Archive for May, 2011

Tips for Aspiring Adjunct Professors!

Time to hit the books again.  Last week, Golden Gate University School of Law Professor Rachel van Cleave gave law.com readers a primer on teaching as an adjunct professor.  And, for many lawyers and law graduates in public interest, being an adjunct professor is a great way to supplement a full or part-time position while sharing skills and gaining teaching experience.  Not to mention additional income.

“After practicing law and perhaps specializing in a particular area for several years, you cannot help but think, ‘I wish they had taught me [blank] in law school.” You start to wonder whether you could teach a class at a local law school.’

Luckily, for the readers of PSLawNet Blog, she didn’t leave us hanging. She’s provided information about the hiring process, preparing to teach, and what the in-the-classroom-experience is like. Incredibly helpful! Here are some excerpted tips from her piece.

On hiring:

“Send a cover letter and your curriculum vitae to the person who hires adjunct professors. The cover letter should explain which courses you believe best match your areas of expertise. I strongly recommend that you send a traditional resume rather than a link to your website; however, an email with these attachments is completely acceptable.”

“Do not be discouraged if the associate dean responds that at that time there are no courses for you to teach. I typically keep these applications on file and when a need arises, I will take another look at applications I have received. In addition, I recommend that every few months you resend your application with an email that simply indicates you are checking to see if a need has arisen. Try to avoid sounding even mildly annoyed.”

Getting ready to teach:

“You should first focus on which textbook to use. Someone at the law school, probably a faculty assistant, can help you contact publishers to obtain examination copies of relevant textbooks. While you want to consider the organization of the book, as well as the types of problems it includes, it is often difficult to really know which textbook works best with your teaching style until you use it. I suggest that you contact professors at other law schools who teach the same course to learn from their experience using different texts.”

In the classroom:

The semester has begun. You come to class fully prepared, students are interested in the materials and they have good questions.  Occasionally, there is a disruptive student, or one who is absent too often. Again, the associate dean will be able to suggest how to address such situations, or put you in touch with someone who can.

Grading exams — where we really earn our compensation! It can be particularly helpful to prepare an outline of what your essay tested and your allocation of points among those areas. In addition, it is a good idea to write comments on the student essays as you grade them. Students are encouraged to meet with professors about their exams and since this could occur two to three months after you have graded, these comments will help you remember why you scored the essay as you did.

The PSLawNet Blog is grateful for primers like this one, particularly regarding employment in this tough economy.  Keep ’em coming!

–Lauren

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Job o' the Day: Environmental law and a taste of the South

The Southern Environmental Law Center is happy to announce that it is opening an office in Nashville, Tennessee and is hiring a Managing Attorney. The office initially will be staffed with three attorneys. This is a rare opportunity to join one of the nation’s most effective environmental organizations, and to lead a new office in addressing a broad range of important and challenging environmental issues.

About SELC and the Nashville Office: With offices across the region, SELC uses law and policy expertise to protect the South’s natural resources, its land, air, water, coast and wetlands and to preserve our rural countryside and community character. Although our regional focus is the Southeast, much of our work is national in scope and impact.

Our approach is unique and successful. We work in Congress and state legislatures to inform environmental law; in regulatory agencies to implement environmental laws and policies; and in the courts to stop the worst abuses of southern resources and set precedents to ensure their lasting protection. SELC works collaboratively with over 100 national, state, and local groups to enhance their efficacy and achieve our common conservation goals. Our legal and policy staff comprises some of the nation?s leading experts in their respective fields, and over its 25-year history, SELC has earned a reputation as one of the most effective environmental organizations in the country. We currently have a staff of 85, including 44 attorneys. Additional information regarding our work and staff is available at www.southernenvironment.org.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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Public Interest News Bulletin – May 27, 2011

Greetings, Dear Readers, and  Happy Friday!  Having returned from the Equal Justice Conference, which featured some terrific programming and offered important insights about trends affecting the legal services and pro bono communities, I give you this week’s Bulletin.  Two quick pieces of personal business before we dive in:

  1. I wish to thank my colleauge Lauren Forbes for producing a great Bulletin last week.
  2. Happy belated birthday to my friends Bob Glaves and Kelly Tautges of the Chicago Bar Foundation.  I can think of no more distinguished way to pass along birthday well-wishes.    

