You Need a Montage: Social Networking Scene

Okay, grasshoppers. Welcome to the fourth week of our holiday job search training montage. So far, we’ve revamped our resumes, reconsidered our cover letters, and mastered the process of arranging informational meetings, step by step by step. If you’ve kept pace, you’re probably pretty exhausted (especially if you’ve been dealing with final exams and papers as well). The good news is that at this point, the worst is behind you. This week, we have just a few more holiday job search tips to unpack before we’re ready to make the most of our winter vacation.

Today, we’re going to look at holiday job search tips #2 and #3 together: crafting a pitch and networking at holiday parties. It’s likely that you’ve already begun to receive invitations to various holiday parties—if you haven’t already attended a few. These mixers are a great way to interact with people in a more informal way. The part I often struggle with, though, is communicating on issues I deeply care about without bringing an inappropriately serious atmosphere to the party. After a conversation with Christina, though, I have a new strategy for mixing business with pleasure—and a well-crafted “pitch” is part of it.

Working on Your Pitch

There is a wealth of advice out there for creating a good “pitch” or “elevator speech.” Basically, it’s a clear, concise, memorable and appealing statement of (1) who you are and (2) what you do. Many sources (see, e.g., Above the Law) think you’re likely to get 30 seconds to capture your conversation partner’s attention. Christina thinks you’re better off aiming for only 10 or 15. Regardless of how long you decide to make it, the key is to practice it—try it out on classmates, colleagues, and career advisors. (You can also visit your career advisor if you’re having trouble coming up with one in the first place.)

Delivering Your Pitch

A note for those who don’t like barging into conversations: I hate walking into conversations cold, but sometimes you don’t really have a choice. If you find yourself running solo at a networking event, try to set a small, realistic goal for yourself, something like, “I will talk to two people before I leave,” or “I will stay for 40 minutes.” You may also want to break the ice by starting with someone else you notice hanging around the edges, unsure of how to open.

  1. GETTING IN: Know your audience. Many of us reach for legal jargon because our work is complicated, and therefore difficult to describe succinctly and clearly without specialized language. If you’re speaking to someone without a legal background, impress them with clarity, not sophistication. For example:

    Conversation w/Legal Background

    Conversation w/o Legal Background

    “This summer, I’ve been surveying state court cases concerning tent cities, looking for homeless litigants’ novel arguments.” “I’ve been looking for new ways for homeless people who live in tent communities to protect their interests in court.”

    If you’re at a law-related event, or someone steers you toward a stranger with the introduction, “So-and-so’s a lawyer too!” (this happens), you at least know that the person you’re speaking with shares some kind of background with you. But you still might have to tailor your introduction further. For example, I was at a networking event during my 1L summer and a lawyer from a firm asked me what I was doing with my summer.  I told her, “I’m working for an organization that represents political prisoners in front of international tribunals.” Her response: “Oh, so you represent terrorists?” Our exchange never recovered. I should have front-loaded more information about how we vetted our potential clients. Whenever you can, try and find out about the person you’re speaking with before you open. You can ask the person who introduced you for more information, or simply start your conversation with a question.

  2. GETTING THROUGH: Keep it short throughout the conversation. This is often where I fall down. When people ask me what issue is most important to me (water affordability, by the way), I have a 20-30 second speech explaining why all prepared for them. But it’s a crazy issue that almost always leads my conversation partner to ask a follow-up question. The hardest thing (at least for me) is not to take a person’s interest in my work and run with it as far as I can. I want people to understand my issue, and I want to go into depth with them. Keeping responses short is hard, but it ensures you don’t go so far into a topic that your partner feels trapped or bored.
  3. GETTING OUT: Remember, there was a point to starting this exchange. You’re there to figure out if you want to make this person a part of your network. You should focus on this next step in the process, not on any end goal. (In other words, don’t turn social events into informational meetings). There are three ways these exchanges may go:
    1. If you’re enjoying the conversation on a professional level, ask if you could get their contact info so you can follow up with an informational meeting later.
    2. If the conversation isn’t going anywhere for you, make a graceful exit (not difficult if your conversation partner is also sticking to short, clear responses). Something like, “thanks, I really enjoyed speaking to you, but I should really [hit the buffet/find my friend/etc]. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you in the future.” should do the trick.
    3. If you’re enjoying the conversation on a personal level and you’re still reading, switch to a different advice column.

