Archive for October, 2012

What to Do During Your Student Loan Grace Period

After you graduate from law school, your loans will typically enter a grace period of 6-9 months. This period of time could be spent staring with increasing horror at a calendar, or you could start actively preparing to enter repayment. Homeroom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, featured an article today on 3 Things To Do During Your Student Loan Grace Period:

1. Get Organized

Start by tracking down all of your student loans. There is a website that allows you to view all your federal student loans in one place. You can log in to www.nslds.ed.gov using your Federal Student Aid PIN to view your loan balances, information about your loan servicer(s), and more.

Note: Don’t forget to check to see if you have private student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a great Student Debt Repayment Assistant to help you learn about the repayment process, whether you have federal loans, private loans or both.

2. Contact Your Loan Servicer

loan servicer is a company that handles the billing and other services on your federal student loanYour loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it is important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.

To find out who your loan servicer is, visit nslds.ed.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.

3. Explore Your Repayment Plan Options

Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. Flexible repayment options are one of the greatest benefits of federal student loans. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public servicejobs. Work with your loan servicer to determine which repayment plan is right for you.

Click here to read the full article. In addition to the U.S. Department of Education’s featured tips, check out PSJD’s Funding & Debt page in the site’s Resource Center for more information on calculating student loan debt, funding public interest legal careers, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program!

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Pro Bono Required to Practice in New Jersey, Too?

Most folks are familiar with the much publicized decision in New York to require 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted to the state bar.  The Garden State is considering a similar rule (from Thomson-Reuters):

– Following the lead of the New York state court system, New Jersey’s top judge has formed a committee to consider requiring prospective attorneys to complete pro bono work before being admitted to the state bar.

The 17-member panel, which Chief Justice Stuart Rabner created last week, will be chaired by Judge Glenn Grant, the acting administrative director of New Jersey’s court system. The committee will review New York’s pro bono mandate, which requires 50 hours of work, and make recommendations to Rabner.

The panel includes private attorneys, bar association officials, legal service providers and officials from the state’s three law schools, as well as a third-year law student and a retired state judge.

According to an Oct. 15 letter Grant wrote inviting the officials to join the committee, 97 percent of small claims litigants and 99 percent of tenants in housing cases in New Jersey show up to court without a lawyer.

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Job of the Day: Immigration Services Officer with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (Dept. of Homeland Security)

Interested in practicing immigration law for the Department of Homeland Security? Check out this recent PSJD job posting:

Do you desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation while building a meaningful and rewarding career? If so, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is calling. DHS components work collectively to prevent terrorism, secure borders, enforce and administer immigration laws, safeguard cyberspace and ensure resilience to disasters. The vitality and magnitude of this mission is achieved by a diverse workforce spanning hundreds of occupations. Make an impact; join DHS!

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system. Visit us at http://www.uscis.gov/.

Every day, our Immigration Services Officers independently research, interpret and analyze an extensive spectrum of sources including pertinent sections of the law and regulations, operating instructions, references and guidance contained in legislative history, precedent decisions, state and local laws, international treaties and other legal references to embrace the correct course of action.

Apply for this exciting opportunity to become a member of the Office of Field Operations, District 23, in one of the Field Office locations listed below, within DHS US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  • Los Angeles Field Office, in Los Angeles, CA
  • Santa Ana Field Office, in Santa Ana, CA

The starting salary is between $52,852.00 – $68,702.00. Immigration Services Officers support the adjudication process by providing accurate and useful information to DHS customers, managing correspondence, and providing internal and external customer support. Officers at the full performance level may adjudicate cases, conduct security checks, conduct interviews, and ensure program quality assurance.

The deadline to apply is this Friday, October 26, 2012. For more information on qualifications, salary and application instructions, view the full listing at psjd.org (log-in required)!

 

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Job of the Day: Attorney-Advisor to the Office of the Attorney-General in Washington, DC

The Office of the Attorney General in the District of Columbia is looking for an Attorney-Advisor to work in the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Public Works (DPW). With approximately 1300 employees, DPW is one of the larger District agencies.