This week’s edition is brimming over with news and developments from all corners of the public interest legal world.  To wit:

  • 5.25.11 – writing in the National Law Journal, Stacy Caplow, director of clinical legal education at Brooklyn Law School, offers a solution to the “crisis” in the immigration system: a corps of law grads doing two years of service as immigration attorneys.  In laying out the system’s myriad problems, Prof. Caplow offers a startling statistic: as for immigrants in the NY area, “a nondetained immigrant represented by a lawyer had a 74% chance of avoiding deportation, whereas a detained immigrant without counsel had only a 3% rate of success.”  Wow.  Caplow’s solution: [L]et’s create a structured program for…law graduates to provide legal services to poor, unrepresented immigrants while developing skills and knowledge to improve the level of competency of the immigration bar….  We could call it Immig-Corps. I picture recent law graduates being trained and supervised over a period of two years, going to detention centers, to immigration court, interviewing, counseling and representing individuals facing deportation.”  Read the full piece for discussion of how to fund the program.  I’ve got some thoughts on these such proposals – not the least of which is apprehension about the risk of downward pressure on already-low public interest attorney salaries.  But that must wait for a longer blog post.

 

 

 

  • 5.24.1 – according to the Blog of the Legal Times, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expressed “disappointment” in himself stemming from a scandal around political vetting of attorneys and law students who were competing for (non-political-appoinment) positions with DOJ.

 

   

  • 5.24.11 – it looks like prosecutors in Berkeley will see some more funding from the county.  Huzzah!  After all, someone has to bring Swift Justice to all those good-for-nothing, commune-living, dope-smoking hippie rapscallions…wait…oh…Berkeley, South Carolina.  Our bad.  In any case, the Berkeley Independent reports: “Berkeley County Council has included funding to help assist the solicitor and public defender’s offices in its fiscal year 2011-2012 budget that will be presented to council next month.  Included in the budget is funding that would help Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson recoup more than $140,000 that was cut from her office’s budget due to the discontinuation of grants from the Department of Justice and the state’s Department of Public Safety.  Also included in the budget is $115,000 earmarked for the public defender’s office.  Without the funding, it is estimated that the county’s public defender’s office would have to close for two months next year or lay off two of its five attorneys.”

 

  • 5.23.11 – the Newark Star-Ledger reports that funding cuts on several fronts are decimating Legal Services of New Jersey: “The pool of available lawyers at Legal Services of New Jersey, which provides attorneys in civil cases for people at or below the poverty level, began to shrink just as the number of cases reached an all-time high.  Over the past three years, nearly 300 of its 703 attorneys have been let go, said Melville D. Miller Jr., president of Legal Services of New Jersey.”  For LSNJ, it’s been the bad funding news trifecta: IOLTA funds are way down, as are state and federal funds.  Some potential good news: state lawmakers are looking at emergency solutions to help shore up funding. 

 

  • 5.223.11 – stagnant salaries are leading to attorney retention troubles for one Arizona prosecutor.  From to the Arizona Daily Star: Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall has seen so many resignations and retirements over the past three years that 64 percent of her prosecutors have five years’ or less experience in the courtroom.  As with most county employees, LaWall’s staff hasn’t seen a raise in nearly four years, causing many to leave…. Pima County [which is the Tucson area] records indicate the 29 prosecutors hired at $57,000 between 2006 and 2009 are making roughly the same as the nine hired within the last year.”  The $57K starting salary is actually a solid figure, comfortably over the median, national starting prosecutor’s salary of $50K that NALP reported in 2010.  Nevertheless, the attrition of mid-level attorneys is double trouble: not only is the office losing folks who should move into leadership positions, it is also losing on the investment it made in training those attorneys.

 

  • 5.23.11 – Las Vegas-based KLAS has a brief story about apparent underfunding in the local District Attorney’s Office: “While crime is at 2011 levels, the number of Deputy DA’s are at 2000 levels…. The DA’s Office handles all the cases coming through the Regional Justice Center, while the Public Defender’s Office handles around 40 percent. The DA’s say they’re concerned budget cuts prevented them from hiring new attorneys over the past three years, while the Public Defender’s Office continues to grow.”  Leaving aside the fact that a straight-up comparison of prosecutor and public defender funding is apples and oranges, we do hope that the District Attorney can address staffing problems.

