Archive for July, 2012

Job o’ the Day: Advocacy Program Counsel at Alliance for Justice!

Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. AFJ works to ensure that the federal judiciary advances core constitutional values, preserves human rights and unfettered access to the courts, and adheres to the even-handed administration of justice for all Americans. It is the leading expert on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy efforts, providing definitive information, resources, and technical assistance that encourages organizations and their funding partners to fully exercise their right to be active participants in the democratic process.

AFJ is seeking an attorney for its national office in Washington, DC.  The attorney will be part of AFJ’s Advocacy Programs, serving organizations and activists across the country.  Through its Advocacy Programs, AFJ works to increase nonprofit participation in advocacy and lobbying by providing workshops, technical assistance, web resources and easy-to-read publications to a broad range of nonprofit organizations (including foundations) across the country.

Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!

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“Poverty in the U.S.: Why Can’t We End It?”

By: Steve Grumm

That’s the question that Prof. Peter Edelman of Georgetown Law (also chair of the DC Access to Justice Commission and a longtime supporter of civil legal aid) asks in this NYT op-ed.  His answer comes in four parts:

With all of that, why have we not achieved more? Four reasons: An astonishing number of people work at low-wage jobs. Plus, many more households are headed now by a single parent, making it difficult for them to earn a living income from the jobs that are typically available. The near disappearance of cash assistance for low-income mothers and children — i.e., welfare — in much of the country plays a contributing role, too. And persistent issues of race and gender mean higher poverty among minorities and families headed by single mothers.

Read the piece for Edelmans’s examination of each.

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Job o’ the Day: Law Student Intern at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services!

The General Counsel’s Office of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) is seeking law students to function as legal interns to provide legal support for the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, and other EOHHS programs.

The interns will perform a wide range of complex legal activities associated with the development, implementation and administration of EOHHS and MassHealth policies and programs, and other health care and related initiatives, under the supervision of attorneys.  The positions will be available beginning September 2012.

EOHHS is the Commonwealth’s largest secretariat and is responsible for developing, coordinating and managing the Commonwealth’s health, welfare and human services operations and programs.  EOHHS administers MassHealth — the cooperative state and federal Medicaid program that provides health care benefits and premium assistance for uninsured families, disabled individuals, children, long-term unemployed adults, and seniors.

The General Counsel’s Office functions as EOHHS’ in-house counsel. The legal support provided by the General Counsel’s office consists, in general, of: (i) providing risk analysis and advice concerning applicability of and compliance with all federal and state provisions that may affect ongoing activities and new initiatives, whether involving policy matters, operational issues or spending activities – such risk analysis includes assisting clients in formulating creative problem resolutions and strategies; (ii) maintaining a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of state and federal laws related to Medicaid, state finance and appropriations, and public procurements; (iii) identifying the need for, and assisting in the drafting of, new legislation, regulations and sub-regulatory interpretive material; (iv) reviewing and drafting requests for proposals, contracts, interagency service agreements, and related procurement documents; and (v) representing, and/or assisting the Attorney General’s office in representing, the agency in appeals from administrative decisions and other litigation.

Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Job o’ the Day: Legal Resources Attorney at the National Association of College and University Attorneys!

The National Association of College and University Attorneys seeks a full-time Legal Resources Attorney to provide support in development and delivery of the Association’s legal resources and outreach and compliance programming.

Primary duties include: maintaining and updating legal resources on the NACUA website, including topical resource pages, the clearinghouse of training materials, and the sample policies, forms and agreements library; monitoring and posting relevant information to NACUA’s online professional networking site, NACUALINK; assisting with planning and implementing virtual seminars; providing general support for NACUA’s online legal education courses; and other special projects as assigned by the Director or Associate Director of Legal Resources.

Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!

