Archive for November, 2013

Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker, Entry #2: Where is my Dream Job?! On Passion, Persistence, and Not Settling

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

This is the second blog post in a series about my job-hunting adventures (and misadventures). You all may know me as the 2012-2014 PSJD Fellow, in which position I manage PSJD’s website and social media accounts.


I love this job, but unfortunately my Fellowship is almost halfway over. Aside from the regular stress of looking for a job, I – like many other public interest law grads who scour PSJD for job vacancies – have to combat a dearth of available positions, an abundance of unpaid postgraduate opportunities, student loans, the bar exam, and a majorly competitive job market.

I’m writing this public diary so other recent law graduates know they are not alone. Looking for a job, facing rejection, and dealing with stress and anxiety can be disconcerting and isolating. So if I touch on something that has happened to you or someone you know, feel free to leave a comment! We’ll get through this together.

So, without further ado…      

Entry #2: Where is my Dream Job?! On Passion, Persistence, and Not Settling

It’s no secret that the job market is pretty bad right now.

Trust me, I know from personal experience. Since my last post, I’ve been searching day and night for a legal job that is both suited to my unique skills and interests and  well-paying enough to maintain payment on law school loans and rent. (Not to mention other marginally important things, like food and water.)

At first, my internal dialogue while job-hunting sounds something like this: “Wow, I can just picture myself working [insert imaginary dream job here]. It’s going to be great! I’m going to use all the skills I learned while studying [insert undergraduate degree] AND my law school skills. I have so much experience in [insert areas of focus during law school internships], there’s no way I won’t find something that’s perfect for me.”

After about 72 hours of job hunting only to find an abundance of unpaid internships and fellowships, all that enthusiasm dries into a terse, “Does it pay?! No matter what type of law it is… I’ll take it!”

Deep down, I know that this premature logic is irrational and flawed for one main reason: I have to actually work whatever job I accept. Every day. And probably for a long time, if I don’t quit first. If I accept any job just because it pays, and not because I love what I do, I may find myself quickly regretting my haste. I’m one of those personality types that operates off of pure passion: if I love my work, I will always give it my all. If I don’t love my work, well… mediocrity is not beneath me. This is just me being honest, which I think is important to do while assessing your strengths and weaknesses while looking for new legal employment.

Accepting a job is a really big deal. In our desperation to find work, we may be tempted to jump at the first available opportunity. However, throughout this job-hunting journey, I am forcing myself to exercise caution, and make sure that I am applying to jobs that are well suited to who I am, both professionally and personally. I truly believe this will benefit me in the long run.

A long time ago, I committed myself to public interest law, so I know this is the field I want to stay in throughout my professional career. Finances may be a little rough at first, but there are all kinds of resources from PSJD, EJW and student loan expert Heather Jarvis to guide us through the financial turbulence.

And if it ever seems like I’m not finding enough job vacancies that match my specific interests, I just Google more and more job-search sites to widen the array of available opportunities. Here are my favorite job search sites for public interest law jobs:

  1. PSJD.org – You should’ve known this would be first! As the PSJD Fellow, my full-time job is to look for public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. If you don’t have time to pick through all the sites below, just register on PSJD and let me do the work for you.
  2. Idealist.org – I’ve used this site since my undergrad years, and it never fails to offer a broad view of the social justice employment landscape. It also offers other law-related and non-legal positions, just in case you’re interested in widening the scope of your search.
  3. NLADA.org – The National Legal Aid & Defender Association website has a great jobs section that posts civil rights and criminal law opportunities for public interest lawyers.
  4. Indeed.com – This is a very, very general job search site, but they post a surprisingly good number of public interest law opportunities! The magic is in your search terms: make sure you are specific about the practice area you are looking for, and word your terms the way an employer would phrase them.
  5. Your Law School – Don’t be shy. Contact your career services office and let them know you’re looking for work in a specific area. They may not know of a specific opportunity, but they will more than likely have a list of contacts who may have leads. Be nice and friendly and don’t forget to thank them, because it won’t get you any further in the job hunt to act excessively entitled. I know the job search gets rough, but remember: your career services office is there to help.

