Archive for September, 2014

Pro Bono Action Items: Regional Opportunities to Donate Attorney Hours for Early October

National Pro Bono Week is only three weeks away! For the past five years, the event has provided an annual, national spotlight on lawyers’ professional responsibility to those unable to pay for legal services. Hopefully, October is a month when all of us ask ourselves what else we might do to contribute in our communities, despite our busy schedules.

Some pro bono work can involve long-term commitments, but we tend to forget how much even a few moments of legal advice mean to someone unable to afford more. Isolated free evenings can make a difference.

The tricky part can be figuring out what to do with them. The legal needs of individuals unable to afford our professional rates are great, and a plethora of organizations in cities across the country need volunteer assistance as they attempt to meet them. Tools like’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide and Pro Bono Students Canada’s Community Placement Program and the Court and Tribunal Program do excellent work cataloging these programs. Unfortunately, it is sometimes unclear what these organizations need. Lawyers fill out a form or send an email without knowing where and when they might be asked to contribute.

Starting this year, PSJD would like to make it a little easier to find a use for your free moments. Once or twice a month (depending on demand) we will highlight specific opportunities in each NALP region for attorneys to turn up and get involved in pro bono work on the spot. Some of these opportunities will require activity beyond the initial starting time and date; please read each event page carefully. Also be sure to read event pages to determine whether you must pre-register for the event. Our goal is to let you know when and where your services are needed in your community.

In order for this initiative to work, we will need your help. Public interest organizations that rely on legal volunteers: please reach out to us at if you know of orientation events, trainings, or walk-in opportunities for volunteer lawyering in your community in the coming month and we will consider including your event in the next edition of this feature.

Enjoy giving back!


Pro Bono Action Items By Region


Organization: The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association

Practice: Civil representation for the indigent Boston-area community.

Action Item: Attend their New Volunteer Attorney Orientation

When: Monday, October 6, 4pm – 5pm

Where: 99 Chauncy Street, Boston MA 02111

Questions: Tiara D. Mahoney Paulino

Notes: Volunteer opportunities include both case handling and short-term (one-day) projects.


Organization: District of Columbia Bar Association Probate Resource Center

Practice: Walk-in legal information to unrepresented parties probating large estates for people who lived in the District of Columbia.

Action Item: Attend their Training Session.

When: Wednesday, October 8, 12pm – 2:30pm

Where: D.C. Superior Court; 1101 K Street NW, Washington DC 20005

Questions: | 202-626-3489

NOTES: Malpractice insurance provided. Resource center open Tuesday afternoons. Volunteers must commit to at least four afternoons within a year of the training.


Organization: Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota Pro Bono Naturalization Project

Practice: Legal representation in citizenship cases for low-income immigrants and refugees.

Action Item: Attend their Training Session.

When: Thursday, October 9, 9am – 12:30pm

Where: Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi | 800 LaSalle Ave. Ste. 2800, Minneapolis, MN 55402

Questions: Ann Applebaum

NOTES: Cases are pre-screened and should only require 15-20 hours of attorney work. No immigration experience or second language skills needed. Training is free for attorneys who accept a pro bono case from ILCM, otherwise $100.


Organization: Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Association Domestic Violence Project

Practice: Legal assistance and representation for victims of intimate partner violence/stalking seeking civil protective orders in Fulton County Superior Court.

Action Item: Attend their Training Session.

When: Tuesday, October 7, 11:30am – 3:30pm

Where: Alston & Bird LLP | 1201 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta GA 30309

Questions: Julia Black

NOTES: 3.5 CLE credits available ($17.50). Training is free to those who do not want CLE credit. Lunch will be provided.

West/Rocky Mountain

Organization: South Asian Bar Association of Northern California Legal Clinic

Practice: Informal counsel on immigration and various generalist issues (family law, small claims, employment, etc.). No direct representation provided and no guaranteed referrals.Action Item: Volunteer at their Columbia Neighborhood Center Clinic.

