Archive for May, 2014

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 30, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Summer is in full swing!  Are you looking for additional ways to increase your skills?  New opportunities are being added daily to PSJD.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Ontario County, NY gets conflict defenders office;
  • Additional public defender relief coming to NY counties;
  • BC increases legal aid funding;
  • Legal Aid strike action still looms for summer in BC;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Student activists;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 23, 2014 –  “Ontario County is moving forward in staffing its new conflict defender’s office. The office, which is expected to be fully functional by October, will handle cases for indigent defendants in which a conflict of interest exists within the public defender’s office.” “At its meeting next Thursday, May 29, the Board of Supervisors is due to approve the appointment of Andrea Schoeneman, of Victor, as the new conflict defender.”  (Victor Post)

May 23, 2014 – “Struggling with sometimes unmanageable caseloads, public defenders in the Capital Region may soon get a bit of relief as more than $1 million in state money will soon flow into local offices to hire more attorneys.  The funds come from grants dispersed throughout New York by the Office of Indigent Legal Services (OILS), the state’s first program for guiding the quality of assigned counsel. Now OILS is working to disperse an additional $12 million to counties across New York to reduce caseloads.”  (Times Union)

May 26, 2014 – “The [British Columbia] government is shelling out $2 million to expand legal aid services and launch new pilot projects.  The new funding aims to increase access to justice and resolve disputes more quickly.  Projects include a Parents’ Legal Centre for child protection cases, and expanded duty counsel and family legal advice at the Victoria Justice Access Centre.”  (CKNW)

May 27, 2014 – Despite the $2 million recently added to the British Columbia budget for legal aid, it is not near enough for legal aid lawyers.  “Some B.C. lawyers are once again planning to withdraw legal aid services in a bid to force the provincial government to pour more money into the system.  Bentley Doyle, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said participating lawyers will halt work on existing legal aid cases and refuse new ones for the month of July.  Previous legal aid ‘strikes’ split the legal community and there’s no sign the tactic will be embraced by all lawyers this time either.  Doyle said 50 to 75 lawyers in Vancouver are on board, as well as a group in Kamloops and the aim is to recruit more in other areas.”  “The plan is to continue the action in the fall with one-week-a-month stoppages starting in October. Both criminal and family law cases will be affected.”  (BC Local News)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Students are a powerful force for change.  As history has born out repeatedly, people who ban together for a common cause often triumph.  That was the case when a group of students in China got together in 1989 to protest against their government.  “Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.”  (History Channel)  In the aftermath, the world responded.    Many say this protest was an example for the recent Arab spring and other events that have brought about change.  So, take action.  You may be surprised at the result.

Super Music Bonus! Getting ready for the World Cup?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-7knsP2n5w&feature=share&list=PLFgquLnL59alCl_2TQvOiD5Vgm1hCaGSI

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 23, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  School’s out and it’s time to prepare for the summer, especially internships.  Are you interning in a new city?  Check out PSJD’s Having Fun on the Cheap series to find great stuff to do in your internship city.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Leslie Caldwell confirmed to head DOJ criminal division;
  • FL lawyers argue over proposed $100 dues increase to help fund legal aid;
  • Stetson Law seeks volunteer lawyers for its new veterans clinic;
  • IA Supreme Courts awards grants for legal aid;
  • DOJ Office of Inspector General releases report of audit of John R. Justice Grant Program;
  • Environmental residency/incubator debuts in Pittsburgh;
  • LSAC settles ADA suit with a consent decree;
  • Grant to UNM Law to encourage public interest lawyers;
  • AILA announces Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellow;
  • MA must pay public defenders more;
  • Youths guaranteed representation at detention hearings in CO;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: NLADA Beacon of Justice Award winners;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 15, 2014 –  “White-collar defender Leslie Caldwell was confirmed Thursday to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.  Caldwell, co-chairwoman of the corporate-investigations and white-collar practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, sailed through her confirmation hearing in February. The Senate approved Caldwell on a voice vote.  “I’m confident that her extensive experience on both sides of the courtroom will serve her well as she assumes leadership of the Criminal Division,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a written statement.”  (National Law Journal)(subscription)