And with that, I continue looking not just for any legal job, but the right legal job for me. Don’t forget to check back next Tuesday for the third installment of my Job Seeker Diary.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Job of the Day (Repost): EJW/AmeriCorps JD – Disaster Legal Corps Spring 2014 Internships

Just posted! With funding from AmeriCorps, Equal Justice Works and Colorado Legal Services have teamed up to offer spring internships for students interested in helping victims of Colorado’s recent flooding disaster. Participating interns will receive a $1,175 education award for their efforts. The deadline is December 1st, so act fast:

Through funding provided by AmeriCorps, Equal Justice Works is excited to offer three AmeriCorps JD positions for law students. These individuals will serve the legal needs of victims of the nationally declared Colorado flooding disaster.  The positions will be hosted at the Colorado Legal Service’s offices in Fort Collins and Boulder, with the Fort Collins office accepting two AmeriCorps JD members(*update: the Fort Collins Office encourages Spanish speakers to apply!) and the Boulder office accepting one AmeriCorps JD member.

As AmeriCorps JD members, students will serve a minimum of 300 hours of service starting the beginning of January 2014 and completing service no later than August 31, 2014.  For more information about the AmeriCorps JD program, please visit http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/americorpsjd.

For application instructions and information on how to apply, view the full job listing at PSJD.org (log-in required).

If you have an internship, job or fellowship you would like posted on the PSJD Blog, send us an email at PSJD@nalp.org.

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Job o’ the Day: 2014 NAAG Legal Fellowship (Bridge-to-Practice)

The National Association of Attorneys General is looking to host bridge-to-practice fellows from the class of 2014. From the PSJD job posting:

NAAG is the professional organization for the Attorneys General Offices of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five territories.  Through its training and research arm, the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute, it conducts training in both professional skills and substantive issues for the Attorneys General and provides research assistance.

Our law school graduate fellows whom we have been privileged to host have been invaluable members of our staff and have experienced a wide variety of activities.  They have conducted research and authored manuals for the Attorneys General offices; attended meetings with White House, congressional, and international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Association of Prosecutors; assisted with the editing of Supreme Court amicus briefs; conducted research and assisted in the writing of briefs for NAAG’s Tobacco project; helped provide legal research for our substantive trainings, such as intellectual property theft and human trafficking; developed articles for the NAAGazette; assisted with our International Fellows program; and attended NAAG professional trainings and meetings.

Several have gone on to full-time jobs with Attorneys General offices; all have subsequently found full-time jobs in their areas of interest in the law.

To view the full job listing, click here (PSJD log-in required).

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OMG – I Failed the Bar! Now What?

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

I failed the first Bar I took.

There I said it.  I admit, I still feel the sting of shame when saying it.  I shouldn’t – I went on to pass two other bars, had a great career practicing civil rights defense, and am now doing what I absolutely love.  But, it’s there – shame, embarrassment, fear of failure, the thought that I am a failure despite my other successes.  So, I understand that right now you want to crawl under a rock and never come out.  That’s ok. And you should do the 2013 equivalent: Don’t check Facebook for a while, stay off Twitter, ignore the Instagram pics of your friends celebrating, [insert whatever other social media is relevant].  Give yourself time to grieve because you worked really hard and have suffered a huge disappointment.  Then, after a suitable mourning period, put down the tub of Ben & Jerry’s and make a recovery plan.  Why?  Because you’ve worked too hard not to.  Failing the Bar isn’t a reflection on how smart you are or how worthy you are to practice law.  It’s a setback to be sure, but one you can recover from with a good game plan.  I suggest examining the following in order to determine what you might need to change for the next time around.

1. IS THIS THE RIGHT BAR FOR YOU?

I know, that sounds like a stupid question, but hear me out.  This may not apply to you, but there are a number of folks out there who are pressured into taking a certain Bar because deadlines are coming up, and you have to pick something.  If that was the case for you, take some time to evaluate where you want to practice, what states might have reciprocity with other places you might like to practice, and where there are good bar passage rates for second-time test takers.  Has something come up that makes you want to be in another state?  You may find this wasn’t the right one in the first place, and you’ll be glad you didn’t pass.

