Archive for News and Developments

PSJD Public Interest News Digest – September 29, 2017

Sam Halpert, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives

Editor’s Pick: “As Dust Settles, Law School Rises
(UVA Law Responds to Charlottesville)

Okay folks. If you only read one article in the digest this week, make it this one. It’s packed with both personal and professional perspectives from those students, faculty, and administrators most publicly and painfully tested by the civic challenges confronting our campuses.

In other protest-related news:


Student Loans & Consumer Law

Civil Access to Justice

First, the news from Canada:

And now, the United States:

Criminal Justice

Music Bonus!

If you’re still searching for your groove this year, you might try this one:


PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Finalists Announced!


This past week the PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award Committee made some tough decisions regarding which of the many exemplary nominees would advance as finalists. These choices were difficult to say the least, as the pool of applicants was particularly talented this year. The committee is proud to announce that the following finalists:

Congratulations to every law student who was nominated by their school. The applicant pool was full of talented nominees doing meaningful public interest work within their communities. The committee greatly enjoys being tasked with the opportunity to learn about the exciting Pro Bono work these exceptional students are doing all across North America. We look forward to announcing the Pro Bono Publico Award winner and the merit distinctions at the 2017 NALP PSJD Public Service Mini-Conference.


Job’o’th’Week (Fellowship Edition)

Help Wanted

Photo: Brenda Gottesman – CC License

Veteran Legal Corps Fellow

The Organization

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides free legal services to eligible clients in civil cases through five regional offices. Land of Lincoln is funded by numerous partners, including the Legal Services Corporation, Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, CNCS AmeriCorps and Equal Justice Works, United Way, Area Agencies on Aging.

The Position

Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps have partnered together to provide the Veterans Legal Corps Fellowship opportunity to aid the legal needs of veterans and military families across the nation. The Veteran Legal Corps (VLC) Fellow will provide civil legal assistance to veterans and military families.

One Fellowship is available in the Eastern Regional office, in Champaign, Illinois. Based on Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps guidelines, the term of service will begin in September 2017 for one year (with a possible renewal contingent upon continued AmeriCorps funding). Position requires completion of NSOPR, state(s), and FBI Fingerprint criminal background checks and compliance with all CNCS Federal Regulations throughout the fellowship program.

Is this your dream opportunity?  See the full-post on PSJD.


“Civil Rights in the 21st Century”: University of California’s Upcoming Public Service Conference

The Place: On September 23rd and 24th, University of California will again host its inaugural Public Service Law Conference at UCLA’s Luskin Center.

The Event: “In partnership with the UC Office of the President, Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, UC Davis School of Law, and UC Irvine School of Law, the conference will bring together more than 500 law students, faculty members, lawyers, and nonprofit professionals committed to advancing civil rights and the public good. Panels and speeches will focus on the people, organizations, and systems working on the legal aspects of vital issues like immigration, homelessness, police accountability, water rights, and veterans’ issues during a day-and-a-half long conference.

Keynote Speakers and Panelists Include: Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California; Peter Neufeld, Co-Founder of the Innocence Project; Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director at the National Immigration Law Center; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean at UC Berkeley School of Law; Jennifer Mnookin, Dean at UCLA School of Law; Kevin Johnson, Dean at UC Davis School of Law; L. Song Richardson, Interim Dean at UC Irvine School of Law; and more.

Registering: Individuals interested in attending the conference may register here. Registration is $150 and includes a lunch and evening reception on the first day with speakers and sponsors, breakfast on the second day, and all CLE costs (if applicable).”

Why We At PSJD Would Go: Due to University of California’s large network of schools and outreach within the state, the speakers at this event are among the best attorneys in the Public Sector and in their respective fields. Each is an expert on the topic they will be lecturing on and could potentially offer a plethora of insights into their specialties. In addition, the conference has particular workshops focused on furthering your own career in public service, including a panel entitled “How to Get a Job: Panel of Experts.” Plus, who doesn’t want a good excuse to soak up some Southern California sunshine?


What Exactly Is a Split Summer?

By: Brittany Swett, J.D.

A new trend known as the “split summer” is gaining popularity among large law firms across the country. Despite the growing popularity of the split summer, a lot of law students and legal professionals have never heard of it. Today at PSJD, we are taking a quick look at what a split summer is and what some of the benefits and drawbacks are.

What a Split Summer Is:

Split summers come in a variety of forms. Most commonly, a split summer allows a law student who has secured a summer associate position for their 2L summer to spend the first half of the summer working at a law firm and the second half of the summer working for a nonprofit organization. Under this basic model, the law firm will then continue to pay the salary of the summer associate during the second half of the summer while they are at a non-profit. Some firms have taken this basic idea and added their own twist. Firms may require that the summer associate remain at the law firm for more than half of the summer and spend less time at the non-profit. Others have specific requirements about the non-profit chosen by the summer associate, while still others will only pay the summer associate for the time spent working at the firm. Each program is unique, but overall there are benefits and drawbacks to consider regarding a summer split.