The Office of General Counsel provides legal services to DPW, whose primary services include: (1) Solid Waste Management— collection and disposal of residential trash, street cleaning, sanitation enforcement, leaf and snow removal; and (2) Parking Enforcement Management—public space parking enforcement, booting, towing and impounding of vehicles; and Fleet Management—procurement, fueling, maintenance, repair and disposition of District owned vehicles.

These operations generate issues regarding the delivery of DPW’s services, conduct of its employees, policies and implementation and enforcement of regulations. Several DPW operations, i.e. Solid Waste Management and Fleet Management, must comply with both federal regulations as well as District regulations. Ensuring that the agency is complying with both District and Federal requirements can be complex and an attorney’s guidance is always sought.

Successful applicants will provide legal guidance, represent DPW in adjudicatory and quasi-adjudicatory proceedings, prepare pretrial discovery, write motions, prepare briefs, and conduct direct and cross-examination of witnesses, among other responsibilities. The position is a 13-month term appointment, contingent on agency renewal, and is within the collective bargaining unit. Candidates may be subject to a criminal background check.

For more information on qualifications and how to apply, view the full listing at PSJD.org (log-in required)!

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It’s National Pro Bono Week!

Celebrate Pro Bono 2012 image badge large

In this harsh economy, lawyers and law students have had to meet an unprecedented demand for free or low-cost legal services by volunteering, interning, and/or providing pro bono legal services. Every year, the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service dedicates National Pro Bono Week to showcasing the impact of such important legal work across the country.

This year’s National Pro Bono Week celebration is happening until October 27, 2012, with events like pop-up legal clinics, panel discussions, and community service opportunities nationally coordinated in an effort to raise awareness about the need to continue expanding the delivery of pro bono services.

The ABA is also celebrating with JUST Stories, a digital video collection of legal advocacy stories highlighting the impact of pro bono work on lawyers and the clients they serve. The “video quilt” is housed on the home page of the National Pro Bono Celebration site, along with instructions on how to send in your own JUST Story.

For planning tips and guides, the ABA has a page full of resources to help participants come up with event ideas, fundraising materials, promotional materials, and more. For more information on the 2012 National Pro Bono Week celebration, visit the ABA’s Celebrate Pro Bono site!

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Job o’ the Day: Summer Law Clerkship with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice

The Center is a multi-racial organization dedicated to building the power and participation of poor people in order to expand democracy and transform the economy. We organize directly affected people, and couple their courage with strategic legal, policy, and communications work to build campaigns that advance racial justice, immigrant rights, and a fair economy. The Center anchors three grassroots membership organizations: the Congress of Day Laborers, Stand With Dignity, and the National Guestworker Alliance, as well as a strategic legal department that innovates law and policy strategies that build grassroots power. Our members are African American and immigrant workers and families in the South, as well as guestworkers across the country.

The Center is seeking 1L and 2L law students for its summer 2013 law clerk program.

Law clerks should have an interest in the Center’s practice areas and in using legal tools in the context of community-led justice campaigns. Applicants with language skills in Spanish, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, or Telugu are especially encouraged.

View the job listing on PSJD (login required).

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Public Interest News Bulletin – October 19, 2012

By: Steve Grumm

Happy Friday, folks.  Well, not too happy.  Yesterday, we at NALP released the 2012 Public Sector & Public Interest Attorney Salary Report.  These already-low salaries, when taking inflation into account, have remained close to stagnant in the recent past. (Civil legal aid lawyers start at about $43,000 annually while assistant prosecutors’ and defenders’ starting salaries hover around $50,000)  But of course the amount of debt that today’s junior attorneys carry has swollen.  Thus, a public interest attorney’s income pie has stayed the same size, but a much larger piece of it now goes to debt service.

Loan repayment (and in some cases, forgiveness) programs can mitigate this circumstance.  Those grads positioned to maximize repayment/forgiveness options may not experience financial discomfort.  But not all types of loans qualify for inclusion in repayment programs.  And there is uncertainty about the viability of today’s loan repayment regime – a constellation of government-, school-, and employer-run repayment plans.  Finally there is the law graduate’s frustration of having to take on a massive amount of debt, only then to have it reduced.  Here’s the important question: with low, stagnant salaries, with the rising cost of legal education, and with a terribly tight job market, how difficult is it becoming for tomorrow’s lawyers to pursue public service career paths?