When: Saturday, October 4, 10am – 12pm

Where: Columbia Neighborhood Center | 785 Morse Avenue, Sunnyvale CA 94087


NOTES: Please review this orientation presentation before volunteering.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 26, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  As we start planning Pro Bono Week events, we’re thinking about the great student-run public interest events we’ve seen in the past.  If your student group is putting together an event, let us know.  We’ll highlight it on the PSJD site and PSJD Blog.  We love spreading the word!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • MI Supreme Court merges indigent defense services;
  • NYCLU: New data shows holes in legal aid for poor;
  • ID counties want state to run indigent defense system;
  • Federal funds to bolster domestic violence programs in NY;
  • 2014 Sammies awarded;
  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society expanding services by using retirees;
  • Drexel Law School launches new legal clinic;
  • National pro bono group to aid with access to justice;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of University of Connecticut School of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, and American University Washington College of Law;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 17, 2014 – “The State Appellate Defender Office and the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System have been merged by the Michigan Supreme Court.  The merger, effective immediately, was requested by the Appellate Defender Commission to promote efficiency and hold down costs.”  “Under the court’s merger order, SADO will administer the MAACS.”  (Michigan Lawyers Weekly)

September 17, 2014 – “In a new report examining public defenders in five counties, the New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday called state efforts to defend the poor in criminal cases an abject failure.  NYCLU is scheduled to go to trial next month in Albany in a lawsuit arguing that New York systemically provides inadequate staff and money for constitutionally required defense lawyers. The suit first filed in 2007 seeks defense attorneys at all arraignments, smaller caseloads and better funding with the state taking over the county-based system.”  (

September 18, 2014 – “County officials in Idaho approved a resolution Wednesday that would give the state the responsibility of managing the system that assigns public defenders to defendants who can’t afford an attorney.  Nearly 200 representatives from the state’s 44 counties voted on the proposal at the annual Idaho County Association conference in northern Idaho. The resolution will now go before state lawmakers for approval when they convene in January for the 2015 Legislature.” (

September 22, 2014 – “Two Rochester organizations working to end domestic violence are scheduled to receive money from the Department of Justice, according to Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.  The Legal Aid Society of Rochester will receive $266,500 and the Rochester Society for the Protection and Care of Children is expected to receive $450,000, according to a news release.”  (Democrat & Chronicle)

September 22, 2014 – “On Monday, September 22, the Partnership for Public Service presented eight outstanding public servants with the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies). Having earned the reputation as the “Oscars” of public service, the achievements of the 2014 medal recipients range from improving the lives of paralyzed veterans to arguing 125 cases before the Supreme Court to recovering nearly a billion dollars in stolen Medicare funds. The top medal, Federal Employee of the Year, was presented to Rana Hajjeh and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for leading a global vaccination campaign, the Hib Initiative, which will save the lives of millions of children.”  (Partnership for Public Service)

September 22, 2014 – “The Atlanta Legal Aid Society is stepping up its efforts to tap into the retired lawyer community for volunteers to help clients over the phone, thanks to a grant from the federal Legal Services Corp.  The LSC has awarded the group $213,000 over two years to fund a lawyer and a coordinator to organize the effort.  Atlanta Legal Aid is using its Georgia Senior Legal Hotline as the prototype for legal aid by phone. Last year the hotline fielded 8,400 calls and opened cases for 3,500 people 60 and older.”  “The hotline lawyers offer advice, provide necessary forms and undertake limited intervention, calling and emailing government agencies and lawyers for mortgage companies or landlords.”  (Daily Report)(free subscription required)

September 22, 2014 – “This fall, Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law launched a new Community Lawyering Clinic at Drexel’s Dana and David Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, located at 35th and Spring Garden Streets. The clinic provides law students with the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with real clients, while empowering and serving the neighboring Mantua and Powelton Village communities of West Philadelphia.”  “The clinic offers referrals, legal advice and direct representation in matters involving family, consumer protection, property and other legal areas affecting the community as well as training, pro bono programs and workshops on community-wide legal issues.” (DrexelNOW)

September 24, 2014 – “As legal aid budgets are squeezed, more members of the public are looking for pro bono services to help with their legal needs. Into that gap comes the recently formed Pro Bono Canada.  Incorporated last fall, Pro Bono Canada is an initiative born out of the five provincial pro bono organizations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. It will be having it’s coming-out party at the National Pro Bono Conference in Regina this week, which will be for many lawyers their first exposure to the organization.”  “The idea of Pro Bono Canada is that we will not be direct program deliverers, but we’ll be helping support the expansion of pro bono,” says Dennis O’Connor, former associate chief justice of Ontario and chairman of organization.  (Canadian Lawyer)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

University of Connecticut School of Law’s Dash for a Difference allows participants to get to know Hartford while engaging in service throughout the city. Teams venture into the various neighborhoods of Hartford to take part in service projects benefiting social service and community development agencies. This allows for exposure to a variety of service events including cleaning shelters, feeding the homeless, gardening alongside residents of transitional housing and cleaning up parks and community spaces. In addition, participants learn about the rich cultural aspects of the city.   The service project with Hands on Hartford was a voluntary component of the orientation program and was held on Friday, August 22nd.

