LGBT Bar Association of DC Offers New Summer 2014 Equality Fellowships

Working in DC this summer on LGBT-related legal issues? The LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia wants to help fund your work!

This summer, they’ll be offering the 2014 Equality Fellowships, which will help support law students working at DC-area LGBT legal non-profit organizations. The Fellowship hopes to encourage law students taking their first steps toward careers in LGBT advocacy.

Selected Fellows will receive a $1000 stipend for at least 10 weeks of work. The deadline is May 15, 2014. Click here for more info.

Interested in other summer funding opportunities? Check PSJD’s Summer Funding Guides for upcoming opportunities in specific locations or anywhere around the world.

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International Bridges to Justice Launches the 2014 JusticeMakers Competition

International Bridges to Justice, an international nonprofit dedicated to protecting the basic legal rights of ordinary citizens in developing countries, recently launched the 2014 JusticeMakers Competition.

Members of the legal community are invited to submit their innovative ideas for projects directed towards ending torture as an investigative tool. Winners will receive seed grants of $5000.

The application deadline is June 26, 2014 (which is also International Day in Support of Victims of Torture). Click here for more information.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 4, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We are off to the NALP Annual Education Conference in Seattle.  The Digest will take a break for this week and return on April 18.  We hope to see many of you at the conference!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  ABA Job Corps targets access to justice paradox;
  • New rules allow retired Iowa attorneys and law students to help legal aid;
  • New job site launches in Canada;
  • PA considers bill to establish training center for public defenders;
  • Students form Law Students Society of Ontario;
  • The Washington University School of Law establishes Prosecution Law Clinic;
  • New scholarship from Davis Levin Livingston promotes public interest lawyers;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Phil Morgan;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 27, 2014 - “The American Bar Association will pay between $5,000 and $15,000 to organizations that come up with good ways to match unemployed law school graduates to unmet legal needs for the poor.  The organization this month urged law schools, bar associations, courts and other organizations to submit requests for proposals and will reward the best ideas with financial support, ABA President James Silkenat said, under a new program dubbed the Legal Access Job Corps.”  “To qualify for grants, projects must provide both legal services to the poor or people with moderate incomes, and employment for recent law graduates. Existing projects are not eligible.”  Ideas are due by May 15.
(National Law Journal)

March 30, 2014 -  “The Iowa Supreme Court ruled this month to allow retired Iowa attorneys and attorneys licensed in other states to provide pro bono services to legal aid organizations. The state’s legal aid offices turns thousands of low income people away every year because of the high caseload and lack of attorneys. The rule allows retired attorneys to apply for an emeritus license and volunteer their time for a legal aid office.”  “The court also amended the student practice rule this month which will provide more assistance to the offices by allowing law school students in the state to handle cases under supervision.”  “Guy Cook, attorney and Iowa State Bar Association president, said the rule change also allows law school graduates to provide legal services to clients while they are waiting to pass the bar exam on behalf of the offices of the public defender, attorney general, county attorney or legal aid organizations.”  (The Gazette)

March 31, 2014 – What started last year as a Facebook page for  University of Ottawa civil law graduate, Nikolitsa Katsoulias has just turned into a full-blown job site and blog.  The Law Job Exchange, launched just three weeks ago, promises to ‘link you up with opportunities that you may have otherwise missed.”  “The web site is all about sharing opportunities and I don’t think that’s something law students are necessarily used to with the competitiveness of the profession,” says web site founder Katsoulias. “But [students] seem to be embracing it, so I encourage them to log on and share an opportunity if they find one.” “The main feature of the web site is its job postings, which visitors can only view if they are members.  Members can also opt to have job alerts e-mailed to them.  Jobs are primarily Canadian-based, but international opportunities have been available.” (Canadian Lawyer)

April 1, 2014 – “Advocates Tuesday urged state Senate lawmakers to support better training for lawyers tasked with defending adult criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents who can’t afford to hire a lawyer.  A measure before state lawmakers would create such a program with $1 million in the next fiscal year.  Access to such free counsel is required under the U.S. Constitution and federal case law, but Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t help fund county offices providing indigent defense.”  (witf.org)