May 15, 2014 – “Joined by a former state Supreme Court justice, attorneys for the poor are trying to raise annual Florida Bar dues by up to $100 to address what they call a fiscal crisis.  The attempt to hike the annual dues, which have not increased since 2001, from the current $265 has sparked an outcry in the legal community and created a rift over how much of the onus lawyers should bear to fund legal-services groups throughout the state.”  The proposed dues hike is also creating a larger conversation on the delivery of legal services to the poor in Florida.  (The Florida Times-Union)

May 16, 2014 – Stetson University College of Law is seeking attorneys to volunteer civil legal services to military members, veterans and their families as part of its Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team.  Stetson’s new Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team will serve Tampa Bay area veterans through its Veterans Law Institute.  “We are looking for volunteer attorneys with a passion to serve the veterans, members of our military and their families,” said Trista Miller, assistant director of clinical education and Veterans Law Institute pro bono supervisor at Stetson.  “Attorneys interested in volunteering may apply with no obligation at stetson.edu/veteransprobono. For more information about volunteering with Stetson’s Veterans Pro Bono Initiative Team, contact vetprobono(at)law.stetson(dot)edu or call 727-562-7333.” (Digital Journal)

May 16, 2014 – “The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $282,000 in grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income residents with civil legal problems, including those in North Iowa.  The Second Judicial District, whose 22-county area includes Cerro Gordo, Worth, Winnebago, Franklin, Mitchell, Floyd, Hancock, Wright and Butler counties, is receiving $5,900 for its Civil Legal Assistance Fund. This fund is for legal assistance to low-income residents involved in dissolution of marriage or modification of child support/custody cases in which other legal assistance is not available.  Fourteen other programs throughout the state also received grant funding, including statewide programs such as Iowa Legal Aid, which has a regional office in Mason City. Iowa Legal Aid provides civil case assistance to low-income residents.  The grant funds are generated entirely from interest earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa’s lawyers.”  (globegazette.com)

May 20, 2014 – On Tuesday Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz released a report examining the John R. Justice (JRJ) grant program, which provides student loan assistance to attorneys serving as state and local prosecutors or federal, state, and local public defenders.  JRJ program grants are provided to U.S. states and territories, which are responsible for selecting eligible attorney applicants for JRJ awards.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit found that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) needs to improve its record-keeping, oversight, and communication with state administering agencies and beneficiaries to ensure responsible tracking of the $28 million that has been appropriated to fund the JRJ program since 2010.  The audit found many issues with the program and the way the funds are being handled, including funds going to states that weren’t distributed.  The OIG made 12 recommendations addressing the administration of JRJ program funds, the tracking of JRJ participants and their owed repayments, and factors that may detract from the financial benefit of the program.  OJP agreed with all 12 recommendations.  I highly recommend reading the report. (DOJ OIG)

May 20, 2014 – “Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a foundation-supported justice incubator and residency program, has debuted in Pittsburgh and in Akron, Ohio, to serve clients of modest means — individuals, groups and small businesses. Emily Collins is the executive director; she previously was at the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Law Clinic.”  Resident attorneys will spend two years in residence at Fair Shake serving modest means clients.  Fair Shake also employs full-time, permanent staff.  (Pittsburgh Business Times)

May 20, 2014 – “The Law School Admission Council agreed to an overhaul Tuesday that, combined with $7.73 million in penalties and damages, will settle disability-discrimination claims.  The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing brought the original suit on behalf of California test takers, and the United States soon intervened in the case to ensure comprehensive and nationwide relief.  They alleged that 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, were forced to submit to ‘psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.’  LSAC also allegedly required disabled test-takers to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition, and it allegedly ‘flagged’ the exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.  U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had refused in 2012 to dismiss the action, which alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act, and the Unruh Act.  All parties filed a joint motion Tuesday for entry of a consent decree that requires the LSAC to pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages, compensating more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the LSAT over the past five years.”  More about the other terms of the decree are here.  (Courthouse News Service)

May 21, 2014 – “Combining direct legal services, policy advocacy, and impact litigation strategies, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area advances the rights of immigrants, refugees and communities of color, with a specific focus on low income communities and a long-standing commitment to African Americans. We provide leadership and expertise in identifying legal issues and cases that are critical to the advancement of minority and immigrant communities, and we marshal the resources of the private bar to help effect structural change.”  “[T]he law school will seek input from legal services providers, minority communities and tribes to ‘develop a plan to create a pipeline of excellent lawyers who reflect New Mexico’s diverse communities and who will serve low-income children and families.'”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 21, 2014 – “The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), joined by its project partners the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP/NLG), are delighted to announce Danielle Alvarado has been named the recipient of the Michael Maggio Immigrants’ Rights Summer Fellowship for 2014. Ms. Alvarado, a second-year law student at Northeastern University will use her time as a fellow to clerk at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.”  (AILA InfoNet)