2. DID YOU STUDY TOO MUCH/NOT ENOUGH/IN THE RIGHT WAY?

That was my problem.  I took an in-person class and didn’t work during my first bar, so I had “all the time in the world” to study.  Turns out I drastically misused my time, and didn’t retain nearly enough.  My advice on this point has always been (to a lot of success) to think about how you managed exams in law school.  If you were the type to have a lot going on so that you had to really focus in the precious time you had to study for exams (me), then you probably shouldn’t have an entire day every day to study for the Bar.  I also should not have attended in person classes, and remedied that mistake in the next two Bar exams I took (and passed).  Back in the day, there was an option to have the classes on cassette tape (I know, right?).  That’s how I did it for the next two Bars, and it made me really focus on what the instructor was saying.  I could study when I was the most focused (and not when the class was scheduled), and I could go back to places where I needed to listen again.  Now there are much better and varied tools, so think about what works best for you and make it happen.

3. ARE YOU TAKING ENOUGH BREAKS?

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I’m also sure you heard this a lot in law school.  It’s even more important now.  You know from the first time that you’re in the “Bar Study Bubble.”  You need to take care of yourself and make sure you get enough breaks so that you can sleep well, eat right and get some exercise.  Nothing will be retained if you can’t focus.  And, another important safety tip – have regular contact with people not taking the Bar (or about to practice law for that matter).  You need to talk about/think about things that are not law or Bar-related.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I were frankly poor when I was taking the Bar the second time.  But, he did make sure we regularly went to the movies or some other (even free) activity to get my mind off studying for the Bar for a while.  Don’t worry – it will still be there to obsess over when you’re done.

4. BY HOW MUCH DID YOU NOT PASS?

If it was by more than 12-15 points, then you need to seriously reevaluate how you studied and what bar review materials/mechanisms you used.  If you need some guidance in this area, go back to your law school’s student affairs office.  They are usually the ones with their pulse on all the Bar exams and their requirements, and are savvy about what tools work.

5. AND FINALLY – GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

Yes, you failed the Bar.  Yes, it sucks!  But, yes, you will get past it and go on to have a glorious career.  Just make sure you do what you need to do to get ready.  And good luck!  I will be doing the happy dance for you when you pass in February.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 22, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  And Happy Thanksgiving!  The news digest will take the week off next week in order to celebrate Turkey Day.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and get to enjoy some much deserved down time.  Thank you all for reading and supporting the Digest.  We will return in December.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • USPTO applauds pro bono programs;
  • Sometimes it’s downright dangerous to be a prosecutor;
  • An interesting twist on the traditional career fair – host a picnic;
  • NYC Bar exploring ways to help new lawyers and meet unmet legal needs;
  • Great idea for addressing legal needs in rural areas;
  • Chicago follows suit with an incubator program of their own;
  • Human trafficking clinic at U of Michigan Law gets $500,00 federal grant;
  • Georgia State’s new bankruptcy clinic holding free community education classes;
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid services to expand;
  • Texas Corporate Counsel raises funds for legal aid;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 13, 2013– “The US Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced in a press release a new charter agreement placing the continued success of regional pro bono programs in the hands of a newly-formed advisory council. More than 30 representatives from regional inventor assistance programs, major intellectual property (IP) law associations and IP law school programs participated in a ceremonial signing with Chief Judge Randall Rader at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on October 25, 2013.

Under Section 32 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), the USPTO is required to “work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses.” Following the June 2011 launch of the first program in Minnesota, the USPTO has been interacting with IP law associations to assist in the establishment of additional programs across the country. Currently there are seven regional programs covering more than 20 states offering pro bono assistance to inventors and small businesses. The USPTO hopes to see regional pro bono programs covering all 50 states by early 2015.”  (AG-IP News)

November 13, 2013 – Some days are harder than others, but my prosecutor friends say it’s worth it every day.  And then something like this happens.  “An explosive device that police say was designed to destroy an Oregon county prosecutors’ office instead blew out windows in a pre-dawn blast Wednesday that did little other damage.
The FBI said it was too early to say whether the blast was terror-related, but Medford Police Chief Tim George said he considered the explosion a domestic terror attack aimed at law enforcement.  No one was hurt when the device fashioned in part from a 5-gallon propane tank blew. Police say it failed to fully detonate.”  (Komonews.com)

November 14, 2013 – In Florida, they take their diversity networking outside to a more relaxed venue.  An estimated 3,000 black and Latino law school students, top attorneys and judges participate in a minority mentoring picnic for South Florida’s aspiring lawyers.  “The free picnic, now in its 10th year, provided a festive and relaxed atmosphere, with law firms and legal organizations providing literature and information under white tents. Other booths provided prizes and foods from barbecued ribs to Chinese rice. There was also wine tasting, along with music and carnival rides for kids.”  “The picnic also included law school deans, professors and community leaders who offered alternative employment other than law firms for students. Agencies such as the Legal Services of Greater Miami provided information on jobs helping the poor.”  (South Florida Times)