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Public Interest News Bulletin – July 27, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers, from a sweltering, sun-drenched Washington, DC.  There is much public interest news to cover this week.  Before that, two other items of interest:

  • Is the U.S. experiencing the highest poverty levels in the last half-century? With new poverty data set for release in several weeks, experts expect that the poverty rate will hit its highest mark since the mid-1960s.  “Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.”  (Story from Washington Post.)
    • Another trend that augurs poorly for the poor is the potential for a continued rise in food prices as a result of drought conditions throughout most of the U.S. (Again, the Washington Post.)
  • From the law-firm world…the National Law Journal has published “The Equity Gap: a Special Report on Women in the Partnership.” The intro: “Virtually every firm claims to be committed to helping women succeed, and they all seem to offer an array of women’s programs — affinity groups, business-development training and work/life balance initiatives. But are large firms committed to promoting women into the equity partnership? Our study of the largest firms in the United States by headcount shows that women represent just 15 percent of equity partners. At just five firms surveyed, women make up more than 25 percent of equity partners.”  (Here’s the multi-part report.)

On to the public interest news.  This week in very short:

  • Access to justice a la Canadien;
  • Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado raises $1.4m;
  • Cal. Western Law’s bridge-to-practice incubator program includes a public service component; 
  • This weekend: the Public Defender Advocacy Hiring and Training Conference for law students;
  • “So how do we define pro bono, and does clinical work count?,” asks a law professor;
  • civil legal services providers across the country benefitting from national mortgage foreclosure settlement funds;
  • the funding woes confronting Peach State legal services providers;
  • DC’s local court expands limited-scope representation to allow pro bono counsel to serve low-income litigants who would otherwise go pro se;
  • The Legal Services Corporation’s board is meeting in Michigan;
  • Birmingham, AL is moving from an appointed counsel system to a staffed public defense program;
  • Everything’s bigger in Texas, including pro bono;
  • A concise overview of successful pro bono models;
  • Recent innovations in legal education highlight a move toward experience-based learning.
  • Mick Jagger is 69 years old and I don’t know what to make of that.  Happy weekend.

The summaries:

