Archive for April, 2012

Job o' the Day: Attorney at the Education Law Center in Newark, NJ!

The Education Law Center (ELC) is looking for an experienced attorney to work in New York City and New York State to enforce the specific education entitlements established in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. The attorney will advocate for educational opportunities for the public schoolchildren of New York City and New York State, including the opportunity to obtain a “sound basic education” as guaranteed by the New York Constitution. The work will include litigation, public education, legislative advocacy and policy initiatives.

The attorney will have the support and work under the supervision of the main office in Newark. The attorney must be able to work in New York and be available to come to Newark to meet with ELC staff as needed.

Founded in 1973, ELC serves as the leading voice for New Jersey’s public school children and has become one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States. Widely recognized for groundbreaking court rulings on behalf of public school students, ELC also promotes educational equity through coalition building, litigation support, policy development, communications, and action-focused research in the states and at the federal level.

To apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!


Florida Governor's $142 Million Veto Means Fewer Legal Aid Attorneys

by Kristen Pavón

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed just over $142 million in line-items before signing Florida’s $70 billion budget. The budget makes deep cuts to higher education, Medicaid, other health care services, and legal services.

As a Floridian, I know how painful these cuts are and how much worse things will get in Florida as a result.

One veto in particular seems especially egregious — a $1.5 million veto for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. . . made during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Legislature allotted the funds to the organization in order to support 30 rape crisis centers as they face impending reductions in collections, which currently is the bulk of their budgets.

The cut to the Florida Council was just one of the many health projects that Scott used his line-item veto power to eliminate from this year’s $70 billion budget. . . .

Scott has said publicly that he stands by his vetoes because he believes the programs he eliminated “weren’t a good use of taxpayers’ money and did not serve a statewide need.” He has also said he “gave each project equal and fair consideration.” (Read more here.)

Gov. Rick Scott’s veto also hit Florida’s already distressed legal services community hard.

A day after the governor vetoed $142 million from the budget, officials at an organization that provides legal help for low income Floridians said Scott’s decision will mean a 25 percent reduction in the number of attorneys available for legal assistance in the coming year. A year later, the number of available attorneys will drop even further. . . .

. . . [a] spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, said there was not a clear justification for the size of the appropriation or the need for recurring funds. The spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz, also said the program has other funding sources on which it can rely during tough budget times.

“While the governor believes in the right for everyone to have representation, he doesn’t necessarily believe in funding programs with recurring funds in these economic times,” Schutz said. . . .

Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, who also announced this week she is running for governor, said the veto was short-sighted and comes at a time when lower income Floridians are disproportionately feeling the brunt of economic woes – foreclosures, evictions, denial of government benefits. The cutting of legal aid at a time of rising need is especially painful.

“We pride ourselves in this country on people having access to the courts,” Rich said Wednesday. “This decision flies in the face of that commitment.”

Read the rest here.

I think I’ll turn to a classic saying to end this post, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I’ll leave you with that. Thoughts?


White House Forum on State of Legal Assistance – A Recap

By: Steve Grumm

Last week many high-level stakeholders in the civil legal services community and government met to review the health (or un-health) of the civil legal services system.  Even the president partook.  The DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative was one of the players, and they’ve written an event summary on DOJ’s blog. An excerpt:

Legal aid attorneys, pro bono partners from law firms, government leaders, judges, and advocates from around the country gathered at the White House earlier this month for a forum on “The State of Legal Assistance.”  Moderated by Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Chairman John Levi, the forum looked at the legal challenges faced by America’s most vulnerable groups, including veterans, low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

A 2009 LSC study(PDF) found that less than 20 percent of the legal problems experienced by poor people were addressed with the help of a private or legal aid lawyer.  At the forum, a panel of LSC attorneys spoke of the strains on their system in the wake of the country’s economic recession, and the hardships faced by those served by legal aid.

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Job o' the Day: Prosecutor for the City of Kansas City, Missouri!

The City of Kansas City, Missouri Law Department has open positions in its City Prosecutor’s Office and Litigation Section. 