 

 

 

 

  • 5.20.11 – Yoder to the Associated Press: “Mistaken your views on funding cuts are!”  (World’s worst Star Wars reference?  Very, very likely.)  Dave Yoder is the executive director of Legal Aid of East Tennessee.  In a letter to the editor of the Knoxville XXXXXX, Yoder takes issue with an AP article that seemed to minimize the impact of recent federal budget cuts, particularly as regards programs helping the poor: “The article fails to point out that the cut in LSC funding was more than 5 percent…. The article fails to recognize that current federal funding is less than half of what it was, when adjusted for inflation, in 1981.  The article fails to point out that funding to LAET from Department of Housing and Urban Development for unlawful foreclosure and eviction prevention and from Department of Justice for domestic violence prevention has also been cut either directly or by the elimination of stimulus funding. The personal, social and economic short and long-term impact will be much greater on low income citizens and on our communities than suggested.”

 

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Prison Overcrowding: California's Got Some 8th Amendment Trouble, While Other States Look to Cut Costs

Prison overcrowding has come to the fore recently as economically stressed state governments wonder if reducing incarcerated populations, particularly by releasing non-violent and low-risk offenders, may be a way to save money.  Well, in California there’s another reason to thin out the prison roles.  From the Washington Post‘s Robert Barnes:

A bitterly divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld a judicial order that could result in the release of nearly 40,000 prisoners from a California penal system so overcrowded that its conditions are, the court wrote, “incompatible with the concept of human dignity.”

The number of prisoners in California continues to fluctuate, but at one time the prison system there held nearly twice as many inmates as the 80,000 it was meant to hold. When a special three-judge panel first ordered the release, it said that about 46,000 inmates would need to be freed in order to reduce the prison population to a manageable 110,000.

Since then, Kennedy said, 9,000 inmates have been released. An attorney for the inmates said after the ruling that 32,000 inmates should be released.

“As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, monitored by as few as two or three correctional officers,” [Kennedy] wrote. “As many as 54 prisoners may share a single toilet.” Suicides averaged one a week, he said; a report that found one inmate died about every week from ailments that could have been prevented.

Kennedy said the conditions are not safe for the prisoners or correctional officers, and he even included photos of the overcrowding as part of his opinion.

Kennedy said reducing the prison population could be accomplished in a number of ways besides simply releasing inmates. Some could be transferred to local jails or to prisons outside the state, something California already is doing. Expanding the use of “good-time” credits would allow the release of those least likely to reoffend; so would excusing prisoners now incarcerated for technical violations of parole.

Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas strongly dissented, with Justice Scalia reading his dissent, in which Thomas joined, from the bench.

While this case has its origins elsewhere, the PSLawNet Blog is interested to see how much continued discussion there will be about the extraordinarily high costs of administering prison programs in the recession’s wake.  Aside from the Reuters piece we linked to above, in April the NAACP, joined by a bizarre collection of folks from all across the political spectrum – when’s the last time the NAACP and Grover Norquist joined forces? –  released a report detailing how much spending goes to maintaining prisons.

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Job o' the Day: Research LGBT Rights in Johannesburg or Nairobi

Human Rights Watch’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (“LGBT”) Rights program is seeking a Researcher. The Researcher will focus on human rights abuses related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in sub-Saharan Africa under the supervision of the Director of the LGBT Rights program, who will provide guidance on the choice of research and advocacy projects. The Researcher will be responsible for ongoing research and advocacy efforts, play an important role in developing strategies for dealing with human rights issues related to sexuality and sexual rights, and contribute to policy development in this area. The Researcher will carry out factfinding missions to target countries; write and publicize reports on findings; develop advocacy strategies; present human rights concerns to governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and the media; and write press releases, articles, op-eds, and position papers. The Researcher will coordinate research and advocacy plans with HRW’s thematic and regional divisions, help create and maintain partnerships with NGOs working on LGBT and sexual rights, and follow media and other reports on human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The ideal candidate will have an advanced degree in law, public health, international relations, gender studies, or a related field, and three-to-six years of experience in human rights, with a preferred emphasis in LGBT rights, gender, sexual rights, or a closely related area. Candidates must have research experience and advocacy skills and should have good interviewing skills; field experience in public health or human rights is strongly desirable, as is demonstrated experience working with LGBT communities. Experience working with issues of gender identity and expression is highly desirable. Excellent oral and written communications skills in English are required, and writing and speaking proficiency in another language is advantageous. Candidates should be highly motivated and well-organized; able to work quickly and well under pressure, both independently and as a member of a team; juggle multiple tasks and meet tight deadlines; and demonstrate a commitment to international human rights.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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Public Interest News Bulletin – May 20, 2011

