international leader in programs that teach non-lawyers about law, democracy and human rights.  Founded in 1972 at Georgetown University Law Center, Street Law has helped more than 100 law schools (70 in the U.S. and 30 more around the world) develop and implement programs in which law students teach practical law in schools, communities and correctional settings.  Street Law has also worked with democratizing countries throughout the world.  Information about the organization’s programs and materials are available online at

There are several components to the Summer Law Student in Residence Program for 2012.

US Supreme Court Summer Institute

Street Law, in cooperation with the Supreme Court Historical Society, conducts two six day institutes in late June about the Court and its cases for high school government, civics and law teachers.  Sessions are held at Georgetown Law Center and at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Our law student assists in the development of the materials for the institute, participates in all sessions, helps teach one session, and assists with the institute follow-up.  A justice participates in the program, which also includes attendance in Court for the announcement of the final cases of the term. (

Legal Updates to Street Law Web Sites

Street Law has produced a high school curriculum (Street Law: A Course in Practical Law) which is the most popular practical law book used in high schools today. We will be providing a legal update to the web materials that complement the 8th edition of the text (2010 edition).

In addition, Street Law has developed a popular web site for high school teachers and students who want to learn about Supreme Court decisions mandated in state history and social studies standards.  Our summer law student in residence will assist in expanding and updating this web resource,

Our law student will assist with research, writing and editing tasks.

Summer law students are supervised by Lee Arbetman, lead author of the Street Law materials, director of the Supreme Court Summer Institute, and executive director of the Street Law organization.

To learn how to apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!


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The Many Pathways to Civil Rights Careers…

By: Steve Grumm

Most folks think of “public interest law” as an arena filled by nonprofit and government organizations.  But many law firms (typically smaller ones) also have robust public interest practices even though they work on a for-profit basis.  Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the practice of a civil rights firm, and perhaps nowhere are civil right firms more prevalent than in Washington, DC.

A brief piece in yesterday’s Post looked at the popularity of civil rights careers in for-profit firms, government, and in the nonprofit arena.

The Washington region is a magnet for civil rights lawyers in the public and private sectors. Civil rights careers are sprinkled throughout the Beltway, and according to a count on LinkedIn, some 211 people have civil rights in their job titles in the region. The Justice Department employs 393 civil rights attorneys and 48 paralegals, a spokesman said.

“I think there are jobs for people who want them, in D.C. especially,” said [Jennifer Klar, a former Biglaw attorney who now works with a boutique civil rights firm], noting that most government agencies have civil rights offices and many lawyers and others work in civil rights areas for the Justice Department.

Many 20- and 30-somethings seem “really interested in these types of positions,” said Lisa Mottet, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s transgender civil rights project director. Over 10 years, she has worked with 40 legal interns; about seven of them continue to work in the LGBT civil rights movement, she said.

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Want a Shot at Boosting Your State’s Economy? Invest in Civil Legal Aid.

According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, legal aid boosted the state’s economy by $53 million in 2011 through federal benefits won and state costs saved.

Those numbers sparked legislators’ interest in Massachusetts and have led to a recent proposal to increase MA’s Legal Assistance Corporation’s funding. Here’s more from The Boston Globe:

Civil legal aid has always been underfunded. But over the past three years, the work of these attorneys has hung by a slender thread. State appropriations have shrunk, and private donations have dwindled. The result? Legal aid programs have lost a third of their staff in the last three years. For every five people who come to legal aid attorneys for help navigating the court system, three are turned away, says Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for legal civil aid in the state.

“They’re on their own,’’ Powers says. “They lump it or go to court by themselves.’’

Lumping it costs not just those who find themselves alone in the maze of our legal system, but all of us. The asthma sufferer whose medication is no longer covered by Medicare ends up in the far more expensive emergency room. A family unfairly evicted ends up in pricier temporary housing. A worker unjustly denied jobless benefits lands on welfare. A study by Powers’s outfit estimates that legal aid boosted the state’s economy by $53 million last year through federal benefits won and state costs saved.

Read the rest here.

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Job o’ the Day: Career Services Counselor for Outreach at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville!

Florida Coastal School of Law (FCSL) is seeking candidates for the position of Career Services Counselor for Outreach. Coastal Law offers a dynamic, professional, and collegial work environment for employees in addition to state of the art facilities, cutting edge technology, and a competitive and comprehensive compensation and benefits package.

The primary role of the Career Services Counselor for Outreach is to provide instruction, orientation, and high level career counseling to the law school’s students and alumni in the areas of resume and cover letter preparation, interviewing skills, and career planning in addition to overseeing the law school’s participation in external job fairs that pertain to his/her assigned area of outreach. This position reports to the Director of Career Services.

Find out more at PSLawNet!

