Archive for Legal Education

Public Interest News Bulletin – August 24, 2012

By: Steve Grumm (with an assist from John Kapoor)

Happy Friday, ladies and gents.  An important housekeeping item: the PSLawnet Blog is becoming the PSJD Blog.  We are relaunching our PSLawNet public interest jobs database as PSJD, effective 8/27.  The blog will move from https://pslawnet.wordpress.com to http://blog.psjd.org (link not active yet).  Those of you who receive from me a weekly email message about this bulletin will continue doing so.  Launching PSJD, which will offer an even better jobs database and career center for the public interest community, represents an exciting transition.  We look forward to all that’s new, but just as much look forward to our continued daily blogging.

Some nonprofit news before the public interest news.  This Nonprofit Quarterly post came to my attention this week.  Entitled “A Too-sad Truth about the Nonprofit Sector,” the post laments the culture of martyrdom which many nonprofits take on.  This can manifest itself in unreasonably low salaries and a shortage of office resources to work efficiently.  Many of the best nonprofit law offices, in my experience, tend to emphasize “law office” over “nonprofit” in terms of how they operate and present themselves to the world.  Of course the recession has made funding scarce, and many organizations are struggling just to keep afloat now.  Nevertheless, some executive directors argue that they will only go so far in keeping staff salaries down and skimping on infrastructure expenses because they will not sacrifice quality of service.  It’s a very difficult balance to strike for nonprofits.  And this debate is always worth having because it brings out some terrific ideas and solutions from organizations with starkly different cultures.

On a lighter note, the annual “Mindset List” for this year’s incoming college class is out.  The list looks at how an 18 year-old would view the world in light of what has, and hasn’t, happened during her lifetime. The list, while a little weak this year compared to its predecessors, succeeds at making me feel old if nothing else.  Funny to think that an incoming college freshman might see Bill Clinton only as a grandfatherly, elder statesman as opposed to, well, any of the many the other things Bill Clinton’s been.  

Okay, the week’s access-to-justice and public interest news, in very brief:

  • Legal Services Corporation board chair on the community’s funding woes and the latest LSC newsletter;
  • law school clinic at Santa Clara U. is sued by law firm for, well, operating;
  • legal services providers in Nevada receive $1.2m from mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds;
  • when fiscal woes plague nonprofits in the justice system, local communities suffer;
  • prosecutors moonlight to 1) supplement income and 2) perpetuate Irish-American stereotypes;
  • maybe prosecution work is for the dogs;
  • North Dakota’s economic boom is straining the both the civil and criminal legal-aid camps;
  • Think Progress thinks about LSC cuts;
  • DOJ petitioned to think about how its crime-fighting spending affects all players in justice system;
  • would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to lawyers handling more poverty law cases?
  • the rise of, and importance in, pro bono from Chicago-area in-house counsel;
  • more needed from pro bono lawyers and the justice system is strained by increased numbers of low-income litigants;
  • a Texas County signs on for multi-county capital defense cost-sharing program;
  • Michigan goes online to help pro se litigants;
  • 10 tips for getting hired into a public defender’s office;
  • a NY State county wants to go from paid staff defenders to an assigned-counsel system to save $;
  • Deferred Action participants should be wary of those offering legal services.
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 8.23.12 – LSC board chair John Levi writes about the legal services funding shortages in Michigan and throughout the U.S.: In Michigan, LSC funds six programs with 29 offices across the state. These offices, both in Michigan and nationwide, are increasingly overwhelmed with requests for help. Nearly one in five Americans — 63 million people — now qualify for LSC-funded civil legal assistance because they live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guideline. That is an all-time high. As demand has been rising, the combined funding for LSC programs from federal, state, local and all other sources has dropped from $960 million in 2010 to $878 million in 2012.  As a result, legal service programs are turning away more and more people who seek help — 50% or more according to recent studies.  More than 21% of the state’s population now qualifies for LSC-funded civil legal assistance. Resources from LSC and other funders, however, have dropped dramatically. Projected overall funding for the six LSC grantees in Michigan for 2012 is $19.6 million — a decrease of nearly 24% from 2010 funding levels.”  (Op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.)
    • On a related note, LSC’s 8/21 edition of “LSC Upates” covers likely job cuts at grantee organizations, a recent board meeting, promoting access to justice through technology, LSC’s receipt of grant funding to improve data collection(!), and other odds/ends
  • 8.23.12 – “A Los Angeles law firm claims in court that Santa Clara University’s pro bono law center is practicing law for poor people illegally.  The Brachfeld Law Group sued Santa Clara University and Scott Maurer, supervising attorney for the university’s Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, in Superior Court.  Brachfeld claims that the Community Law Center improperly uses Maurer’s law license to collect attorneys’ fees, which Maurer shares with the university.  (Story from the Courthouse News Service.)
  • 8.23.12 – some of Nevada’s share of national mortgage foreclosure class-action settlement funds will go to legal services.  Legislators approved a one-year, $11 million plan.  (There is more for appropriation in future budget cycles.) Of this $11 million, “…nearly $1.2 million will go to Nevada Legal Services and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to provide assistance to homeowners.” (Article from the Nevada News Bureau.)
  • 8.22.12 – when fiscal woes plague nonprofits like Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Jacksonville Justice Coalition, which offers support services to crime victims, the entire Jacksonville community suffers.  (Story from the Florida Times Union.)  
  • 8.21.12 – having grown up in northeast Philadelphia, I can say with certainty that there’s nothing unusual about a guy named Colin working behind a local bar. What is unusual is when he’s an assistant district attorney.  The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the ends local prosecutors go to when they struggle financially on civil-servant salaries.
    • It’s noteworthy that their public defender counterparts have it worse.  From an Inquirer story in June: “An experienced assistant [DA] in Philadelphia, one with seven years on the job, can make $65,000 yearly.  A public defender with exactly the same experience makes a lot less: $51,500.”