Greetings, dear reader. There’s lots to share this week including:  federal hiring reform stats; ACLU criticizing Michigan’s public defender system; the federal hiring freeze and its effect on DOJ hiring;  legal services funding woes; Connecticut Bar Foundation Distinguished Service Awards; an update on the success of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program; how budget cuts are impacting foreclosure assistance groups in New York City;  Charleston School of Law’s student pro bono requirements; a unique partnership between the Texas Tech School of Law and the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense to improve legal representation for low-income populations; good news about Chicago Bar Foundation’s fundraising efforts;   Maine resident Cushman Anthony honored for his life’s work;  and breath testers in doubt in Vermont, affecting dozens of DUI cases.

This week:

  • 5.18.11 – An article in Michigan Live reports that the ACLU is blasting Michigan’s public defender system, citing a 2002-03 Muskegon County armed robbery case as a prime example of the failure of Michigan’s system of court-appointed lawyers for criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire their own.  The ACLU claims that “evidence points to (the) innocence” of Alphonso Sones Sr., who is currently serving two multi-decade terms.  The ACLU recently released a report calling Michigan’s public defender system one of the worst in the nation, criticizing the state for leaving funding and oversight of criminal defense of the indigent to the 83 counties, many of whom leave their systems underfunded and badly run.  Sones’ attempts to overturn his conviction on the grounds did not represent him effectively have failed, but the ACLU seems unlikely to let Michigan public defenders off the hook any time soon.
  • 5.16.11 –  Featured in the Connecticut Law Tribune,  James Bowers,  Kate Stith and Hugh C. Macgill received Distinguished Service Awards from the Connecticut Bar Foundation last week.  While Bowers, Macgill and Stith have all followed different career courses as practitioners and professors of the law, their journeys began with the realization that justice is not free and access to it is not equal.  “For Bowers, a partner at Day Pitney who has defended high-powered people accused of white-collar crimes, that awareness began when he grew up in the South as a black man in a system built for white people.  For Stith, a Yale University professor and former assistant U.S. attorney in New York, it began with a research paper she wrote as a student at Dartmouth College on the first legal aid program in New Hampshire.  For Macgill, a professor and past dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law, it began early in his career and continues today.” The event also featured an impassioned speech about the need to fund legal services for the poor by New York Judge Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of that state’s highest court, who said, “No issue is more basic to our constitutional reason for being than providing equal justice for all.”
  • 5.14.11 – The New York Times featured a piece about how budget cuts threaten foreclosure assistance–a dismal outlook.  In New York City, foreclosure-prevention programs have helped more than 3,000 homeowners facing foreclosure over the past three years.  The programs have been financed since 2009 by federal stimulus spending, but that money will run out by the end of this year. That has left lawmakers scrambling to try to find new state financing, while the small army of pro bono lawyers fighting foreclosures waits and worries.  “We are hardly at the end of the foreclosure tsunami,” said Vicki Been, co-director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at the New York University School of Law.  “There continue to be a lot of people losing their homes. The numbers have softened, but the crisis is not over.”
  • 5.13.11 – a unique partnership between the Texas Tech School of Law and the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense to improve legal representation for low income populations in the state’s far flung, sparsely populated counties.  The Dallas Morning News blog reports that the Caprock Public Defender Office is the first of its kind in Texas, said Bryan Wilson, grants administrator for the Task Force. The project pairs a law school professor and students in a law school clinic with counties that have few if any attorneys available for court appointments.  “About a dozen counties in the Lubbock area covering a 40,000 square mile area, have signed up for the office to provide representation for misdemeanor and juvenile defendants.”  In Texas, like so many other states, the need is great.  PSLawNet Blog applauds partnerships like this one!
  • 5.13.11 – In the Windy City, a piece in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin discusses Chicago Bar Foundation’s fundraising efforts. The efforts have yielded positive results.  “Organizers of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Investing in Justice Campaign said they are seeing ‘record-breaking success’ in this year’s effort to increase financial support for area providers of legal services to the poor.  During the fundraising campaign, which marked its fifth year with a kickoff in early March, more than 3,300 individual attorneys and legal professionals from 110 participating law firms, corporate legal departments and other law-related organizations contributed more than $1.3 million toward the effort, organizers said.”
  • 5.13.11 – The Vermont Digger reports that with breath testers in doubt, Vermont prosecutors are set to toss dozens of DUI cases after an investigation found a long list of alleged problems with breath testers. David Sleigh, a criminal defense attorney based in St. Johnsbury is partnering with Burlington lawyer Frank Twarog to use a client’s case and those of two other DUI clients to attack the credibility of DataMaster breath testers. The DataMaster breath testers are used by police and the state health lab that certifies and maintains them. Sleigh has witnesses prepared to testify that the health department used unorthodox methods to repair damaged DataMasters and to get them to “pass” routine performance checks over a period of years. The compromised testers raise legitimate questions about whether innocent drivers have been convicted ed of DUIs based on faulty evidence. Equally troubling, though, is the prospect of dangerous drunk drivers getting off the hook and back behind the wheel.