November 14, 2013 – “Following more than a year of analysis, the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession released a report recommending fundamental changes in education and career focus for new lawyers.”  One of the many recommendations is establishing a new law firm for people of modest means.   There needs to be more discussion and action around training new lawyers to meet the needs to low-income and modest income individuals.  (TaxProf Blog)

November 14, 2013 – “Starting next summer, a new pilot program at the UND [University of North Dakota] School of Law will have some students exploring more rural parts of the North Dakota.”  “The program would offer three internships for law students to go to smaller communities in the state that have less than 15,000 people. The interns would work closely with a judge throughout the summer and into the school year.”  “The internships have been established by a collaboration between the UND School of Law, the State Bar Association of North Dakota and the state courts to help remedy the lack of attorneys especially in the western portion of the state.” (Dakota Student)

November 15, 2013 – “A privately supported legal-industry incubator designed to link underemployed young lawyers with ‘modest means’ clients who don’t qualify for free legal services was unveiled today in the West Loop.  The Chicago Bar Foundation’s attempt to address the industry’s supply-and-demand imbalance echoes a New York City Bar Association project announced a day earlier. That program involves placing new attorneys in big-employer apprenticeships or in a startup law firm.”  “Participating lawyers in the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, whose numbers will grow to 30 next spring, spend the first six months of an 18-month program working through local legal aid organizations to provide free services while developing their own paying clientele. They’re getting stipends of about $1,000 a month from local law schools and, after six months, will pay nominal rent for incubator space.”  (Chicago Business)

November 19, 20013 – “The Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School has been awarded a $500,000 grant to fund a partnership between the clinic and domestic violence and sexual assault victims’ services.  The three-year grant announced Tuesday by the Ann Arbor school is from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program.  The money will fund a partnership with the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and the school’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. Both efforts are designed to improve services to victims of human trafficking in Michigan.  (The Republic)

November 20, 2013 – “Georgia State University College of Law’s new Bankruptcy Assistance and Practice Program is holding a free community education class for those facing bankruptcy.”  Representatives from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society will also participate.  “Georgia State Law professor Jessica Gabel started the bankruptcy assistance program this year to help people who cannot afford a lawyer navigate a bankruptcy filing. For the 16 third-year law students participating, the program is an opportunity to gain experience working with actual clients.”  (EastAtlantaPatch)

November 20, 2013 – “The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission is expanding its services to include landlord and tenant, Canada Pension Plan, income assistance and employment insurance issues.  The expansion of services falls under the commission’s social justice initiative.”  (The Chronicle Herald)

November 20, 2013 – “The Texas Access to Justice Commission, in conjunction with the Texas General Counsel Forum, raised $48,583 for civil legal services during the 2nd annual Charity Golf Classic held Nov. 14 in San Antonio.  This year’s event almost doubled the amount raised during last year’s inaugural tournament.  The proceeds will be donated to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.”  (The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  On Wednesday, President Obama honored 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  “President Barack Obama opened a day of tributes to former President John F. Kennedy on Wednesday by bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on prominent Americans, 50 years after Kennedy was assassinated weeks short of the medal’s first award ceremony.”  Recipients include Ernie Banks, Ben Bradlee, Bill Clinton, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Kahneman, Richard Lugar, Loretta Lynn, Mario Molina, Sally Ride, Bayard Rustin, Arturo Sandoval, Dean Smith, Gloria Steinem, Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, Patricia Wald, Oprah Winfrey.  Read more about their contributions.

Super Music Bonus!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NSQLMPUK-8

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Job(s) of the Day: EJW/AmeriCorps JD – Disaster Legal Corps Spring 2014 Internships

Just posted! With funding from AmeriCorps, Equal Justice Works and Colorado Legal Services have teamed up to offer spring internships for students interested in helping victims of Colorado’s recent flooding disaster. Participating interns will receive a $1,175 education award for their efforts. The deadline is December 1st, so act fast:

Through funding provided by AmeriCorps, Equal Justice Works is excited to offer three AmeriCorps JD positions for law students. These individuals will serve the legal needs of victims of the nationally declared Colorado flooding disaster.  The positions will be hosted at the Colorado Legal Service’s offices in Fort Collins and Boulder, with the Fort Collins office accepting two AmeriCorps JD members(*update: the Fort Collins Office encourages Spanish speakers to apply!) and the Boulder office accepting one AmeriCorps JD member.