An Assistant City Attorney grant position is available in the City Prosecutor Division of the City Attorney’s Office through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.  The attorney will serve as the neighborhood prosecutor for the communities in the East Patrol Division of the City and be a member of the Neighborhood Prosecution Team.  Neighborhood prosecution is designed to reduce crime, engage citizens, and utilize limited resources in the most efficient manner to make our neighborhoods safer.

A general litigator in the litigation section at the Assistant City Attorney level will appear as first chair before state and federal courts, including jury and bench trials in relatively less complex cases. The litigator will be responsible for the case from the initial filing of the petition or complaint, through the appeals stage. The litigator works with legal investigators to investigate the case, prepares all pleadings, engages in discovery, and works the case through trial and beyond as appropriate. The litigator will meet with department personnel in preparing and trying cases.

To learn how to apply, check the listing at PSLawNet!


Learning to Lawyer: 6 Tips for Compelling Communication

by Kristen Pavón

Hello! We are back in Washington, D.C. after a fun-filled week in “weird” Austin! If you’ve read last week’s blog posts or you were in Austin with us, then you know about the fabulous delicious BBQ programming at NALP’s Annual Education Conference.

One session I attended — “Be a Compelling Communicator” — had some great tips on delivering more effective presentations. Public speaking is one of those “soft” skills that is crucial to lawyering at basically every phase of litigation — with clients, adversaries, witnesses, senior/supervising attorneys, in court, etc. It also doesn’t hurt to have some communication tricks up your sleeve when networking and/or interviewing.

Here are a few nuggets of truth from Brent Baer‘s session:

1. What kind of speaker do you want to be? Good speakers inform their audiences, while great speakers influence them.

2. What are compelling communicators made of? Compelling communicators are engaging, confident, inspiring, knowledgeable and memorable.

3. Don’t make your audience yawn! Use the classic question, “How many of you…,” to include and engage your audience.

4. Get to taping! Record your presentations, then watch your performance to find out where you need improvement.

5. Take it easy! Focus on improving one skill per week.

6. Fashion matters. Speakers look most credible in navy, black, and gray.


Human Rights USA to Close at End of Month

Another sad story from within our public interest sphere.

From Human Rights USA‘s Board of Directors:

Human Rights USA’s Board of Directors is sad to announce that the organization will be closing down on April 30, 2012, and our clients placed with other organizations and law firms who will continue their representation.  The Board’s decision comes primarily as a result of the difficult funding landscape facing public interest organizations at this time.  We would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Human Rights USA’s staff, clients, current and past funders, the countless pro bono attorneys and law student volunteers who have worked with us, and all of the organizations that have partnered with us over the years.

Human Rights USA was founded in 1996 as the World Organization Against Torture USA.  Under its founding director, Morton Sklar, the organization began by reporting to the United Nations on U.S. compliance with human rights treaties and litigating cutting-edge asylum cases on behalf of women fleeing female genital mutilation.  Our asylum work gradually expanded to cover other forms of gender-based violence, including human trafficking and forced marriage, forms of harm that at one time were not considered to establish eligibility for refugee protection.  Human Rights USA has also litigated ground breaking federal court cases, winning the first direct legal challenge to the policy of rendition to torture, and helping many survivors of torture, human trafficking, and other human rights abuses hold the perpetrators accountable and recover compensation for their suffering.

Throughout all of this, Human Rights USA continued to produce reports on critical human rights issues, and in recent years began training other attorneys to utilize human rights principles in their own litigation.  Our 2011 *Guide to Establishing the Asylum Eligibility of Survivors of Human Trafficking and Forced Marriage* will continue to be available through the Tahirih Justice Center (<>), an organization that has also performed ground breaking work on gender-based asylum issues for over a decade.  Our 2012 report *Indefensible:  A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed by US Officials Following September 11th*, produced in collaboration with the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, will be available through the Washington College of Law ( <>).

Countless law students, staff members and pro bono attorneys have been mentored and trained in human rights law through Human Rights USA over the years, and we take great pride in the small role we have played in the development and education of part of the next generation of human rights attorneys.

Thanks to everyone for their support.


Human Rights USA Board of Directors


Job o' the Day: Caregiver Attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in LA!

Bet Tzedek is currently looking for a time-limited Staff Attorney (Attorney I) to work exclusively with the Family Caregiver Project, which is part of the organization’s Elder Law Unit.