Alright, everybody. See you Friday for the final installment. Until then…

Wax on, wax off,


Class of 2015 Skadden Fellows from some familiar places.

The Skadden Foundation has announced its Class of 2015 Fellows.  Twenty-eight Fellows, hailing from 16 law schools will begin their projects next year.  Five schools had multiple fellowship awardees; Harvard (6); NYU (2); Stanford (2); Yale (4); and U Penn (3).  Fellows come from the other following schools:  Michigan State, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, Chicago-Kent, Georgetown, Columbia, UC Irvine, Villanova, Loyola (LA), American University, and Suffolk.  The Fellows will work in 11 states, focusing on issues ranging from the wrongful denial of Medicaid claims for poor, disabled children in Texas to the barriers to housing, employment and education for low-income LGBTQ youth with criminal records in Illinois.

For comparison’s sake, here’s how previous Skadden Fellowship classes have looked:

  • 2014:  28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
  • 2013:  28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
  • 2012: 28 Fellows from 16 law schools;
  • 2011:  29 Fellows from 21 law schools;
  • 2010:  27 Fellows from 20 law schools;
  • 2009:  28 Fellows from 14 law schools.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!  We look forward to the amazing work you will do!


You Need A Montage: Informational Meetings Scene III (Following Through and Following Up)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. This week, we’ve begun the real work, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

It’s been a busy week, on Monday, we covered the first step in our strategy—identifying contacts. Wednesday, we talked about reaching out to request a meeting. If you haven’t worked through those posts already, go back and make sure you’re up to speed before starting on this one.

Ready? Okay. You’ve identified your network of meeting candidates and you’ve made your initial contacts. Now, we need to talk about what it takes to get good insights from a meeting, make a successful connection with the person you speak with, and make that connection stick. (I’ve done many informational meetings, but I haven’t had the benefit of trying it with a game plan like this, so I don’t have examples for you. We’ll just have to go through this process together.) After reading this post, you should be able to prepare a strategy for the informational meetings you’re planning with your contacts and for following up with those contacts after your meeting happens.

NB: Don’t forget to check out the Google Drive spreadsheet tool I’m using to organize my own informational meeting efforts. I’m planning to log meetings in the “Log Interactions” sheet. The final sheet, “Long-Time, No-See” is to help me keep track of when I need to follow up with my contacts.