As AmeriCorps JD members, students will serve a minimum of 300 hours of service starting the beginning of January 2014 and completing service no later than August 31, 2014.  For more information about the AmeriCorps JD program, please visit http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/americorpsjd.

For application instructions and information on how to apply, view the full job listing at PSJD.org (log-in required).

 

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Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker, Entry #1: The First Rejection Letter

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

This is the first blog post in a series about my job-hunting adventures (and misadventures). You all may know me as the 2012-2014 PSJD Fellow, in which position I manage PSJD’s website and social media accounts.

I love this job, but unfortunately my Fellowship is almost halfway over. Aside from the regular stress of looking for a job, I – like many other public interest law grads who scour PSJD for job vacancies – have to combat a dearth of available positions, an abundance of unpaid postgraduate opportunities, student loans, the bar exam, and a majorly competitive job market.

I’m writing this public diary so other recent law graduates know they are not alone. Looking for a job, facing rejection, and dealing with stress and anxiety can be disconcerting and isolating. So if I touch on something that has happened to you or someone you know, feel free to leave a comment! We’ll get through this together.

So, without further ado…

Entry #1: The First Rejection Letter

We’ve all been there.

You’re looking on a website (more than likely PSJD.org) and we see what looks like the perfect job. You read the job description, and each bulletpoint seems to describe you more and more. You’re already formulating your cover letter before you get to the application instructions.

But two weeks later, you still haven’t heard anything back. You twiddle your thumbs, you feverishly check your email. You tell yourself, “It’s okay – they were probably flooded with applications. I’ll hear from them soon.”

One month later, and the dread has numbed itself into a little ball of anxiety in the pit of your stomach. You sluggishly start looking at other jobs, but still hold out hope. And then, it happens. One morning, the potential dream employer’s email pops up in your inbox. Based on the non-descript subject line, you already know it contains bad news. You open up the email, and there it is: a cold, hard rejection letter staring you right in the face.

It happens to the best of us. No one is exempt from a rejection letter or two during their job-hunting career, but for some reason this doesn’t really take much of the sting away.

Earlier this month, I stared into my laptop at my very own little slice of reality. I had to take a couple of deep calming breaths. I needed to get myself together instead of replying with a snarky “It’s your loss!” e-mail before slinking off into the desert of legal unemployment and licking my wounds.

“Thank you for the opportunity,” I type. “If there’s anything I can ever help out with in terms of volunteering, let me know.”

A special note about public interest employers: It’s incredibly difficult to stay grumpy about rejection. The work that these organizations do is so important, I feel awful and selfish being angry about not getting hired. This is why I always offer to volunteer, even if not accepted for a certain position. It’s really about the clients, and  they are the ones who suffer by new attorneys swearing off public interest work just because of a rejection letter (or two… or three…). You gotta keep your eyes on the prize.

Anyway, after a couple of deep breaths, I wrote down a few principles I promised to stick by during my job-hunting adventures:

  1. If it was easy, everyone would do it. And very rarely are things worth it when they’re easy. When we work harder for something (and in some cases, for a longer time), it will mean that much more when we finally get it – and we will. It’s only a matter of time.
  2. Focus on the why and how. After a rejection letter, it’s very easy to sweep the entire ordeal under the rug and just pretend it never happened. Ignoring the rejection is a natural coping mechanism, but this was the best time to look at my cover letter or writing sample again – I may have missed something very important the first go round that, when fixed, could be helpful in landing the next job.
  3. Don’t mope. This is the easiest thing to do after a rejection letter. Go grab some ice cream (or a glass of wine), talk to a good friend (or another glass of wine) and keep it moving (but no more wine!). After my first rejection letter, I just kept looking for more jobs – preferably more jobs just like the one I applied for but didn’t get. Job-hunting is a marathon, and we can’t get tired after rejection.

And with that, I say goodbye (for now) to that old rejected application and am now pointing my resume towards greener pastures.

The Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker will be a weekly blog series. Check back next Tuesday for the next installment!