May 22, 2014 – Earlier the Boston Globe did a great article on the study by the Massachusetts Bar Association on salaries paid to public defenders and prosecutors.  Basically, the Bar said the State must do better or criminal justice lawyers will become the working poor.  “The report said that Massachusetts ranks dead last in annual salaries paid to public defenders through the Committee for Public Counsel Services and that county prosecutors often are the lowest-paid person in a courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers.  The study was conducted by the MBA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation, which included a current and former judge, bar association officials, defense attorneys, and former district attorneys.”

This week we have an excellent follow up, including interviews from defenders and prosecutors who are the heart and soul of the criminal justice system and are paid less than $40,000 a year.  (Boston Globe)

May 22, 2014 – “Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation to guarantee legal representation for juveniles facing charges in Colorado.  The bill Hickenlooper signed Wednesday will require that minors have either a court-appointed attorney or a private lawyer at detention hearings. That’s where a judge determines whether a defendant should be released while their case is pending.  The legislation comes in response to data from youth advocates showing that nearly half of juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation.  Supporters of the legislation argue that juveniles sometimes resolve their cases without understanding the long-term consequences of the proceedings.”  (Daily Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  Law firms are an important component of the provision of legal services to those most in need.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) honors those firms with the 2014 Beacon of Justice Award. The exceptional law firms listed below have all devoted significant time and resources to creating and implementing innovative strategies to improve life outcomes for low income individuals.  Congratulations and thank you for your contributions to access to justice!  (NLADA)

The full list of 2014 Beacon of Justice winners is as follows:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Briggs and Morgan, P.A.
Callister Nebeker & McCullough
Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway 
Dechert LLP
DLA Piper
Fenwick & West LLP
Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Locke Lord LLP
Lowenstein Sandler LLP
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Polsinelli LLP
Quarles & Brady LLP
Robins, Kaplan, Miller, Ciresi L.L.P.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Stinson Leonard Street LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Super Music Bonus! In a bit of a summer mood this Memorial Day weekend.  Enjoy!

http://youtu.be/Kr0tTbTbmVA

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 16, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  It is with both great sadness (for us) and joy (for her) that we say goodbye to our PSJD Fellow Ashley Matthews.  She has been such a wonderful part of our staff, and I am sad to say goodbye.  However, she is going on to much greater things, and we wish her all the best!  Thank you Ashley for all your contributions.  Good luck at LSC.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • The Partnership for Public Service releases report calling for overhaul of federal government civil service system;
  • CT budget averts $4.5 million cut to legal aid;
  • OK governor vetoes check off for domestic violence fund;
  • Senate Democrats propose plan for refinancing student debt;
  • OPM wants to help agencies’ HR;
  • 40% of LA’s PD offices ran a deficit;
  • Defenders organizing to give ‘Gideon’ teeth;
  • Canadian lawyer speaks to the self-represented;
  • Legal aid for youth for detention hearings expected to be signed into law in CO;
  • SallieMae must compensate troops for overcharging on student loans;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Law enforcement;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 9, 2014 –  “In the new report, “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework,” the Partnership for Public Service calls for major reforms to the federal government’s decades-old civil service system and lays out a plan to modernize areas that include the outdated pay and hiring policies.”  You can download the report and view the panel discussion.  “The report calls for overhauling the entire civil service system, including pay, performance management, hiring, job classification, accountability and workplace justice, and the Senior Executive Service, the nation’s career leadership corps.”  (Partnership for Public Service)

May 9, 2014 – “Connecticut lawmakers have averted a looming $4.5 million cut to legal aid services that lawyers for the poor say would have forced them to turn away hundreds of low-income people seeking help with court cases involving domestic violence, eviction and health care.  The General Assembly approved a plan to continue using increased court filing fees to fund legal aid, as part of a massive budget bill adopted just before the legislative session ended Wednesday and sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature. The increased fees approved in 2012 to stabilize legal aid were set to expire next year.”  (SFGate)

