Archive for April, 2010

PSLawNet Email Alert System Change

If you have a PSLawNet account (and if you don’t, you probably should), then hopefully you know about our useful email alert system – you can set a search to run daily or weekly and you receive emails with new matching jobs. Well, our system was doing such a good job that it was starting to overwhelm our servers, so we’ve made some minor changes. We have changed our email alert system so each created alert will last for six months, then expire. The alert will not be deleted, so you can continue to receive updates by logging in and clicking “Renew” next to the expired or soon-to-be-expired alert. For current alerts that were created more than six months ago, you will receive an email explaining the upcoming expiration and providing a link to renew the alert if desired. If you have any questions, please email us.

We hope this change allows us to continue to provide excellent, uninterrupted service.

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Some Friday Morning Inspiration

A couple weeks ago the National Law Journal announced their list of the most influential lawyers of the decade. Yesterday they posted a video interview with one of the four lawyers honored in the Civil Rights category – John Payton is the General Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. So take a few minutes this morning to listen to a truly impressive civil rights advocate talk about some of the most important Supreme Court cases he worked on.

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One Voice Laments the Potential Passing of KSAs

We blogged earlier about the oft-rumored demise of the essay-style Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) questions that are a prominent part of many federal employment applications. Most people have greeted this news with much rejoicing, but we ran across this opinion piece at GovermentExecutive.com that has some contrary opinions. Brian Friel argues that KSAs serve a purpose similar to cover letters – requiring applicants to articulate specific reasons that they are the best person suited for the job. Friel goes further, and claims that if a person is not willing to spend the time answering KSAs, perhaps they aren’t suited for government employment at all:

But if the “best and brightest” are so turned off by the need to submit lengthy documentation supporting their claims that they are indeed the best and brightest, then perhaps they really aren’t well-suited for jobs in a paperwork-intensive environment such as the federal government.

What do you think? Is a resume and cover letter enough to prove you’ve got the chops to make it in federal government, or is there a compelling reason to have applicants address the specific skills the job requires in this unique form?

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Texas Legal Services Community Tries to Support Rising Numbers of Pro Se Litigants

In a Fort Worth Star- Telegram op-ed several days ago, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and the chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission noted that more and more low-income Texans are representing themselves in civil matters for which they can not afford counsel, which runs the risk of clogging up the court system.  The authors contended that while the longer-term solution to this problem is to adequately fund civil legal services programs, in the short term courts, public interest organizations, and other stakeholders should implement programs and resources to help pro se litigants navigate the justice system.

 
 
We will continue aspiring to the ideal that all litigants should be represented by competent counsel. In the meantime, these innovative programs can serve as models for Texas as we strive to address the challenge to give all of our citizens the tools to protect their legal rights.

This week, the Texas Tribune focuses on the growing problem

The vast majority [of pro se litigants in Dallas] have little knowledge of the law or interest in navigating their case through the complex legal system. They simply can’t afford a lawyer, and Legal Aid in Texas only serves those who earn up to a mere 125 percent above the poverty line.

Last week, the Tribune notes, the Texas Forum on Self-Represented Litigants and the Courts took place in Dallas.  Participants highlighted the fact that the terrible state of funding for civil legal services programs is closely tied to the problem of swelling numbers of pro se litigants, some of whom would qualify for legal aid but are turned away because of overwhelming caseloads.

‘Legal aid is able to help two out of seven to eight people who need it — if that,’ says Jonathan Vickery of Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and in most cases what they get is limited to a little advice, not true representation.  ‘So what are people to do when they are facing loss of their children, eviction from their home, where do they go?’

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Interested in Education Law? There's Still Work to be Done.

We blogged earlier that the U.S. Department of Education is planning on ramping up its civil rights enforcement and an article in yesterday’s Washington Post indicates that this is likely a good plan. A county school district in southwestern Mississippi was just ordered by a federal judge to comply with a desegregation order that was initially put into place in 1970. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division alleged that the county school board was taking steps to actively re-segregate the local schools, primarily by allowing white students to transfer to an identifiably white school, and clustering the remaining white students in the other school such that there were racially identifiable classrooms at all grade levels.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called education “the civil rights issue of our generation,” and cases like this reaffirm that, all across the country, a lot of work remains to be done to ensure a quality education for all.

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Equal Justice Works Summer Corps Deadline Approaching!