This question will not yield a simple, yes-or-no, across-the-board answer.  Circumstances are different for every law student.  But we can identify the key variables involved in the analysis. I’m going to focus on this as I do some writing in the next few weeks.  I am so far from having the market on wisdom cornered that I sometimes can’t find the market.  So please be in touch with your thoughts, insights, questions, etc.  I’m at sgrumm@nalp.org or 202.296.0057.     

Some interesting miscellany before the week’s public interest and access-to-justice news:

  • in the nonprofit world, the Chronicle of Philanthropy released its list of the 400 largest nonprofits, accompanied by several analysis pieces.  Much of the content is password-protected.  But there is valuable data/insight in the accessible areas too, and one can get a sense of how the recession did, and continues to, impact the nonprofit world.
  • on the job-market front, resume advice is ubiquitous, and some of it is so bland – “make it look clean” – as to be useless.  However, this blog post – 10 Reasons Your Resume Isn’t Getting You Interviews – on the U.S. News website is better than most of the content I come across because it compels job-seekers look critically at how their resumes are constructed.

Okay, on to the public interest and access-to-justice news.  In very, very short:

  • coverage of NALP’s public interest salary report;
  • IL attorney general directs more funding to legal aid for housing work;
  • pro se resources in the Aloha State;
  • the ABA’s weeklong celebration of pro bono takes place next week;
  • OK legal aid providers also getting funds to do housing work;
  • A look at law student pro bono in Minnesota (and New York);
  • A Wall Street legal clinic?  Seton Hall’s Investor Advocacy Project;
  • ~$7 million contract to provide legal aid to disabled New Yorkers up for grabs;
  • An Innocence Project clinic launches at West Virginia Law;
  • An Oklahoma nonprofit law office serving “modest means” clients expands;
  • super music bonus

The summaries:

  • 10.18.12 – “Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) announced Oct. 18 that $620,000 in funding from the national foreclosure settlement has been awarded to Illinois Legal Aid Online. The attorney general’s grant will be used to develop web-based resources to assist Illinois homeowners and legal professionals dealing with foreclosure, including online training programs for legal staff and attorneys working with Illinois residents facing foreclosure. The grant also will be used to develop and enhance educational websites intended for homeowners and renters affected by foreclosure.”  (Story from the Rock River Times.)
  • 10.17.12 – Aloha.  This article covers the opening of one Hawaiian courthouse self-help center for pro se litigants, but more importantly highlights a statewide trend toward bolstering pro se resources. (Here’s the article in the Maui News.)
  • 10.16.12 – the ABA’s “Pro Bono Celebration” week is next week.  There’s much happening on local, state, and nationwide levels to promote pro bono’s importance.  Here’s an ABA overview, and here’s the official Celebrate Pro Bono website, which serves as a central repository for event listings and resources.
  • 10.16.12 – “Oklahoma’s $18.6 million mortgage settlement with five big lenders will pay for legal services for people trying to manage a mortgage, avoid foreclosure and keep their homes — no matter the lender — in a new partnership between the state attorney general’s office and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.  Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Monday that Legal Aid received $1.27 million from the settlement to hire, train and reassign 15 attorneys and seven paralegals to help homeowners with mortgage modifications, refinancing, short sales, housing counseling and navigating the foreclosure process in a program called Resolution Oklahoma.”  (Story from the Oklahoman.)
    • and here comes a terrible segue into an unrelated topic. While we’re on Oklahoma, Woody Guthrie was born there. And here’s a Chronicle of Higher Education article looking at Guthrie’s legacy 100 years after his birth.  He was Bob Dylan long before Bob Dylan was Bob Dylan.  (I think of Guthrie as the first punk-rocker.)  And he exerted enormous, reaching-beyond-the-grave influence on the evolution of American music.  Good read.
  • 10.16.12 – in light of the just-implemented New York State rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono service to get a law license, the Minnesota Daily looks at law student pro bono in the Gopher State. “All four Minnesota law schools — the University of Minnesota, Hamline University, University of St. Thomas and William Mitchell College of Law — provide legal volunteering opportunities through a partnership with the Minnesota Justice Foundation.  MJF is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 by law students in Minnesota. It provides students with a database of volunteer opportunities as well as advising from a staff attorney at each school…. The only Minnesota school to require legal volunteer work is Hamline University School of Law — a rule that was put in place last year.”
    • speaking of the New York rule, here’s a Reuters piece noting that the rules broad definition of “pro bono” means that there might not be much “new” pro bono generated because many externship, clinical, and volunteer projects already performed by law students will satisfy the rule.
  • 10.15.12 – a look at the work of Seton Hall Law’s Investor Advocacy Project, a clinic that helps low- and moderate-income investors who’ve been wronged. “”We provide advocacy for those investors who would otherwise be unable to secure adequate representation,” says David M. White, a law school faculty member and director of the…Project. The contingency fees charged by lawyers would alone eat up most of any possible recovery.  The clients are not big-time investors. They bought annuities, instruments like insurance policies. Or invested settlements from injury claims. Or the proceeds from the sale of their homes. White says the investments involved in these cases do not exceed $100,000.”  (Article from the Star-Ledger.)
  • 10.15.12 – “Three groups have proposed taking over federally funded advocacy and legal protection of disabled New York residents who are in the care of the state and its nonprofit contractors.  Syracuse University, Disability Advocates Inc. and a coalition of six legal aid groups that now provide many of the services statewide under individual contracts have filed proposals. The six are the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Services of Central New York, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Neighborhood Legal Services and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.  The selection is expected following public hearings, which have not been set yet.”  The funding amounts for about $7 million annually.  (Story from WNCT.)
  • 10.12.12 – the West Virginia University Innocence Project has opened its doors as a law-school clinic in the Mountain State.  (Story from the Gazette-Mail.)
  • 10.11.12- a nonprofit law office serving clients who have too much income to qualify for legal aid – which is not saying much because the income limit is typically 125% of federal poverty guidelines – but too little to afford full-scope representation is expanding in the Sooner State. (Story from KOAM.) 

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Job O’ the Day: Assistant United States Attorney, Miami FL

Let’s go prosecute some health care fraud in sunny Miami. 

The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO), Southern District of Florida (SDFL), is seeking experienced attorneys to serve as Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of one of the largest USAOs in the nation. USAO/SDFL is a leader in the prosecution of health care fraud, bank and other white collar frauds, narcotics offenses, human trafficking cases, public corruption, and national security matters. Divisions include: Appellate, Asset Forfeiture, Civil and Criminal. The Criminal Division is further divided into Sections: Major Crimes, Economic and Environmental Crimes, Public Integrity and National Security, Narcotics and Special Prosecutions. There are also three branch offices located in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Ft. Pierce.

The applicant selected will represent the U.S. Government as an Assistant United States Attorney in a wide range of unique and complex criminal health care fraud cases, in a District that extends over 300 miles from Key West to Vero Beach…

Here’s the job listing on PSJD. (Login required.)

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Just Getting to Know Your Education Loans? Here Are the Basics from the Department of Education

 

A Department of Education blog post offers a basic “get acquainted with your loans” review:

Here are five things you should know about your student loans:

1.     Federal vs. Private Loans

Federal loans are managed and backed by the U.S. government.  These loans are designed to provide students with fair treatment.  Because they offer the best terms for borrowers, federal loans are the best option for students.

Private loans are managed and backed by private banks.  These banks are not subject to the same rules and regulations of federal loans, and may feature higher (or variable) interest rates, stricter repayment plans and penalties, or other terms that may make them more expensive.

You also may encounter other, less common types of loans, such as state loans (managed by your state) or institutional loans (managed by your college or university).  In all cases, carefully read and understand the loan terms before deciding to accept.