May 10, 2014 – “Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that would set up an income tax checkoff to help pay for legal aid for victims of domestic violence. She said the fund would be redundant.  There is already a checkoff on income tax forms for taxpayers who wish to contribute part of their tax refund to a fund for victims of domestic violence, said Alex Weintz, her spokesman.  Having two similar funds in the checkoff program could cause one or both to fail to reach donation requirements needed for a fund to stay in the program, Weintz said.”  (NewsOK)

May 12, 2014 – “Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his plan, backed by Senate Democrats, would allow borrowers who have undergraduate student loan rates locked in at high interest rates to refinance at the rate currently offered for new student loans — 3.86 percent.  The plan is expected to be brought to the floor of the Senate in June, Schumer said. The new legislation has bipartisan support, Schumer said, but has yet to be taken up by the House of Representatives.”  (Newsday)

May 12, 2014 – “The Office of Personnel Management is pursuing various strategies that focus on the individual needs of agencies, as well as human resources challenges common across government, to improve federal hiring and employee retention, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said on Monday.”  “We are drilling down in agencies to find the knots in the hiring process, and to untie them,” Archuleta said during a speech to federal workers at Government Executive’s annual Excellence in Government conference in Washington.  OPM wants to help agencies hire and cultivate talent, especially in the midst of tight budgets.  (Government Executive)

May 12, 2014 – “More than 40 percent of Louisiana’s public defender offices ran deficits last year as they struggled to come up with enough money to handle the cases of people too poor to afford their own attorneys, according to an annual report released Monday.  The Louisiana legislative auditor’s office found that 17 public defenders’ offices out of 40 spent more money than they brought in for the budget year that ended June 30, 2013.  To continue operating, districts dipped into reserve funds, a solution the report described as a temporary fix that “seriously depleted most of the local districts’ fund balances.” Public defenders had to do the same practice in 2012, forcing some to restrict services.  The offices have had similar problems for several years. The auditor’s office notes that the Louisiana Public Defender Board requested more money than it received during the budgeting process last year.”  (Daily Journal)

May 12, 2014 – “During the past six months, more than 6,000 state and federal public defenders from around the country have accepted the invitation to join a new organization formed to “own” the problems and future of indigent defense, as one of its founders put it. The catalyst was the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the justices held that the Sixth Amendment required states to provide counsel to poor defendants charged with serious crimes.”  “The organization, the National Association for Public Defense, arrives at the ‘right time,’ said Stephen Hanlon, chairman of the indigent defense advisory group of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.”  “Unlike those organizations, which view indigent defense as a subset of the criminal justice system, Young said, the new organization’s sole focus is indigent defense. ‘We want to address training and workload relief for lawyers on the line in the courtroom every day, and all of the support staff that gets us to the courtroom every day.’  To that end, the organization’s education committee is providing training webinars for public defenders and staff, and is blogging and writing articles about the justice system.”  The organization is also seeking to bridge the gap between federal and state defenders.  So far, more than 6,000 members are on board.  (National Law Journal)

May 13, 2014 – “Record numbers of Canadians are appearing without a lawyer in family court all across the country. University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane estimates that as many as 80 per cent of family court cases in Canada involve Self-Represented Litigants; that’s up by half from 1993.  Judges, however, still hold Self-Represented Litigants to the same standard of work quality and following court processes as they would expect from a lawyer.”  That’s where Family lawyer Andrew Feldstein comes in.  He has launched “FamilyLawHelp.ca, an information-packed website designed specifically for Self-Represented Litigants (also called Unrepresented Litigants or Do-it-Yourselfers) who are thinking of ending their marriages or common-law relationships.”  “The site offers ‘unbundled legal services’ where instead of providing comprehensive services to a client, a lawyer only handles the aspects that a client chooses. For example, clients can get any one of these, or a combination of these written:  applications, answers, notices of motion, affidavits, and offers to settle. And the spouse handles the balance, to the best of his or her abilities.”  Unbundled services is certainly a trend that is gaining momentum in Canada and the US.  (Mississauga News)

May 14, 2014 – “Juveniles in criminal proceedings in Colorado will be guaranteed defense counsel at hearings where judges determine whether they should be released while their case is pending, under a bill expected to be signed into law next week.  The legislation comes in response to concerns raised by youth advocates who maintain that many juveniles with cases in state courts don’t get legal representation, and they sometimes resolve their cases without ever getting legal advice. The advocates argued that this situation often leads to juveniles and their parents settling cases without realizing the long-term consequences, including having trouble getting jobs or housing because of their records.”  “Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill next week. On Wednesday, he signed a companion measure that requires the public defender’s office to hire social workers to assist in juvenile cases.”  (Washington Times)

