Archive for July, 2012

Job o' the Day: Foreclosure and Eviction Defense Attorney at Community Legal Aid!

Community Legal Aid (CLA), a non-profit legal services program providing free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income and elderly clients in central and western Massachusetts, seeks attorneys to work for one year (with a possibility of extension) on foreclosure-related matters for homeowners and tenants. These positions are funded by a grant from the Office of the Attorney General. The attorneys will assess homeowner cases for fair lending violations, file cases for individual homeowners to prevent foreclosure, assist in the loan modification process, and assist former homeowners and tenants facing eviction from buildings that have been foreclosed on. The attorneys will also assist in the preparation of periodic grant reports. It is anticipated that three attorneys will be based in CLA’s Worcester office, three attorneys will be based in CLA’s Springfield office, and one attorney will be based in CLA’s Pittsfield office. The attorneys will also attend meetings in Boston and in the program’s other offices in central and western Massachusetts.

Find out how to apply for these positions on PSLawNet!


Looking for a Civil Legal Aid Job? There's Funding in the Housing/Foreclosure Arena.

By: Steve Grumm

Law students looking for jobs in civil legal aid are probably all too familiar with the litany of bad funding new coming out of that community.  But one practice area has seen a funding boost lately.  Funds from a national settlement over improper home lending practices are being channeled, via state attorneys general, to programs that support struggling homeowners.  Civil legal aid providers who do work in housing and foreclosure defense are benefitting from millions of dollars.  Here’s the latest from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative:

 On February 9, 2012, the Justice Department announced that the federal government and 49 state attorneys general reached a $25 billion agreement with the five largest mortgage servicers in America, to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses.  While the majority of the settlement funds will go to various forms of relief provided directly to borrowers, $2.5 billion may be used by state governments to fund foreclosure prevention services including housing counselors, legal aid and other similar public programs as determined by the state attorneys general.

Since the date of the settlement, a number of states have made plans to use a portion of the settlement funds to implement funding initiatives geared toward increasing support for services that assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

Illinois is dedicating at least $20 million in funding from the settlement to legal counseling programs that help borrowers who are currently underwater or facing foreclosure.  In Michigan, Attorney General Schuette is backing legislation that would direct $20 million in funds from the settlement to foreclosure counseling and legal aid services for homeowners.

These states are not alone. Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina has committed over $30 million to provide housing counselors and legal services to distressed homeowners. Attorney General Dustin McDaniels of Arkansas plans to direct $3 million of the settlement funds to the Arkansas’ Access to Justice Commission, and to two University of Arkansas law school clinics that provide legal aid and assistance to low-income residents.

“Maryland has led the nation in its swift response to the foreclosure crisis,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. In May, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and Governor O’Malley announced that $14.8 million from the settlement will be used for both housing counseling and legal aid assistance programs. “This plan sticks to the spirit and the letter of the settlement by using these resources to help the Marylanders most affected by the housing crisis. As a result, all Marylanders will benefit,” said Gansler. And Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts created a new program, HomeCorps, funded by settlement funds. HomeCorps will provide direct legal representation to distressed borrowers through local civil legal aid attorneys.

Attorney Generals in Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee have also announced plans to use settlement dollars to fund programs for low and moderate income residents that include counseling support, legal services, and hotline support referral services.

This isn’t to say that, in one fell swoop, dozens upon dozens of jobs will appear for law grads.  A lot of providers that receive this funding are likely to bolster their programs by avoiding layoffs and creating a new position here and there.  Nonetheless, this funding windfall presents a true opportunity for law grads seeking staff attorney positions, along with those who are interested in creating postgraduate, project-based fellowships.   

Continue to use PSLawNet’s cover letter and resume resources, as well as our fellowship resources.  And speaking of fellowship resources, here’s the recording from our recent “Pathways to Postgraduate Fellowships” program, which included much discussion of Equal Justice Works and Skadden fellowships.  Good luck!


Good Luck, Bar Exam Takers!

It’s here.  “Game on,” folks.  You’ve put a lot of time in preparing.  Certainly easier said than done, but the tricks are 1) to stay calm, 2) to breathe, and 3) to trust yourself.  We at PSLawNet will be thinking of you this week.  Best of luck!



Job o' the Day: Litigation Counsel at D.C. Employment Justice Center!