  

  • 8.21.12 – I’m a sucker for a story about a pooch in a law office.  “A new four legged volunteer is working at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office. It’s part of an innovative pilot program, to provide emotional support to crime victims and witnesses.
    Malvern is a two-year-old, highly trained service dog.  District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, has been working to get a dog…into her office as…to provide a calming presence and create a more compassionate environment for victims and witnesses of crimes within Santa Barbara.  Over the next few months he will work in the D.A.’s office.”   (Story from KEYT.)
  • 8.21.12 – unforeseen consequences. North Dakota’s economic boom is straining both the civil and criminal legal aid camps. On the civil side, stakeholders are dealing with “an increase in demand for Legal Services lawyers— …requests for help have shot up at least 50 percent in the last year—that coincides with a series of budget cuts. Federal funding, which accounts for about 60 percent of the organization’s annual spending plan, shrank by 5 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2012, leaving the agency with a budget of about $1.6 million this year.”  On the criminal side, a state bar task force’s “final report, which the bar association’s board of governors adopted on August 16, draws the bleak conclusion that the widening gap between the indigent defense commission’s resources and the demand for its services has put the agency on the verge of a ‘constitutional crisis’.”   (Story from the American Lawyer.  Ho-hum; the PSJD Blog noted this back in July.)  
  • 8.20.12 – Two national defense attorney groups are asking the Department of Justice to better analyze how proposed criminal laws and crime-fighting strategies might add additional costs to the rest of the justice system [including indigent defense].  The Nat’l. Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers joined the…National Legal Aid and Defender Association in passing a resolution this month that calls for the DOJ to conduct “justice system impact statements” statements on future policy changes. The resolution suggests the DOJ could fund the studies through its criminal justice grant programs.  The American Bar Association adopted a similar resolution more than 20 years ago, but the NACDL and NLADA resolution also asks DOJ for impact statements for the grants it distributes to local police and prosecutors.”  (Story from the Blog of the Legal Times.)
  • 8.20.12 – would narrowing the definition of “pro bono” lead to more volunteer lawyers handling poverty law cases and providing direct representation to low-income clients?  The Pro Bono Institute’s Esther Lardent doesn’t think so: “The reality is that choosing pro bono work is often a matter of blending personal interest with client need. Restricting personal choices will not increase poverty law pro bono. It is, rather, far more likely to reduce the total amount of pro bono and the percentage of lawyers who undertake it.  Our goal should be to educate lawyers about the unparalleled need for legal services to the poor. We should put, as our Pro Bono Challenge and American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 do, a special emphasis on poverty law pro bono (which led to 58 percent of total Challenge law firm hours devoted to pro bono focused on poverty), and review and revamp the processes for referring, accepting and handling pro bono matters for the poor to make them more appealing and more efficiently undertaken.”  (Full piece in the National Law Journal.)
  • 8.20.12 – the rise in, and importance of, in-house pro bono in Chicago: “As more people have turned to them for help, Cabrini Green, like an increasing number of Chicago nonprofits offering legal services to low-income people, has sought help from new allies. Though legal nonprofits traditionally have recruited volunteers from the hallways of Chicago’s big law firms, they have begun courting lawyers who work in the legal departments of the region’s corporate giants, including McDonald’s Corp., Exelon Corp., Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc. and Allstate Corp.”  (Full story from Crain’s Chicago Business.)  
     
