PSJD Public Interest News Digest – February 14, 2014

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

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine’s Day!  Show some love this week and every week by volunteering.  We will love you for it!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Number of Ohio lawyers reporting pro bono work increased;
  • MO public defenders seek pay raise;
  • Legal Hospice of TX receives King Foundation grant;
  • Human Rights First opening new Houston office;
  • NY law students have the option to do pro bono work for credit during their third year;
  • Report details economic impact of NC legal services;
  • NALP  Board adopts changes to Part V of the Principles & Standards;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: This week a special thank you to those who help out in bad weather;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

February 7, 2014 – At the beginning of January, attorneys with an active Ohio registration received an email from the Supreme Court asking lawyers to voluntarily report their 2013 pro bono work and financial contributions to organizations providing civil legal services to those of limited means.  Nearly 1,800 lawyers responded.  This is an increase of approximately 300 lawyers over this time last year.  The data is provided anonymously, reported in the aggregate, and will be used to improve delivery of civil legal services to people and families who cannot afford an attorney and to identify gaps in services.  (The Akron Legal News)

February 7, 2014 – “The head of Missouri’s public defender system is seeking a pay raise for the attorneys who represent low-income criminal defendants.  Public Defender System Director Cat Kelly says entry-level attorneys in her office are paid a salary of about $38,500. She says that’s nearly $5,000 less than beginning lawyers in the state attorney general’s office. Kelly says both should be paid the same amount.”  “Gov. Jay Nixon has recommended a 3 percent pay raise for all state employees.  Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer says he would prefer to give targeted pay raises to certain professions instead of an across-the-board increase.”  (KOAM TV)

February 7, 2014 – “Legal Hospice of Texas received a $10,000 grant from the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation to continue providing legal services at no cost to clients in Dallas County.”  “LHT addresses health related, civil legal needs of low-income individuals diagnosed with a terminal illness or HIV. LHT provides legal counsel, representation, and advocacy at no cost to clients who are HIV positive or terminally ill and reside in one of the 16 North Central Texas counties it serves.”  (

February 10, 2014 – “Human Rights First announced it will open a new office in Houston this April at South Texas College of Law, bringing its award-winning pro bono legal representation program to asylum seekers and attorneys in America’s fourth- largest city.”  “Houston is a diverse and dynamic city where there is an increasing need for our services,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Hundreds of asylum seekers in Houston go unrepresented in a system where having a lawyer can mean the difference between return to persecution and the chance to start a new life in safety and freedom. Our Houston team will help to bridge the gap between this pressing need and the services currently available, giving the city’s pro bono legal community the tools they need to help.”  (Human Rights First)

February 11, 2014 –  New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is proposing an option where students spend their last semester doing free legal work for credit.   He says “this approach will also help fill the vast ‘justice gap’ for the poor, who often face civil issues like eviction, foreclosure, custody and denied benefits without legal help.  Calling it the Pro Bono Scholars Program, Lippman says Tuesday that the state Board of Law Examiners has already approved it and the initiative will be offered in all the state’s 15 law schools.  The advantage for students, in addition to practical experience, will be the opportunity to take the bar exam in February during their third year of school, instead of July after graduation.  (The Republic)

February 11, 2014 – Here is something we already know – legal services provide tangible impacts on their communities.  North Carolina sought to quantify the impacts.  “A recently released report finds the work of legal services providers across the state generated $48,775,276 in economic impact in 2012.  Written by the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the report, ‘A 108% Return on Investment: The Economic Impact to the State of North Carolina of Civil Legal Services in 2012,’ details the direct economic benefit, indirect economic impact, and cost savings attributed to the work of three North Carolina legal services providers, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, and Pisgah Legal Services.”  (

February 13, 2014 – At its recent meeting, NALP’s Board of Directors voted to adopt a series of provisional changes to Part V of NALP’s Principles and Standards. The updated guidelines 1) incorporate a 14-day reaffirmation provision within the 28-day offer response window for those candidates not previously employed and 2) change the offer response deadline for those candidates previously employed by an organization to 28 days following the date of the offer letter or October 1, whichever is later, rather than November 1. The updated guidelines are on the Principles and Standards page of the NALP website, and there is a memorandum more fully describing the changes along with the full-text of Part V. The Board also adopted a new Interpretation 22 on using the reaffirmation provisions.

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: I could talk about an outstanding legal public servants, but let’s face it, this week we really need to say thank you to the men and women who clear the roads, man the hospitals, keep our road safe, and respond to emergencies.  Thank you to all of you who make it possible for life to keep working in the midst of chaos.
Super Music Bonus!  I had to do it – it’s Valentine’s Day! 

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