Job o’ the Day: Paid Research & Policy Internship with Break the Cycle in Washington, D.C.!

Break the Cycle is a national nonprofit organization working to engage, educate, and empower youth to build lives and communities free from dating and domestic violence. To help them with their mission, they are now looking for a Research & Policy Intern to join the team!

The Research and Policy Intern will:

  • Research and analyze state and local laws related to dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
  • Contribute to the development of written products to assist schools and community-based organizations improve their response to young survivors of abuse.
  • Examine and categorize relevant studies to support the work of the Training and Policy Departments.
  • Write content for the Break the Cycle website.
  • Assist with other with other tasks as needed.

To learn more about the position, check out the full description at PSLawNet.org!

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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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Should We Narrow the Definition of Lawyer Pro Bono? Will That Lead to More Poor People Being Served?

By: Steve Grumm

Environmental stewardship is important.  It’s also great to provide legal work that supports the arts.  Who doesn’t want to support the arts?  But by including such activities in how we – the legal community – define pro bono, are we lessening the odds that pro bono lawyers will take on poverty law cases and provide direct legal assistance to poor people?  A recent Pro Bono Institute report shows that law-firm pro bono on poverty-law matters is down. 

The Institute’s Esther Lardent weighs in on the question, and decides that narrowing “pro bono’s” definition will not lead to more/better work on behalf of low-income clients.  Writing in the National Law Journal, Lardent argues:

Whatever the reason for the downturn, would a definition of pro bono limited to legal services for the poor solve the problem and result in more low-income clients served? I believe it would not. Lawyers make a pro bono commitment for many reasons, but one major impetus for many is a personal commitment to a particular legal problem or client demographic. Lawyers who are passionate about international human rights and the rule of law, protecting civil liberties or ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations understandably want to use their skills to pursue their passion. Business lawyers who are averse to litigation are unlikely to take on adversarial matters on a pro bono basis when they would not do so for paying clients. 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.

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Job o’ the Day! Law Clerk with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL!

The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of Florida is currently accepting applications for spring law clerks!

The USAO is responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal crimes and representing the United States in civil matters in the district. The office also represents the United States in appeals before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Interns are assigned to one section within the Civil or Criminal Divisions of the office for the duration of the semester. Within their respective sections, the law clerks receive a variety of assignments and have the opportunity to work with numerous AUSAs. The goal of the Office is to introduce interns to the federal legal system, to develop and refine their legal research and writing skill, and above all to make their time at the office enjoyable and worthwhile.

The USAO for the Southern District of Florida is accepting applications until September 15, 2012. For more information, check out the job listing at PSLawNet.org.

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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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Job o’ the Day! 3-Year Foreclosure Fellowship with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation

The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation is looking for an attorney to fill a three-year Foreclosure Fellowship position in its Western Regional Office in Alton, Illinois. The Fellow will represent low income homeowners who are unable to meet current mortgage obligations and who need legal assistance to avoid foreclosure. The position will involve: individual case work, including advice, budget counseling and loan modification negotiations; defense of homeowners in foreclosure (including in mediation); possible affirmative litigation in state or federal court; and education and outreach efforts directed at courts, homeowners and service providers in the community.

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation is a non-profit organization providing free legal services to low-income individuals and to senior citizens in civil cases through five (5) offices in central and southern Illinois.  The program has a long history of high quality and innovative advocacy for their clients.  The Western Regional Office-Alton is located in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Check out the job listing at PSLawNet.org (log-in required)!

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Upcoming Deadlines: Paid Summer Law Internship Programs with DOJ and DHS

Applications are open for Summer Law Internship Programs within the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, and the deadlines are approaching fast!

The Department of Justice is offering the “experience of a lifetime” to qualified law students, with opportunities to intern at U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in multiple locations. According to the their website, most successful applicants intern the summer between their second and third year of law school; however, graduating law students who will enter a judicial clerkship or a full-time graduate law program may intern following graduation.  Part-time law students are also eligible to apply. The application period ends on September 4, 2012 at midnight.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the General Counsel is also accepting applications to intern at their headquarters located in Washington D.C. The competitive program is seeking applicants with high academic achievement (GPA of 3.0 or higher or top 1/3 of the class is preferred) and exceptional research, writing, and analytical skills. In addition, a demonstrated involvement in activities beyond required coursework is encouraged. The deadline to apply is October 1, 2012 for 2Ls and 3Ls. The application period for 1Ls is December 1 – December 16, 2012.