Part III: Following Through and Following Up

    1. More research! Your contacts don’t want to tell you things you could have learned from their website. Although you looked into your contact’s background before reaching out, you’ll need to be even more prepared when the two of you speak. Once a person agrees to meet with you, begin by refreshing your research on that person and that person’s organization. Also include any relevant information you may have learned during other informational meetings–are other people in your network connected to the person you plan to interview.  This research is helpful because it will ensure that you’re able to…
    2. Plan specific questions. Your contact will expect you to set the agenda and use his or her time effectively. You have the primary burden to keep the conversation going. Make sure you know what information you’re hoping to learn so you can ask appropriate questions. (Christina and her network of career development professionals have prepared a list of sample questions for us to tailor to specific circumstances.) Good research should make the conversation easier to direct and control, but allow for the possibility of a surprise. You should be ready to go off-book if you hear something interesting and unexpected.
    1. Follow job interview etiquette. Arrive 5-10 minutes early, wear business attire, and turn off your cell phone.
    2. Act like an interviewer. Remember, an informational meeting is like a job interview in reverse. That means that you get to be the one who shows up with research notes, and the one who takes notes during the meeting.
    3. Keep the focus (mostly) on your contact. Again, in this situation you’re the interviewer. The meeting should be directed by your information needs, but the subject should be your contact and the work he or she does. Still, your contact will implicitly understand that you would probably be open to positions he or she knows of, so be sure to introduce yourself and your credentials in a way that leaves the contact with a good memory of you. You should also always bring a copy of your resume, but don’t hand it over unless your contact asks, or unless you think their experience could help you improve the document.
    4. Be aware of time. Don’t take more time than you asked for, unless the contact expressly offers to let the conversation run over. Also, make the most of your time–stay engaged and professional even if you determine before the interview is over that the field you’re discussing isn’t for you.
    5. Network. Your last question should always ask whom you might speak with to learn more.
    1. SAME DAY/NEXT DAY: Write (thank you) notes for them, and (regular) notes for yourself. Send a thank you note (letter or email) to your contact, and also to anyone else who helped you set up the meeting. Also take the time to analyze your meetings. Reevaluate your interest in the career you discussed, based on what you learned. (Your career development office can help you make sense of your thoughts at this point.)
    2. NEAR FUTURE: Follow up on leads you received from the meeting–reach out to any contacts the person suggested and check out any resources the person mentioned.
    3. ONGOING: Keep contacts apprised of your career development activities. This is the part that most unsettles me. I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people. But, ideally, the people I’ve been meeting with are going to become my colleagues. Making a good impression is only significant if it’s also a lasting one. This is where the spreadsheet tool will hopefully keep me on track. I’m not certain exactly how frequently I want to check in with people (Christina says that within reason it’s a matter of personal preference), so the tool will let me set an interval of months and show me which contacts haven’t heard from me in awhile.

That’s all I have for now. With the pace of this series, I haven’t been able to run ahead this time and try out a meeting for you all before writing this post. So good luck to you as we all leap into this together.

Wax on, wax off,


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 12, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday!  We continue our series on job search strategies for the winter break on the PSJD Blog.  Check it out and share with your friends.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • LGBT law clinic Legal G launches in FL;
  • Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donates funds to help homeless;
  • Iowa Legal Aid champions attorney fee for the poor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Ellen Greenlee;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

December 6, 2014 -Tavernier lawyers Bernadette Restivo, Elena Vigil-Farinas and Jessica Reilly have launched Legal G-Aid, a nonprofit aimed at helping low-income people with LGBT-related legal issues. “It registered with the state Nov. 4 — Election Day — and officially launched at a kickoff event Friday in Key West.” “The basis for the nonprofit, according to Restivo, is the costs associated with LGBT-related legal issues.”  “Restivo is seeking the help of others to serve on Legal G-Aid’s board and attorneys who are willing to work pro bono or at a “greatly reduced” hourly rate to help with LGBT legal issues. She said she has interest from people in other counties in starting their own Legal G-Aid chapters.”(KeysInfoNet)

December 8, 2014 – “To bolster the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County’s efforts to reduce homelessness through its effective programs, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians donated $10,000 on Monday to the organization’s fundraising campaign.  The Legal Aid Foundation’s vision is to provide equal access to justice for all; removing victims of domestic violence permanently from harm’s way, preventing homelessness, helping seniors live with dignity and independence, and providing a legal safety net for low-income residents of Santa Barbara County.”  (NoozHawk)

December 10, 2014 – Iowa Legal Aid has championed a proposal to require most Iowa attorneys to pay a yearly $100 fee to support its budget.  “The proposal has divided Iowa lawyers and has brought in more than 130 pages worth of public comments to the state Supreme Court. Lines are drawn between attorneys who believe they have a special duty to help the poor get access to courtrooms and those who argue a mandatory fee is essentially forced charity or an unfair tax on lawyers.”  “A $100 mandatory fee could potentially raise $903,400 of an estimated $1.8 million needed to boost the number of staff attorneys, according to the report from Supreme Court staff. Currently, eight other states require attorneys to pay similar fees, including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. The Iowa high court is also considering whether the fee could be paid on a voluntary basis.”  Comments will be accepted until January 5, 2015.  (The Des Moines Register)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: “Ellen Greenlee, who has been the chief defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia for the past 25 years, has announced she will be stepping down this spring.  According to a statement from the association’s board of directors emailed Tuesday, Greenlee will be retiring as the chief public defender March 1, 2015. Greenlee has worked at the association for 40 years, and spent 25 as chief defender, the statement said.”  “Her exemplary career has truly been a light in all-too-often dark corners of the criminal justice system and we join in celebrating her accomplishments and well-earned retirement,” said David Rudovsky, president of the association’s board of directors, in the statement. “On behalf of the board, and we know we speak for many in the Philadelphia criminal justice community, we express our deepest thanks to Ellen for her extraordinary leadership and service of the Defender Association.”  We congratulate Ms. Greenlee on an outstanding career, and thank you for your service.  (The Legal Intelligencer)