April 1, 2014 - All of the student societies at Ontario’s seven law schools have agreed to participate in a newly formed Law Students Society of Ontario.  “The goal of the Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO) is to advance student concerns to governmental, regulatory, and educational stakeholders on issues such as access to legal education, professional accreditation requirements, and other matters affecting law students across the province.”  “Membership in the LSSO has been ratified by student groups at all seven Ontario law schools (the University of Windsor, Western University, the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School (York University), Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and Lakehead University).” (LSSO website)

April 2, 2014 -  “The Washington University School of Law will establish a Prosecution Law Clinic in partnership with the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. The new clinic joins 17 other clinical opportunities within the law school’s long-standing Clinical Education Program.  The clinic will be funded by a generous gift from former prosecutor and Washington University School of Law alumna Alicia McDonnell (JD ’95), who hopes to strengthen the ranks of criminal prosecutors by creating opportunities for talented law students to gain hands-on experience essential to a career in criminal justice.”  (Washington University of St. Louis)

April 2, 2014 – “With a new scholarship, the Honolulu-based law firm of Davis Levin Livingston intends to support law students intending to pursue public interest law and add to the ranks of motivated young attorneys willing to consider a career as a public interest lawyer.”  “The $3000 scholarship will be awarded to a student entering law school this fall. A letter of acceptance is required, and candidates are asked to write a short essay demonstrating their intention to pursue a career as a public interest lawyer.  The scholarship will be payable by The Davis Levin Livingston Charitable Foundation to the law school of attendance by the awardee to assist with tuition or other expenses.”  (Digital Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Legal aid attorney Phillip Morgan, who likely has represented more public housing tenants in San Francisco than anyone, is retiring. As an attorney for Bay Area Legal Aid, Morgan fought for housing rights with countless clients over the course of his long career. He had an institutional knowledge of the SF Housing Authority that will surely be missed.  Read more about his amazing work.  Thank you for your service!

Super Music Bonus! A glimpse of Seattle.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcN1j11sfJA

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New Public Interest Law Scholarship!

Davis Levin Livingston, a Honolulu-based law firm, is offering a $3000 scholarship to support law students interested in public service.

The award requires candidates to write a short essay demonstrating their intention to pursue a career as a public interest lawyer. Interested students must also provide a letter of acceptance from their law school.

“Advocate is a synonym for lawyer,” said partner Mark Davis in the firm’s press release. “And there is no role more admirable in the practice of law than that of a champion for those abused by the system or circumstance. This scholarship is our way of encouraging the next generation of enthusiastic advocates to join the battle.”

The deadline to apply is July 1, with an award announcement expected in August. For more application info, see the Davis Levin website.

 

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 28, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  We are getting ready for the NALP Annual Conference, and there are some great public interest programs.  New this year – the Social Justice Walking Tour.  We’re really looking forward to celebrating public service in Seattle.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  •  Google Public Policy (summer) Fellowship application now available;
  • Rutgers-Newark law school starts unique fellowship offering low cost legal help;
  • Goodwin Procter receives ABA’s 2014 National Public Service Award;
  • NY State officials taking indigent defense funds for other purposes;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Maria Keller;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

March 23, 2014 - The Google Policy Fellowship program offers undergraduate, graduate, and law students interested in Internet and technology policy the opportunity to spend the summer contributing to the public dialogue on these issues, and exploring future academic and professional interests.  Fellows will have the opportunity to work at public interest organizations at the forefront of debates on broadband and access policy, content regulation, copyright and creativity, consumer privacy, open government, government surveillance, data security, data innovation, free expression and more. More information about the program is outlined hereThe deadline for applications is April 14, 2014.