  • 8.19.12 – with the number and needs of pro se litigants rising, and with the civil legal services community weathering a severe funding storm, much is needed of pro bono advocates throughout the U.S.  (Full story from Associated Press.)
  • 8.19.12 – in Texas, Angelina County is set to participate in the Regional Capital Defender Program.  Participation in the “shared-cost, multi-county” program is expected to save money on providing indigent defense services to those facing capital chartges.  (Story from the Lufkin Daily News.)
  • 8.17.12 – Warren County is seeking to request permission from the New York State Mandate Relief Council to contract with lawyers to perform legal services for the indigent rather than having the work handled by its own county office in which the attorneys are county employees. The county estimates this change, if authorized, will save $200,000 annually.  (Story from the Post Star.)
  • 8.16.12 – After implementation of the Obama Administration’s “Deferred Action” program for unauthorized immigrants who arrived in this country as youth, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., is renewing warnings to those immigrants to guard themselves against scam artists posing as immigration attorneys. He suggests asking questions about the attorney’s background and qualifications and calling the New York State Unified Court System’s Attorney Registration Unit to see if the individual is accredited before hiring them to ensure that they are in fact qualified to perform that kind of work. Many scam artists will take thousands of dollars from immigrants while offering little if anything in return.  (Here’s Mr. Vance’s press release.)

Music!  That Beloit Mindset List has me thinking about the college years.  So let’s travel to the 1990s for Boulder, CO’s own Big Head Todd and the Monsters.  (The man does in fact have a physically big head.  Not sure about his ego.)  “In the Morning” is one of my favorite songs -and it’s a pretty love song, tempo notwithstanding – from the under-appreciated album Stratagem.

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Big News: PSLawNet’s Becoming PSJD! We’re Getting a New Name, New Website & Everything!

By: Steve Grumm

We’ve got great news for law students and lawyers on public interest career paths, as well as the organizations that hire them.  On August 27th, PSLawNet will become PSJD, a redesigned website that retains all of PSLawNet’s content but that adds easier navigation, enhanced searching, and new tools for job-seekers and employers alike.  PSLawNet users will be able to log in to PSJD with existing PSLawNet login credentials, and our job-seeker “email alerts” will continue uninterrupted.  We at NALP (who administer the PSLawNet/PSJD site) are very happy to launch this next-generation career center as a free resource for the public interest legal community.  As of August 27 PSJD will be found at http://www.psjd.org (not live yet).   

For blog readers, this means that we’ll be moving to blog.psjd.org (not live yet).  But this blog URL will redirect you as well. 

For more information contact me at sgrumm@nalp.org, or PSLawNet PSJD Fellow Ashley Matthews at amatthews@nalp.org.  You may also reach us at 202.296.0076.