On August 15, new Texas Tech University School of Law students participated in the final project of New Student Orientation: Community Service/Pro Bono Action. This was the second year new Tech Law students have partnered with various organizations around the city to serve their new neighborhoods and communities.  More than 175 students participated at 5 different service locations including food and clothing collections, the arboretum, and local children’s groups.  This service comes at the end of a long week of Orientation classes and transition and serves as a hands-on reminder to the new law students that no matter how long or stressful a work week might be, we all have a responsibility to become involved and serve our local communities.

American University Washington College of Law’s IMBY (“In My Back Yard”) Public Service Day is a celebration of everything good in the WCL community and a chance to be part of positive work being done at various organizations all over the District. IMBY sets the tone for the spirit of public service and community involvement that pervades at WCL.  For 1Ls, IMBY is a fun way to kick off orientation week, get out and see the city, and meet new classmates in a relaxed environment. For 2Ls, 3Ls, faculty and staff, IMBY is a chance to reconnect with the community and to welcome incoming 1Ls in the spirit of public service.

Super Music Bonus!


New volunteer training for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless October 9th

Interested in increasing access to justice while learning more about shelter, housing, and public benefits law? Consider volunteering with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless! Our next New Volunteer Training will take place in October.

Date: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Time: 11:45 am – 4:00 pm (lunch will be provided)
Location: Arent Fox (1717 K Street, NW)
RSVP: or 202.328.1263

The core of the Legal Clinic’s work is the representation of individual low- and no-income clients through a network of over 250 volunteer attorneys and legal assistants. After attending a New Volunteer Training, volunteers obtain clients at one of seven intake sites run by the Legal Clinic at meal programs, health clinics, and day programs throughout the District. Our intake sessions last for one hour and, on average, about 3-5 clients attend each intake. If clients present legal issues that meet our case selection guidelines, then the intake volunteer acts as the primary legal representative for those clients. Legal Clinic staff attorneys provide advice and guidance on all volunteer cases.

Attendance is required for all new volunteers. Attorneys must be authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia: attorneys must be a current member of the D.C. Bar or have begun the process for waiving in admission; attorneys employed by the Federal Government must be a member in good standing in the highest court of any state. Paralegals may volunteer only in partnership with and under the direct supervision of an attorney authorized to practice in D.C.

Questions? Please contact the Legal Clinic’s volunteer coordinator at or 202-328-1263.


Building Networks and Expertise: PSJD helps keep you up-to-date on legal conferences in your area.

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

PSJD is about legal careers. And legal careers are about networking. (I know you know, but if you’re at all like me you need frequent reminders.) For that reason, we changed one of our key resources last May.

PSJD’s “Public Interest Career Fair Calendar” is now PSJD’s Public Interest Career Fair and Events Calendar. Traditionally, this resource was for helping students find traditional career fairs in their area, such as (for example) the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair happening next month in Bethesda, Maryland (register by October 10th!). Now, the calendar also includes events covering substantive issues in public interest and government law that are open to the general public, such as the Emory Public Interest Committee’s 11th Annual Public Interest Conference happening in Atlanta, Georgia this Saturday, September 27th (the topic is “Legal Issues in Fostering & Adopting”). In the future, we hope to migrate the calendar to a more expected calendar layout. For the time being, at least, we’ll also promote these events through the PSJD Facebook page shortly before they occur.

Unlike our previous system, this means that not every event in the calendar may be meaningful to you. While career fairs often appeal to a wide slice of the public interest pie, these substantive events are narrower. However, we hope you’ll find this shift helpful. Remember: You can’t just look for work by answering job postings and attending career fairs. You need to meet the people in your field and familiarize yourself with their attitudes and issues. Become knowledgeable. Become known. Substantive conferences—especially ones that happen off your campus or outside your city—can help with that. And PSJD, with the help of its law school subscribers, can help you hear about them.


