PSJD Public Interest News Digest – May 15, 2015

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

Happy Friday!

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • St. Louis law firm gives $250,000 to legal aid;
  • New York State Bar Association honors pro bono service;
  • San Francisco unveils $10 million funding for services to immigrants;
  • Lawyers with lower pay report more happiness;
  • New Mexico public defender shortfall results in cutting contract attorneys;
  • Colorado pro bono patent program expands;
  • UMass Law Justice Bridge Incubator expands;
  • Legal Aid Ontario signs funding agreement with Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC);
  • Spotlight on Public Service Servants;
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

May 7, 2015 – “In keeping with the true spirit of #giveSTLday, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) celebrated an individual who represents the best of St. Louis philanthropy, John Simon and the Simon Law Firm, P.C., who made an unrestricted gift of $250,000 gift to the organization earlier this year.”  “Held on May 5, #giveSTLday is an online fundraising initiative from the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation which encourages everyone in the community to come together for one special day to support St. Louis non-profits. LSEM was one of 790 non-profit organizations that participated in  #giveSTLday across 14 counties in the St. Louis region. More than $2 million was raised in just a 24-hour period. LSEM raised more than $5,000 through this effort and those funds will help the non-profit agency provide civil legal assistance to more than 16,000 low-income clients and their families this year.”  (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

May 7, 2015 – “President Glenn Lau-Kee (Kee & Lau-Kee) and President-elect David P. Miranda (Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti), co-chair of the President’s Committee on Access to Justice, recognized twenty honorees during a luncheon at the State Bar Center. ‘Attorneys in New York have a long and distinguished tradition of helping the disadvantaged,’ said Lau-Kee. ‘Their selfless commitment to increasing access to justice for New Yorkers provides us with inspiring examples of what is possible and helps raise public awareness about the importance of access to justice for all — not just for those who can afford it.’ In addition to honoring attorneys representing 12 of New York’s 13 judicial districts, the awards were given to a lawyer under age 36 or practicing less than 10 years, a senior lawyer, law school group, law student, in-house counsel, small firm, mid-size firm and large firm.”  Read the full list here.  (Read Media)

May 7, 2015 – “San Francisco City Hall announced the allocation of $10 million over two years for assistance to the city’s immigrant community, including additional legal services, financial education, a new labor center for immigrants and other support services. The funding is aimed at strengthening citywide efforts including San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative, the DreamSF Initiative and the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Administrative Relief to help undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows.”  (

May 12, 2015 – Let me say that again.  Lawyers with the lowest pay report more happiness.  This New York Times article discusses something we already know – when you like what you do, you’re happier.  And public interest lawyers tend to love what they do.  “Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy. Lawyers in public-service jobs also drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers. And, despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups reported about equal overall satisfaction with their lives.”  Read the full story for more analysis and ways to help students find what they love.  (The New York Times)

May 12, 2015 – “Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado sent a letter to chief judges statewide saying the predicted budget crisis had materialized for his office, resulting in a decision to stop providing contract defenders for indigent defendants who aren’t jailed because there’s no money to pay them. Contract defenders typically are hired when there is more than one defendant in a case, or in rural areas such as Lincoln or Cibola counties, where the Law Office of the Public Defender doesn’t have staff. The move could lead to a lawsuit – something that could be decided as soon as Wednesday, when the New Mexico Public Defender Commission has a special meeting in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico School of Law. ‘The commission is considering all options, including litigation, but no decisions have been made about how to proceed,’ said commission Chairman Michael Stout. ‘We do know we have inadequate funding, and we have to address it in some forum or another.'”  (Albuquerque Journal)

May 12, 2015 – “The Pro Bono Patent Program is an initiative led by Mi Casa Resource Center and the Colorado Bar Association Intellectual Property Section.  It pairs low-income inventors with patent professionals. Since its launch, 67 inventors have begun the application process and two were able to get their ideas patented. On Tuesday, the reach of the program grew. Mi Casa, the Colorado Bar Association and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the extension of the program — or ProBoPat — to the states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. ‘By providing the opportunity for under-resourced inventors to obtain patent counsel to assist in the filing and prosecution of their patent application, that is a way to promote both fairness for all and solid economic growth right here in the local community,’ said Robin Evans, interim director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Denver Satellite Office, which opened in June. With the regional expansion announced Tuesday, the ProBoPat program now is in 49 states, Evans said.”  (The Denver Post)

May 13, 2014 – “An innovative program at UMass Law is expanding thanks to a three-year $225,000 grant from Bristol County Savings Bank, according to a UMass Dartmouth news release. The Justice Bridge law practice incubator started in Boston nine months ago is going to be expanded to Taunton and New Bedford.”  The Boston office of Justice Bridge, that opened last August hired nine lawyers, mostly graduates of UMass Law, and processed more than 500 client matters. The New Bedford office has hired eight attorneys, mostly UMass Law graduates, and will host an open house later this spring. Some of those attorneys will spend eight hours a week at a Taunton office as well, according to the release.  (South Coast Today)

May 14, 2015 – “Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will provide the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) with $100,000 over two years to provide post-conviction legal services and education. Over the years, LAO has both directly and indirectly supported the goals and aims of AIDWYC and the legal needs of its clients.  This pilot project will continue LAO’s relationship with AIDWYC by funding some of AIDWYC’s expenses related to reviewing claims of innocence, such as forensic expert opinions and private investigations. AIDWYC will continue to conduct case reviews on a pro bono basis, with the help of volunteer lawyers. Seventy per cent of the LAO funds will go towards the case review process and 30 per cent towards legal education about wrongful conviction. This agreement aims to recognize and correct wrongful convictions, by providing greater access to legal services after conviction.” (CNW)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants: Benjamin Evans, Fall River supervising attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services. The Massachusetts Bar Association honored Benjamin Evans, a Fall River public defender, with its Access to Justice Defender Award.  In a press release, the Massachusetts Bar Association said Evans’ priority, when assigned to represent an indigent defendant, is to let the client know that someone is in their corner. For some defendants whom Evans represents, that is a first for them, the MBA said.  Read more about Mr. Evans’ great work for his clients here.

Super Music Bonus!

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