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PSLawNet Public Interest News Bulletin – August 17, 2012

By: Steve Grumm (with help from John Kapoor)

Happy Friday, dear readers.  The week’s most well-travelled public-interest news item deals with a Legal Services Corporation announcement that its grantee organizations may cut 8% of attorney and support staff positions as those organizations struggle with depleted funding sources.  There’s a tendency, I think, to take some comfort in the idea that the worst of the Great Recession has passed (notwithstanding the precariousness of the present recovery).  But the longer-term fiscal challenges spawned by the recession are in some ways hitting the legal services community hardest now.

At best, one may hope that LSC funding can creep back into the high $300 millions, given budget-cutting propensities on Capitol Hill.  IOLTA funding is dependent mostly on interest rates, which remain at historic lows as policy-makers hope that loose credit will contribute to economic stimulus.  And legal services providers who had financial reserves have by and large exhausted them at this point.  There is less federal money, a whole lot less IOLTA money, and the rainy-day funds are dry.  Not a pretty picture.

Sorry to begin on a down note. There is some good public-interest news below.  Before moving into that, here are two other interesting items:

  • a PAC for nonprofits.  From the Chronicle of Philanthropy: “CForward, a political-action committee that was set up last year to promote candidates who pledge to stand up for nonprofits, has made its first endorsements.  They include five contenders for state legislatures and one each for city council, mayor, and the U.S. House of Representatives ‘Our choices are not based on any single issue, or geography, gender, or political party,’ the group said in a statement. With governments cutting budgets across the country, it looked for candidates that would ‘promote our role in creating jobs, attracting investment dollars and maintaining the civil society required for traditional business to thrive’.”
  • the ABA Journal’s annual Ross Essay contest, announced yesterday, is looking for haiku poetry.  Frequent readers of this weekly blog – all six of you – may recall that just two weeks ago I graced the blog’s pages with my haiku about a baseball player trade.  Sadly, and somewhat unfairly in my view, the ABA is looking only for submissions on themes of: “Innovation, Inspiration, Law Practice, On Being a Lawyer or the U.S. Supreme Court.”  Haiku’s tough.  It is not easy to condense thoughts into seventeen syllables.  (Guess how many syllables that previous sentence was.  Yes!)

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

  • the New York State 50-hour pro bono requirement for attorney licensing is back in the news again;
  • funding in NYC for legal services providers to assist illegal immigrants with the federal “Deferred Action” program;
  • an increased pressure on already-strained Florida public defenders;
  • the job-cuts forecast from LSC;
  • bill introduced in Michigan to create indigent defense commission;
  • two good-news items on law school clinics (NOLA and NC);
  • funding for a pro se assistance attorney in the Gem State;
  • the development of Boston’s alternate adjudication track for nonviolent, homeless offenders;
  • an editorial on how the NOLA public defender’s office has weathered a fiscal storm;
  • OLAF (one of my favorite legal services acronyms) releases its 2011 annual report. 

The summaries:

  • 8.16.12 – “When New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman first revealed his intention in May to require all newly minted New York lawyers to perform 50 hours of pro bono work, it looked like the burden would fall directly on New York law schools. But with details of the measure still spare, deans around the country are saying they’re worried the proposal could have a much wider impact, affecting not only local institutions but law schools nationwide and abroad that send their graduates to practice law in New York….  Some [New York-based law school administrators applauded Lippman for tackling what he has dubbed the justice gap…. Others voiced concern that the measure would pose financial and administrative burdens on their schools. Most simply asked for details, which Lippman has said he will provide in late fall after an advisory committee reports back to him with feedback from legal services providers, schools and students. As word of New York’s novel approach to pro bono has spread, deans and administrators from out-of-state schools have begun to weigh in, asking what kind of administrative and financial obligations the measure might pose for their institutions.” (Story from Thomson Reuters.)  
  • 8.16.12 – legal services providers throughout the U.S. will be assisting illegal immigrants to participate in the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  Here’s some good funding news out of NYC: “The New York City Council is spending $3 million on legal services for young illegal immigrants who want to apply for the right to work legally in the U.S…. Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced Wednesday that the city funding will go to the Legal Aid Society and other community-based organizations.”  (Full story from CBS Moneywatch.)
  • 8.16.12 – an increased pressure on already-burdened Florida public defenders’ offices: “Public defenders are being ordered by local courts to fill a role they haven’t had to play in decades, if ever. Jim Purdy, public defender for the circuit that includes Volusia and Flagler counties, said the local court has begun appointing his office to help death row inmates ask the governor’s office for clemency. Purdy said his office is ‘critically short on manpower…. None of the elected public defenders in the state ever remember being appointed to (a clemency hearing) until this year and many . . . have been in office for 20 to 30 years,’ Purdy said.”  (Story from the Daytona Beach News-Journal.) 
  • 8.15.12 – “The nation’s providers of civil legal assistance predict that funding cuts will leave them no choice this year but to lay off about 8 percent of lawyers and support staff, close branch offices and narrow the types of services they provide, Legal Services Corp. announced on August 15.  A survey of the 134 agencies depending on grants from LSC, the largest source of funding nationwide for civil legal aid, shows they are on pace to lay off 350 attorneys and 400 support staff this year because of budget cuts from Congress and other funding reductions….  About one of every six programs expects to close offices in 2012.” (Story from the National Law Journal.)
    • And here’s the news release from LSC.
    • Some coverage out of Colorado: “Whether Colorado’s program would be affected wasn’t immediately clear. Colorado Legal Services has seen its total budget cut by nearly 30 percent in recent years. The group has received a reprieve of sorts when the Colorado Supreme Court earlier this year approved a request for a one-time transfer of $1.5 million from the attorney registration fees fund to CLS.  However, the underlying funding mechanisms haven’t been fixed, and how to remodel that funding structure remains at the top of many bar association’s priorities.”  (Story from Law Week Colorado.)
  • 8.15.12 – in Michigan, the members of the state house introduced a bill “to create the Michigan indigent defense commission and to provide for its powers and duties; to provide for constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases; to provide standards for the appointment of legal counsel; and to provide for certain appropriations.”  Here’s some filing information and here’s a copy of the bill.
  • 8.13.12 – good news on the law school clinic front in both NOLA and North Carolina:
    • Four grants totaling $557,000 to Loyola University’s College of Law will help its law clinic educate and represent low-wage workers in the New Orleans area. The grants will underwrite three years of work by the Workplace Justice Project, which is part of Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice.”  (Story from the Times-Picayune.) 
    • Elon University School of Law announced plans to open an Elder Law Clinic in the Fall 2012 semester. This clinic will serve the growing elderly population of the area in need of free legal services while simultaneously providing students with experience in the practice of elder law, an area of law that has will see exponential growth in the future.  (Story from WFMY.)
  • 8.12.12 – in keeping with the trend of trying to accommodate increasing numbers of pro se litigants in local courthouses, “Canyon County [Idaho] commissioners approved a preliminary budget Thursday that includes $60,000 from the Idaho Supreme Court to hire an attorney to help people who are serving as their own lawyer in civil cases.”  (Story from the Idaho Press-Tribune.)   
  • 8.12.12 – here’s a feature-length piece on the evolution of Boston’s “Homeless Court,” which offers an alternative adjudication system for nonviolent, homeless offenders: “Launched in late 2010, the program aims to serve the unique needs of Boston’s homeless defendants, who often find themselves cycling through the court system for minor, nonviolent offenses, or in contempt for failing to respond to court summonses they often don’t receive because they’re living on the streets. It’s a gentler form of justice, but no quick fix. Defendants…who volunteer for Homeless Court are required to make a yearlong commitment. During that time, they get mental health and substance abuse counseling and a bed at the Pine Street Inn, or, for those with more severe mental health or addiction issues, at Shattuck Hospital. Defendants without a high school diploma are offered tutoring and GED prep classes. All are required to brush up their job skills or learn new ones.”  (Full story from the Boston Globe.) 
  • 8.11.12 – in NOLA, a Times-Picayune editorial argues for more prudent budgeting by the Orleans Parish public defender’s office. Budget volatility forced large cuts in the Orleans Parish public defender’s office earlier this year. But a report commissioned by the Louisiana Public Defender Board has concluded that a lack of fiscal prudence and other management mistakes aggravated the circumstances.  But management was not the only issue.  Public defenders in New Orleans have a staggering case load. Attorneys assigned to Municipal Court each handled 2,500 cases last year. That’s more than six times the national standard of 400 misdemeanor cases.  The editorial concludes arguing for more sustainable funding streams for the defender to avoid future volatility. 
  • 8.10.12 – “The [Ohio Legal Aid Foundation (OLAF)] says it’s saved more than 2,300 homes since 2008 using both its own lawyers and volunteer attorneys in private practice. And calls for free legal help have jumped about 60 percent over those four years. But funds — which come from federal grants, donations and court fees and interest – are drying up.”  (Short piece from WKSU.  And here’s a link to OLAF’s 2011 annual report, released earlier this month.)