Super Music Bonus!


Job’o'th’Week (Entry-Level Edition)–Legal Division for the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

The US Court of Appeals is seeking “highly qualified” attorneys to join the Legal Division of its Office of the Clerk for a permanent, full-time appointment (after a one year probationary period). However, the position qualifications indicate that “highly qualified” individuals may include recent grads with impressive student resumes.

Interested? Check out the complete job post on PSJD. The application has a rolling deadline.


Job’o’th’Week (Experienced Edition) — Civil Legal Aid with NYC-based Holistic Public Defense Practice.

Help Wanted Photo: Brenda Gottsabend – CC License

According to its mission statement, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem is a “holistic public defense practice.” Among other things, this means that “when [their] clients face collateral consequences with their employment, school, or in family, housing or in immigration court, NDS strives to help our clients solve those issues.” According to their recent job post on PSJD, this civil aspect of NDS’ practice is growing. (No wonder: according to National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, there are over 1200 potential collateral consequences in New York State.)

In order to protect their clients from these civil consequences of criminal convictions and criminal accusations, NDS is looking for a supervising attorney for their civil team.  They need someone with managerial experience who’s spend at least five years representing clients or supervising representations in civil legal proceedings, with at least three years working with housing and/or benefits law in particular.

Interested? Check out NDS’ complete post on PSJD. (Application deadline December 31.)


You Need A Montage: Informational Meetings Scene II (Making Contact)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. This week, we’ve begun the real work, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

On Monday, I wrote about the first step in our strategy—identifying contacts. If you haven’t worked through that blog post already, go back and make sure you’re up to speed before starting on this one.

Ready? Okay. Today, we’re focusing on crafting our initial meeting requests. After reading this post, you should be able to draft a few emails making initial contact with the people on your list (see part one) that you decided you should reach out to first.

NB: Don’t forget to check out the Google Drive spreadsheet tool I’m using to organize my own informational meeting efforts. For contacts I’ve already spoken with, I started by recording our most recent exchange (email, etc.) in the “Log Interactions” sheet. I also used this sheet to log the new emails I sent today during this exercise.

Part II: Making Contact

Send an email or (if time permits) write a cover letter. (You can call, but if you do be prepared to have your meeting on the spot if a person answers the phone and expresses willingness to speak with you right there and then.)

This week, I worked up several emails for a few of my first-run candidates, including both people I know and people I don’t. (To avoid calling possibly-unwanted attention to my contacts, I’m not sharing these messages in their entireties.) As with job applications, you’ll want your emails to be well-written and to demonstrate your background research. Still, keep in mind that the stakes here are lower than with communications related to job applications: People are usually much happier to receive requests for information and advice than requests for a job, and answering questions is less intense than evaluating candidates for a position. You shouldn’t have to work quite as hard to land an informational meeting as you will for a job interview. (My informational meeting requests all took between 100 and 200 words.)