Are You Missing Out on Loan Assistance Money? State-Based Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

Law school is expensive (no citation needed). For many legal jobs, including public interest and government sector ones, annual salaries often fail to measure up to the cost of a law degree. This isn’t a new problem, though. Future public interest lawyers have had to worry about their loans for a long time, and one of the key tools we have for dealing with our loan burdens is the LRAP.

LRAP is short for Loan Repayment Assistance Program. (Mercifully, everyone that offers one seems to use the same acronym.) The terms and conditions vary widely, but they all aim to provide some sort of relief to lawyers in low-salaried, public-interest-oriented positions struggling to pay off the “Esq.” at the end of their names. Many, many pixels burn throughout the blogosphere advising prospective law students on the wisdom of inquiring into schools’ LRAP programs (see, e.g., MsJD’s 2013 piece on the subject).  If you’re interested in finding out more about these academic LRAPs, check out Equal Justice Works’ comprehensive list. However, odds are that if you’re lucky enough to have attended a school offering an LRAP you’re already aware of these programs.

What you may not know is that another category of LRAPs exist, based not on where you studied but on where you practice. If you work in one of twenty-three states (or the District of Columbia) you may be eligible to take part in these programs. The time to find out is now. For example, the DC Bar Foundation’s 2015 LRAP is holding two mandatory information sessions next month (the first is October 7th). To find out whether an LRAP is available in your state, check out the ABA’s catalog of all 24 state-based programs.

If you don’t find your state on the ABA’s list, consider asking why. There were only 8 such statewide LRAPs in 2003, when the ABA Commission on Loan Repayment and Forgiveness published its Resource Guide for Creating State LRAPs for Public Service Lawyers. If your state isn’t currently offering assistance to its public interest lawyers, the ABA’s resources and the existing practices of half the states in the country might help you and your colleagues start a conversation and answer difficult questions about drafting, funding and implementing a program wherever you practice and pay your loans.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 19, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  I’m writing to you this week from Happy Valley.  So excited to see a game at my alma mater.  I know the semester is starting (starting?) to get hectic, but remember to take a minute or two to touch base with what recharges you.  You can’t help others if you’ve got nothing in the tank.

And thank you all for sending in your 1L Orientation Service Projects.  There are some great ideas out there to replicate at your school, and a wonderful pick me up when you see all the hard work being done!

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Widener Law Veterans Law Clinic honored;
  • Nova Scotia Legal Aid expands services for Halifax-area youths;
  • Public Council expands litigation and lobbying efforts;
  • TX veterans to receive funds for legal services;
  • New program helps NM vets with legal assistance;
  • Legal Aid of Western Missouri marks 50 years;
  • Boston VLP receives grant for bankruptcy help;
  • San Francisco Supervisors ok $2.1 mil in legal services funding for immigrant children;
  • NYC agencies to provide legal services to migrant children;
  • 3 lawyers win MacArthur Genius Award;
  • 2014 recipients of Skirnick, Kaufman and One Day’s Work Fellowships for public service announced;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia University School of Law, and Rutgers Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 10, 2014 – “The Widener University School of Law and its Veterans Law Clinic are being honored with a 2014 Delaware Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for community service”  “The Veterans Law Clinic, based at Widener Law Delaware, provides free legal aid to disabled veterans and their dependents with claims pending before the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  Congratulations!!!  (delawareonline)

September 10, 2014 – “Young people who are not even in trouble with the law will soon be able to get help with issues involving school, housing and income assistance, police complaints, licence suspensions and Protection of Property Act matters through the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission in Halifax.  ‘We know that when people turn to us for criminal or family law assistance there are often many other stressors contributing to those issues, which are sometimes just symptoms rather than problems that exist in a vacuum,’ Megan Longley, managing lawyer of Nova Scotia Legal Aid’s youth justice office, said in an email.”  “No new money is going into the expanded services. The commission’s staff lawyers, who have already been informally providing these services to existing clients, will handle these cases on top of their regular workloads.”  (Herald News)

September 10, 2014 – “The former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will lead an expansion of Public Counsel’s litigation and lobbying efforts across the country.  Mark Rosenbaum, most recently chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California, is now director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, a new initiative at Los Angeles-based Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono organization.”  “Hernán Vera, president and chief executive officer of Public Counsel, said the initiative expands on a program launched in 2009 to broaden the nonprofit’s reach.” (National Law Journal)(subscription required)