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Job o' the Day: Bi-lingual Attorney Needed to Direct Immigrant Rights Project

The Pacific Northwest is calling! The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) seeks a Directing Attorney for its Granger Office. NWIRP promotes justice for low-income immigrants by pursuing and defending their legal status. We focus on providing direct legal services, supported by our education and public policy work.

NWIRP is an exciting and dynamic nonprofit immigrant rights organization that has been in operation for more than 27 years. NWIRP provides services at four sites in Washington State: Seattle, Granger, Moses Lake and Tacoma (serving the Northwest Detention Center).  NWIRP’s Granger Office is located in Granger, WA, a city of more than 3,000 people located in a rural area 25 miles southeast of Yakima.  From this location, the office serves clients from across Central and Eastern Washington.  The office currently has a staff of eight and serves a client base consisting largely of farmworkers and their families.

Basic responsibilities: Oversee and supervise operations of NWIRP’s Granger office. Provide mentoring, support and supervision to attorneys, accredited representatives and legal advocates in the office.  Maintain own caseload of immigration matters.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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Job o' the Day: Be All That You Can Be…As an Attorney Advisor

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeks an Attorney Advisor to perform attorney services for the various realty functions and activities of the district such as real property condemnation matters in Fort Worth, Texas.  If determined condemnation is necessary for title defects, the staff attorney will prepare the attorney’s opinion and the required pleadings, witnesses and court exhibits; attend pre-trial hearings and trials; participate in negotiations for settlement and recommend settlements. He or she will be responsible for preparing complex deeds of conveyance and donation involving large sums of money and affecting large segments of public and private interests.

The attorney will be designated closing attorney and make payments for land or interest therein. He or she will examine title certificates for compliance with contract terms. Uses judgment to determine what documents are necessary to cure outstanding title defects which requires extensive research and analysis of complex factual and legal issues. The attorney advisor will prepare and present orally and in writing, legal opinions, advice and guidance to District contracting officers and their representatives in regard to matters of procurement law in connection with construction supply, services and architect-engineer contracts.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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El Paso Lawyers for Patriots to Host Educational Conference for Military/Veterans Issues

The El Paso Times reports that El Paso Lawyers for Patriots will host a conference May 20-21 to educate local attorneys and legal professionals to help them better serve active-duty military and veterans.

The conference will take place at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center on East Fort Bliss. It will cover topics including how best to provide services to veterans and service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, how to assist pro bono programs that provide free legal services, and how to provide bankruptcy and consumer affairs help.

“Legal issues are one of the top stressors for our service members and soldiers,” said Erica Manning, program integration manager for Army OneSource. “It needs to be addressed, and I think this seminar is doing that by bringing these professionals in to educate them on the needs of our service members and military families.”

By far, the vast majority of legal services that service members and veterans need fall into the realm of family law, which includes divorces and custody and support of children.

As you know, the PSLawNet Blog is eager to highlight efforts to support veterans and military families. Like student efforts we highlighted in Michigan and New York, Texas’ El Paso Lawyers for Patriots’ conference is highly needed and commendable. Great work!

–Lauren

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Job O' the Day: Paid Intern Needed in Consumer Protection

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is seeking a paid summer intern! The CPSC is an independent federal regulatory agency charged with protecting the public against unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with consumer products.

The agency enforces the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, among others. The Office of General Counsel consists of four divisions: Compliance, General Law, Regulatory Affairs, and Enforcement and Information. The Legal Intern would perform work for each of those divisions. Depending on the division, duties include conducting legal research, drafting letters, memoranda, and regulations, and assisting in investigations and case development.

To view the full job listing, go to PSLawNet (login required).

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