PSJD Public Interest News Bulletin – June 14, 2013

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships


Happy Friday!  And Happy Father’s Day to all those Dads, Grandads, and Dads in spirit.  We so appreciate you!!

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  If you know someone we should honor, drop me a line.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Legal Sector sheds 500 jobs in May;
  • Texas State Bar budget includes funding for pro bono fellowships;
  • Law School clinics provide legal services worthy of a fee award;
  • ABA announces 2013 Innovation Grants;
  • The unpaid internship debate rages in Canada as well;
  • NJ proposed bill would allow money from increased court fees to go to legal aid;
  • Harvard is taking the school funded fellowship to the next level;
  • Good tips for taking on pro bono at any experience level;
  • Another federal defender victim of sequestration – complex or high-profile cases;
  • Legal Services NYC strike taking toll on clients;
  • Senator urges funding for law school clinics to help vets;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants – Shout out to Touro Law School’s Disaster Relief Clinic;
  • Super Music Bonus featuring Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow!

The summaries:

June 7, 2013 – The legal sector shed 500 jobs in May, but may not be a sign of continuing bad times.  “While the legal sector lost jobs in May, that did not significantly affect the number of people employed in the legal industry, which remained about 1.129 million, the bureau said. The report also showed there were 7,800 more people employed in the sector in May compared to the same time in 2012.”  Could this be a sign of improvement?  (Thomson Reuters)

June 7, 2013 – Subscription required – In response to a controversy over pro se divorce forms, “the next budget for the State Bar of Texas includes funding for fellowships for three new legal-aid family lawyers and for launching a pro bono awareness campaign.”  (Texas Lawyer)

June 7, 2013 – Apparently it took a court ruling to confirm what we already know – law school clinics provide “real” and valuable representation.  In a case that took more than 4 years, Fordham University School of Law’s Family Advocacy Clinic aksed the New York City Department of Education for legal fees.  The Department objected saying much of the work was for educational purposes only.  Not so, responded the Judge.  He acknowledged that while some of the hours should be cut because it might have been duplicative for learning purposes, most of the hours billed were legitimate.   (National Law Journal)

June 7, 2013 – The ABA Access to Justice Commission Expansion Project announces its 2013 Innovation Grants.  These grants “promote innovation by encouraging Access to Justice Commissions to develop and test innovative new projects replicable in other states and expand the scope of their ongoing activities into broad new areas beyond existing work. Grants target critical areas of potential innovation.”  The other goal is to replicate these innovations elsewhere.  (ABA)

June 10, 2013 – With fewer law firms hiring articling students and more students graduating from law school every year, the possibility of students taking unpaid articling opportunities has risen sharply.  The applicable rules are very similar to those in the US.  There is agreement that law students should have an opportunity to work on pro bono cases with law firms for free.  There is also a strong argument detailing the deleterious effects of unpaid internships.  (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)

June 10, 2013 – Proposed legislation in New Jersey would allow the NJ Supreme Court to raise court fees to fund modernizing the record-keeping system and provide a steady source of additional funding for legal aid.  If enacted, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2013. (NJToday)

June 10, 2013 – Taking on pro bono work, especially for law students and younger attorneys, may seem daunting.  As more states appear poised to require some amount of pro bono hours prior to admittance to the Bar, we’re going to see more students who never thought about pro bono before having to find resources and get it done.  Here are some great tips from our friends at the Washington State Bar Association that might help.  (Washington State Bar Association NWSidebar)

June 11, 2013 – Those who know me know a big issue for me is funding for students to go out and make their dreams a reality.  Harvard Law School has taken up the call.  “Sixteen public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as the inaugural recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program which will award up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service—even if those jobs don’t yet exist.”  The program is in response to the greater demand for more funding options for student-led projects.  (Press Release – HLS)

June 12, 2013 – The Federal Defender in Idaho is requesting withdrawal from a terrorism case due to limited resources.  In making the request, Executive Director Samuel Richard Rubin correctly points out that their responsibility is to handle 74% of federal indigent defense in Idaho.  That would become much more difficult if the resources required to be expended in the case were used in just one case.  The Judge has yet to respond to the motion.   (NPR as reported by Minnesota Public Radio)

June 12, 2013 – As the Legal Services NYC strike enters its second month, services have been affected.  A sign on the door of the Harlem office says they are not accepting any new clients. Potential clients are being referred to other legal aid organizations.  (WNYC News)

June 12, 2013 – U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen urged members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Wednesday to pass a bill that would enhance law school programs that provide free legal services to veterans.  The bill she co-sponsored “would allow the VA to coordinate with law schools that offer legal services to veterans. She said 18 states have law school clinics for veterans but the goal is to have one in every state.”  (Air Force Times)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  This week we say thank you to Touro’s Disaster Relief Clinic and the many like it who are helping folks after natural disasters.  Long after the news media moves on to the next story, thousands of people with complicated legal problems are left behind.  This is where law students are so valuable!  Check out the details of one of their cases.  (Long Island News 12)

Super Music Bonus! PSJD Fellow Ashley M. says Happy Father’s Day from PSJD (she let me pick this one :))  She may never let me choose one again.  Enjoy!


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