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Government Should Change Grad Student Hiring, Schools Argue

The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration released a white paper urging the federal government to overhaul hiring practices to allow more non-competitive hiring of graduate students (including law students for programs other than Legal Honors Programs). Government Executive had the story, and does a good job summarizing the recommendations. Two suggestions were expanding the Presidential Management Fellows program, or supplementing other internship programs such as the Federal Career Intern Program, but in a coordinated way across agencies.

It would be interesting to see how these changes would affect law school grads, since attorneys are already exempt from the competitive hiring process. However, many law school grads are working in the federal government in non-attorney positions working on public policy and enforcement issues. As always, to learn more about federal employment, check out the PSLawNet Federal Government Resources page.

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Final Reminder: Register by 12pm EDT on 4/13 for Free Webinar on Making the Most of Your Summer Public Interest Job (Webinar on 4/14)

Law Students: Save the date!  On Wednesday, April 14th at 3:00pm EDT, NALP and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) are presenting “Top Ten Tips for a Successful Summer Internship in a Public Interest Office…and What to Avoid.”  This free webinar will help law students make the most of their summer experiences in civil legal services organizations and public defenders’ offices by offering concrete tips from both public interest attorneys with extensive experience in supervising law students and law school public interest advisors who counsel students on maximizing professional development opportunities.  The webinar will be led by Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting for the D.C. Public Defender Service, and Phyllis Holmen, Executive Director of the Georgia Legal Services Program.   

To Register: All students and law school career professionals who are interested in participating should e-mail Kevin Mills, Director of Membership at NLADA at membership@nlada.org, BY NOON ON TUESDAY, APRIL 13th, providing your full name, e-mail address, and a phone number.  Please type “Student Webinar” in the email’s subject line.

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Reinforcing the Call for Change in Legal Education

In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.  (The report press release is freely available, as well as the executive summary (pdf)). The report found that while law schools do an excellent job of training students to “think like a lawyer,” they pretty uniformly struggle to provide “strong skill[s] in serving clients and a solid ethical grounding.” The Report made seven recommendations to integrate practical skills and ethical training with doctrinal education, and called for an

“integrated, three-part curriculum: (1) the teaching of legal doctrine and analysis, which provides the basis for professional growth; (2) introduction to the several facets of practice included under the rubric of lawyering, leading to acting with responsibility for clients; and (3) exploration and assumption of the identity, values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purposes of the legal profession.”

Remember, this was all in 2007, before the economic collapse and ongoing restructuring of the legal profession. The recommendations are taking on more weight these days though, and were discussed as part of a conference this weekend on potential new models for legal education. The National Law Journal reported on the conference and both old and new suggestions, writing,

“The deficiencies cited in the Carnegie report have only been exacerbated by the downturn in the legal economy, which has slowed law firm hiring and prompted some clients to revolt against paying for the on-the-job training of first- and second-year associates.”

So it may be that where law schools were unwilling to make drastic changes for the sake of improving an educational system, they may be forced to make them to ensure their graduates are viable hires in this economy. The speakers at the conference certainly pulled no punches when discussing the current state of legal education. Paul Lippe, CEO of Legal OnRamp, said

“Law school is not simply incomplete, it’s directionally wrong in many respects because it’s misaligned with where the world really is. In my opinion, most of the things I see that are problematic in the profession right now are rooted in law schools.”

The conference is part of a year-long series focusing on changes in legal education sponsored by Harvard Law School and New York Law School, and we will strive to keep you updated on all the news coming out (a follow-up meeting is scheduled for October, with final recommendations and plans scheduled to be released in April 2011). It will be particularly interesting to watch if or how reformers discuss legal education in relation to public interest and public service work.

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Justice John Paul Stevens to Retire at End of Term

The Blog of the Legal times reported earlier today that Justice Stevens sent a letter to President Obama announcing his intention to retire at the close of the current term.  The letter was short and sweet, as seems to be the custom judging by Justices Souter’s and O’Connor’s retirement letters.  (Here, by the way, is NPR’s take on the potential nominees for the open seat.)

The PSLawNet Blog wonders when justices may begin using more modern communication channels to make such announcements.  It would have been funny if the perpetually bow-tied and amiable Justice Stevens issued a resignation tweet rather than the old snail-mail letter.  “Will b retired by smmr…..so kewl!!!!!!….party in ft lauderdale 24-7-365!!!!!!! :)”

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