March 23, 2014 -  “Rutgers School of Law-Newark has launched a program to ease graduates into the legal profession. The program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, is paying new law school graduates $30,000 to spend a year working in an on-campus law firm serving low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans.  Under [Associate Dean Andy] Rothman’s guidance, the newly minted lawyers take on criminal, divorce, custody, special education, estate, landlord-tenant and other cases for clients who make too much money to qualify for free legal help. The Rutgers Law Associates Fellowship Program charges clients $50 an hour, a fraction of the $250 to $300 hourly rate many private attorneys charge.”  The program began with six fellows.  “The fellows agree to stay for a year, with the option of remaining with the firm for a second year with a $40,000 salary.”  (nj.com)

March 24, 2014 – “Goodwin Procter, a national Am Law 50 firm, has been selected by the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association as the law firm recipient of its 2014 National Public Service Award. Initiated in 1994, the annual honor recognizes delivery of significant pro bono legal services that demonstrate a commitment to providing assistance to the poor in a business context.”  “In selecting Goodwin Procter, ABA Business Law Section’s Pro Bono Committee Chair William Woodward said the Section ‘carefully considered the firm’s dedication to the development and delivery of innovative pro bono services that have provided legal counsel to nonprofit organizations and microbusinesses in aid of community development on an ongoing basis.’”  (Business Wire)

March 25, 2014 – “Over the past six years, the [New York State's] elected officials have yanked close to $50 million from a fund designated for indigent legal services.  While the ‘sweeps,’ as they are called, have not had immediate impact on a fund designated for indigent defense, those lost millions may be needed in future years as counties across New York try to provide constitutionally sound legal services for the poor. And the practice speaks to a larger issue, advocates for indigent defense services say: A continued unwillingness by state officials to confront a patchwork system of indigent legal aid.”  The state’s Indigent Legal Services Fund pays for the Office of Indigent Legal Services and provides grants across the state to counties to improve public defense services.  (Democrat and Chronicle)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: No matter your age, you can make a difference.  Just ask 13-year old Maria Keller.  She was one of recipients of this year’s Jefferson Awards for Public Service.  Founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, the Jefferson Awards is America’s highest honor for public service.  Ms. Keller won her award for her nonprofit Read Indeed.  Ms. Keller has always loved reading and at age 8 was shocked to find out some kids don’t have access to books.  So, she started by organizing a book drive and made a donation of a thousand books to a children’s shelter.  “From there she told her parents she wanted to collect and donate a million books to kids in need by the time she was 18.  This past fall the Orono Middle School student reached her goal, five years early.”  Her “new goal is to distribute books in every state in the country and in every country in the world.  For more information on her organization or how to donate books go to Read Indeed online or check out their Facebook page.”  Congratulations Maria!!  (CBS Minnesota)

Super Music Bonus! How could you not love a song called “Happy?”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmbEF017Zc

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Public Interest Attorney Salary Survey – Deadline March 28th!

nalp-logo

Every two years, NALP (the National Association for Law Placement) conducts a salary survey of legal aid and government attorneys at prosecutor and public defender offices. The 2014 survey is currently making its rounds throughout the public interest law community, and is incredibly important in determining the fiscal climate for attorneys in the public sector.

Please spread the word within the public interest law community.  The survey response deadline has been extended to March 28th.  

You can complete the survey now online or download the PDF – please use either one method or the other. All information will remain confidential. All participants will receive a free electronic copy of the report.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Christina Jackson, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives and Fellowships, at 202-296-0057 or cjackson@nalp.org, or Judith Collins, NALP’s Research Director, at 202-835-1001 or jcollins@nalp.org.

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Summer Funding: Spotlight on EJW’s AmeriCorps JD Program

This summer, Equal Justice Work’s AmeriCorps JD program is accepting applications for funding from law students spending their summer providing legal services to disaster victims or veterans. If you’re looking for a way to finance your summer public interest work, check out this opportunity and more on the PSJD Summer Funding guide. Deadlines are approaching fast, so don’t wait!