    1. WHAT TO SAY: When you contact a person to ask for an informational interview, your messages should establish three things:
      1. Who you are. Once the person can picture who you are, they can start to imagine what sort of advice you might need. You’ll always want to briefly explain your background. (E.g., “I’m a recent graduate from Georgetown University Law Center with a background in economic justice and human rights.”) (Editor’s Note: We’re going to discuss the art of boiling your life down to a sentence or two later this month, when we cover how to rehearse your “pitch.”) One thing I’m trying right now (I don’t know if it will help) is including a link to my LinkedIn profile in the postscript; I’ve learned that some people check me out there any way before our meetings. (E.g. “I didn’t want to throw a resume at you, but if you’re curious you can find me at [link].”)
      2. Who they are (to you). Busy people are more likely to arrange an informational meeting with you if they can tell you’ve chosen whom to contact carefully. An easy way to establish your familiarity is to mention any professional connections you might already have. If you got the person’s name from someone else, be sure to mention the name of the person who referred you.  (E.g., “Christina Jackson at NALP mentioned you might be a good person for me to speak with.”) If you took a professor’s class, remind her of that fact. (E.g., “I was in your comparative rights seminar in 2012.”) Even if you don’t have an existing link, you can always try to connect with a person’s work. (E.g., “I’ve been particularly inspired reading about your organization’s Community Development Project and its Safety Net Project.”)
      3. How their work relates to your goals. You may also want to tell recipients why you believe they would be good for you to speak with. You don’t have to write out a list of questions you plan on asking, but it helps to give people an idea of where the conversation might go. It’ll help them figure out if they have meaningful advice or insights to share with you. (E.g., “I’m interested in the path you took to Pro Bono Net and how your previous experiences with New York legal aid organizations inform your current work.”)
    2. WHAT NOT TO SAY: Make it clear you’re not asking about a job or for a job. You don’t have to say this explicitly. (I generally don’t.) Just make sure there’s no doubt.
    3. WHAT TO ASK FOR:Be specific about how much time you’d like each person to give you, and try not to ask for more than fifteen (or twenty) minutes. Ideally, you want to meet in person. However, make it clear that you’re available to speak over the phone if an in-person meeting isn’t possible. Keeping with our holiday job search theme, you’ll probably find yourself letting people know when you’re in town for the break, proposing that they tell you whether they have time for you on any of those days.
    4. WHAT TO DO NEXT:Be ready to go the distance. Don’t write to someone if you can’t commit to doing everything you can to get an interview. This means you have to make a follow-up call if you don’t hear back. Many of the attorneys you contact are very busy; in many cases, if you email but then never call to follow up, you may as well not have bothered writing in the first place. Follow up with a call about a week or ten days after you send the email or cover letter. If you reach your contact, you’ll want to be prepared with a spoken version of your email: introduce yourself, confirm your email got through, ask for a meeting (no more than 20 minutes), and stress that you’re willing to meet at a time and place convenient for that person.As before, don’t call until you’re prepared for the meeting itself—your contact may ask you to do the informational meeting on the spot after picking up the phone.
    5. DEALING WITH REJECTION: If you get turned down, always politely thank each person for his or her time. If you still have the confidence, think about asking whether the contact might recommend someone else they think would be useful for you to meet with. If you don’t hear anything after emailing and calling to follow up, use your judgment. Typically, the third email or call is the limit; if you still don’t hear back you need to move on. It’s useful to keep track of each email and call and to note their results (this is where the spreadsheet tool comes in).


I hope this advice helps you get your first few meeting requests out to your contacts. I’m aware this week’s posts are less soul-baring than previous ones in this series, though. If anyone of you feel we’re missing out by not posting a clear example, please write and let us know. I’ll look harder for a solution.

Wax on, wax off,



You Need a Montage: Informational Meetings Scene I (Identifying Candidates)

Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow 2014 – 2015
Christina Jackson, Director of Public Interest Initiatives and Fellowships
(with thanks to the professional development teams at UC Berkeley, Washington and Lee, and Seattle University Law Schools)

Okay, grasshoppers. Last month, I confessed my job search skills are weak and committed to questing with you to learn from PSJD’s resident career development guru Christina Jackson. Since then, we’ve re-made our resumes and cover letters. But now, the real work begins, for to master the art of informational meetings we must remake ourselves.

Creating a Strategy for Informational Meetings (Tip 5)

The goal of an informational meeting is twofold: First, it allows you to gather information and advice. Second, it helps you develop professional relationships. A master of these meetings has power far beyond one who can research and write application documents quickly and with confidence.

