Archive for February, 2012

A Word of Advice on Being Competitive for Public Interest Jobs

by Kristen Pavón

We all know participating in clinics, volunteering, and getting involved with legal aid organizations in your community are great ways to show commitment to public interest and even get a foot in the door.

However, at the ABA Midyear Meeting earlier this month, co-executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Mark Moreau suggested something I had never heard before.

Moreau advised that if you’re interested in public interest law, you should have a strong tax law background. Yes, tax law.

“At a time where over half of legal services clients are working poor, a strong understanding in tax or welfare law is important,” he explained, noting that inadequate understanding of welfare and tax law is a major deficiency among legal aid providers.”

You can read more here.

Did you take tax law in law school? Will you take tax law?

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DC Law Students: Free Event about Staying on Public Interest Career Path on 3/7

By: Steve Grumm

It’s not always easy to remain in public interest practice.  Debt is high.  Salaries are low.  Presently, many nonprofit and government law offices are fighting through funding woes.  Yet, public interest work can be tremendously fulfilling, challenging, and plain-old joyful.  Public interest lawyers live out their passions.  And junior public interest attorneys will find themselves working directly with clients and in courtrooms early in their careers – sometimes immediately.

At PSLawNet we spend much of our time aiding law students as they look for jobs – for points of access to those careers.  But it’s also quite helpful for students to know what their careers could look like a few years down the road.  What will be the challenges to remaining in public interest work? What opportunities does it present?

We encourage DC-area students to attend the Washington Council of Lawyers’s “Staying Public” event at 6pm on Wednesday, March 7.  Her are the particulars:

We hope you will join us for a presentation on how attorneys can stay in public interest work for the long haul, with discussions of financial considerations and options, avoiding burnout, and various career paths.

Featured Panelists:

  • Jennifer Berger, Legal Counsel for the Elderly
  • Jen Tschirch, Pro Bono Coordinator, Catholic University, Columbus School of Law
  • Imoni Washington, DC Bar Foundation 
  • ModeratorVytas V. Vergeer, Bread for the City

This free event is open to WCL Members, friends, colleagues, and the DC Public Interest Community. Law students welcome!

Location: Hogan & Lovells, 555 13 St., NW, Wash. DC 20004 (Metro Center)              

Date/Time: Tuesday, March 6, 6:00-7:30pm

Networking Happy Hour at Laughing Man Tavern to follow (right around the corner). 

Click Here to Register!

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Job o’ the Day: Policy Analyst/Attorney at Homebase in San Fran!

HomeBase, a non-profit public policy law firm focused on homelessness, is looking for a full-time Policy Analyst or Lawyer to join the team immediately.

HomeBase is seeking an experienced individual who will work closely with staff locally and nationally to offer technical assistance in supporting community-based and jurisdiction-led efforts to prevent and address homelessness. HomeBase support efforts to implement programs to prevent and address homelessness, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care programs and other targeted housing programs.

To learn more, see the listing at PSLawNet!

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Landing the Job: Top 5 Ways to Spend Your Spring Break

by Kristen Pavón

Spring break is right around the corner and while most students will be relaxing it up on the beach or lounging around in their PJs, you should take this time to intensify your job search. Sure, it’s not the ideal way to spend your week off, but your efforts will pay off.

1.  Meet with contacts!

Set up lunch or coffee meetings with former employers, professors and colleagues. You never know where your next job lead may be hiding. Also, always remember to ask your contact for 2-3 other people that can reach out to.

2. Shadow attorneys.

Spend the week shadowing a local attorney in a field you’re interested in. Of course, call ahead to see if shadowing is possible.

3.  Update your job search spreadsheet.

You’re using a spreadsheet, right? If not, see #3 here. Well, this is the perfect time to make sure it’s up-to-date.

4.  Hand deliver application materials.

If you’re applying to a local position, make the effort to hand deliver your materials. This way, you can make an impression on the receptionist and maybe even get an opportunity to meet with staff.

5.  Recharge.

Once you’ve gotten through 1 through 4, take a step back and breathe. Take some time for yourself — read a book for pleasure, take a day trip, go for a hike, whatever you’re into.

Are you planning on continuing your job search during Spring break? What will you be doing?

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Indiana’s “Right-To-Work” Law Set for Hearing Next Week

From the Chicago Tribune:

The federal judge who has been asked to block implementation of Indiana’s new “right-to-work” law said on Tuesday he will hold a formal hearing on the request early next week. . . .

Opponents of the “right-to-work” measure claim the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by requiring dues-paying members to furnish free representation to people who refuse to join the union or pay dues, among other things.

Indiana became the 23rd state to pass “right-to-work” legislation on February 1 – and the first in the nation’s manufacturing heartland to do so.

Republican supporters of the law, which bars union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay fees for representation, said it was needed to attract and keep businesses in the state.

Opponents say the measure is designed to hobble organized labor, a key financial supporter of the Democratic Party, and to lower the wages and benefits of Indiana workers.

Read more here. Thoughts?

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Job o’ the Day: Summer 2012 Internship at Human Rights First in NY!