BONUS : Watch Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow Jennifer Aronson discuss how she helped a homeless veteran draft his will:

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – March 21, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  And Happy Spring to you!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Quinnipiac University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic receives $5,000 AT&T grant;
  • WY organizations partner to increase legal aid;
  • DC legal services groups awarded $3.4 million;
  • MO AG sues fake legal aid;
  • Legal Aid Ontario tackles access to justice in family law;
  • Wake Forest Law helps cancer patients;
  • ABA stipend available for law students working with the homeless this summer;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: ABA’s ProBAR celebrates 25 years;
  • Super Music Bonus! This week – a video bonus.

The summaries:

March 15, 2014 - “The Quinnipiac University School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic has received a $5,000 grant from AT&T Connecticut in support of its pro bono legal services work in the community.  This is the third year that the clinic has received funding through the AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Service Award and Fellowship. The funding provides a stipend to a student fellow who spends 10 hours a week working in the clinic, supervising other law students and researching ways to expand the scope of the clinic’s work.  In the Civil Justice Clinic, law students work under the supervision of full-time faculty members Sarah Russell and Kevin Barry, representing low-income individuals who cannot afford counsel, and work on public policy projects to benefit disadvantaged communities.”  (The Courant)

March 15, 2014 -  “The Wyoming State Bar announced that it will partner with the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid on an initiative called ‘I’ll Do One.’ The goal of the initiative is to encourage lawyers licensed in Wyoming to commit to at least one pro bono case.”  Attorneys who want to volunteer should go to www.wyomingbar.org.  (Casper Journal)

March 17, 2014 – “Twenty legal services projects across the District of Columbia will receive more than $3.4 million this year in publicly funded grants.  The annual Access to Justice Grants are funded by the D.C. Council and distributed by the D.C. Bar Foundation.”  “The foundation awarded approximately $250,000 more in grants this year than in 2013. The single largest grant, $589,500, went to a joint project by Bread for the City and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia that provides in-court legal services to clients in landlord and tenant matters.”  “This is the eighth year the D.C. Council has funded grants for local legal service organizations. The D.C. Bar Foundation also makes a set of separate grants each year based on money it raises from attorneys and the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program.”  (Legal Times)

March 18, 2014 – “Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit on Friday against a Florida-based legal services company that allegedly misled Missourians by claiming it was affiliated with state Legal Aid offices.  Yoram Rozenberg, doing business as Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society, allegedly advertised to Missouri consumers that the businesses were associated with Legal Services of Southern Missouri when that was not the case. Legal Services of Southern Missouri serves low-income and elderly citizens, typically with no charge.  Rozenberg allegedly took payments from at least one Missouri consumer for legal work that was not performed by a licensed Missouri attorney. Rozenberg’s businesses allegedly advertised in the Springfield phone books using a local phone number and falsely indicated affiliation with Legal Services of Southern Missouri.”  The suit seeks restitution and a bar against Rozenberg doing business in Missouri.  (Legal NewsLine)

March 19, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is developing a slate of programs and services to address the unmet legal needs of unrepresented family litigants as part of a larger, long-term strategy to improve access to justice for low-income Ontarians.  ‘Research shows that as many as 50 per cent of people in the family justice system try to solve their problems on their own because of limited available resources,’ says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. ‘Thanks to $30 million in additional provincial funding, LAO is in a position to expand on our current family services, while dedicating new resources to clients with family law needs.’” Currently, LAO has 15 family law projects in development which make use of the additional provincial funding.  LAO will continue consulting with stakeholders on avenues for resolving family law disputes.  (Digital Journal)

March 19, 2014 – “A new partnership between Wake Forest University School of Law and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will connect cancer patients in need of legal assistance with more than 40 law students participating in the school’s pro bono program.   Patients at the Comprehensive Cancer Center will be able to receive free legal assistance in areas such as advanced directives and other medical legal services, with the students supervised by attorneys from Wake Forest Baptist and Wall, Esleeck and Babcock in Winston-Salem.”  (The Business Journal)