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Public Interest News Bulletin – January 27, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  I often begin bulletins with my attempts at humor because the content that follows can be disheartening to public interest advocates and other access-to-justice stakeholders (to say nothing of those who visit our blog while on the public-interest job hunt).  The lightheartedness is meant as a sort of preemptive counterbalance.  However, it’s tough to lead with humor today because the bulletin’s first (and biggest) story is of survey results about staff losses in civil legal aid.  So we’ll dispense with a whimsical anecdote – which, today, would have centered on my recent introduction to yoga and why yoga is an enhanced interrogation technique – and get right into the news.  (For those law students among the readership, I close this week’s bulletin with some thoughts about keeping your chins up and navigating a poor employment market.)      

This week:

  • LSC-funded programs forecast continuing layoffs in 2012;
  • making the business case for legal services can get the state legislature’s attention;
  • IOLTA shortfall’s impact in the Evergreen State;
  • Legal Aid of Arkansas’s fiscal woes;
  • the New Orleans public defender’s office is running on financial fumes;
  • Vivit lingua Latina.  Lexis Nexis and Lex Mundi forge a pro bono partnership;
  • the Hispanic National Bar Association launches a pro bono program serving vets;
  • harnessing technology to enhance pro bono in Virginia.

Here are the summaries:

  • 1.26.12 – the Legal Services Corporation has released results of a grantee organization survey focused on anticipated staff layoffs in 2012.  The news is perhaps not surprising; yet it is quite disheartening.  From LSC: “According to the survey, LSC-funded programs anticipate laying off 393 employees, including 163 attorneys, in 2012.  The reductions continue a staffing downturn that began about a year ago. In December 2010, LSC-funded programs employed 4,351 attorneys, 1,614 paralegals and 3,094 support staff. During 2011, LSC programs reduced their staffing by 833 positions through layoffs and attrition. They now anticipate a new round of layoffs this year, bringing the staffing loss to 1,226 full-time personnel.”
  • 1.26.12 – something a bit more uplifting: when legal services programs make the case about the economic efficiencies of supporting their work, legislatures do listen.  From a Boston Globe op-ed: “A study by [the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation] estimates that legal aid boosted the state’s economy by $53 million last year through federal benefits won and state costs saved.  Those numbers have made an impression on Beacon Hill. Legislators recently proposed upping the Legal Assistance Corporation’s $9.5 million appropriation to $10.5 million. Governor Deval Patrick’s budget plan released yesterday bumps their funding for next year to $12 million. Powers and Jourdan, among others, will be on Beacon Hill today trying to persuade legislators in the House and Senate to go at least that far.”
  • 1.24.12 – funding cuts are causing layoffs at Legal Aid of Arkansas.  From the 4029 TV news: “Blaming cutbacks in state and federal funding, an organization that helps poor people with legal services says it will lay off eight workers and close its office in Mountain View.  Lee Richardson, the director of Legal Aid of Arkansas, tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the group won’t be able to take on as many clients as a result. The organization serves 31 counties in northern Arkansas. It’s among the groups nationwide losing money because of a $56 million cut in federal funding to Legal Services Corp.  Legal Aid of Arkansas says it will lose about $345,000 in federal funding this year. The group says it’s also lost state funding because of a shortfall in the Arkansas’ Administration of Justice Fund, which receives money from filing fees and court costs.”
  • 1.24.12 – bad funding news flows down the Mississippi River.  From New Orleans news site Gambit: “The Orleans Parish Public Defender’s office was down to $36,000 in the bank and may be unable to make its payroll this month, according to chief parish public defender Derwyn Bunton and Louisiana Public Defender Board Chairman Frank Neuner, who reported the budget problems at a Jan. 18 meeting of City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee. According to Bunton, the immediate financial problem results from an alleged failure by the New Orleans Traffic Court to hand over monthly indigent defendant fees, which were due Jan. 10.  Even if that’s resolved, the office still faces a $1 million shortfall for the year and may have to lay off as many as 14 staff members, Bunton said. The office already has instituted a hiring freeze and suspended payments to contractors in an attempt to save money.”
  • 1.23.12 – I was honored as the Latin Scholar of the Cardinal Dougherty High School Class of 1994.  And I ain’t rusty.  Here is a press release wherein I have identified at least four and perhaps more Latin words: “The Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation and LexisNexis are pleased to announce a joint collaboration to strengthen the rule of law throughout the world. Working together, these two organizations are combining their skills and resources to support and empower social entrepreneurs who are working around the world to improve the lives and communities of the poor and disenfranchised and to mobilize leaders of the global legal profession.”
  • 1.23.12 – keeping with a trend, a new pro bono program serving vets (from a press release): “The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) is proud to announce the new HNBA Veterans Legal Initiative Program (“Veterans Initiative”), a new effort to provide free legal services to the men and women of the American armed services and their families.”
  • 1.13.12 – in Virginia, Capital One, a handful of prominent law firms, and other pro bono stakeholders are unveiling JusticeServer, online pro bono software that is intended to increase efficiencies in pro bono delivery.  Here are the details.