  • 7.27.12 – ATJ news from our northern neighbors: “The Canadian Bar Association will take on pro bono family law and poverty law test cases as part of a major push in the coming year to improve the public’s access to justice, says its incoming president.  Robert Brun told The Lawyers Weekly that the CBA will provide representation to litigants pro bono in select cases that could set important precedents on the right to legally aided counsel in areas including prison law, mental health law and refugee law….  The CBA is also announcing a ‘major access to justice initiative’ at its Vancouver annual meeting next month, Brun said. The two-year project will include representations to governments.”  (Story from The Lawyers Weekly.)
  • 7.24.12 – “The Legal Aid Foundation [of Colorado] raised nearly $1.4 million in its 2011-12 Campaign for Justice, providing a welcome funding boost to a system strapped for cash.  Donations from law firms accounted for about 68 percent of the total, with many donor firms giving at the foundation’s suggested leadership level of $350 per associate…. The foundation is the fundraising arm of Colorado Legal Services, which has seen its budgets slashed in recent years.”  (Full story from Law Week Colorado.)
  • 7.24.12 – “California Western School of Law started the Access to Law Initiative last month. It places eight attorneys who each operate their own practices in an office in downtown San Diego’s Symphony Towers. In exchange, the attorneys pledge to provide at least 100 hours per year of pro bono, public service and ‘sliding scale fee’ legal service.  The new lawyers are mentored by professors and practicing attorneys.  Attorney Eric LaGuardia, a consumer rights lawyer who said he ‘represents the little guy,’ told KPBS the program acts as an incubator for recent law school graduates.  The program was started by California Western professor Robert Seibel and modeled on an initiative at City University of New York. San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law is currently establishing a similar project….” (Full story from KPBS.)
  • 7.24.12 – “Hoping to attract law students and young lawyers facing an increasingly dismal job market, representatives from public defender offices across the country are converging in Washington this weekend to make their pitch.  Since 2008, the D.C. Public Defender Service has organized a biennial conference dedicated to raising the profile of indigent criminal defense work. Public defender offices are often represented at general public interest job fairs, but PDS director of legal recruiting and conference organizer Jennifer Thomas said they saw a need for an event focusing on topics unique to public defender recruitment and jobs.  ‘In the civil legal services…everybody assumes you’re on the side of the angels. In criminal defense, the public perception is very different,’ she said.”  (Full story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)
  • 7.23.12 – in a blog post, Prof. Stephen Ellmann of New York Law School ruminates on the definitional ambiguity of “pro bono” and argues that clinical work performed by law students, even though credit-bearing, should count as pro bono for purposes of NY State’s to-be-imposed 50-hour pro bono requirement for admission to the bar.  (Here’s the full blog post.)
  • 7.23.12 – a look at how the civil legal services community is using funds from the national mortgage foreclosure class action settlement.  Attorneys general across the country are granting some of the settlement funds to legal services providers to bolster housing advocacy for those facing foreclosure and related legal problems.  (Here’s the information from a DOJ Access to Justice Initiative press release.)  
  • 7.23.12 – the funding woes of Georgia’s legal services providers: “Funding for the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation has dropped 13.5 percent since 2008, when their combined total budget was $24.2 million. To weather the losses, they’ve reduced staff, cut programs and dipped into reserve funds, even as the population they serve — people with civil legal problems who can’t afford a lawyer — has increased….  Atlanta Legal Aid, for example, has suspended its retirement plan for employees and for the past three years has dipped into its endowment to avoid layoffs, said its executive director, Steven Gottlieb.  But this year, Gottlieb finally had to lay people off. He said attrition and layoffs have shrunk Atlanta Legal Aid’s staff from 133 employees to 115 since the recession began. Another five to 10 people are also working fewer hours.”  And as is the case in many other jurisdictions, IOLTA revenues have fallen through the floor.  (Full story from the Daily Report.)
  • 7.23.12 – “In two high-volume branches of the District of Columbia Superior Court, civil legal services groups hope to prove that when it comes to pro bono representation, a little is a lot better than none. A policy recently adopted by the court gives the green light for pro bono lawyers to enter temporary appearances for low-income litigants in small claims and debt collections cases. Legal services lawyers say the change means they can provide much needed representation using minimal resources…. Under the new policy…lawyers can file a notice with the court that they’ll be representing a client for a single day of proceedings. Once proceedings are over for the day, the attorney-client relationship ends. There is precedent at the court for limited-scope representation. Beginning in 2007, the court began allowing temporary pro bono representation in the landlord and tenant branch. Last June, a similar policy was put in place for the paternity and child support branch.” (Full, but password-protected, story in the National Law Journal.) 
  • 7.23.12 – from a press release, details about the Legal Services Corporation board meeting which is taking place in Michigan on the 27th.
  • 7.23.12 – “Jefferson County [Birmingham and vicinity] courts will switch to a public defender system as part of a statewide effort to control the spiraling cost of providing lawyers for criminal defendants unable to afford counsel, officials said. The new public defender’s office will replace the current system of judges appointing lawyers for indigent defendants.  It’s hoped that a new defender will be in place this fall, and s/he will hire staff.  “Officials estimated the Birmingham division public defender’s office will have 40 lawyers and support staff.”  (Here’s the full story from the Birmingham News and here’s more coverage from the Montgomery Advertiser.)
  • 7.23.12 – “Despite having fewer average full-time equivalent lawyers in 2011 compared to 2010, the 18 firms sharing pro bono information for their Texas lawyers donated more hours than the previous year.” (It’s password protected, so that’s all I’ve got from this Texas Lawyer article.)
  • 7.17.12 – the National Jurist looks at innovations in legal education: “Law schools are pushing the boundaries of the traditional law school model and experimenting at a level that legal education has not seen for several years, a new story reveals.  The National Jurist invited every law school in the U.S. to submit a nomination for how it is innovating its curriculum. More than 40 schools responded, showing that schools are experimenting with boot camps, mentoring programs, technology and programs that mirror the medical school model.”  The magazine’s next issue, due out in late August, will highlight some schools’ novel approaches to training tomorrow’s lawyers.