May 14, 2014 – “Sallie Mae must pay $60 million in refunds to troops for violating a law, called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, that ensures members of the U.S. military pay no more than six percent interest on student loans.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said not only did Sallie Mae charge an illegal interest rate to some troops, but in some cases the lender obtained default judgments against members of the military who fell behind on their student loan payments.”  “In addition to the $60 million in restitution paid to military members, NBC reports, Sallie Mae must also make amends to troops whose credit scores were damaged by the student loan company.  Finally, Sallie Mae has been ordered to pay about $37 million in penalties to the FDIC, according to Boston.com.”  (KPBS)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:  This week is National Police Week.  We have been fortunate in DC to host tens of thousands of officers honoring the fallen and celebrating those who serve.  “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.  The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events which attracts thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation’s Capital each year.”  Please take a moment to thank a cop.  It’s a hard job, and those who do it are special kinds of heroes.  (PoliceWeek.org)

Super Music Bonus! In honor of Ashley – her favorite song right now.  Good luck in the next chapter!

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Diary of a Public Interest Law Job Seeker, Entry #4: On Alternative Careers, Bucking Tradition & Following Your Passion

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

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


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.

Entry #4: On Alternative Careers, Bucking Tradition & Following Your Passion

Since my last entry, things have been pretty busy around the PSJD office. As usual, my first priority was always making sure the site stays up-to-date with the latest public interest jobs and resources. I’ve learned a lot during my time here, but the whole reason I started this mini-series is because (cue tears) I can’t stay a PSJD Fellow forever! It’s temporary by nature and I knew it was time to start looking for the next step in my career journey.

I ended up not taking the bar in February, but this wasn’t that big of a deal to me (cue shocked gasp). I’ve always considered myself a journalist who snuck into law school, and knew that becoming a practicing attorney was not necessarily time-sensitive for what I want to do with my law degree. However, I still plan on taking the bar exam in order to do pro bono work, and I will still consider it a huge accomplishment when I finally do take it!

This brings me to the focus of this blog entry: I got “the job”! This is my last week as a PSJD Fellow, but I am staying in the public interest law community. My next position involves raising public and congressional awareness about access to justice for vulnerable communities in need of civil legal services. I’m very passionate about this work, and excited to get started!

“The dream job” means different things to all of us recent law graduates, but there is one thing I’d like readers to take away from this post: follow your passion, and don’t be scared to buck tradition. Every career trajectory is different. As law schools continue to diversify curricula and take on more multidisciplinary approaches to legal education, law students can start thinking about fresh and innovative ways to use their law degrees that may or may not involve direct legal services. If you can find an employer who understands the best way to use your unique skill set – which can include anything in addition to your legal knowledge – it could be a match made in non-litigating heaven.

NALP likes to call this phenomenon the “JD advantage.” It basically describes a situation where a law graduate nabs a position that highly values her legal training, and may even consider it necessary. The job description, however, does not usually require bar passage or an active law license.

This is great news for all the public interest law students, recent law graduates, and attorneys who are not fully committed to practicing law. We all know how competitively tight the legal job market can be, so opening yourself up to a wider array of career opportunities definitely doesn’t hurt. If you are absolutely dedicated to practicing, then by all means follow that passion! But if, like me, you are just as happy doing other types of work, don’t be scared to get out there and do just that. You can still use your skills you learned in law school to give back to marginalized or vulnerable communities.

Santa Clara Law has a great resource on their site all about non-lawyer jobs for lawyers. NALP also has advice from law graduates who chose not to practice law. PSJD posts JD-advantage jobs, which are usually housed in the “Law Related” and “Non-Legal” job categories.

The PSJD Fellowship is a JD-advantage position, and I received a lot of support in pursuing an alternative legal career path. My passion is using innovative communication strategies to increase access to justice. I am happily and shamelessly following that passion, even in the face of negative perceptions about my decision not to practice.

If you’re struggling with the decision of whether to practice law, I encourage you to think about what sets you apart and how you can uniquely contribute to the communities you wish to serve. As I get ready for this new step in my professional life, I am even more satisfied with everything that has led to this point – including law school!

As always, feel free to comment below or shoot us an email at psjd@nalp.org if you want to talk more about JD-advantage careers.