Benefits to Splitting Your Summer:

Splitting a summer allows for a law student who is torn between the private sector and non-profit world to explore careers in both. The law student still gets to complete a summer associateship and enjoy all the benefits that come along with doing so, such as writing experience, the salary, professional contacts, and a potential offer at the end of the summer. In addition, the student gets to explore the non-profit sector, potentially working more closely with the public and for a cause they feel passionately about. In addition, if the student is someone who likes new experiences, two jobs in a short time span will keep them on their toes. Split summers also allow for a student to make a larger number of professional contacts in both fields. In addition, some split summer programs allow for their summer associates to work in two different cities over the course of the summer.

Drawbacks to Splitting Your Summer:

While eight or ten weeks can sound like a long time, it will fly by. One potential drawback of a split summer could be that the student is spreading themselves too thin. It may be more difficult to gain all the benefits of the experience at a law firm or at a non-profit organization if the student only spends a short time at each. In addition, forming meaningful professional connections with employees at each place may be more difficult due to the shortened length of time. Additionally, some law firms will give summer associates the time off to work at a non-profit, but will not compensate the summer associate for this time. Finally, the non-profit law world is also becoming more competitive in terms of job placement after graduation. If a law student knows that this is the field that they ultimately want to go into, spending a full summer at an organization ultimately may be more beneficial.

The split summer is an interesting new trend definitely worth exploring. To further research specific split summer programs, visit PSJD’s resource guide.



A message from NLADA regarding LSC funding.

As many of you know, the Trump administration’s proposed budget called for completely eliminating funding for LSC. Congress has the final say on appropriations, and it appears that at least some in Congress are in favor of a reduction in LSC funding. Below is a message from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association regarding Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding for FY’18, and how you can act to tell Congress any reduction in LSC funding is a mistake.

From the National Legal Aid & Defender Association:

As you may know, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies last week approved a spending package that would cut funding for Legal Services Corporation (LSC) grantees by 24 percent. This would impose unacceptable budget cuts that would force grantees to severely curtail services and potentially even close offices. At the same time, the White House and some in Congress appear to remain committed to eliminating LSC.

That is why I wanted to let you know about, which provides information, fact sheets, and talking points about LSC and civil legal aid, which you may find useful for your own advocacy. The key purpose of the site however, is to give individuals a quick and simple way to contact their own elected officials to advocate for LSC.

With so many competing spending priorities facing Congress, it is vital that we demonstrate the depth of support for LSC that exists within members’ own constituencies. I would like to ask that you help achieve this by using the site and sharing it broadly throughout your networks. This effort will be most effective if it includes a cross section of stakeholder groups, particularly: (1) clients and former clients, (2) public interest advocates who work with populations that routinely experience civil legal needs, (3) private and corporate lawyers, particularly those that have experience working with legal services programs pro bono, and (4) law students and law school faculty.

Please note: if you receive LSC funds, you are prohibited from using this site for grassroots lobbying. However, the site does include other resources and updates you might find useful.

The national response to the White House recommendation to eliminate LSC has been deeply impactful, and with appropriations bills currently being drafted and considered in Congress, now is the time to elevate the voice of communities and constituents in a more coordinated way. Where permitted, please link to the site in your upcoming communications, and start a conversation using #ActOnJustice on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for helping to make sure that LSC continues to be protected, and that the clients of its grantees continue to receive access to justice.


DAVID MILLERManager, Policy Initiatives  |  |  (202) 452-0620 ext: 244

1901 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 500, Washington DC 20006




A word of caution from our friends at Ayuda regarding ICE impersonators.

The notice below applies to the DC metro area, but please be aware, it could be happening in your areas as well.  Please be cautious and know your rights.  If you have a concern, there are pro bono attorneys available to assist you. You can find them through your state bar volunteer lawyers program, local legal aid, OneJustice’s Immigration Pro Bono Response Network,, and others.

Message from Ayuda:

Good afternoon,

We’re very concerned about a potential uptick in ICE impersonators in the DC metro area.

Advocates have reported several fake search/arrest warrants distributed to at least three DC residences. The victims were not extorted, and we’re unclear of the motives behind these fake warrants. You can refer any additional victims of ICE impostors to Maya Del Pilar Zegarra and me at Ayuda at 202-552-3604 or to We are in touch with local law enforcement in DC to encourage them to investigate this matter.

In addition, as you may have seen, a Maryland resident was arrested in February for posing as an ICE officer. Law enforcement reportedly seized ten weapons, a police badge, body armor, etc. from his Gaithersburg home and allege that he impersonated ICE while “patrolling” Falls Church, VA.