September 12, 2014 – “Legal aid services for indigent defendants in Texas are receiving a boost from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.  The nonprofit has announced grants of $426,000 to 11 organizations, including one in San Antonio, to help fund services specifically for Texas veterans.”  Organizations receiving funds are Baylor University School of Law, Waco; Cathedral Justice Project, Houston; Community Justice Program, San Antonio; Fort Bend Lawyers Care, Richmond; Houston Bar Foundation, Houston and surrounding area; Jefferson County Bar Foundation, Beaumont; Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Fort Worth (also includes Dallas, North Texas, Panhandle, and West Texas); Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston (includes Gulf Coast and East Texas); Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc. (Texas Civil Rights Project), statewide; Tarrant County Bar Foundation, Fort Worth; Texas Legal Services Center, Austin (statewide).  (San Antonio Business Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Nonprofit legal services organization New Mexico Legal Aid recently partnered with the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center and the State Bar Young Lawyers Division to create the Veterans Justice Project. This program provides free legal assistance to low-income veterans and helps them navigate the application process to receive benefits.”  “With funding from the [Legal Services Corporation] and other sources, New Mexico Legal Aid is able to provide assistance and create programs that address pressing needs. Programs like the Veterans Justice Project get other leaders in the community to take notice.”  (Albuquerque Journal)

September 14, 2014 – “Working for Kansas City’s eighth-largest law firm is kind of a low-glamour affair.  Its downtown offices are respectable, but not like the palatial digs that some others sport. And most of the firm’s 56 lawyers spend their time doing legal work that seldom comes in the door at the pricier addresses.  Such as helping poor people get health care when they are denied coverage. Keeping indigent clients in their homes while a landlord-tenant dispute plays out. Standing up for a domestic abuse victim as she fights for custody or child support.  That is what Legal Aid of Western Missouri has done for a half-century now: Provide legal services at no cost to the region’s neediest residents.”  Congratulations and here’s to 50 more! (The Kansas City Star)

September 14, 2014 – “The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association has received a $158,000 grant to develop new legal aid clinics and technology to help low-income clients with bankruptcy.  The project will test ‘pop-up’ bankruptcy clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform and videoconferencing to train pro bono attorneys in parts of the state where no volunteer bankruptcy attorneys are available.  The project is one of 11 inaugural recipients of Legal Services Corp.’s $2.5 million Pro Bono Innovation Fund, a competitive grant that invests in projects to identify and promote innovations in pro bono for low-income legal aid clients.”  (News Observer)

September 17, 2014 – “San Francisco [California] approved $2.1 million in spending Tuesday on legal services for immigrant youths who fled Central America and face deportation after crossing the border illegally to seek refuge in the United States.  The funding comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection is apprehending a larger number of undocumented youths entering the country and a so-called rocket docket is in effect fast-tracking these cases through the courts in response to a directive from the Obama administration.”  (The Examiner)

September 17, 2014 – “Child migrants who have recently arrived in New York City and are going through deportation hearings will now have access to services from multiple agencies, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal said Tuesday. According to the mayor’s office, some 1,350 unaccompanied children have been placed with their families or sponsors in the city between January and July of this year. The services, which will be provided at New York City Immigration Court, will help the children enroll in school, state-funded health insurance through Child Health Plus and medical and mental health treatment. Legal services will be made available as well, and this is the first time direct services have been made available at the court, according to the mayor’s office.”  (Metro)

September 17, 2014 – In the Class of 2014 MacArthur Fellows, there are three wonderful advocates for change.  Mary L. Bonauto, Director of the Civil Rights Project for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Sarah Deer,Professor of Law at the William Mitchell College of Law; and Jonathan Rapping,President and Founder of Gideon’s Promise.  Read more about their wonderful work, and perhaps you too will be inspired along these lines.  (MacArthur Foundation)

September 18, 2014 – “Twenty-three public service visionaries and social entrepreneurs from Harvard Law School have been selected as recipients of grants from the Public Service Venture Fund, a unique program that awards up to $1 million each year to help graduating Harvard Law students and recent graduates obtain their ideal jobs in public service.”  Check these outstanding recipients and their amazing work.  (Harvard Law Today)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

One of the highlights of Georgetown University Law Center’s Orientation Week is the opportunity for students to spend a morning or afternoon giving back to the DC community by participating in a 1L Orientation Service Project. For many 1Ls, this event also serves as a way to meet classmates, staff and faculty, explore Washington DC, and learn about the wealth of service and pro bono opportunities available at Georgetown Law.  This year approximately 300 students went to 7 volunteer sites over two days. The projects took place the first two days of orientation, and current students as well as staff and faculty members serve as “project leads” to help oversee the projects and welcome the students. Projects vary from year to year, but usually include work at food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, national parks, and other social service organizations.