The D.C. Employment Justice Center (EJC) is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit with a mission to secure, protect and promote workplace justice in the D.C. metropolitan area. Through a combination of strategies, including legal services, education, policy advocacy and community organizing, the EJC works to protect the rights of low-wage workers, focusing on particularly vulnerable populations. The EJC seeks an experienced attorney to litigate wage and hour cases on behalf of low-income workers.

Specifically, the Litigation Counsel will represent clients primarily in wage and hour cases, with the flexibility to take on matters in other areas of employment law which are in line with organizational priorities and his or her expertise. The Litigation Counsel will be responsible to develop and maintain a manageable caseload; seek co-counsel relationships with other law firms; and supervise law clerks. This position will report to EJC’s Director of Legal Services. In addition, the Litigation Counsel will help supervise the EJC’s Workers’ Rights Clinic, a free walk-in legal clinic designed to assist low-income workers with employment law problems. Limited evening and weekend hours are required for the clinic, meetings and special events.

Find out how to apply on PSLawNet!


Job o' the Day: Clinical Fellow at Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program!

Reports to Director of Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program.  Will work closely with the Director and Assistant Director to support expansion of the school’s innovative program in negotiation, mediation, and dispute systems design.  Will have special responsibility for providing regular oversight, supervision, and coaching to students involved in Harvard Negotiators, a student practice organization of Harvard Law School.  Responsible for providing strategic leadership for growth and developing projects for Harvard Negotiators.  Will also provide additional oversight to the Harvard Negotiation Law Review (HNLR) and help coordinate  joint activities and initiatives of HNLR, Harvard Negotiators, and the Harvard Mediation Program.  Will work closely with the Director and Assistant Director to support HNMCP program innovation.  This will include creative projects such as research and writing projects related to dispute resolution systems design, negotiation, and mediation.  Will help develop new teaching materials for use in the clinic’s teaching and executive education programs; these materials will include simulations, case studies, and materials for use with new technologies. As needed will also assist the Director, Assistant Director and the clinical instructors in project management, clinic development, and outreach efforts. This is a two-year term position.

Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!


Public Interest News Bulletin – July 20, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, dear readers.  The presidential election season, quite like law school on-campus interview programs, no longer waits until late summer to shift into fifth gear.  Oh, what unmitigated joy.  I find it a challenge, amidst minute-by-minute coverage of campaign tiffs over tax returns, allegations of cronyism, and the like, to keep an eye on what the truly important news is.  Lately I’ve been focused on economic matters.  The global economy is humankind’s most complex creation.  And we live in a time of extraordinary economic uncertainty.  Two evolving news stories seem highly important to me.           

First, Congress and the Obama Administration face a serious decision on what to do about expiring tax cuts and the prospect of drastically reduced federal spending.  As is explained in this Washington Post piece, we are approaching the so-called “fiscal cliff”: “Economists say the automatic actions slated to take place at the end of the year — an increase in payroll taxes and in income tax rates, as well as large cuts in domestic and defense spending — would tip the country back into recession.  Congress could prevent that outcome, but lawmakers are pledging to do so only on their terms, creating fears of more partisan gridlock. Democrats insist that taxes rise for higher-income earners; Republicans want to include the affluent in any renewal of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.  Meanwhile, the prospect of a government-induced recession is already taking a toll on the economy.”

Second, PBS’s Frontline series “Money, Power, & Wall Street”, which aired this spring, provides excellent insight into the evolution of American investment banking, its role in 2008 global financial crisis, and present state of the Wall Street investment sector.  As to the latter, the question of whether or not appropriate systemic checks are in place to avoid a future financial bubble-burst is an open one.  And of course opinions differ as to whether and how regulatory safeguards can keep up with rapid investment-market innovation.   Upshot: the Frontline reporting on these aspects of a very tumultuous past five years, which have left us looking into an uncertain future, is excellent.

On to public interest news.  This week in very short:

  • joint military/civilian pro bono initiatives to benefit servicemembers;
  • the public defender caseload limits in Washington State are a victory for the justice system;
  • in NY, nonprofits can now get their bail-posting on;
  • more attorney support for an understaffed PA defender’s office;
  • an NYC task force convened to look at the poor legal job market includes several public service lawyers;
  • eleemosynary sentiment benefits a Vermont Law legal clinic;
  • the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says “no” to a cy pres proposal;
  • the Chicago Bar Association and Foundation say “congrats!” to pro bono award winners;
  • impact of legal services funding cuts in northeastern New Jersey;
  • a glass ceiling shatters in the Ocean State;
  • legal services funding news from Down Under;
  • a look at insufficient indigent defense funding in several states;
  • Washington State’s public defenders are uncertain about implementing the state’s new caseload limits;
  • more stringent standards to determine eligibility for a public defender in the Bay State;
  • the Pro Bono Institute’s report on Biglaw pro bono in 2011 is a mixed bag, with overall good news but some trouble spots;
  • cy pres funding allows two Peach State law schools to create new public interest scholarships.
  • Music!