We encourage you to spread these warnings to your clients and community.
1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will never ask for payment over the phone nor in person as a bribe, or to expedite your application, or to extract special favors from the government.
2. ICE agents are prohibited from entering a home without a warrant signed by a judge. If they have an order, you can ask them to pass it under the door.


Anne Schaufele
Ayuda Project END Coordinator & Immigration Staff Attorney
202.552.3604 office |


Students Taking Action: UCLA Law

 University of California Los Angeles students have launched a group “UCLA Law Students Against Deportation” to help detained foreign nationals at Los Angeles International Airport.  With over 175 law students, the group has translated documents about refugee and detainee rights into Arabic or Farsi, gathered food and water for onsite attorneys, and compiled a list of potential translators.
Students are also working closely with the ACLU and students from other Southern California law schools.  The students have prepared flyers and supported the work of attorneys from the ACLU and Public Counsel.  Some UCLA Law students, with knowledge of immigration law, have been working full-time at the ACLU in Los Angeles.
Read the full-story about these great students here on the University of California website.


Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) Calendar Year 2015 Report

Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

The following is an overview of the loan repayment assistance program calendar year report submitted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) annually to Congress.  The information provided can help job candidates and current federal employees research which agencies use the program and for what occupations. If you are considering a career in the federal government, an attractive benefit of federal employment is student loan repayment assistance. Do your research and always ask if this benefit is available to you.

Federal agencies are authorized to provide up to $10,000 in loan repayment assistance per calendar year for certain federally-made, insured or guaranteed student loans with a total lifetime cap of $60,000 per employee. In exchange for each year that an employee accepts this benefit, she or he must commit to working for the federal government for an additional three years. If an employee accepts this benefit and leaves (separates either voluntarily or involuntarily) before this period expires, she or he must repay the full amount.

In Calendar Year 2015, 32 federal agencies provided 9,610 employees with a total of more than $69.5 million in student loan repayment benefits. Compared to CY 2014, this represents an 18.4 percent increase in agencies’ overall financial investment in this benefit, and more than a 13  percent increase in the number of employees receiving the benefit. The average student loan repayment benefit in CY 2015 was $7,238, which is a 4.3 percent increase over CY 2014.

The five agencies that provided the most loan repayment assistance in CY 2015 were:

Agency Number of Employees Receiving Benefits Change in Number of Employees Receiving Benefits Total Amount of Assistance Change in Total Assistance from CY 2014
Department of Defense 2,525 42.3%  $19,133,117 57.6%
Department of Justice 1,733 0.3% $14,575,135 13.0%
Department of State 1,431 1.1% $11,285,688 1.3%
Veterans Affairs 898 33.0% $5,661,112 36.5%
Securities and Exchange Commission 727 1.9% $6,381,160 3.4%
Subtotal 7,314   $57,036,212
27 other agencies 2,296  $12,519,596
Total 9,610 13.5% $69,555,808 18.4%

In CY 2015, the Department of Justice and the Department of State used its student loan repayment benefits increasingly in the areas of intelligence and diplomacy, particularly in JD advantage positions Special Agent (587) and Intelligence Analysts (183) at DOJ and Foreign Affairs (224), Foreign Service serving in Political Affairs (133) and Public Diplomacy (110) at DOS.  The Securities and Exchange Commission used the majority of its loan repayment funds on mission critical occupations, with Attorney-Advisor being the largest category of recipients (372 attorneys received benefits in CY 15) and the JD advantage position Securities Compliance Examiner (41).  The Department of Veterans Affairs also used a large portion of funding on the JD advantage positions of Contract Specialists (95) and Human Resource Specialists (151).

Departments and agencies were invited to provide details on their experiences in administrating their programs.  From the comments, it appears more agencies than in previous years are using the student loan payments as a retention rather than a recruitment tool.  There were some exceptions. For example, the Department of the Treasury reported the program is used mostly for hard-to-fill intelligence, legal and policy-related positions. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has made substantial investments in the program since 2001, using it to recruit and retain attorneys, engineers and energy industry analysts. And the Securities and Exchange Commission reported that approximately 72% of student loan repayments were made to employees in mission-critical occupations such as attorneys.

As in previous years, agencies reported the primary barrier to using student loan repayments for recruitment or retention is a lack of overall funding for the program.  Other reported barriers were the corresponding three-year service agreement and the yearly cap of $10,000 on benefits. Some agencies reported that some job candidates or current employees were uncomfortable committing to three years of service in return for the student loan repayment benefit. However, a chief impediment to using the program may be need. Some agencies do not have hard-to-fill jobs or do not have recruitment or retention problems requiring the use of the student loan repayments. And with a hiring freeze on the horizon, it’s likely more agencies will use the program as a retention rather than recruiting tool.