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Expert Opinion: Tips from a Government Employer

Editor’s note: Our “Expert Opinion” series offers thoughts, insights, and career advice from public interest lawyers, law students, and others who work for the public good.  This edition’s Expert is Ruta Stropus, the Director of Attorney Recruitment and Professional Development for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Stropus has graciously agreed to offer some much-needed tips and advice on applying for positions within the government. This edition is all about what to do (and what not to do!) during the pre-application process. Next time, Stropus will tackle cover letters and resumes. 

On to the advice…

Tips from a Government Employer

First of all, let me thank every wonderful professional who works in law school career centers.  I realize that you do tremendous work counseling and advising stressed out law students who are panicked about finding a job in these difficult economic times.  With the increase in law school debt, the decrease in law jobs – not to mention hiring and salary freezes in the government sector – being effective and positive is no easy task.

I rely on law school placement professionals to help recruit for my office.  We do not participate in the on campus interview process, because we rarely hire new graduates.  However, law school alumni networks are our lifeline, and we couldn’t do it without you.

Unfortunately, not all lawyers listen to the advice of their placement counselors.  After spending nine years as the director of attorney recruiting at a state agency, I still see candidates making the rookie mistakes before even getting in the cover letter and resume or making it to the interview.  So, although you and I know these are “don’ts”, many out there are still do-ing.

1)    The job search.  Other websites often list our positions.  That’s a good thing – we want to advertise broadly.  However, the most accurate and current information is on the agency website.  Therefore, candidates should always the employer’s website for complete information before calling the recruiter with questions.  I have spent a lot of time crafting job descriptions, setting out the application procedures, drafting a frequently asked questions guide.  One of the ways I judge applicants is their ability to follow directions.  For example, we do not allow candidates to email their application materials; if someone does so, not only is the person disregarding an employer’s specific request, but they are demonstrating that they haven’t read the instructions.

2)    The posting.  I am honest in my communications.  If the website notes that the position requires, at minimum, three years of post-graduation civil litigation experience, then that is the minimum requirement.  Just today, I had a candidate call and ask:  “The posting says that three years of criminal prosecution experience is required. I have six months experience. Will you consider my application?”  My response?  “No, we require three years.”  Others call and emphasize their interest in the position:  “I am very interested in the position, and I am a quick learner.”  Although that might be well and good, interest is not experience.  My favorite is the ole’ switch-a-roo:  “Your posting says the position is in Springfield, but I’m really interested in Chicago.”  Well, if the posting says Springfield, then the position is in (wait for it) Springfield!!!!

3)    The tenor.  As a recruiter, I am a professional.  My job is to find the very best candidate for the job.  Therefore, I do not be-friend applicants on Facebook or link with them on LinkedIn.  I do not go out for coffee with candidates who “want to learn more about the position.”  I do not like it when candidates email or call me and begin the conversation by addressing me by my first name.  When a candidate calls or emails with a question, I expect that question cannot be answered by our website and is something more than “I really just can’t email you my application?” Because I answer my own phone, I expect a greeting such as: “Hello, may I speak to Ms. Stropus?  Ms. Stropus, hello, my name is Cindy Earl and I have a quick question about your job posting.”  Sadly, what I usually get is:  “Ah …. hi…. yah…. I’ve been looking at your website and I’m confused….”

Bottom line here for candidates: You start interviewing for the job from the minute you start your job search.  Even before they submit their application paperwork, I expect candidates to have visited the agency website and read ALL the information that is available on the position and the agency – that includes the mission, the history, the recent activity.  If the candidate has a genuine question, I expect a polite and professional call or email, complete with salutation and thank you.

Next time on the PSJD Blog: the cover letter and resume!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – November 15, 2013

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

Happy Friday!  This week I had the honor of presenting the 2013 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award to J. Martin Bunt at Emory.  Check out his great work and find out how you can be nominated at PSJD.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Rutgers School of Law-Newark, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice and Disability Rights New Jersey and the Education Law Center seek pro bono volunteers;
  • Committee formed in Cleveland, OH to boost awareness of need for pro bono legal services for low-income people;
  • Canadian law students fill legal needs gap;
  • Gulfcoast Legal Services receives grant from Manatee County;
  • NYC unveils pilot program to give legal defense to detained immigrants facing deportation;
  • Lawyers to pay new fee in Missouri that will help fund legal aid for the poor;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Dorothy Bernholz,  Founder and Director of Carolina Student Legal Services;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