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Winning! Elon and Loyola Law Schools Boast Revamped Clinic Opportunities for Students

by: Ashley Matthews

Times are tough for law students everywhere, who are facing the lowest employment rates in 18 years and the rude awakening of post-graduate loan debt. Many law students are beginning to aggressively question the value of their legal education and are demanding more bang for their buck, including enhanced clinic opportunities.

Fortunately, law schools are listening. Just last month, the National Law Journal reported that 76% of ABA-accredited law schools modified their course offerings to adapt to students’ needs for more practical skills. And now, two law schools – Loyola University College of Law and Elon University School of Law – have added revamped and new public interest clinics to their rosters, respectively.

As reported by Nola.com, Loyola Law School recently received four grants totaling $557,000 to aid low-wage workers in its Workplace Justice Clinic, a unit of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice. The grant will keep the clinic up and running for 3 more years, and will also help transform the initiative into a full-blown resource center.

Photo Courtesy of DigiTriad.com.

Yesterday, the Elon School of Law announced the opening of its Elder Law Clinic, which will start serving clients as early as this fall semester. The new clinic will serve low-income elders, with a focus on the civil legal issues of older adults, such as power of attorney, end of life planning, contract and consumer issues, housing, grandparent rights, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security benefits, and Veterans benefits.

These clinics will allow law students to represent low-income individuals free of charge, all under the guidance and supervision of licensed attorneys. Most clinics come equipped with additional experiential learning experiences, including a classroom component. In addition to allowing students to receive the practical skills they need to compete in a weak job market, poverty-stricken populations will get the much-needed services they desperately need. It’s a win all around!

Kudos to Loyola Law and Elon Law!

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Nominate a Law Student for the 2012 PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award! Deadline Approaching

Do you know a law student who’s a public interest/pro bono rock star?  NALP and PSLawNet are seeking nominations for the 2012 PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award. 

Download the Nomination Form Here!

Purpose: To recognize the significant contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono or public service work.

Eligibility: The Pro Bono Publico Award is available to any second- or third-year law student at a PSLawNet Subscriber School. The recipient will be honored during an Award Luncheon at NALP’s Public Service Mini-Conference on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at the Washington, DC office of Crowell & Moring, LLP. The award recipient will receive transportation to Washington, a one-night stay in an area hotel, a commemorative plaque, and a small monetary award.

Award Criteria: Law studentsare judged by the extracurricular commitment they have made to law-related public service projects or organizations; the quality of work they performed; and the impact of their work on the community, their fellow students, and the school. Though a student’s involvement in law school-based public interest organizing and fundraising is relevant; actual pro bono and public interest legal work will be the primary consideration. 

Nomination Deadline & Packet Contents: Nominations must be received by Friday, September 7, 2012 at 5pm Eastern Time, by fax, mail, or email (see contact information at bottom). Along with the nomination form and a résumé, nomination packets may include any materials which support a nominee’s candidacy; such as letters of recommendation, statements detailing a nominee’s work, and media articles. 

Thanks!

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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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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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