Music!  Yesterday marked the 69th birthday of Mick Jagger, a rock & roll legend who is nonetheless rightly criticized for wearing tights way past his time (if ever a time there is).  Here’s one of the Rolling Stones’ best.

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Kicking It Into High Gear: Job Searching After the Bar

By: Maria Hibbard and Steve Grumm

Congratulations! You’re done with the bar! Your three years of hard work, countless hours in the library, and thousands of pages of reading have paid off. Now that you can officially set aside BarBri books and study plans, it’s time take a deep breath and focus on your job search in order to find your next step. We have some leads to highlight:

  • Job Search Fundamentals: Even though you may think you know how to write an awesome cover letter and focus your resume, it never hurts to review the basics. Besides actually earning your J.D., what has changed on your resume since your last internship? How does your previous work reflect your skills and areas of interest? Visit our Job Search Fundamentals page for advice on cover letters, interviewing, and resume development.  Also, check out this two-part public interest job search webinar, with Part I focusing on cover letter and resume drafting, and Part II focusing on interviewing and networking.  (The webinar was geared toward the summer job search, but the main principles still apply to the postgrad search.)  Oh, and speaking of networking…
  • Using your network:Remember to “water the plants!”  Reconnecting with previous employers – even from 1L summer or before law school – could potentially lead to conversations about available positions. If an employer has seen your work before, you immediately have a step ahead in the hunt for permanent employment.
    • Previous employers are not the only people it may be worth getting in touch with again – professors whose classes you’ve enjoyed or did well in or attorneys with whom you may have done volunteering also may be open to talking with you about your job search. Continuing the conversation with people you’ve connected with in the past – and maintaining these relationships – could lead to potential recommendations or referrals in the future.
    • Government Positions:Check out PSLawNet’s Government Careers page for more information on federal, state, and local government positions. With the advent of the Obama administration’s hiring reform, the new Pathways Program promises increased transparency for entry level hiring. Now, you are eligible to apply for the Presidential Management Fellowship Program and for Pathways Recent Graduates positions for up to two years after receiving your degree. Keep checking PSLawNet and USAJobs for opportunities for recent graduates.
    • Fellowships: One way many non-profit and legal aid organizations recruit entry-level is through post-graduate fellowships. You may think it’s too late to apply for fellowships – although many organizations recruit for fellows a year in advance, quite a few others recruit during the summer for positions starting that fall. Check out PSLawNet’s Postgraduate Fellowships page for more information. Although many “Sponsoring” organization deadlines may have already passed, running a “Fellowship – Legal” search on PSLawNet’s job search page can help you find relevant organization – based fellowships. You’re also eligible to apply for Equal Justice Works fellowships even after law school graduation.
    • Equal Justice Corps/Americorps Positions: One fellowship program worth highlighting is the EJW/Americorps program. All of these positions are based at civil legal aid organizations, and these 1-2 year placements recruit annually in the summer for positions starting that fall. Running a search on PSLawNet for “EJW/Americorps” or visiting EJW’s Americorps page will help you learn more about these positions.
    • Read for fun! Amidst all of this job searching, don’t forget – you finally don’t have to read bar review material! Take a look at our Summer Reading List for some suggestions on relevant – and fun! – reading. Who knows – maybe one of your interviewers will have read some of the same books.

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@!*&% at work? Just come to D.C!

So, you’re done (or almost done!) with the bar. Feel free to come join us in D.C. to let out all your frustration; you’ll be right at home. Politico reports that D.C. leads the nation in cursing at work:

The District is first in the nation when it comes to swearing at work, with 62 percent of employees confessing to cussing on the job, according to a survey.

Of all respondents, 51 percent said they swear at work.