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Disability hiring in the federal government.

Even with unemployment still running high, the Federal Government is having difficulty hiring qualified employees.  In particular, the Federal Government is actively recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities.  If  you are such a person seeking federal employment, here is some specific guidance.

The Federal Government has a special (excepted) hiring authority for persons with disabilities called Schedule A.  You are eligible for Schedule A if you are a person with severe physical disability, a psychiatric disability or an intellectual disability.  You can find out more, including sample Schedule A letters and a training video on applying for Schedule A jobs, on OPM’s website.

Additionally, most Federal agencies have a Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) who helps management recruit, hire and accommodate people with disabilities. SPPC’s have many roles and responsibilities, including helping people with disabilities get information about current job opportunities, types of jobs in the agency and how these jobs are filled, and reasonable accommodation.  There is a nationwide SPPC Directory to help you get started.  Also, check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s LEAD (Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities) initiative to address the declining number of employees with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce. The goal for this initiative is to significantly increase the population of individuals with severe disabilities employed by the federal government.

The Federal Government has made hiring candidates with disabilities a priority.  If you are eligible, take advantage of their recruiting resources.  Federal agencies can be a great place to work.

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 9, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  This month we’re talking about service projects.  Do you have a great Law Day program planned?  Let us know!  Today, we feature spring break projects from Denver.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • University of Denver Sturm College of Law give back during spring break;
  • Ontario budget allows more people to qualify for legal aid;
  • First Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellow announced;
  • MA adds access to justice question to Bar exam;
  • HUD provides grant to help Brooklyn organizations advocate for affordable housing;
  • BARBRI names first Public Interest Fellow;
  • Grant to John Marshall clinic for foreclosure work;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: San Francisco Public Defender Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP);
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 2, 2014 –  From Alexi Freeman, Director, Public Interest & Lecturer/Legal Externships, University of Denver Sturm College of Law –  This year, a number of Denver Law students skipped out on beach and mountain vacations to provide much-needed legal support to a number of different organizations and individuals over spring break.

Alternative Spring Break:  For the fifth year in a row, Sturm College of Law students traveled to El Paso, Texas and Window Rock, Ariz. to take part in the school’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB)program. Six students spent the week volunteering at immigration and civil rights legal clinics in El Paso including the Texas Civil Rights Project and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. Another 4 students ventured to Window Rock, Ariz. where they assisted non-profit organizations providing legal assistance to American Indian tribes, including DNA-People’s Legal Services and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

The ASB program offers Sturm students a unique opportunity for short-term exposure to a professional legal environment. This is especially helpful for many first-year law students seeking to jump-start their professional development. The trip also is a great way to give back as    students help make legal services more readily available to people of modest means. ASB was developed by students in the Chancellor’s Scholar program.

Tribal Wills Project:  If members of recognized Native American tribes die without a will, the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 requires that all trust property go to the one eldest descendant. For some, this Act has become problematic, as it doesn’t allow for flexibility and personal choice.

Enter the Tribal Wills Project. Initiated by Professor Lucy Marsh and John Roach, the Fiduciary Trust Officer for the Southwest Region of the Department of Interior, the Tribal Wills Project allows Denver Law students to spent their spring break drafting wills, powers of attorneys, and burial instructions for members of two Native American tribes, the Southern Utes and the Ute Mountain Utes. The project is in its second year and the demand for these services has increased. This year, 21 law students traveled either to Durango or Towaoc, Colo., or White Mesa, Utah. Supervised by Prof. Marsh and three attorneys, Molly Barnett, Beth Bryant, and Paul Padilla, all Denver Law grads, the law students served approximately 70 clients. “We ran like a ‘micro firm’ out of these conference rooms,” Ryan Cusick remarked. “We worked together in teams, picked up each’s other slack, and really got along well.”

The legal work that was done could have easily cost $75K, but instead, it allowed students to fulfill their Public Service Requirement and provide a much-needed service. Overall participating students shared that it was one of–if not the best– experiences they had in law school.

