Archive for September, 2010

Public Interest News Bulletin: 9/10/10

There was no Public Interest News Bulletin last Friday.  This is because the PSLawNet Blog observed the Labor Day long weekend by doing less labor.  But the Bulletin returns today with a special Interrogatory Edition.

This week: Why is it bad to be mean to opposing counsel?; Volunteer State pro bono – redundant?; legal services – to bundle or not to bundle?; do you know what an MLP is?; how do resource-strapped courts observe speedy-trial guarantees?; law students can’t pretend to be attorneys, but can they collect attorney’s fees?; how cold is stealing money from a legal services provider?; how cool an acronym is LOLLAF?;  where’s the best place to work in Uncle Sam’s bureaucracy?; how much poverty has the recession created?; are those pesky law school professors messing up legal education?; and finally, what’s shakin’ over at the ABA Division for Legal Services?

  • 9.8.10 – according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cobb County is expanding attorney practice rules that permit limited scope representation, or “unbundled legal services,” so that more moderate-income individuals can afford the services of a lawyer for discrete undertakings – like a consultation or document preparation – when they could not afford the fees that would be charged for full-scope representation on a legal matter(s).  The article touches upon the fact that the recession has brought the debate about limited scope representation to the front burner because many more people find themselves with legal problems but without sufficient funds to pay for an attorney.  And outside of Georgia, “[t]he practice is popular in California, where there are continuing legal education courses for lawyers on the topic.  In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court last year expanded a trial program for limited scope representation to the entire state court system.”  The PSLawNet Blog has covered news on the limited-scope representation debate in other jurisdictions, like Arizona (item 5) and Michigan (item 7), and here’s a New York Times op-ed from the chief justices of California and New Hampshire arguing that states should consider limited-scope representation as one means to increase access to justice.
  • 9.5.10 – Congestion in the courts!  The Press-Enterprise reports on a case in front of the California Supreme Court – People v. Engram – stemming from resource shortfalls and case backlogs in Riverside County trial courts – problems that exist in many other California counties as well.  The case could have an impact on “how courts statewide handle criminal cases on the verge of dismissal because of constitutional speedy-trial deadlines.”  After a long, winding adjudicatory path that included a conviction on a felony charge, a reversal, a retrial, a mistrial, and a stream of continuances on a third trial, a court ultimately dismissed the people’s case against Engram because it has reached a time deadline intended to guarantee a defendant’s speedy-trial right.  As it turns out, Riverside County has streamlined its docket system since the troubles at the center of this case took place.  As noted though, the underlying issue in the case could affect courts elsewhere in the state which are grappling with similar problems.
  • 9.4.10 – the Palm Beach Post reports that, “In Florida, 12 men have been freed from prison since 2000 after DNA evidence proved their innocence, some after serving time on Death Row.  Now the Florida Supreme Court has ruled a legal system that allows such miscarriages of justice needs to be fixed. It has created the Florida Innocence Commission to learn what goes wrong and to propose reforms.  Florida becomes the 10th state to study the causes of wrongful convictions.”  The commission is being funded with an appropriation from the state legislature and a grant from the Florida Bar Foundation.  The commission “will not hear individual please from those who say they have been wrongly imprisoned,” but rather will explore the systemic causes of wrongful convictions.  That work is already underway, and according to the story, “Mistaken eyewitness identification is far and away the leading cause…” of wrongful convictions.
  • 9.2.10 – from the National Law Journal, we learn that Washington D.C.’s highest (local) court delivered a favorable ruling regarding attorney’s fee awards for law school clinical programs last week.  Regarding an administrative matter in which two law students represented an individual whose disability benefits were terminated, the “…D.C. Court of Appeals ruled…that the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic [at George Washington University’s law school] was entitled to legal fees under a District of Columbia law pertaining to government worker disability cases. The court…found that the students’ work, supervised by George Washington clinical professor Jeffrey Gutman, did not amount to lay representation, which would have precluded recovery. The clinic sought about $6,400 in fees.”  The question in the case turned on whether a particular statute governing attorneys fees could apply to the work done by law students, who are by definition not attorneys.  “Because the students had worked closely with Gutman, a licensed attorney, the court found that awarding the fees was warranted.”  This decision is narrow because it deals with a particular statute, but this story makes the PSLawNet Blog wonder about case law in other jurisdictions on the question of law school clinic programs receiving attorney’s fees for cases handled by students.  If you have any insight on this topic, please offer it in the Comments section below.

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PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Nomination Deadline Extended to September 15

Do you  know a law student who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to public service?  Nominate him or her for the 16th Annual PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award! This Award honors students at PSLawNet Subscriber Schools who have made exceptional contributions to under-served populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono or public service work.  Nomination Deadline:  Wednesday, September 15.

The award winner will be invited to Washington, DC to be honored during an Award Luncheon at NALP’s Public Service Mini-Conference on Thursday, October 21, 2010.

Anyone can nominate a student.  Nomination forms are available here.