Don’t miss out on these great opportunities! For more information on government jobs and internships, be sure to read PSLawNet’s Federal Government Resources page. View the job posting for DHS and DOJ at PsLawNet.org (log-in required).

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Bad News on Jobs with Civil Legal Aid Organizations

By: Steve Grumm

From a Legal Services Corporation release:

Washington DC – According to a recent survey conducted by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), local legal aid programs expect to reduce staffing by nearly 750 employees in 2012, including 350 attorneys, because of funding cuts. This represents a reduction of eight percent of full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions from the end of 2011.

Nationwide, programs receiving grants from LSC reported significant reductions in funding, staffing, and operations.  Eighty-seven percent of the respondents report that their total (LSC and non-LSC) funding in 2012 will decrease significantly from 2011.  Eighty-two percent of the programs with reserves expect to use those funds in 2012 to continue operations.  One hundred thirty-three of the 134 LSC grantees responded to the survey.

As of December 2011, LSC-funded programs employed 9,185 FTE staff—including 4,360 attorneys—a reduction of 6.7 percent (661 positions) since December 2010.  Over the two-year period from 2010 to 2012, LSC-funded programs expect to lose 14 percent of their staff, including 591 attorneys (nearly 13 percent) and 320 paralegals (18 percent).   Sixteen percent of respondents expect to close offices in 2012.

Of the programs reporting decreases in their total funding from 2011 to 2012, 91 percent (87 programs) expect to serve fewer clients and accept fewer cases, and 73 percent (70 programs) will restrict the types of cases accepted.  Twenty-nine percent of programs expect to cut back services on foreclosure-related issues and services to victims of domestic violence.

There’s no making lemonade out of this.  It’s terrible news for legal services lawyers and (more signifcantly) for clients.  Nonetheless, we know that law students come to the PSLawNet Blog for info on career options.   We are still posting legal aid job listings from throughout the country everyday on PSLawNet.  So  the upshot is that you have to be the best job candidates you can possibly be in this tight job market.  Use our Job Search Fundamentals tools to work up great cover letters and resumes, and to learn how to ace interviews.

On a related note, we encourage law students to volunteer with civil legal aid providers this year.  Resources within these organizations are depleting but client demand from poor people and families continues to rise.

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Equal Justice Works 2012 Conference & Career Fair Registration Now Open!

If you’re a public interest minded law student, then you’ll definitely want to be in Washington, DC on October 26-27 for the Equal Justice Works 2012 Conference & Career Fair! Registration opened today for job-hunting law students and recent graduates. Over 125 public interest employers will be in the building, and the weekend is packed with skill-building workshops and career advising sections with the nation’s leading experts.

The Equal Justice Works website posted these important dates to remember:

May 1 – Sept. 6: Employer registration
Aug. 15 – Sept. 13: Student and recent graduate registration and interview application
Aug. 15 – Oct. 11: Student registration only for those not seeking an interview (may attend conference workshops and Table Talk)
Aug. 15 – Oct. 16: Law school professional registration
Sept. 20 – Oct. 4: Employer application review and interviewee selection
Sept. 20 – Oct. 11: Students accept or decline interviews
September 26: Last day to reserve a hotel room at our discounted rate
October 16: Last day to cancel student registration with full refund
October 26 – 27: Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair

For more information, visit the EJW Conference & Career Fair information page.

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Job o’ the Day: Legal Fellow with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) is seeking a Legal Fellow to help coordinate their Cholera Accountability Project (CAP) for a 6-12 month period from their office in Boston. Preference will be given to candidates who can commit to a longer time frame. The Legal Fellow will be working closely with a team of lawyers in the United States and Haiti on advocacy and legal work aimed at seeking accountability from the United Nations (UN) for causing Haiti’s cholera epidemic.

From the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti:

Cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010, and the country is now fighting to contain the world’s largest cholera epidemic. Overwhelming evidence has established that reckless disposal of human waste on a UN peacekeeping base in Mirebalais poisoned Haiti’s rivers with a particularly deadly strain of cholera bacteria and caused the epidemic. IJDH and BAI represent victims of cholera in their quest for justice from the UN. In November 2011, we filed claims on behalf of 5,000 victims of cholera seeking: a) investments in water and sanitation infrastructure to control the epidemic; b) compensation for the victims; and c) a public apology. The UN has yet to accept responsibility and respond to the victims’ claims. CAP works with Haitian grassroots groups and international advocates in a broad-based campaign to push the UN to take action to stop cholera’s killing.

Check out the full listing at PSLawNet.org (log-in required)!

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