The summaries:

  • 7.19.12 – the Navy JAG’s blog looks at the ABA Military Pro Bono Project: “The…Project, established in 2008, is an innovative collaboration between the military and civilian bars designed to expand legal support for active-duty enlisted service members nationwide.  The Project accepts case referrals from military legal assistance attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families regarding civil legal problems; working to place those cases with qualified civilian attorneys ready to provide free (pro bono) assistance beyond what can ordinarily be provided by military counsel.   The Project is also the platform for Operation Stand-By, an ABA clearinghouse designed to link military attorneys with local civilian attorneys who may provide guidance and expertise in specific subject matters to best serve military clients.
  • 7.18.12 – an op-ed in the Seattle Times voices support for the newly imposed public defender caseload limits in Washington State.  The piece notes that King County’s (Seattle and vicinity) well-respected indigent defense system has operated with caseload limits for some time, and those limits have contributed to high-quality defense work.  
  • 7.18.12 – “Non-profit groups can post bail for poor defendants charged with minor crimes under new legislation signed Wednesday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Supporters say the law creates more fairness in the bail system for indigent defendants facing low-level offenses. Some defendants frequently languish in jail, unable to afford even low bail amounts, according to public defenders.  The bill exempts “charitable bail” organizations from the licensing requirements imposed on for-profit bail-bond businesses, which typically charge interest or require collateral when hired to post bail for criminal defendants.” (Story from Thomson Reuters.)
  • 7.17.12 – some progress in resolving an understaffed-public-defense-office problem in PA – one that spawned an ACLU lawsuit.  “Indigent defendants who were denied representation by the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office earlier this year will be represented by a pool of 10 attorneys employed by the county to handle cases in which the office has a conflict.  Deputy Court Administrator Mike Shucosky said the attorneys, known as conflict counsel, agreed to take on the cases in order to assist the county in resolving its obligation to provide attorneys to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer.  Hundreds of defendants were left without representation after Chief Public Defender Al Flora announced in December that his office, due to a lack of staffing, was limiting the types of cases it would accept to serious felonies, with certain exceptions.”  (Full story frm the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.)
  • 7.17.12 – the NYC Bar has convened a task force to explore the anemic lawyer job market.  The task force includes several attorneys from the nonprofit and government arenas.  “The Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys; New York City’s Corporation Counsel; Deans and leaders of Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, CUNY and Cardozo Law Schools; law firm leaders from Paul Weiss, Simpson Thacher, Skadden Arps and Freshfields; the chief in-house counsel from BNY Mellon, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Xerox and Con Ed; and the heads of The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services of New York are among those convening at the New York City Bar Association to address what City Bar President Carey Dunne has described as the ‘plight of young lawyers’…. The New York City Bar Association’s ‘Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession’ will be led by City Bar Vice President Mark Morril, who said, ‘The group we have assembled has the depth and breadth of experience necessary to assess the problem and the leadership position to be heard on significant recommendations for change if they are warranted’.” (Full story in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel.) 
  • 7.17.12 – a $100K gift will support a Vermont Law School clinical program.  “Alden Fiertz [widower of a former Vermont Legal Services attorney] has given $100,000 to strengthen the social justice partnership between Vermont Law School’s South Royalton Legal Clinic (SRLC) and the Upper Valley Haven, which provide a range of legal, housing, food and other services to needy families.  The two institutions have had an informal partnership for years, but the Fiertz family’s donation will allow the SRLC to expand its free legal services for people in poverty.”   (Full story from Vermont Business.)
  • 7.17.12 – (Full disclosure: I love Frosted Mini-Wheats.)  A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision has cy pres implications.  Essentially, the court rejected the idea that cy pres funds could go to charities that support feeding the poor in a case involving a false advertising claim against a cereal maker.  “The Ninth Circuit found that the cy pres provisions bore no resemblance to the claims in the case, which were about false advertising to consumers, not food for the indigent. The court cited its own precedents in Six Mexican Workers v. Arizona Citrus Growers, issued in 1990, and Nachshin v. AOL LLC, issued on Nov. 21. Both rulings struck down settlements because no nexus existed between the cy pres provisions and the class members.  ‘The gravamen of this lawsuit is that Kellogg advertised that its cereal did improve attentiveness,’ [Judge] Trott wrote. ‘Thus, appropriate cy pres recipients are not charities that feed the needy, but organizations dedicated to protecting consumers from, or redressing injuries caused by, false advertising’.”  (Full story from the National Law Journal.) 
  • 7.16.12 – a glass ceiling shattered in the Ocean State: For the first time in Rhode Island, a woman is leading the Office of the Public Defender.  Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Monday swore in Mary McElroy to head the office, which he says critical to the state.  (Full story from WPRI.)  
  • 7.16.12 – for those whose interests know no borders, here’s some legal services funding news from kangaroo country: “COMMUNITY lawyers are calling for a doubling of federal spending on legal assistance services to help the estimated half a million Australians who miss out on legal help each year.  Community Law Australia, a coalition of community legal centres from across the nation, says the federal government must inject an extra $330 million a year into the system to ensure all Australians can access a basic level of legal assistance.”  (Full story in the Sydney Morning Herald.)
  • 7.15.12 – this short piece notes that Washington State’s public defenders are still sorting through the impact that the state high court’s recently imposed caseload standards will have on their offices. (Full story in The Daily News.)  [Editor’s note: the article refers to the court’s “ruling” and “decision.”  Strictly speaking the new rule is an order of the high court.  The order did not stem from a case that the court heard, but rather from the court’s authority to govern law practice in the state.] 
  • 7.13.12 – more stringent standards to determine eligibility for indigent defense in Massachusetts: “Criminal defendants in Massachusetts must prove that they can’t afford their own attorney before a judge can appoint a lawyer to represent them at taxpayer expense, the state’s highest court ruled Friday.  In a series of rulings, the Supreme Judicial Court tightened rules governing when defendants can get court-appointed lawyers.  The SJC also found that retirement account funds can be considered when calculating whether a defendant is indigent.”  (Full story from the Associated Press.)
  • 7.12.12 – “The Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project has released its report on the 2011 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® data. One hundred thirty-four participating firms reported in 2011, performing a total of 4,476,866 hours of pro bono work – a slight increase over 2010. This is the third highest year since the inception of the Challenge in 1995….   A particular point of concern is that service to persons of limited means or to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means decreased by 9.7 percent from 2010. Challenge firms donated 2,578,958 hours to this group in 2011.  Charitable giving by firms, however, was strong.”
  • 7.12.12 – two Georgia law schools, the University of Georgia (Bulldogs!) and Mercer University (Bears!) are benefitting from hefty cy pres residual awards which will go to funding public interest scholarships.  (Full story in the National Law Journal.) 