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Public Service Employers: Please Complete a Brief Survey about Recent Law Student and Attorney Hiring

Please participate in NALP’s brief, anonymous survey about recent trends in the public interest hiring market.  NALP is a national member association of career services and human resources professionals from law schools and legal employers throughout the U.S.  (NALP also administers the PSLawNet website and the PSLawNet Blog.)  We are conducting a survey of nonprofit and government law offices about 1) recent law student and law graduate hiring and 2) hiring expectations in the immediate future.  In late October we will produce a report based on survey responses.  The report will be made freely available on our PSLawNet website: www.pslawnet.org.  We will NOT identify any participating organizations by name. We hope the report, which will provide a snapshot about the current employment market, will benefit the public interest legal community as well as law students and attorneys who are on public service career paths.

Who Should Participate: nonprofit and government (local/state/federal) legal organizations in the U.S.  There is a place in the survey to indicate whether it is being submitted on behalf of an entire organization, a branch office of a larger organization, or a practice unit within a larger organization.  We encourage respondents to coordinate with others in your organizations in order to avoid duplicating responses. 

Survey Completion Deadline: Wednesday, September 22, 2010.

Link to Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DJW9WNL  

Questions/Concerns: Please contact Steve Grumm, NALP’s Director of Public Service Initiatives, at sgrumm@nalp.org or directly at 202.296.0057.

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Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair: Registration Open for Job Seekers

Searching for the ideal summer or postgraduate public-interest job?  The annual Equal Justice Works Conference & Career Fair is taking place just outside DC on October 22-23.  Job-seeker registration has just opened.  Learn more details and register on the Equal Justice Works website.  The career fair is a terrific and unique event, and we encourage law students and grads to look into attending.

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What are the "Best Places to Work" in the Federal Government?

Thinking about pursuing a career in federal government?  If so, the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work rankings are an excellent resource to learn about employees’ perceptions of overall employee satisfaction, agency leadership, opportunities for performance based rewards and advancement, diversity, work/life balance, and more throughout the federal government.

The Partnership for Public Service’s  2010 Best Places to Work were just released.  The rankings are “based on the responses of more than 263,000 employees” at “290 federal organizations (32 large agencies, 34 small agencies and 224 subcomponents).”  The rankings also provide a demographic breakdown of responses from each agency or subcomponent.

Of the large agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Government Accountability Office, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Smithsonian Institution, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were ranked as the top five “best places to work.”  At the other end of the spectrum, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Archives and Records Administration, Department of Education, Small Business Administration, and Department of Homeland Security received the lowest rankings.

Access the complete rankings:  http://www.bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/rankings

Check out The Wastington Post’s article for responses to the rankings from the SEC, OMB, and the Smithsonian.

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Expert Opinion: Capitalizing on Your Summer Employment Experience – Key Steps to Take Now

Your summer job experience is complete and you are back in the classroom . . .  What steps can you take now to help you land your next summer position or post-graduate employment?

Today’s Expert Opinion column comes to us from Sharon Booth, Director of Public Interest Programs at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Sharon is a former Legal Aid attorney who has been with NSU for approximately 10 years.  Her column addresses the key steps you should be taking now to ensure you are maximizing the potential of this summer’s experience to further explore your career path and find your next job.

1.) Continue to cultivate your relationship with your summer employer(s).

  • Keep in touch with your summer employer(s) by periodically emailing or calling them after you return to school.  If your employer has an email distribution list for announcements ask to be added to the listserv.
  • Be assertive in expressing your interest in a future position with their organization (if applicable).  If not, keep them apprised of your future plans and career goals.
  • Participate in networking opportunities with your summer employer(s) by attending office events, community service activities or local bar association meetings during the academic year.
  • Maintaining this relationship could lead to anything from a great recommendation to a full time job after graduation!

2.) Utilize your summer contacts to set up informational interviews.

  • Create a list of the contacts you made over the summer, including geographic and practice areas.
  • As you begin to plan for your second summer or post-graduate employment, set up informational interviews with several of these individuals.  Although you are not seeking employment directly from them, always take an updated copy of your resume in case they offer to pass it along.
  • This type of research and preparation is an invaluable tool for learning more about the opportunities, personalities and legal culture in a particular city, practice area or organization.
  • For more information on informational interviews, including sample letters and questions, you can check out this publication from Harvard Law School:  http://www.law.harvard.edu/current/careers/opia/landing-your-job/networking/index.html

Keep reading . . .

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PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award Nominations – Deadline: Thursday, September 9

Do you  know a law student who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to public service?  Nominate him or her for the 16th Annual PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award! This Award honors students at PSLawNet Subscriber Schools who have made exceptional contributions to under-served populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono or public service work.  Nomination Deadline:  Thursday, September 9.

The award winner will be invited to Washington, DC to be honored during an Award Luncheon at NALP’s Public Service Mini-Conference on Thursday, October 21, 2010.

Anyone can nominate a student.  Nomination forms are available here.

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