Archive for News and Developments

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.


D.C. Bar Launches Web Resource Helping Federal Attorneys Pursue Pro Bono

by Sam Halpert, PSJD Fellow (2014 – 2015)

This week, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program announced the launch of a new national practice area within designed specifically for federal government attorneys. is Pro Bono Net’s national online resource promoting collaboration between attorneys in order to foster pro bono work. The new practice area, located at, helps government attorneys understand how to avoid conflicts of interest, connect with pro bono programs in different geographical areas, and locate the pro bono policies of various federal agencies.

Lise B. Adams, Assistant Director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, took time when announcing the resource to thank the multitude of federal government lawyers who take time to handle pro bono cases in their individual capacity through the D.C. Bar’s various clinical programs.


Today, Canadian Legal Services Orgs are ‘Flipping Their Wigs’ for Access to Justice!

March 6th is officially “Flip Your Wig for Justice” Day in Canada! Members of the justice community and public are sparking dialogue about Canada’s access to justice funding crisis by wearing traditional judicial or wacky wigs and making donations to participating non-profit agencies. This is the awareness campaign’s first year, and most of the activity is taking place in Ontario.


From Pro Bono Students Canada:

  • Of the 12 million Canadians who will experience a legal dispute or injustice in a given three year period, 65% believe nothing can be done with respect to their legal problems.
  • Almost 40% of people with one or more legal problems reported having other social or health related issues that they directly attributed to a justiciable problem.
  • Statistics indicate that individuals who receive legal assistance are between 17% and 1,380% more likely to receive better results than those who do not.

How to Flip Your Wig

  1. Wear a traditional judicial or wacky wig on March 6, 2014, marking the day Ontarians took action for access to justice. Visit to register as a participant or team and begin collecting donations.
  2. Make a direct donation to a registered participant or team on the website or offline. Donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.
  3. Join the conversation on Twitter (, #FlipYourWig), Facebook ( and Instagram (

The seven founding non-profit organizations are: Association in the Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC);Canadian Civil Liberties Association Education Trust (CCLA); Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO); The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC); Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN/ROEJ); Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO); and Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC).

Check out the Flip Your Wig website for more information.

Photo: Ontario justice leaders and community prepare for ‘Flip Your Wig for Justice’, an awareness campaign in support of access to justice on March 6, 2014. Left to right: Treasurer Thomas G. Conway, Law Society of Upper Canada; Executive Director Wendy Komiotis, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children; and Dean Lorne Sossin, Osgoode Hall Law School (CNW Group/Flip Your Wig for Justice)


New Indigent Defense Fellowship Partners with Law Schools to Train Entry-Level Southern Public Defenders

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

Gideon’s Promise, an innovative program that supports and trains public defenders across the South, has partnered with the Department of Justice to initiate the Law School Partnership Project.

This new program will give law schools an opportunity to join Gideon’s Promise and southern public defender offices by contributing to the training and support of their graduates for up to one year, or help Gideon’s Promise identify sponsors for their graduates. Gideon’s Promise places the law graduate in a southern public defender office and provides three years of invaluable training and mentorship.

The public defender office will guarantee permanent, full-time employment within the graduate’s first year of the program. (I put that in bold because it is AWESOME, especially in today’s shaky legal job market.)

The right to counsel is a basic human and civil right, but it continues to have difficulties being implemented within the American criminal justice system. As public defenders continue to face crushing caseloads and funding crises, programs like this are greatly needed to ensure the enforcement of our constitutional rights and fulfill the promise of equal justice.

Check out this Information Packet from Gideon’s Promise for more information. If you have questions, contact Jonathan Rapping at or Ilham Askia at



The 2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowship is Now Open (+ July Student Debt Webinars)!

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

Post-graduate fellowship application season has officially begun!

The 2014 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Application opened yesterday, kick-starting the search for innovative public interest law projects that help close the American justice gap and provide legal assistance to those in need. Applications will close on September 17, 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »


Summer is here! It’s time to relax with PSJD’s Summer Reading List

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow (and the PSJD Staff & Advisory Group!)

Every summer, the PSJD staff and our awesome Advisory Group comes up with a summer reading list just for public interest law students and lawyers.

I know, I know… after ending an intellectually challenging year of law school, who would want to torture their brain with even more legal jargon? Not to worry – our Summer Reading List is casebook-free! Check out our picks to find the best reads to entertain yourself while sharpening those social justice claws over summer vacay.

If you’re having a super-busy summer and don’t have any time for heavy reading, here’s a list online blogs and periodicals to stay educated on the latest in public interest news and developments:

  • One of the leading legal news and information networks. This site posts the latest legal journalism from publications like The American Lawyer, the National Law Journal, Legal Times, and more.
  • SCOTUSblog: The official blog for the Supreme Court of the United States. ‘Nuff said.
  • ABA Journal: The American Bar Association is great for keeping up with the latest in legal news, and also has a pretty good Blawg Directory. Peruse their listings by topic to discover blogs on the public interest issue of greatest interest to you.

And if you’re looking for something even lighter, check out these funny blawgs:

  • What the Public Defender: An anonymous self-described 20-something public defender details the trials and triumphs of her daily life through the art of the .gif. Read it and weep (with laughter).
  • When In Law School: Satirical memes showcasing the law school experience in all its glory.
  • Lowering the Bar: Created by a pro-bono-minded partner in a San Francisco law firm, Lowering the Bar is a legal humor website that pokes fun at absurd cases and news.
  • EffYeahScotus: This hilarious Tumblr breaks down Supreme Court cases for you in .gifs. Enjoy!