Music!  How about Boise, Idaho’s finest, Built to Spill, with “Center of the Universe”?


Job o' the Day: Legal and Public Policy Internships at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law DC!

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law manages a selective, unpaid internship program for law students and graduate students who are highly talented and committed to social justice. Intern coordinators and project supervisors take great care to see that each student receives challenging assignments, effective supervision, and regular feedback on job performance. Graduate student interns are typically assigned to Public Policy (see below). Law student interns work primarily in one of the following project areas: • Community Development • Educational Opportunities • Employment Discrimination • Fair Housing and Fair Lending • Voting Rights • Legal Mobilization • Public Policy Although assignments for each intern vary, most interns will conduct legal research, draft legal memoranda, conduct factual investigations, and participate in strategic meetings. Public Policy Internships: The Public Policy Department acts as a liaison between the Lawyers’ Committee, Capitol Hill, the Administration, and state and local agencies. The Public Policy Department promotes the Lawyers’ Committee’s legislative agenda and coordinates the policy work of the other Lawyers’ Committee projects (Education, Employment Discrimination, Voting Rights, Fair Housing, and Community Development). Interns are asked to assist in the development of position papers and advocacy materials, including fact sheets on legislation, policy statements, and memoranda analyzing pending legislation. Other responsibilities may include monitoring legislation, drafting letters, and completing other tasks as assigned by the Director. Interns may also have the opportunity to participate in meetings with Administration and Congressional staff, attend Congressional hearings, and participate in coalition meetings with ally organizations.