“The majority of those (95 percent) said they do so in front of their co-workers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss,” the survey notes. “Workers were the least likely to use expletives in front of senior leaders (13 percent) and their clients (7 percent).”

A potty mouth may not be entirely without consequence, however; 57 percent of the survey respondents said that they’d be less likely to promote a swearer.

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Job o’ the Day: Litigation and Social Justice Fellow at the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office!

The Impact Litigation and Social Justice Section conducts affirmative litigation on behalf of the County, drafts local ordinances, and develops novel policies and program to advance the County’s goal of securing social and economic justice for all its residents. Our work strives to advance local, state, and national public policy reform through progressive local government action. The fellow will help to shape a growing movement to use the power and unique perspective of local government to drive long-lasting social change. The fellow will identify and develop new cases for our public-policy-oriented impact litigation docket; conduct legal research and analysis, draft pleadings, ordinances, resolutions, memoranda and opinions; and participate in all aspects of ongoing litigation. The fellow will also be assigsned special projects in the General Government Section of the County Counsel’s office.

The deadline to apply is 8/15 – find out how at PSLawNet!

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Tips from the Experts: Serving the Public Interest Throughout a Career

By: Maria Hibbard

I recently had the opportunity to attend The Washington Council of Lawyers’ Summer Pro Bono Forum, an annual event hosted by WCL to introduce law firm summer associates and public interest interns to public interest careers and pro bono opportunities. Some highlights of the event are definitely worth sharing:

  • Why support the public interest? Keynote speaker Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia addressed this question by laying out “the great equation:” time + effort = outcome. Ultimately, he said, this equation will have a direct impact on a career trajectory and individual success. Judge Urbina pointed out that there are so many other variables that impact this equation, however–socioeconomic status, access to quality education, race, gender–and law students and lawyers who support public service careers and pro bono activities can help others navigate variables of “the great equation.”
  • The importance of introducing yourself. All of the attorneys present at the event focused not necessarily on the importance of “networking,” but the need to just introduce oneself to a new person when in an unfamiliar situation. Once the initial introductions are over, the scary idea of “networking” may be easier.  Being proactive with introductions can also make the first hurdle of “making a good first impression” easier. In room full of unfamiliar people, anyone will appreciate the first one who steps up and says their name!
  • Fellowships and clerkships. In the panel that I attended, 4 out of the five attorneys speaking had completed a fellowship or clerkship immediately after law school–and all of them had only positive things to say about the experience.
  • Working for the “right side.” The attorneys in the panel addressed how at different points in their career they have had to work on projects or with organizations that conflicted with their views or “the public interest.” Because of the diverse backgrounds of the panelists, however, the point was clear that whether one can still be a “public interest attorney” at a law firm, at a nonprofit, or in a government agency.
  • Passion. The passionate way in which the attorneys on the panel spoke about their work was inspiring–and the attorneys encouraged the interns not to lose sight of that passion in law school. All of the attorneys clearly loved their work–it is never easy, many said, but they assured us that it is definitely worth it. Alejandro T. Reyes, Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said “A big motivating part of being a public interest attorney is knowing exactly what and who you are fighting for, and while there are many challenges, you never have a hard time explaining what you do for living.”

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Job o’ the Day: Fellowship Sponsor at Education Law Center Pennsylvania!

The Education Law Center – Pennsylvania seeks to sponsor applicants for postgraduate legal fellowships to start in September 2013.  We are seeking applicants for the Skadden Fellowship, Equal Justice Works Fellowship, or other public interest fellowships. Applicants should be law students graduating in the spring of 2013 (3Ls in the coming year) or current law clerks, and have a demonstrated commitment to public interest law.

ELC is a public interest law firm and education advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure that Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged children have access to quality public schools.  We focus on the needs of poor children, children of color, children in the foster care system, children with disabilities, English language learners, children in residential facilities, and others.  Our strategies include litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and community outreach and education.

Find out how to apply on PSLawNet!

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