Blog Post from Deferred Associate: Update on Placement with Oakland's Public Interest Law Project

Andrew Ardinger, whose start date at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe was deferred, is spending a year with the Public Interest Law Project (PILP), a civil legal services support and resource organization that works with partners throughout California.  Ardinger has occasionally blogged for the American Lawyer about his public-interest experience.  His latest AmLaw post suggests that he’s had some valuable experiences, in terms of both professional and personal development, at PILP. 

…it was the first case that I got to see all the way through from start to finish that was the highlight of my first six months here. Through a task force that focuses on public benefits issues, PILP learned that a local county had created a rule that appeared unsupported on a legal level and grossly unfair on a gut level. As a result of the rule, poor people were being forced from stable homes to the streets because of a sharp reduction in their welfare benefits. I was involved in the preliminary investigation, researching the legal issues and talking with recipients to determine how and when this rule had been applied, and to what effect. When the decision was made to file, my bosses had me develop the complaint (at least the first draft or so), and I traveled out to our clients’ homes to meet with them and discuss the suit in detail. A while after we filed, the county agreed to discuss a settlement, and my bosses encouraged me to attend and participate in the negotiation sessions. PILP and the county reached an agreement that rescinded the rule and paid recipients across the county benefits that had been previously withheld.

It was my happy duty to discuss the terms of the settlement with our clients…

We’ve been closely following the phenomenon of deferred associates taking temporary public interest placements.  (We did some writing on the issue last December.  And a number of media articles focused on the phenomenon are collected here, on ProBono.net.)  There are many variables to consider when it comes to assessing how well things are playing out.  Two of the most important variables deal with whether the associates have opportunities to 1) interact with clients so that they can see first-hand the challenges those clients face, and 2) cultivate practice-related skills that will aid in their professional development.  It’s good to see that Mr. Ardinger’s experience has allowed him to do both.

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