The deadline for fall internships is fast approaching – find out how to apply at PSLawNet!


Did you miss The Pathways to Postgraduate Fellowships? Watch the highlights!

NALP was proud to co-host a panel last week at the Georgetown University Law Center with our friends at the Washington Council of Lawyers; if you missed the Pathways to Postgraduate Fellowships, you can now watch the edited highlights of the panel online! The panel included:

(our very own!) Steve Grumm (Moderator), Director of Public Service Initiatives, NALP

Chinh Le, Legal Director, The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Nita Mazumder, Program Manager, Law School Relations, Equal Justice Works

Tim McManus,Vice President, Education and Outreach, Partnership for Public Service

Devi Rao, Skadden Fellow for Educational and Employment Opportunities at the National Women’s Law Center


You can also access the Postgraduate Fellowships Resource List compiled for the program and see WCL’s live Storify tweets from the event.

As always, remember to check out PSLawNet’s Postgraduate Fellowship Resources for guidance on searching out and applying for fellowships!


The Right to Read?

By: Maria Hibbard

Despite the controversy throughout the 2000s about the No Child Left Behind Act, it’s given educators and policy makers a way to measure the progress of children in crucial years throughout crucial years of their education.  Systemic educational reform, however, has yet to have an impact in some areas, at least, and it’s being challenged in Michigan. This week the Michigan ACLU filed a suit against Michigan government departments and one Detroit school district, asserting students’ “right to read” at grade level and receive appropriate assistance if needed. CNN reports:

Filed as a class action on behalf of eight students who, the ACLU said, represent nearly 1,000 students in the district, the lawsuit cites individual cases of students struggling with basic literacy.

One of the student plaintiffs reportedly failed the state’s standardized tests in his fourth, fifth and sixth grade years without receiving “any specialized reading intervention in 4th or 5th grade,” the lawsuit says.

Another student plaintiff has, according to the suit, attended Highland Park schools since first grade and after completing eighth grade earlier this year “his reading proficiency level is appropriate for the 2nd or 3rd grade.”

Highland Park is one of the worst performing school districts in Michigan, according to the state Department of Education, and its high school currently ranks in the bottom 1% statewide.

“No case ever filed anywhere in the U.S. has addressed a school system in such dire straits.” said attorney Mark Rosenbaum, a member of the Michigan ACLU legal team.

Highland Park can hardly be the only district where resources do not exists to provide struggling students the help they need. Even if your interests do not even remotely touch education law and policy, the possible implications of this case – and the very fact that it was filed – touches something that connects all attorneys and law students. In some way or another, the first step to becoming an attorney was becoming literate; the very basis of the legal profession is founded on the sound ability to read. If students in struggling districts continue to take standardized tests and fail them, they will also have trouble finding the basics of adult life later on. Essentially, ACLU’s “right to read” suggests where the very basis of the justice gap begins. As Michigan ACLU Executive Director said, “Literacy is the gateway to all other knowledge.”

If you’re interested in learning more about careers in education law, you can read Harvard’s guide to education law here.


Nominate a Law Student Today for the 2012 PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award!

Do you know a law student who’s a public interest/pro bono rock star?  NALP and PSLawNet are seeking nominations for the 2012 PSLawNet Pro Bono Publico Award.

Download the Nomination Form Here!

Purpose: To recognize the significant contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono or public service work.

Eligibility: The Pro Bono Publico Award is available to any second- or third-year law student at a PSLawNet Subscriber School. The recipient will be honored during an Award Luncheon at NALP’s Public Service Mini-Conference on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at the Washington, DC office of Crowell & Moring, LLP. The award recipient will receive transportation to Washington, a one-night stay in an area hotel, a commemorative plaque, and a small monetary award.

Award Criteria: Law students are judged by the extracurricular commitment they have made to law-related public service projects or organizations; the quality of work they performed; and the impact of their work on the community, their fellow students, and the school. Though a student’s involvement in law school-based public interest organizing and fundraising is relevant; actual pro bono and public interest legal work will be the primary consideration. 

Nomination Deadline & Packet Contents: Nominations must be received by Friday, September 7, 2012 at 5pm Eastern Time, by fax, mail, or email (see contact information at bottom). Along with the nomination form and a résumé, nomination packets may include any materials which support a nominee’s candidacy; such as letters of recommendation, statements detailing a nominee’s work, and media articles.