Resumes and cover letters are documents you send out during your job search. Planning for and following through with informational meetings involves putting your self out there, all the time. Although these meetings aren’t job interviews, how you present yourself and your credentials matters. They may reveal otherwise hidden opportunities. At PSJD, we do our best publicize positions, but often job opening info travels by word of mouth. Attorneys upon whom you make a good impression will remember you when they have openings or even recommend you to friends for positions for which they believe you’re qualified. Also, these meetings aren’t just for the beginning of your job search. While extremely helpful for beginners, they’re critical at later stages as well, helping to narrow practice areas or geographic locations—even to choose particular offices. This means you’ll always want to be reaching out to other lawyers and maintaining contact with practitioners already in your network, whether or not you’re looking for work.

If this idea sounds daunting, I agree. Christina’s ramping us into this task over three posts.  First, we have to learn how to identify candidates for these meetings and how to decide whom to contact first. Next, we’ll practice crafting our initial meeting requests. At the end of the week, we’ll discuss how to follow through with a meeting and follow up on one. After reading this post, you should be able to create a list of candidates for informational meetings and decide to which people you’ll reach out first.

NB: I’ve created a little spreadsheet tool in Google Drive to help myself. I’m sure there are more sophisticated programs out there, but this one was easy to make, and makes sense to me based on Christina’s advice. If it helps you, feel free to download it for yourself. What we discuss today involves filling in the first sheet of the tool (“Add/Edit Contacts”). (I marked down which people I wanted to contact in the first group (and so on) in the “Notes” section of the sheet.)

Part I: Identifying Candidates

Informational meetings are like job interviews in reverse. You initiate the contact, and you ask the questions. People who enjoy their work are happy to talk about what they do and are usually willing to help. In return, though, you must be prepared to use their time effectively. As a first step, this means you need to make sure you’re reaching out to the right people.

  1. Set parameters for your search. Contacting people takes time and energy; you need to focus your efforts. (Also, when you begin meeting with people, they’ll want to know why you were interested in talking to them in particular.) To begin developing a list of candidates for your informational interviews, you should first identify your areas of interest. Think about classes you’ve enjoyed, areas of practice you thought about before law school, or things that simply sound cool. Talk to classmates, read professional articles, and attend extracurricular events, noting what piques your interest. (The PSJD Resource Center’s “Practice Area Guides”—as well as your friendly neighborhood Career Office—are also a good place to start.)

    Next, limit your geographic preferences. It’s both prudent to use these meetings to connect to the legal market in areas where you’d like to practice and impractical to talk to practitioners in many different locations. Get a particular perspective on one or perhaps two geographic regions where you’d like to set your law career. (Remember, for the holidays it may be most efficient to focus on the geographic area where you’ll be spending winter break.)

    After some brainstorming, my list included 4 categories and 2 geographic regions. In general, my areas of interest were pretty broad for someone who’s already graduated. But, Christina noted that the breadth of your list can often depend on what you’re choosing to focus on. For example, if your interest is criminal defense, you’re aiming for a tightly-bound world of work. My interest (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) doesn’t have an official place in the US legal pantheon. As a result, I’m still searching through several different fields that touch on ESC rights. Bottom line: your list will look different depending on where you are in your career and what you’re hoping to do. But always ask yourself whether you could be more focused in your search, and whether you’re ready to articulate your career goals more clearly.

  2. List the people you know best and work outward. Make a list of people you already know that have or might have connections to your areas of interest within your geographic range. Don’t just look for people with your “dream job”; also find people with information or experience that might help you clarify your job search or achieve your intermediate goals. Start with your professional and social groups, including:
    • Classmates & Alumni (Law school & undergrad)
    • Law School Faculty and Staff
    • Family (nuclear & extended)
    • Friends & Neighbors
    • Colleagues & Supervisors (present & former)
    • Volunteer organizations
    • Religious groups
    • Professional contacts (from conferences, CLEs, etc.)