May 2, 2014 – “The threshold to qualify for legal aid in Ontario will rise for the first time in 18 years, the government announced in its budget, though to what level it did not say.”  “The Liberal government’s budget, tabled Thursday, revealed that raising the criteria would allow an additional one million low-income Ontarians to qualify for legal aid ‘when fully implemented.’ It did not specify a timeline for full implementation.  Ontario’s legal aid eligibility criteria have not changed since 1996.”  (Global News)

May 2, 2014 – “The California-based Foundation for Advocacy Inclusion and Resources (FAIR) today announced selection of the first Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellow in partnership with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and Sanford Heisler LLP, a leading national public interest law firm.  Giselle N. Olmedo, a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, bested a talented pool of applicants to earn the 2014 Sanford Heisler Public Interest Diversity Fellowship.” “FAIR will provide Olmedo’s salary and benefits during the year-long Fellowship period, which is comprised of two consecutive six-month terms, based upon a grant received from Sanford Heisler. Olmedo will spend the first half of her Fellowship at the LAS-ELC and the second at a firm affiliated with the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), an organization of more than 1,000 workers’ rights advocates statewide.”  (Digital Journal)

May 3, 2014 – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court approved an amendment to Board of Bar Examiners Rule III, effective July 1, 2016 to include Access to Justice as field in which test takers should be familiar with the law.  “The law to be tested in the field of Access to Justice may include the following topics: Landlord-Tenant, including evictions, affirmative defenses and counterclaims, and fee-shifting statutes; Foreclosures; Divorce, including child custody, support, visitation; Termination of Parental Rights; Domestic Abuse; Guardianship and Conservatorship; Consumer Matters, including debt collection, predatory lending and unfair or deceptive practices; Health Care Proxies, Power of Attorney, Advance Directives; Due Process doctrines related to fair hearings, civil commitment and civil right to counsel; Representation of nonprofit organizations; and Ethical rules including Massachusetts Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.2, 1.5, 1.14, 1.15, 4.3, 6.1, 6.5 and Limited Assistance Representation.” (Massachusetts Law Updates)

May 6, 2014 -The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided a grant to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation and South Brooklyn Legal Corporation, two organizations that advocate for affordable housing in New York. The two organizations will share the $975,000 and use the money to continue providing legal and other services to working families in Brooklyn.  (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

May 6, 2014 – George Mason University School of Law student Catherine Wauters has been named the first-ever BARBRI Public Interest Fellow competition. She will spend a year as a legal fellow at the global nonprofit Save the Children.  “BARBRI designed the Public Interest Fellow program to promote social responsibility and increase awareness of alternative legal career paths. Contestants submitted resumes, writing samples and short videos expressing why they wanted to work for the nonprofit dedicated to affecting immediate and lasting change for children in need across the country and around the world.

In Wauters’ video, she speaks passionately about how her Peace Corps service solidified her decision to ‘pursue the law as a vehicle for greater social change.’ In Benin, West Africa, she worked to improve nutrition for infants and children by helping mothers incorporate locally available but nutritionally dense foodstuff into their diets.  Wauters, a third-year law student, said the experience proved that even small changes can make a big difference in children’s lives and can have an aggregate positive effect on entire communities. She believes that ‘promoting the general welfare of all children is the best investment we can make in our tomorrow.'”  Congratulations! (Digital Journal)

May 7, 2014 – “Struggling homeowners on Chicago’s north side may now get legal help thanks to a grant from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The grant will enable law students from the John Marshall Law School, partnered with Northside Housing Cooperative (NHC), to provide additional legal assistance to home buyers in the city’s northern communities.  The Pro Bono Clinic at the John Marshall will provide expert legal assistance on homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention and employer-assisted housing, thanks to an agreement with Madigan.  The $800,000 grant to NHC comes from a national settlement involving the nation’s five largest bank servicers that were cited for fraudulent practices while servicing loans of struggling homeowners.”  (Digital Journal)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:   “A unique San Francisco Public Defender program that pairs legal advocacy with social work to keep at-risk teens in school has been selected as 2014 Program of the Year by the California Public Defenders Organization.

The Legal Educational Advocacy Program (LEAP) works directly with San Francisco youth on probation, making regular court and school appearances and training parents and caregivers to advocate effectively for their children. Of the youth who have gone through the program, fewer than 13 percent reoffend six to 12 months after exiting.