Columbia University School of Law holds a Community Service Day immediately prior to the formal orientation.  A large portion of the entering class participates, and this year hosted ten projects, including volunteering at a clothing pantry for battered women and their families, work at a large food bank, gardening, cleaning and painting at various local parks, projects with the elderly, a project for veterans, cooking in a soup kitchen and stocking a food pantry, and various projects at local public schools.  Each group is led by a staff member or upper year student and we invite faculty to participate as well.

Rutgers Law School incoming students volunteer to paint, clean, organize or do whatever else the local libraries in Camden need on the Saturday before classes start. Likewise, incoming students at Rutgers-Newark have served a variety of sites in the city over the years.

Super Music Bonus!  This week we celebrate Chris Brown’s alma mater.


Starting your project-based fellowship proposal: Where and why lawyers give great ideas away

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

Those of you in your last year of law school are probably considering the variety of organizations offering themselves as potential partners for 2015’s batch of project-based fellowships.

If you haven’t heard about these entry-level opportunities, here’s the short version: they’re the most straightforward way to do what you are most interested in straight out of law school. You should read each fellowship’s application materials carefully before applying, but speaking loosely each follows a similar model: Prospective fellows partner with non-profit organizations to propose new projects that the hopeful applicant would undertake—projects which would expand the scope of the sponsoring non-profit’s work. Fellowship committees provide grants to their new Fellows to complete the proposed project at the host organization. In other words, successful fellowship candidates write their own job descriptions—not a bad first year as a lawyer.

The tricky part about getting a project-based fellowship is that you can’t apply on your own. You have to convince a non-profit to sponsor your application. You can find a sizeable number of non-profits looking for promising potential fellows to sponsor right now on PSJD. (Try searching for “Job Type: Fellowship – Legal: Project-Based” in the advanced search or searching for the keyword “Fellowship Sponsor” [in quotations].) Some of these organizations have project ideas already, and are looking for a 3L with the right experiences and skillset to successfully pull them off. Many, however, expect prospective fellows to bring their own proposals to the table.

This can be a daunting task. At the beginning of your third year of legal education, you may have been exposed to public-interest legal work through your internships or a clinic, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve observed some “group or issue not adequately represented in our legal system” and arrived at a clear idea about how to address the problem legally with the support of a host organization, to paraphrase the EJW Application Guide. So, as you set out to secure yourself a sponsor, you may be wondering, “Where do project ideas come from?”

In the non-profit legal world, there is far more work to be done than resources with which to do it. Mostly, this fact is discouraging. But students looking for project ideas should take heart: with a little research, you can find a plethora of already-identified legal needs begging for more attention.

Some of these issues are lucky enough to make the news. For example, last May NPR ran “Guilty and Charged”: a special series documenting at length its yearlong investigation into nationwide practices punishing impoverished defendants more harshly than those with means.  Among other resources, the series includes a state-by-state survey of costs courts pass on to defendants and profiles of a variety of individuals who suffered at the hands of such fee-based justice systems. If you’re interested in procedural due process or economic justice, check out the series and see what jumps out at you.

When reading NPR’s series, one thing you’ll notice is that particular legal organizations, such as the Southern Center for Human Rights, NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, and Arch City Defenders, drove NPR’s reporting. Many legal practitioners already know what they would work on if they had the resources and the manpower. Not all of them are fortunate enough to attract NPR’s attention. Look for organizations with missions related to your particular social concerns (try searching PSJD’s employer profiles) and see if they have white papers or reports about emergent issues they hope to address. For example, Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute funds a student-led fact-finding mission investigating an emerging human rights crisis each year. Each mission generates a report based on its research, but few of them attract enough resources to continue their work beyond their initial year. A number of these reports focus on human rights crises in the United States and would be excellent sources for a project proposal.

Once you find an idea that grabs you, try following up with some of the legal authorities behind it. An email or phone call might seem pushy, but these organizations will have unbeatable insight into what needs to be done next and will jump at the chance to help you convince a fellowship committee to devote resources to their issue. (Speaking personally, I would love to see my past work with Georgetown on urban water shutoffs receive this kind of attention from prospective project fellows.)