    Once you’ve worked through these possibilities, if your list feels thin in certain areas then think about who you might want to cold call, looking at names from:

    • Local trade & professional associations (i.e. your local state bar association)
    • Trade magazines and journals
    • Newspapers
    • CLE faculty rosters

    I’ve had a variety of legal work experiences, so I was able to come up with a decent list drawing mostly from people I know directly. My list wasn’t complete, though. According to Christina, your initial list should always include: (1) supervisors from all your legal jobs, (2) all professors you studied your areas of interest with, and (3) all classmates (law and undergrad) doing work in your areas of interest. I had to backtrack and add professors I hadn’t developed close relationships with, as well as classmates with whom I haven’t spoken in a while.

  3. Set contact priorities. Start with the people you know best, and to whom you feel safest reaching out. In particular, your Career Development Office is probably sitting on a wealth of contacts and has the expertise to help you figure out who your best bets are. Another advantage of your CDO is that you know you aren’t imposing on them for help—helping you with this stuff is their job. Personally, I worry hugely about bothering busy people. Christina stressed how important it is not to worry about imposing on your contacts, especially in this early stage of planning:

    “If people don’t want to be bothered, they just won’t write back. If they do write back, they’ve made a conscious decision to help. Take them up on it. You may not feel as though you have anything to offer them, but most people probably received help themselves at some point; they want to pay the favors they received forward.”

I can’t think of better words to leave you with than those. Good luck building your lists; we’ll talk about what to do with them on Wednesday. Until then…

Wax on, wax off,


Our Friends at EJW: New Student Debt Blog on the Huffington Post!

Take Control of Your Future - A Guide to Managing Your Student Debt

Our Friends at Equal Justice Works have some news they wanted us to pass along about their new resources to help public interest lawyers tackle their student debt:

We’re excited to announce that Equal Justice Works’ new blog on the Huffington Post is up and running. We’ll use it to provide helpful advice on managing student debt and in-depth analysis on what the latest developments in student debt mean for you.

Go here to check out our recent post, How Public Service Loan Forgiveness Helps Close the Justice Gap.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – December 5, 2014

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday and welcome to December!  Check out the PSJD blog, where we’re featuring tips for your job search during winter break.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leading Law Students Program seats Penn State Law students on boards of nonprofits;
  • Push for legal aid for civil cases finds advocates;
  • UO Law becomes newest Gideon’s Promise law school partner;
  • ID legislative committee rejects public defender resolution;
  • The Law Commission of Ontario releases final report in its Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal RDSP project;
  • Chief Justice leads commission to solve FL’s legal aid woes;
  • Legal Aid Ontario funds 3 Gladue workers in northern Ontario;
  • FL bill would give prosecutors/defenders student loan assistance;
  • Atkinson Foundation honors pro bono legal program at children’s hospital;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Nobel Peace Prize winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 19, 2014 -”An innovative program now in its second year at Penn State Law provides students with a unique avenue for developing their leadership skills while they serve in their local community. Leading Law Students, which started last year at the suggestion of a current Penn State Dickinson School of Law student, places select law students on the boards of directors of local nonprofit organizations.”  “‘The program was envisioned as a way to encourage our students to begin thinking about how, as future attorneys, they can give back to their communities and start interacting with community members who could be their future clients,’ says Neil Sirota, assistant dean of Career Services at Penn State Law. ‘The reaction from our students and the local community has been tremendously positive. Our students are honing their leadership skills, expanding their professional networks, and helping to create new connections between the law school and the local community.’” (Penn State Law)

November 21, 2014 – “Free legal assistance in noncriminal cases is rare and growing rarer. A recent study in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of low-income residents who seek legal help are turned away. Nationally, important civil legal needs are met only about 20 percent of the time for low-income Americans, according to James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency that finances legal aid groups.”  The Eviction Assistance Center, a legal aid office in the same building as the housing court works to provide legal aid.  “Established in 2011, the center is part of an experiment by the California courts on the benefits of providing more lawyers and legal advice to low-income people in civil cases such as child custody, protective orders against abusers, guardianship and, most commonly, evictions.”  “The California initiative and similar projects in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere aim not only to help more needy clients but also to improve guidelines for the unavoidable and often painful legal triage: In a sea of unmet needs, who most needs a lawyer, who can do with some ‘self-help’ direction? What happens to those who must be turned away?”  Read on to find out more.  (NY Times)