Human Rights First welcomes law students to apply for a Summer 2012 internship in our Refugee Protection Program. HRF is looking for students who are currently enrolled in law school, have a strong interest in and commitment to human rights, are fluent in a relevant second language, and want to work on behalf of asylum-seekers.

Interns will be based in HRF’s New York office and will be expected to work at least 35 hours per week for a 10-12 week period.  This is an unpaid internship. Interns will be responsible for securing their own funding or arranging to receive course credit at their law schools.

The Refugee Protection Program works to provide indigent asylum seekers with quality legal representation in their asylum cases.  The program also advocates for legal reform and policy change on issues affecting asylum seekers in the United States.

Interested? Learn how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Good Work Alert: Helping Domestic Violence Victims by Protecting Fido

by Kristen Pavón

The University at Buffalo Law School Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic started a new project aimed at removing a common barrier to safety for domestic violence victims — not having a safe place for their pets.

Between 25 and 40 percent of battered women with pets feel they can’t escape abusive situation because they worry what will happen to their animals if they leave. Seventy-one percent of pet-owning women entering shelters reported that their batterer had harmed, killed, or threatened family pets.

Through the new Animal Shelter Options for Domestic Violence Victims project, UB Law faculty and students provide individuals with resources to secure the safety of their pets and work to raise awareness about the link between domestic violence and pet abuse.

The Clinic has also developed an online database with information on programs that can either house victims’ pets or have a direct referral system to agencies that will accept pets.

You can learn more about the Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic’s work here.

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“I Work for Uncle Sam, And I’m Proud of It”

By: Steve Grumm

We’ve covered the topic of how federal employees sometimes shoulder criticism as overly comfortable bureaucrats.

Here’s a Washington Post op-ed by a foreign service officer offering some

I WANT YOU: To stop criticizing my peoples.


I am a federal bureaucrat. A professional government employee. And guess what? I’m damn proud of it.

It seems that all I hear these days are the once and future leaders of our country tripping over themselves to denigrate the work we do. I’m tired of it, and I’m fed up. I don’t claim to represent anyone other than myself, but I would bet that a fair number of federal employees feel as I do. We are lawyers, doctors, PhD students, economists, writers, electricians, construction workers, security officers and technology specialists. We are not a drain on the national economy; rather, we are a primary reason why the United States remains as great as it is.

Like many federal workers, I have sacrificed: a high-paying job in the private sector; a year of my life (and the first six months of my daughter’s life) spent in Iraq; long hours; high stress; pay freezes. I’m not complaining; in fact, I quite enjoy my career and my life in the Foreign Service. Yet when I hear our politicians talking about “fixing” Washington, I often wonder to myself: whom would they like to “fix?” Is it the guy I see on the Metro every day, heading to work at the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that our food is safe? Is it the woman going into Commerce Department headquarters to support U.S. companies abroad? Or do they mean the thousands of people who support our troops overseas? How about my fellow Foreign Service officers, who put themselves in harm’s way in Baghdad, Kabul, Damascus and hundreds of other places around the world?


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Job o’ the Day: Paid Summer Internship at Mercy Corps in Portland!

Mercy Corps’ mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.

Mercy Corps is looking for a summer legal intern to provide full-time support from approximately May through August 2012 (hours and time period to be determined). Its legal department consists of a General Counsel, Associate General Counsel and a Legal Department Administrator.

The intern will have the opportunity to learn the legal processes involved with a nonprofit, international relief and development organization. The summer legal intern will have the opportunity to conduct a significant research project regarding a current legal issue facing Mercy Corps, assist in updating policies, grids and other pertinent data.

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

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SCOTUS Takes on Human Rights and the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and I gotta say, I’m excited to see how this one turns out.

The substantive issue is whether corporations are excluded from tort liability for violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or other crimes against humanity, or instead may be sued in the same manner as any other private actor under the Alien Tort Statute for such egregious violations (from petitioners’ brief).

From the LA Times:

. . .[I]n a major test of human rights law, the justices will decide whether corporations are like people when they are sued for aiding foreign regimes that kill or torture their own people.

It would “create a weird paradox” if the corporations are people when funding campaigns but not when they violate human rights, said Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. . . .

On Tuesday, the justices will hear an appeal of a suit accusing Royal Dutch Petroleum and its Shell subsidiary in the United States of aiding a former Nigerian regime whose military police tortured, raped and executed minority residents in the oil-rich delta. The victims included famed Nigerian author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. . . .

Corporate lawyers chafe at these claims. They say it makes no sense to allow foreigners to sue in U.S. courts for actions that took place on foreign soil and under the auspices of foreign governments. Critics also say U.S. officials would not take kindly to foreign suits against American corporations if, for example, they were held liable for killing innocent people in Pakistan or Yemen because they had supplied drones or cruise missiles to the U.S. government. . . .

Obama administration lawyers joined human rights activists in appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

“It would send a very bad message if we give corporations a blanket immunity if they engage in universally condemned human rights abuse,” said Jennifer Green, a University of Minnesota law professor. . . .

You can read the petitioners’ brief here. Thoughts?


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