So remember, if you’re stuck: The proposal will be yours. The project will be yours. The inspiration doesn’t have to be. While you’ve been in school, some lawyer somewhere is already championing your particular interest. Find out what that person would do with enough time or enough money and begin your project proposal there.


Equal Justice Works News: Free Student Debt Webinars & Sen. Warren’s Student Loan Refinancing Bill

Over the last few years, homeowners have taken advantage of historically low interest rates to refinance their mortgages and improve their finances. But that hasn’t really been an option for federal student loan borrowers, though many loans borrowed during the last decade had rates of 8 percent or more.

That’s a good reason to support Elizabeth Warren’s Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (SB 2432), which would allow millions of individuals to refinance their student loans at lower rates.

Although you can’t refinance your federal student loans (yet!) there are powerful federal programs like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness that can help. Get the details – and learn how President Obama’s proposal to cap Public Service Loan Forgiveness may affect that program.

Register for one of our free September webinars

  • Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT
    Pursuing Public Interest: What about my student debt?

    This is Part Two of our special webinar series for new law students. Click here to view a recording of Part One, Pursuing Public Interest: Equal Justice Works Programs, and sign up for Part Three, Pursuing Public Interest: Paving your own path.

If you register but cannot attend, you will receive a recording of the webinar you can view anytime.

Share and get involved!

Please forward this information on to anyone you think might benefit from it. Our student debt webinars are tailored for law students and lawyers, but the information is accessible and applicable to anyone who needs help managing their student debt.

And check out the Generation Progress campaign to tell Congress to support borrowers’ ability to refinance their student loans.

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter (@EJW_org, #studentdebthelp) and on Facebook.


PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 12, 2014

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

Happy Friday everyone!  We continue our focus on 1L Orientation Service Projects through this month.

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

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Duke Law clinic helps exonerate man imprisoned for 22 years;
  • Report questions billings to IA state public defender;
  • Iowa Supreme Court declines to adopt diploma privilege;
  • BC lawyers holding advice-a-thons;
  • Bay Area Legal Services receives grant;
  • Legal Aid Ontario launches Durham family law centre;
  • Foundation launches website to connect volunteers & immigrants;
  • Case Western Reserve receives gift to endow Intellectual Property Center;
  • LSC awards 11 Pro Bono Innovation Grants;
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants: Professional Development and Pro Bono staff of University of Wisconsin Law School, University of Houston Law Center, Baylor University Law School;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

September 5, 2014 – “Michael Parker spent 22 years in jail for crimes he did not commit—and now, thanks to work by Duke’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, he is finally free.”  Parker had sought out the clinic’s help after hearing about their success in a similar case.  “Parker’s case is the fifth since 2010 to be overturned through work by the clinic. Two convictions were overturned both in 2010 and in 2012, and a sixth client’s release is pending for later in 2014.”  (Duke Chronicle)

September 5, 2014 – “Private attorneys working as public defenders overbilled the state by $311,182 during a four-year period, according to a report released Thursday by Iowa’s state auditor.  Auditor Mary Mosiman reviewed data from July 1, 2009, through Aug. 31, 2013. Her report says 13 attorneys filed improper mileage claims, and 11 billed for work days that were longer than 12 hours — in some cases, claiming to work more than 24 hours in a day.”  “The investigation was conducted at the request of the State Public Defender’s Office after concerns with reimbursement claims. A previous internal investigation led to criminal charges for one attorney last year and prompted the office to cancel contracts with some attorneys.”  (Daily Reporter)

September 5, 2014 – The Iowa Supreme Court declined to establish a diploma privilege and “will take no further action on a recommendation from the Iowa State Bar Association in December, which suggested changes in admission procedures, including eliminating the bar exam requirement for graduates of the state’s two law schools who want to practice in Iowa.  The Uniform Bar Exam, a test accepted in 14 states, would have been available for those who wanted to take it.”  However, the Iowa Board of Bar Examiners will look at alternatives to address the Bar’s concerns about the delay in graduates beginning their careers while they await exam results.  One of the proposed options is to allow third year law students to take the February bar exam.  (The Des Moines Register)

