Archive for January, 2012

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.       

Comments (1)

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!

Leave a Comment

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.

Presenters:

    • 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

Leave a Comment

Job o’ the Day: 2012 Summer Diversity Internship with the American Health Lawyers Association in DC!

Intern with the nation’s largest, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) educational organization devoted to legal issues in the healthcare field with more than 10,000 members. Currently 38 staff members are responsible for the operational activities of the organization.

The mission of the American Health Lawyers Association is to provide a collegial forum for interaction and information exchange to enable its members to serve their clients more effectively; to produce the highest quality nonpartisan educational programs, products, and services concerning health law issues; and to serve as a public resource on selected healthcare legal issues.

As the 2012 Diversity Intern, you can expect to assist the Vice President and Managing Editor of Professional Resources, as well as the Senior Manager of Public Interest by editing law journals and newsletters, interviewing industry leaders, and monitoring legal developments in health law.

Additionally, the position affords a student multiple opportunities for networking with health attorneys.

Interested? Learn more at PSLawNet!

Leave a Comment

Participate in NALP’s 2012 Public Interest Salary Survey

What is NALP’s Public Interest Salary Survey?

Every two years, NALP conducts the Public Interest Salary Survey to gather important data on attorney salaries, benefits packages, and loan repayment assistance programs.  Public interest law offices rely on this survey data to set salary scales, negotiate union contracts, implement loan repayment programs, and for other purposes.

Who should participate?

  • Civil Legal Services Organizations
  • Public Defenders’ Offices
  • District Attorney/Local Prosecutors’ Offices
  • All other nonprofit, public interest law offices (e.g. those organizations that promote civil liberties, human rights, advocate for the homeless, etc.)

How to participate

A survey instrument was mailed to public interest organizations throughout the country last week. You can also complete the survey online — an electronic version is available here: https://survey.vovici.com/se.ashx?s=17CFEB607A3193C6. However, only use one method to complete the survey.

A PDF is available for hard-copy printing here: http://tinyurl.com/89bjqqh.   All survey participants will receive a free electronic copy of the report when it is released later in the year. 

Deadline

The survey response deadline is February 24, 2012, but we encourage you to complete it as soon as possible.

Questions?

Please contact Steve Grumm, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives, with any questions: sgrumm@nalp.org or 202-296-0057.

Leave a Comment

Networking is a Must-Do… Even for Introverts!

by Kristen Pavón

Introversion has been on my mind lately. A student, whose grad school personal statement I’m helping with, recently told me that she is an introvert and that as an introvert, she had a tough time adjusting to college life. It took her a while to find her niche and ways to cope with her introversion.

I haven’t taken the Myers-Briggs test in years and I can’t remember if I’m an EFNP, INFP or what, but in any case, I can understand how networking can pose a challenge to introverts.

Well, today, I came across a blog post on Harvard Business Review by Lisa Petrilli titled An Introvert’s Guide to Networking. Could there have been better timing? I think not.

You can read her entire blog here or you can purchase her book, An Introvert’s Guide here.

Here are my takeaways about turning your introversion into a career advantage from Lisa’s post and another post from Forbes.

1. Use social media to reach out.

This pre-introduction leads to a more relaxed and productive in-person connection. By reaching out, you open the door to potentially rewarding business collaborations, and you do so on your own terms.

2. Prepare before attending networking events.

Check guest lists if you can, think about what you want to learn from the attendees, come up with some things about yourself that you want to share, and have a mental list of general questions to start conversations rolling.

3. Set goals, or use Melinda Emerson’s Rule of Five

When you have set goals, it can be easier to forget how uncomfortable you are. As my husband says, Focus on the mission at hand! A good plan for networking events is using the Rule of Five:

Your target should be to secure five quality contacts at any networking event. Aiming for any more and you’ll struggle to make a real connection. Don’t be the chicken with their head cut off doing drive-by networking. Spend the time to have a real conversation, even if the person really isn’t a good contact.

4. Focus on one-on-one conversations.

Generally speaking, business events — and particularly networking events that require engaging with groups — are demanding for introverts. An antidote to this, I learned, is to seek out conversations with one individual at a time. When I approach events this way I have more productive conversations and form better business relationships — and I’m less drained by the experience.

5. Allow for re-energizing.

As I’ve learned, having to engage with groups or even a few people can leave introverts quite drained. Lisa Petrilli suggests allowing yourself 30 minutes in between commitments to recharge.

Any other tips  you’d add?

Leave a Comment

Interesting Perspective: Experiment with New Comprehensive Solutions to Failed War on Drugs

by Kristen Pavón

Richard Branson, member of the Global Commission for Drug Policy (and founder and chairman of Virgin Group), wrote a piece for The Telegraph in the UK recounting the failure of the war on drugs over the last 50 years and urging countries to experiment with new policies that take a holistic approach rather than a arrest-and-punish approach.

IMHO — With prisons and jails bursting at the seams and budgets shrinking across the country, innovative new policies that can address the collateral consequences of the war on drugs are certainly welcome.

Here are the highlights:

Over the past 50 years, more than $1 trillion has been spent fighting this [the war on drugs]battle, and all we have to show for it is increased drug use, overflowing jails, billions of pounds and dollars of taxpayers’ money wasted, and thriving crime syndicates. It is time for a new approach. . . .

They [leaders worldwide] are failing to act because the reforms that are needed centre on decriminalising drug use and treating it as a health problem. They are scared to take a stand that might seem “soft”. . . .

We [the Global Commission on Drug Policy] studied international drug policy over the past 50 years, and found that it has totally failed to stop the growth and diversification of the drug trade. Between 1998 and 2008, opiate use increased by more than 34 per cent, even as prison populations swelled and profits for drug traffickers soared. . . .

First, prohibition and enforcement efforts have failed to dent the production and distribution of drugs in any part of the world. Second, the threat of arrest and punishment has had no significant deterrent effect on drug use. . . .

Drugs are dangerous and ruin lives. They need to be regulated. But we should work to reduce the crime, health and social problems associated with drug markets in whatever way is most effective. Broad criminalisation should end; new policy options should be explored and evaluated; drug users in need should get treatment; young people should be dissuaded from drug use via education; and violent criminals should be the target of law enforcement. We should stop ineffective initiatives like arresting and punishing citizens who have addiction problems. . . .

The next step is simple: countries should be encouraged to experiment with new policies. . . . New policies should be evaluated according to the scientific evidence. But we can say now that these policies should focus on the rights of citizens and on protecting public health. Drug policy should be a comprehensive issue for families, schools, civil society and health care providers, not just law enforcement.To evaluate such policies, we should stop measuring their success according to such indicators as numbers of arrests, prosecutions and drug seizures, which turn out to have little impact on levels of drug use or crime. We should instead measure the outcomes in the same way that a business would measure the results of a new ad campaign. That means studying things like the number of victims of drug-related violence and intimidation, levels of corruption connected to the drug market, the amount of crime connected to drug use, and the prevalence of dependence, drug-related mortality and HIV infection.

You can read the rest here. Thoughts?

Comments (1)

« Newer Posts · Older Posts »