Also, don’t miss our PSJD Public Interest News Bulletin every Friday! Our Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships Christina Jackson summarizes the biggest stories in the public interest legal world, just for you! Subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the box to the right to get the Bulletin in your email inbox every Friday.

Happy summer reading!


A Notice to Public Interest Law Students and Employers: Recent Changes to Law Clerk Hiring Plan Could Affect Your Summer

Besides housing PSJD, the National Association for Law Placement, or NALP for short, is an association of over 2,500 legal career professionals who advise law students, lawyers, law offices, and law schools in North America and beyond. The NALP Judicial Clerkship Section has a special message they would like to share with the PSJD community about recent changes to the federal law clerk hiring plan. These changes will affect summer internship scheduling and could possibly create conflicts of interest and other issues for employers and participating law students.

From the NALP Judicial Clerkship Section:

Last month, the federal judges’ committee overseeing the federal law clerk hiring plan announced a modification to the 2013 hiring schedule. Instead of hiring 3Ls after Labor Day, the new application submission date for federal clerkships is Friday, June 28. Beginning June 28, judges can review applications from rising third-year students, schedule and conduct interviews, and extend offers.  This change also affects state court clerkship hiring, as some states have moved their hiring dates in response to the federal change.

Employers who are currently welcoming second-year students into your summer programs may be confronted with issues not faced since the late 1990s. Some students will be coming to their summer jobs already committed to a judicial clerkship commencing in 2014, or perhaps 2015. Some students will have applications pending with judges or will be submitting applications to judges in June, in accordance with the new hiring plan date. Judges reviewing applications during the summer are likely to schedule interviews in June or July, which may present scheduling challenges for students.

Factors employers may want to consider include:

  1. If an intern receives one or more clerkship interviews, will he/she be able to miss work to travel to interviews?
  2. Does your organization have technology such as videoconferencing or teleconferencing available to students for clerkship interviews?
  3. Who is the best person at the organization for students to talk to about questions or issues that arise surrounding clerkships, including possible conflicts of interest on cases/matters, and when is the best time to have that conversation?

Students, we encourage you to discuss the implications of this timeframe with your career services offices and with your employers, paying special attention to the questions above, where relevant to you, and to due dates for assignments that fall around late June and early July, when judges may be interviewing.

We hope this blog post will offer a starting point to frame the issues and develop responses attuned to your individual programs. Many of your law school colleagues have begun to deal with these issues and would be eager to continue a discussion with you. We encourage you to be in touch with colleagues at schools from which you hire interns, to benefit from their insights and share your perspectives with them as you both seek to provide students the best advice and opportunities.

The NALP Judicial Clerkship Section leaders and members look forward to the opportunity to talk through these issues with public interest employers. This message was brought to you by:

NALP Judicial Clerkship Section Chairs: Melissa Lennon (Temple, 2012-13); Amy Perez (Miami, 2013-14)

NALP Judicial Clerkship Section, OSCAR Work Group: Susan Staab (Chicago), Vice-Chair; Marilyn Drees (Yale); Sheila Driscoll (George Washington); Eric Stern (Berkeley)

NALP Judicial Clerkship Section, Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan Work Group: Amy Killoran (Georgetown), Vice-Chair


Department of Justice Seeks to Add More Attorney Positions in 2014

by Ashley Matthews

We’ve got good news for those of you looking for job opportunities within the federal government next year! The Department of Justice wants to add more attorney positions in 2014 to bolster its Criminal, Civil and Civil Rights Divisions. From the BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes:

The U.S. Department of Justice’s budget request for 2014 seeks to add dozens of attorney positions, boosting efforts to combat cybersecurity, prosecute financial and mortgage fraud and combat international piracy of intellectual property.

The $27.6 billion request is a 3 percent increase over the budget enacted two years ago in 2012, and restores the $1.6 billion in cuts in this year’s budget as part of government-wide cuts called sequestration. Released Wednesday, the budget includes additional attorneys in the Criminal Division, Civil Division and Civil Rights Division, but removes attorney positions in the Antitrust Division.

In a nutshell, the DOJ wants to add 31 attorneys to the Criminal Division, 32 attorneys to the Civil Division, and 43 attorneys to the Civil Rights Division. Ten attorneys will be removed from the Antitrust Division because of budget constraints.

Click here to read the full article on the BLT!


Young Leaders Address Global Issues at Clinton Global Initiative University 2013

by Ashley Matthews

This past weekend, students from all over the world convened at the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U, for short) at the Washington University in St. Louis. The conference brings together socially innovative college and graduate students, non-profits, experts and celebrities to brainstorm ideas, best practices and action plans to attack some of the world’s most pressing social justice issues.

Student attendees were awarded more than $400,000 in funding to seed their projects, and a $100,000 grand prize went to the winners of the Resolution Project, a social venture competition held on-site. All projects are targeted at one of CGI U ‘s five focus areas: Education, Environment & Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.

Comedian Stephen Colbert interviewed former President Bill Clinton on Saturday and hosted the closing session, and notable guests included Jack Dorsey, Salman Khan and other innovators and entrepreneurs.

Sounds like something cool for you or someone you know? Check out CGI U’s FAQ’s and application information for tips and an overview on how to apply for next year.

And, just for fun, check out Colbert’s interview with Clinton below:


Want to know how the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage cases may unfold? Check out these Q&A’s!

by Ashley Matthews, PSJD Fellow

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8. These historic civil rights cases mark the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed gay marriage, and the decisions may greatly impact the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

If you want an overview on the cases and how they may unfold this term, check out the SCOTUSblog’s Q&A. It features Bloomber reporter Greg Stohr briefly breaking down the cases by legal issues, and presents a couple of possible outcomes. The New York Times also has a similar Q&A.