The 3-year old program, funded through a federal grant, continues to work toward the greater goal of reducing the disproportionate number of youth of color in the justice system overall. It is comprised of Juvenile Unit Attorney Manager Patricia Lee, Social Worker Marynella Woods, Education Attorney Lauren Brady Blalock and Youth Advocate Marc Babus.”  Congratulations on their outstanding work!  (San Francisco Public Defender)

Super Music Bonus! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZNYDzNGB-Q

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Top 6 Career Mistakes Made by Law Students

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The Canadian Lawyer magazine recently posted a list of blunders law students make while trying to get their legal career off the ground. Here are few key mistakes that were mentioned:

“Mistake #3 – Not choosing a practice area before you complete your studies“: This is incredibly important! Employers want to see that you’ve made a demonstrated commitment to their practice area. It will also be pretty hard to compete against other law students who have experience directly related to a particular legal field.

“Mistake #5 – No legal web site or legal blog, only Facebook“: These days, it’s easier than ever to start your own website. You can use blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr for a free and user-friendly experience, with the option to upgrade to a more costly but customizable site. It’s a great way to set yourself apart from other applicants and provide easy access to your resume and legal writings.

Click here to check out the full list on the Canadian Lawyer website!

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PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 2, 2014

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

Happy Friday!  Welcome to May!  We’re going to spend the month talking about service projects.  Did you participate in an alternate spring break program this year?  We’d love to hear about it!  This week, we have an entry from Memphis.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Wills now available at Walmart in Canada;
  • Appleseed Legal Justice Center joins SC attorneys and VA to provide legal assistance for vets;
  • Nova Scotians who don’t qualify for legal aid have another option;
  • Memphis Law School marks fourth year of ASB program;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Public Service Recognition Week is May 4-10;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 24, 2014 –  One of the many complaints by those seeking legal assistance is that it’s difficult to access.  Here’s an interesting idea – legal services in your local Walmart.  “Near the entrance of a new Walmart in Markham is an innovation in discount retailing: Axess Law. Founded by Toronto lawyers Lena Koke and Mark Morris, Axess Law provides fast and affordable legal services to time-pressed shoppers. Simple wills are $99. Notarized documents are $25, plus $19 for each additional document.”  Two locations are currently open with a third set to open this month. The locations are open until 8 pm each evening and weekends.  The firm currently does real estate law and wills.  Uncontested divorces will be added to the menu in the fall.  The idea is to provide legal services in a non-intimidating way.  (The Toronto Star)

April 24, 2014 – “Dorn VA Medical Center spokesman Kevin McIver announced Thursday that the Appleseed Legal Justice Center is working with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Law Firm on the pro-bono legal clinic for low-income veterans called Lawyers 4 Vets.  The clinic starts May 15 at the VA Medical Center in Columbia. Veterans may make appointments on the third Thursday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon.  Attorneys will assist veterans with obtaining identification papers, child support and visitation issues, obtaining pardons or clearing legal records, simple wills and powers of attorney, among other matters.”  (The Republic)

April 25, 2014 – “Nova Scotians who make too much to qualify for legal aid but not enough to hire a lawyer will soon have more access to free legal advice.  The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia says it will launch a free summary advice clinic on May 2.  Society executive director Heather de Berdt Romilly says the free clinic has been quietly open for a few months and has been well-received by the public and volunteer lawyers.  She says the society plans to expand the program across the province over the next year.”  (News 95.7)

April 29, 2014 – “Seventy-three students from fourteen different law schools chose to spend their spring break in Memphis providing legal aid to those in need.  Student volunteers had the opportunity to sign up for one of seven different legal tracks offered as part of the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law’s Alternative Spring Break Program (ASB).  The ASB program was planned and executed by the Public Action Law Society (PALS), a student organization at the law school whose mission is to facilitate student involvement in pro bono and public interest activities.  This year marks the fourth year that the law school has hosted the ASB program.”  (University of Memphis, Cecil C Humphreys School of Law)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Celebrated the first week of May since 1985, Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) is time set aside to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees and ensure that our government is the best in the world.

The theme for PSRW 2014 is Proud to Serve.  PSRW is organized annually by the Public Employees Roundtable (PER) and its member organizations. PER will kick off PSRW 2014 with its second annual Public Service 5K run/walk in Washington, D.C. Other feature events in Washington include a public town hall meeting with Cabinet secretaries, a Washington Nationals baseball game and a congressional breakfast to announce the finalists of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals.

Public servants deserve our thanks throughout the year and we invite you to continue honoring them for the work they do each and every day. Suggestions can be found in the How to Celebrate PSRW Guide.

Super Music Bonus! Thank you to all those out there working for us!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N2CANatVYQ

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