March 20, 2014 – Law students interning with an organization that works with homeless clients can apply for a stipend.  The Curtin Justice Fund Legal Internship Program is seeking motivated law student interns to apply for stipends available for the Summer 2014 Program. The Program will pay a $2,500 stipend to three law school students who spend the summer months working for a bar association or legal services program designed to prevent homelessness or assist homeless or indigent clients or their advocates. The application deadline is Monday, March 31, 2014.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) is a project of the American Bar Association that provides legal information, pro se assistance and pro bono representation to thousands of immigrants and asylum-seekers detained in remote South Texas each year by the United States government.  Congratulations on 25 years of great work, and here is to many more!!!  Their celebration video is our Super Video Bonus for this week.

Super Video Bonus!

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Spotlight on Student Public Service & Pro Bono: On the Need for Holistic Representation in Veterans’ Rights Services, by Pro Bono Publico Award Winner Martin Bunt

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

This week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award winners have been guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring the grand prize winner and Emory University School of Law student Martin Bunt, a veterans’ rights advocate who co-founded the student-run Volunteer Clinic for Veterans.

Atlanta Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Emory Law

Read Martin’s take on why veterans’ service organizations need to unite and work together below!

I recently went to a briefing in Atlanta on state and federal funding available for veterans and the organizations that benefit them with Sion New, the next student director of the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. Also present at the briefing were churches, summer camps, medical organizations, mental health organizations, veteran job training organization, veteran general support organizations, the American Red Cross.

This was not the first time I had attended a get-together of this type. To see the amount of organizations serving veterans is truly heartening. There are so many people who wish to serve veterans. However, what others and I realized at the meeting is that the amount of organizations serving veterans creates both an opportunity and a problem. The opportunity is the ability of organizations serving veterans to partner with each other to provide “whole package” services to veterans in need. The problem is how do organizations become aware of all the other organizations in their area that they should partner with to serve veterans?

Organizations that serve veterans and other organizations need to solve this problem. We cannot fully accomplish our goal of helping those we serve without working together.

Each service an organization provides is a piece of a puzzle. For example, the VCV provides legal services in the areas of discharge upgrades and VA benefits. But we only provide legal services.

The following hypothetical explains how this could fail to fully help a veteran who comes to us:

A veteran named Brad, for example purposes only, comes to our Clinic for help appealing a denied VA rating for PTSD. Brad believes that his PTSD is connected to his two tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. Since Brad was discharged he got married and has two kids. After service Brad realized that his temper flared easily and he often woke with nightmares of a battle where he lost three of his friends to mortar and RPG fire. Brad works at a job that underutilizes the skills he learned as a soldier and therefore he does not enjoy going to work. His temper and lack of sleep recently caused him to lose his job and has severely strained his marriage. From interviews with Brad, it is clear that he has struggled as a veteran to find a purpose and the structured lifestyle that the military gave him.

The VCV can advocate on Brad’s behalf and win a PTSD rating for him from the VA. But monthly disability checks will not help Brad get his life where he truly wants it. He needs a purpose, he needs counseling, and he needs help with his family. Just from the community of organizations I met this past week in Atlanta, Brad can get all the help he needs.

Purpose

A new organization in Atlanta, the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, individually tailors programs that get veterans involved in serving their community and learning new skills to provide these services. Brad will discover a niche in helping his community with a skill he already possesses or will learn. This service will in turn lead him down a path to a job that he truly enjoys.

Counseling

Multiple organizations present at the briefing provided individual PTSD counseling. These private organizations are effective and needed supplements to the VA’s efforts to provide PTSD counseling to veterans. Brad would receive individual counseling and mentoring on different methods to manage his tempers and sleep better at night.

Family

Camp Twin Lakes is a Georgia based organization that has a Wounded Warrior program that offers weekend getaways for veterans and their families at Camp Twin Lakes different camps around Georgia. During these getaways veterans and their families not only get a wonderful vacation but attend marriage and family counseling.