The following departments or agencies provided loan repayment assistance to one or more attorneys: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Federal Trade Commission, Government Accountability Office, Library of Congress, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Postal Regulatory Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Surface Transportation Board.

The following departments or agencies provided loan repayment assistance to one or more JD advantage positions: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Library of Congress, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to the federal LRAP programs, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also reported it is working with the Department of Education to educate the federal workforce on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This is good news on two fronts.  First, federal employees across agencies have differing levels of understanding of how PSLF can work for them. With OPM collaborating with human resources personnel across agencies to develop effective strategies for communicating the available options, education on the program can only improve.  Second, through OPM’s collaboration, perhaps some of the issues that have arisen as the first class of individuals come to loan forgiveness can be addressed quickly and in favor of borrowers.

To learn more about the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program, visit or contact human resources representatives at the federal agencies in which you are most interested. Click here to view the complete report from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for Calendar Year 2015.


White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) report

The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) recently issued its first report to President Obama, “Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs.” The report documents the steps that the 22 federal agency roundtable members have taken to integrate civil legal aid into programs designed to serve low-income and vulnerable populations, with an aim of boosting their effectiveness and increasing access to justice.

The report was funded by the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice and serves as a blueprint for how federal agencies can expand their collaborations with legal aid to address issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, crime, reentry, financial exploitation of the elderly, and veteran homelessness. The report includes research and data on the efficacy of legal aid and makes policy recommendations for improving access to civil legal aid for youth, families, tribal communities, and special populations.

The Department of Justice and the White House Domestic Policy Council first convened the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable in 2012. In September 2015, President Obama formally recognized the success of their efforts by designating the roundtable as a White House initiative, requiring annual reporting. WH-LAIR’s mission enumerated in the Presidential Memorandum is fivefold:

  1. improve coordination among federal programs that help the vulnerable and underserved, so that those programs are more efficient and produce better outcomes by including, where appropriate, legal services among the range of supportive services provided;
  2. increase the availability of meaningful access to justice for individuals and families, regardless of wealth or status;
  3. develop policy recommendations that improve access to justice in federal, state, local, tribal, and international jurisdictions;
  4. assist the United States with implementation of Goal 16 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and
  5. advance relevant evidence-based research, data collection, and analysis of civil legal aid and indigent defense, and promulgate best practices to support the activities detailed in [1-4 above].

Their efforts fall into four categories: leveraging resources to strengthen Federal programs by incorporating legal aid; developing policy recommendations that improve access to justice; facilitating strategic partnerships to achieve enforcement and outreach objectives; and advancing evidence-based research, data collection and analysis. One of the key components of LAIR’s work was the review of numerous federal grants from the perspective of potentially expanding the use of funds to incorporate legal aid into program strategies. As a result, many agencies clarified that dozens of grants can be used by grantees to provide legal services in furtherance of their program goals.  The number of long-term, far-reaching and positive outcomes of the first four years of effort by member agencies are very encouraging.

Some key initiatives reported:

  • HHS clarified that legal aid is included in the range of “enabling services” that HHS-funded health centers can provide to meet communities’ primary care needs.
  • CNCS and DOJ fund the Elder Justice AmeriCorps to help elder abuse victims and launched justice AmeriCorps to increase legal aid to unrepresented unaccompanied immigrant minors.
  • VA issued guidance supporting veterans’ access to legal aid at VA medical facilities.
  • IRS administers three grant programs to help low-income and other taxpayers in need with tax returns and tax disputes.
  • HUD funds fair housing enforcement organizations, including legal aid programs and a program that allows using funds for legal aid necessary to regain housing stability.
  • FTC developed the Legal Services Collaboration, a nationwide partnership with legal aid, to inform FTC’s law enforcement priorities and allow FTC to alert local communities about scams and respond to local concerns.
  • LSC is undertaking a new national legal needs survey to update the Justice Gap studies of 2005 and 2009.
  • WH-LAIR itself has online resources that provide information about civil legal aid and federal funding opportunities on the WH-LAIR website and in the Toolkit.

WH-LAIR agencies are also looking forward  to the steps they can take to further improve meaningful access to justice for all Americans. Several agencies are reviewing funding competitions and training and technical assistance programs to determine how grantees can use more funds to provide legal aid among program services. Agencies plan to develop a broader range of policies that further expanding access to justice and work towards effective implementation of those policies. Following the FTC’s lead with its Legal Services Collaboration, other agencies with enforcement mandates are exploring ways to work with legal aid to increase enforcement efforts and amplify their outreach. Finally, WH-LAIR agencies are developing metrics for evaluating whether and how legal aid improves agency programs.

This first report demonstrates in a variety of ways the vital importance of legal aid as part of federal programs and chronicles numerous program creation and expansions which have had a direct and positive impact on the communities and populations they serve.  Moving forward, one goal is for agencies to use the best practices developed to further expand access to justice and strengthen federal programs.