The attorney will work with project staff to protect the rights of elders and dependent adults, and will provide direct legal services, conduct outreach and education, and participate in policy and legislative advocacy.

The attorney will spend approximately 60% of his/her time as a key staff member of Bet Tzedek’s Transitions Program, an innovative new initiative to address the legal and other needs of developmental disabled adults and their aging caregiver-parents through direct legal services and through coordination with other non-profit and social services agencies. The other 40% of his/her time will be spent representing and advising family caregivers on government benefits issues relating to MediCal and In-Home Supportive Services.

Learn more at PSLawNet!


Landing a Legal Job with a (Non-legal) Nonprofit Organization

By: Steve Grumm

Here’s an excerpt of a blog post from Lesley Rosenthal, the general counsel at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.  Not a bad gig for an arts enthusiast.

Tectonic shifts in the nonprofit landscape are persuading directors and senior executives that it is necessary and desirable to bring on counsel to oversee the organization’s legal function. Outside or in-house, paid or volunteer, there should be one person—a general counsel—in charge of overseeing the legal affairs of the organization. (Today, my department has three lawyers, including me and a paralegal/executve assistant.)

To land one of these coveted jobs, you have to be creative and resourceful, sometimes even persuading the organization that it’s time to get full-time legal help. Once the leaders are persuaded, here are some things to do to make sure that position goes to you:

1. Build up your resume. Gain experience drafting and negotiating contracts. Learn nonprofit corporate law, governance, and compliance basics. Understand how business laws and regulations apply in the nonprofit context, and how they differ.
2. Do pro bono or volunteer work, or serve on a nonprofit board. Work with the type of organization you would like to be employed by.
3. Build your network through social networking, bar associations, and legal education programs. List your resume with search firms that specialize in nonprofit searches.
4. Ask for informational interviews—and be sure to ask your contact for suggestions about others you should meet. But don’t go in under the guise of an informational interview and then ask for a job!
5. Show your passion for the cause. Some examples: travel to a troubled area to do relief work, contribute to or raise money for the cause, or launch and manage a social media presence on a pressing social concern.
6. Be informed. Subscribe to trade publications such as Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Times, Idealist, Arts Journal, and RSS feeds of newspapers and job Web sites. These publications carry industry-insider information about nonprofits in transition, nonprofits facing regulatory or legal challenges, and general issues of importance to the sector. Job seekers can pick up clues about which organizations may be hiring in the future—or which could be susceptible to a pitch to create a new legal position now.

Read more tips in the full blog post on The Careerist.


Illinois AG Channels $20 Million to Legal Services Providers for Housing Assistance

By: Steve Grumm

Always happy to pass along the rare bit of good legal-services funding news.  From the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that $20 million in funding from the national foreclosure settlement reached this year will be given to legal assistance programs in Illinois to address the current foreclosure crisis and to provide access to the justice system for homeowners and renters.

“The one sector of our economy that has shown limited signs of recovery is the housing market,” Madigan said. “Providing critical resources for legal assistance programs will create a domino effect in the marketplace. Helping a family stay in their home benefits not just that family but the surrounding community, as well as local and state governments, all of which must happen to stabilize the housing market and revitalize the economy.”

Madigan’s announcement stems from her role in securing a $25 billion national settlement in February with the nation’s five largest bank mortgage servicers – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC. The settlement addressed allegations of widespread “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents and other fraudulent practices while servicing loans of struggling homeowners.


Job o' the Day: Legal Advocate at South Middlesex Opportunity Council in Massachusetts!

The Legal Advocate will provide direct services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault including cirsis intervention, counseling, support groups, case management, legal and medical advocacy, information and referral in accordance with VOCA allowable services. Community outreach and education is also a key part of this position. Rotating night and weekend on-call coverage required. Bilingual preferred.

Responsibilities include: The Legal Advocate will provide direct services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault including crisis intervention, counseling, support groups, case management, legal and medical advocacy, information and referral in accordance with VOCA allowable services. Community outreach and education is also a key part of this position. Rotating night and weekend on-call coverage required. Bilingual preferred.

To learn how to apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!