After Brad receives all of the services offered by these organizations he would truly be a different man: He would be receiving the VA benefits he has earned; he would have a new purpose by utilizing his skill sets to serve his local community and in turn discovering a new, more suitable career; He would learn to control his temper and sleep better at night; His marriage would be on a much better footing. Brad would find all the pieces to the puzzle of life falling into place.

This example demonstrates why service organizations must work together in a community to aid those they serve. I believe a great solution to service organizations discovering each other is to create a central website that lists all service organizations by targeted population and services offered. This does not yet exist in Atlanta, but I believe it will happen soon. Leaders of all service organizations have a duty to work together to help those that we serve receive the “whole package,” we are failing them if we do not.

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Spotlight on Student Public Service: “Pro Bono Work is for Everyone!” by a Future BigLaw Attorney

Every year, we honor law student pro bono with the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award. Any 2L or 3L who attends a PSJD subscriber school and has significant pro bono contributions to underserved populations, the public interest community and legal education is eligible for nomination.

This week, the 2013-14 PSJD Pro Bono Publico (PBP) Award honorees will be guest blogging about law student pro bono and their public interest commitments. Today, we’re featuring  Emory Law student Rachel Erdman, who helped PBP Award winner Martin Bunt create a student-run veterans’ rights clinic.

Atlanta Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Emory Law

My name is Rachel Erdman, and together with Martin Bunt I co-founded the Emory Law Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. When people hear about my work with the Clinic, they generally assume that like Martin, I want to work in military law or in the public sector. When I explain that I’m going into intellectual property law at a large firm, I get confused looks. I’m often asked, “But then why are you so involved with pro bono work in veteran law?” The answer is simple: Attorneys aren’t limited by their area of law or firm size. Pro bono work is for everyone!

I did not seek out my biggest pro bono project, the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans. Instead, the Clinic found me. When Martin approached me at the end of 1L year, I had already accepted two other officer positions in extremely active student groups, and I knew that I would likely be on journal.  “I want to start this Clinic, but I can’t do it alone,” he said. “Will you help me?” There were a thousand reasons to say no. I didn’t have the time, it wasn’t in my area of focus, and we didn’t have a clear idea as to how I could even contribute. But in the end, pro bono work relies on us being able to open our hearts and say yes. You will always be glad that you did.

As attorneys and law students, we have the unique skill-set to help people in need, no matter what our background. Oddly enough, it was my background in science and systems that proved invaluable to the Clinic. Unlike Martin, I do not possess the admirable ability to walk into a room and immediately engage people in conversation. I typically end up turning red and mumbling something vaguely offensive, so I left the networking up to my co-founder. Instead, I quietly created the student-side infrastructure that one of the largest veteran’s clinics in the country needed to operate, all entirely for free. No matter what your background, you’ll always find an area that needs your skills.

Going into the private sector doesn’t mean that we can’t also volunteer. When I decided to pursue a job in Big Law, my public-sector law friends joked that I had turned to the dark side. But Big Law attorneys can play a critical role as pro bono advocates. Pro bono work is a never-ending flood of people in need. The attorneys that dedicate their lives to helping others simply can’t do it alone. They need allies in firms of all sizes and in every field of law.

Think of the Salvation Army standing outside of a store, ringing their bells with the big red buckets during Christmastime. If just one person in a group of people walking past these buckets tosses in their change, other people in the group are more likely to follow. The same applies to a firm. When people are involved in pro bono work, other attorneys in the firm are more likely to be interested. If pro bono interest is strong enough, the firm will even change its policies to make volunteering easier, such as allowing some pro bono hours to count towards the billable hour requirement, or organizing fundraising and charity events. Pro bono advocates in the private sector can therefore play a huge rule in shaping the pro bono community.

So next time you find yourself wondering whether you should take on a pro bono project, don’t be discouraged by your background or your area of law. The pro bono community is full of attorneys that would be more than happy to guide and mentor you. And most importantly, the people that you help don’t care about your background or if you’re in Big Law or from a tiny firm – they’re just happy that you said yes.

* Photo taken by Atlanta photographers LeahAndMark & Co.

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