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.”  (

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.


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