November 5, 2013– “The Education Law Center is seeking lawyers from the private sector to volunteer to represent children with disabilities whose parents or guardians cannot afford to hire an attorney.  Along with with Rutgers School of Law-Newark, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice and Disability Rights New Jersey, the ELC will hold a day-long seminar Nov. 19 in Newark to train lawyers”  Perhaps you can help.  (nj.com)

November 5, 2013 – “The Access to Justice Committee will meet during the rest of this year to establish goals and begin implementing programs in 2014, said Lake County Bar Association President Lora Lynne Krider.  Former Congressman Dennis Eckart and Willoughby attorney Ann Bergen will serve as co-chairs of the committee.
Access to Justice was announced during National Celebrate Pro Bono week, Oct. 20-26.  ‘It is essential that the entire legal community engage in conversation and action that results in equal access to justice for all,’ Krider said in a news release.”  (The News-Herald)

November 5, 2013 – “For the last 13 years Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) — University of Saskatchewan chapter has been providing free legal services to the community. The 80 students volunteer three to five hours per week working on projects for various organizations in Saskatoon.”  “PBSC has chapters in all 21 law schools in Canada and is the only national pro bono service in the world. The U of S chapter is the only one that is funded by the law school itself. Last year, they partnered with 23 organizations and provided nearly 7,000 hours of volunteer service.” (The StarPhoenix)

November 6, 2013 – “Gulfcoast Legal Services Inc. will receive $10,531 from the county this year to help finance legal aid for the poor, the Manatee County Commission decided Tuesday.  Gulfcoast will work with an agency with a similar mission, Legal Aid of Manasota, which received $56,667 from the county, officials said.”  (Bradenton Herald)

November 7, 2013 – “On Wednesday, a coalition of seven public defender, legal advocacy and community activist groups unveiled the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the first program in the nation to win public funding for legal defense of detained immigrants who cannot afford to hire lawyers. In June, the New York City Council appropriated $500,000 for the pilot, which organizers say will be enough to meet about 20 percent of each year’s need. Under the program, detainees whose income falls at no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line can receive pro bono legal counsel from New York Immigrant Defenders, which consists of public defender offices in the Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defense Services.”  “Organizers of the project trace its descent to the efforts of Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Katzmann, who in 2010 commissioned two separate studies of detained immigrant representation in the city. ”  (Latin Times)

November 9, 2013 – “The state Supreme Court said yesterday it will impose a new fee on thousands of attorneys who work in Missouri to help fund legal aid for low-income residents in civil court cases.  The $30 annual fee is to be paid by all licensed attorneys starting in 2014 and is expected to generate at least $750,000.  The money will go toward Missouri’s legal services fund, which helps pay for attorneys to aid people in civil cases such as custody disputes, protective orders, home foreclosures and bankruptcy cases.”  (Columbia Daily Tribune)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  After more than 30 years serving UNC’s students, the director of Carolina Student Legal Services is preparing to hand over the program she fought to create.  Dorothy Bernholz, who has served as CSLS’s director and staff attorney, said she will retire June 30.  See how she started this first-of-its-kind program over some major opposition and created a model for others to follow.  Congratulations on an outstanding career!  (The Daily Tarheel)

Super Music Bonus! Here is a lovely little blast from the past.  Enjoy!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE1dz6_u2JI.

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Equal Justice Works’ Student Loan Debt Resources and November Webinars

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

If you’re trying to get a handle on student loans, check out this message from our friends at Equal Justice Works! They’ve got incredibly helpful resources and upcoming webinars (one is this Thursday, so mark your calendars):

The weather is cooling rapidly, but for many recent graduates things are heating up. That’s because many of them are at the end of their six-month grace period and entering repayment on their student loans.

Tempting though it is, this is not a good time for avoidance. If you or anyone you know is entering repayment, here’s a good overview of the steps you should be taking to manage your loans.

You should also check out our comprehensive e-book, Take Control of Your Future. It has the scoop on income-driven repayment plans that can reduce your monthly payments exactly how to earn ten-year Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Last but not least, don’t forget about our free webinars. Our upcoming sessions are:

If you’re interested in keeping up to date on the student loan debate, don’t forget to check out the Student Loan Ranger. Last month we discussed the recently released ABA draft report on reforming law schools, looked at how the newly proposed gainful employment regulations could affect students, and delved into a new report that sheds light on why everyone dislikes Sallie Mae.

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