More bad news than good news in this week’s bulletin.  I started producing the bulletin several months ago as a way to help public interest stakeholders, law school career professionals, and law students track developments related to funding, economic health, and the job market in the public interest arena.  I believe that it’s always better to have information, even if the information conveys bad news.  But I’m mindful that law students reading the bulletin may feel exasperated by so much bad news, particularly regarding the employment market.

It’s simply a tough time to be looking for public interest work.  But it’s important to remember two things:

  • Accept what you cannot control.  Control what you can control.  Life happens and we have to react accordingly.  We are much more subject to the course of events around us than we are masters of it.  This is certainly true of the job market.  Job seekers are stuck, at present, with poor economic conditions.  You cannot control those.  What you can control is the strength of your candidacy for public interest jobs.  Because the market is so tight, now more than ever it’s necessary to makes yourselves the best job applicants possible.  Work with career services staff.  Use PSLawNet and other resources to polish your cover letters and resumes.  Do mock interviews.  Network, network, network.  I know, it may seem to some of you like trite advice.  But the strength of your candidacy for jobs is one variable you can control.  It’s a hugely important variable.  Control it.
  • There Are Jobs Out There.  “If it bleeds, it leads” is the saying used to convey the fact that bad news is what makes news.  Media will cover the laying off of 15 public defenders much faster than they will cover the hiring of 15 public defenders.  Just because most of the news you read focuses on the tightness of the job market, that doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs.  In the last week we posted 120 jobs on PSLawNet.  There are over 1100 job listings on the site right now.  Layoff news notwithstanding, there are jobs.  Again, the key is to make yourself the best job candidate possible.       

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Job o’ the Day: Deputy General Counsel at the NAACP in B-More!

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

The NAACP is looking for a Deputy General Counsel to support the work and activities of the Legal Department and the General Counsel by providing legal advice and general assistance on all activities of the NAACP; to ensure maximum protection of the organization’s legal rights; and to maintain its operations within the limits prescribed by law.

Under the direct supervision of the General Counsel, the Deputy General Counsel’s principal functions are as follows (list is not exhaustive):

  • Provides legal counsel to the General Counsel, department heads, and regional offices on legal implications of proposed programs and activities.
  • Provides legal counsel to NAACP units on those matters which have legal implications on a national basis or on national-branch relationships.
  • Keeps abreast of government legislation, which has a potential legal impact on the NAACP particularly as it relates to tax exemption. Advises National and NAACP units, board, and staff of pertinent regulations and develops appropriate guidelines related thereto as directed by the General Counsel.
  • Serves as a channel of communication with outside counsel and coordinates such efforts.
  • Monitors the legal activities of civil and human rights groups to identify those in which the NAACP may wish to participate and to determine legal forms of participation.

For more information about the Deputy Counsel’s functions, qualifications, and how to apply, check out the listing at PSLawNet!

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Highlights from our Public Interest Summer Job Search Webinar

by Kristen Pavón

Part one of NALP & EJW’s Public Interest Summer Job Search Webinar Series went great yesterday. Part one focused on resumes and cover letters.

The whole enchilada will be available on NALP’s website soon, but I wanted to share some of the wealth right away!

  1. Don’t leave out information on your resume that shows a mastery of complex tasks, even if it’s from undergrad. Mastering complex tasks is a critical competency for attorneys!
  2. One option for resume formatting is to divide your experience into legal and non-legal experience.
  3. Don’t leave out study abroad. It shows that you are willing to go outside of your comfort zone.
  4. Be careful about adding interests to your resume. Most employers like them. It gives them a conversation starter for interviews.
  5. You education section should come right after your contact information on your resume, unless you’ve been out of law school for a while.
  6. Public interest resumes can be two pages long. Think about quality before thinking about quantity. Put everything on your resume at first, then omit from there.
  7. Don’t include an objective portion on your resume. It’s a waste of space and unnecessary.
  8. Don’t get artsy with your resume… Even if you were a graphic designer in a past life.
  9. Unless an employer asks for Word documents, convert your resume and cover letter to PDF before sending them off.
  10. Make sure you have a headline with your name and contact information at the top of your cover letter!
  11. Don’t get cutesy in your cover letter. This means, don’t start with a quote or with something like, “I’ve waited all my life to work at so and so.”
  12. In the first paragraph of your cover letter, include any connection you may have to the employer. For example, if you’ve worked there before or if an attorney who currently works there referred you to apply — put it in there.

If you thought Part One was good, wait until Part Two. Part two focuses on best practices in interviewing and in-person networking.


    • Nita Mazumder, Program Manager for Law School Relations, Equal Justice Works
    • Nicole Simmons, Career Counselor, The University of Texas School of Law
    • David Zisser, Associate Counsel, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

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