September 8, 2014 – “On a Friday afternoon in Vancouver’s Victory Square park, a dozen or so tents, tables and booths are filled with lawyers in suits and ties listening to clients of many backgrounds, binders of documents at the handy.”  “Organizers of the Pro Bono Going Public events say the services are intended for low-income people who face barriers in dealing with their legal troubles. The events started in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside last week and will soon be available in four other B.C. cities: Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Kamloops.”  Organizer Jamie Maclaren (who is also Executive Director of the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C.)  said “the ‘advice-a-thon’ is a chance for lawyers to do their part in helping those without means access an often opaque and complex justice system.”  Maclaren is also trying to exert pressure on the provincial government to fund legal aid more properly.  (The Tyee)

September 9, 2014 – “Bay Area Legal Services will receive a nearly $500,000 grant to bolster civil and criminal legal assistance for adult and minor victims of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. The money is made available under a grants initiative funded by the federal Violence Against Women Act.  Last year, Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit, helped about 1,200 victims receive protective injunctions, child custody and alimony.”  (Tampa Bay Business Journal)

September 9, 2014 – “Legal Aid Ontario has opened a new centre in Durham, offering legal help to Durham residents navigating the family court system.”  “The Family Law Service Centre will be staffed by a lawyer, a legal assistant and there will be another legal assistant and duty counsel available at the courthouse.”  (

September 9, 2014 – “In anticipation of an eventual federal overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and a growing immigrant population in Silicon Valley, Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) launched last week a new online tool to recruit volunteers for nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to the 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.  Dubbed CONEC, the tool allows volunteers to search for opportunities via ZIP code, distance or key words and then matches their skills, location and availability with needs of local nonprofit legal-services groups. The website also provides a calendar detailing volunteer opportunities, posts upcoming immigration workshops and offers information about nonprofits who might need volunteer help, from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and the Asian Law Alliance.”  (Palo Alto online)

September 9, 2014 – “The Spangenberg Family Foundation, a Dallas-based philanthropic organization established by the family of Case Western Reserve University School of Law alum Erich Spangenberg, has committed $3 million to endow the university’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center.The newly endowed Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts will allow more opportunities for students to gain interdisciplinary, practical experience in the rapidly growing field of IP law. The pledge also provides faculty members and visiting fellows more resources to participate in important IP research.”  (newswise)

September 10, 2014 – The Legal Services Corporation announced today that eleven organizations will receive a Pro Bono Innovation grant to totally more than $2.2 million.  The 11 organizations are Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Colorado Legal Services, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Maryland Legal Aid, Montana Legal Services Association, Northwest Justice Project, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., Utah Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association. Each of their programs are outlines in the LSC press release. (LSC)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: 

 On August 28, incoming University of Wisconsin Law School students participated in Community Service Day, an annual day of volunteering with local nonprofit agencies.  As part of orientation week, the event is designed to connect new students’ educational experience to public service, while giving them a chance to get to know each other.   Students volunteering in this year’s Community Service Day pulled weeds, made blankets for children in need, painted and cleaned, among other activities.

The University of Houston Law Center Community Service Day 2014 saw over 180 1L students, faculty and staff work at the Houston Food Bank and Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream.  At the Houston Food Bank, the Law Center volunteers assembled 14,232 lbs. of food, which will provide 11,800 meals to economically challenged families in the greater Harris County community. At the Neighborhood Centers and Own the Dream, the Law Center volunteers worked along with attorneys to do intakes of Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) cases. They processed approximately 60 cases on Saturday.

Baylor University Law School 1L Orientation Community Service Project has seen 100% participation since its inception.   During their first-year orientation, every student participates in a community service event. These events have ranged from helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity Waco, working with Meals on Wheels preparing food, and cleaning up Waco’s historic Cameron Park.

Super Music Bonus!  This week the Fellows battle it out.  All in good fun, of course.


Equal Justice Works Career Fair & Conference – last week to register

The Equal Justice Works annual Conference and Career Fair is the largest public interest legal career fair in the country. It is the only event where you’ll find more than 1,200 public interest-minded students representing 200 law schools from across the country coming together to explore career options with more than 130 leading nonprofit organizations and government agencies.  The Conference and Career Fair provides access to job opportunities for law students; connects employers with talented attorneys and law students; and offers a multitude of skill-building and career advising sessions with experts from around the country. Our conference continues to be an unparalleled networking opportunity for students, law school professionals and legal professionals. Students and recent graduates can apply for interviews through September 16 and may register to attend informal table talk networking and workshop sessions through October 10. For more information, visit the Equal Justice Works website.