November 24, 2014 – “The University of Oregon School of Law has joined the ranks of law schools at the University of Chicago, the University of California at Los Angeles and others by becoming a Gideon’s Promise law school partner.”  “Oregon Law graduates who participate in the program will receive a post-graduate fellowship from the law school and the promise of a job within one year of graduation at the public defender offices where they are placed. Graduates in the program will also receive three years of training and education from Gideon’s Promise.”   (University of Oregon)

November 24, 2014 – “Lawmakers on a committee charged with improving Idaho’s broken public defense system have killed a resolution that would have given the state full responsibly for assigning attorneys to indigent defenders.  Earlier this year, representatives from the state’s 44 counties voted that Idaho should manage the public defense system. However, members of the Legislature’s Public Defense Reform Interim Committee at a meeting Monday agreed that counties should remain in control.”  “The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and other legal experts have warned lawmakers since 2010 that Idaho’s public defense system is a potential target for lawsuits. The Idaho Association of Counties says the resolution won’t be presented again.  (

November 27, 2014 – “The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) today releases its final report in its Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal RDSP project.  The Government of Ontario requested that the LCO undertake a review of how adults with disability might be better enabled to participate in the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). The RDSP is a savings vehicle created by the federal government to assist persons with disability with long-term financial security. The LCO’s final report presents recommendations respecting the creation of a streamlined process to appoint an ‘RDSP legal representative’ for adults seeking access to the RDSP who do not have legal capacity to establish a plan themselves.”  “The final report was the result of extensive research and consultations, and benefited from work being carried out in the LCO’s larger, ongoing Legal Capacity, Decision-Making and Guardianship project.”  (CNW)

November 27, 2014 – “Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga doesn’t have solutions yet, but he announced this week a commission filled with lawyers, politicians and business leaders who he thinks can figure out a way for people to have more access to civil justice. In 2008, the Florida Bar Foundation gave $29 million to legal aid, nonprofit law firms that help the poor. This year, legal aid gets just $12 million. That means fewer attorneys can help fewer poor people navigate the civil courts.”  “Largely, [Labarga] said, the commission will study how other states provide access to civil attorneys.”  (The Florida Times-Union)

November 28, 2014 – “The director of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services says it has hired three Gladue workers in northern Ontario.  The specially-trained workers will prepare pre-sentence reports on the unique life experiences of aboriginal people who face charges.  Celina Reitberger said the workers will be based in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins.”  (CBC News)

November 28, 2014 – State Senator Jeremy Ring filed a bill  which would offer thousands of dollars a year to help prosecutors and public defenders pay off student loans.  Ring’s bill would help assistant state attorneys, assistant public defenders, assistant attorneys general and assistant statewide prosecutors make their loan payments. Prosecutors or public defenders who have had their jobs three to six years would get $3,000-a-year. The amount climbs to $5,000 for attorneys who have served six to 12 years.”  (Broward

December 3, 2014 – “Parents of seriously ill children often have to make a difficult choice between being present for their child during hospital visits and keeping their jobs. Hannah Lee is trying to change that. Lee is the ‘triage lawyer’ at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.”  “Lee is part of a Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) partnership with the hospital that provides legal assistance in such situations to low-income families who don’t quite qualify for publicly funded counsel — a program that just got a $50,000 funding boost from the Atkinson Foundation and the Hindmarsh family. PBLO’s Medical-Legal Partnerships for Children is the recipient of the 2014 Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award, named for the former foundation president and daughter of longtime Star publisher Joseph E. Atkinson. The annual award, presented Thursday, was established in 1998 to support the efforts of organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children.”  “The award funds will help the PBLO expand to a fifth location, McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.”  (

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: On December 10, 1901, the first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.  Perhaps the most recognized are the winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace.  Notable winners have included Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nelson Mandela.  To read more, go to

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