2.     Unsubsidized vs. Subsidized Loans

Federal loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized.  A subsidized student loan means that the government pays the interest for you while you’re in school, as long as you’re enrolled at least half time.  That means that if you take out a $5,000 subsidized student loan to pay for your freshman year, and graduate in four years of full-time classes, you’ll still owe $5,000 when you graduate.  Interest will only “accrue,” or be added to the repayment amount, after you stop being a student.

An unsubsidized student loan means that interest “accrues” even while you’re in school.  Some federal loans and nearly all private loans are unsubsidized.  You don’t always have to pay the interest while you’re a student, but the total amount you’ll need to repay is still growing.  If you have an unsubsidized student loan, it’s a good idea to pay the monthly interest while in school, even if you don’t need to.

Read the full list, and dont’ forget PSJD’s more advanced education debt resources.

 

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NYU Law’s 3rd Year Curriculum Getting Big Shake-up

By: Steve Grumm

Legal education is gonna look a lot different in a couple of decades.  NYU is the latest law school to greatly expand outside-the-classroom (in this case, even outside-the-country) opportunities for 3Ls, with an eye toward reworking the legal education model by building in hands-on learning opportunities.  From the New York Times’s Dealbook blog:

The move comes as law schools are being criticized for failing to keep up with transformations in the legal profession, and their graduates face dimming employment prospects and mounting student loans.

N.Y.U. Law’s changes are built around several themes, including a focus on foreign study and specialized concentrations. Some students could spend their final semester studying in Shanghai or Buenos Aires. Others might work at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, or the Federal Trade Commission. Another group, perhaps, will complete a rigorous one-year concentration in patent law, or focused course work in tax.

N.Y.U. Law is the latest law school to alter its academic program significantly. Stanford Law School recently completed comprehensive changes to its third-year curriculum, with a focus on allowing students to pursue joint degrees. Washington and Lee University School of Law scrapped its traditional third-year curriculum in 2009, replacing it with a mix of clinics and outside internships.

There has been much debate in the legal academy over the necessity of a third year. Many students take advantage of clinical course work, but the traditional third year of study is largely filled by elective courses. While classes like “Nietzsche and the Law” and “Voting, Game Theory and the Law” might be intellectually broadening, law schools and their students are beginning to question whether, at $51,150 a year, a hodgepodge of electives provides sufficient value.

“One of the well-known facts about law school is it never took three years to do what we are doing; it took maybe two years at most, maybe a year-and-a-half,” Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law School, said in a 2010 speech.

Yet no one expects law schools to become two-year programs any time soon. For one thing, law schools are huge profit centers for universities, which are reluctant to give up precious tuition dollars. What is more, American Bar Association rules require three years of full-time study to obtain a law degree. Several law schools, including Northwestern University School of Law, offer two-year programs, but they cram three years of course work — and tuition — into two.

N.Y.U. Law’s new curriculum plan is highlighted by experience outside of the school’s Greenwich Village campus. While the school has dabbled in foreign study, it is now redoubling its focus on international and cross-border legal practice. N.Y.U. Law is preparing to send as many as 75 students to partner law schools in Buenos Aires, Shanghai and Paris, where the students will study the legal systems and the languages of those regions. With the ever-increasing influence of government and the regulatory state in private legal matters, N.Y.U. Law will also offer students a full semester of study, combined with an internship, in Washington.

Another key initiative gives students the chance to build a specialty. Called “professional pathways,” the program will offer eight focused areas of instruction, including criminal law and academia.

None of these programs will be mandatory, as students can still choose a conventional course load. But Richard L. Revesz, the dean of N.Y.U. Law, said that he hoped the students would take advantage of the new offerings.

N.Y.U. Law’s moves illustrate the continuing evolution of the legal education model. Until the late 19th century, most lawyers — like Abraham Lincoln — were trained through the old-fashioned apprenticeship method. But for the last hundred years, law school classrooms have been dominated by the case method of instruction, which trains law students by having them read court cases and questioning them via the Socratic method.

Now, in an era of globalization and specialization, law schools are acknowledging the inadequacy of the traditional approach.

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