by Kristen Pavón
We all know participating in clinics, volunteering, and getting involved with legal aid organizations in your community are great ways to show commitment to public interest and even get a foot in the door.
However, at the ABA Midyear Meeting earlier this month, co-executive director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Mark Moreau suggested something I had never heard before.
Moreau advised that if you’re interested in public interest law, you should have a strong tax law background. Yes, tax law.
“At a time where over half of legal services clients are working poor, a strong understanding in tax or welfare law is important,” he explained, noting that inadequate understanding of welfare and tax law is a major deficiency among legal aid providers.”
You can read more here.
Did you take tax law in law school? Will you take tax law?
by Kristen Pavón
From The Miami Herald:
This nation, a beacon of hope for so many around the world for upholding the rule of law for all, is facing a disaster if access to the courts is denied to the poor simply by economics. This is especially true in Florida. It is one of just four states that currently has zero state funding to help low-income people pay lawyers to dodge foreclosure and eviction or secure unemployment or disability benefits.
Where other states charge court filing fees or allocate money from the state budget, Florida does neither. That’s a black eye for the state that led the nation 30 years ago in finding a novel way to pay for lawyers to represent the indigent in civil cases.
Florida’s Legal Aid community still relies on that 1981 funding base: interest-bearing trust accounts — client money lawyers set aside in escrow for short periods of time. Unfortunately, record low interest rates the past few years have created an unsustainable situation.
Some 120 of Florida’s 410 Legal Aid attorneys are expected to lose their jobs. The Legal Aid Service of Broward will cut 20 positions. The 100,000 cases a year that the Florida Bar Foundation funds will drop by at least a third.
Not surprisingly, Florida Governor Rick Scott [and the entire legislature, for that matter] isn’t doing much about the access to courts situation. He vetoed a $1 million measure that would have helped the Florida Bar Foundation stay afloat (I’ve already mentioned how FBF’s budget crisis upsets me on a personal level).
However, The Miami Herald editorial staff proposed a couple of creative solutions:
- Charge a fee (even if temporary) for bar dues
- Charge sliding scale fees for clients able to pay something
- Claim a fee from retroactive court settlements
You can read the rest of the article here.
It’s tough to think about having our clients bear the burden of the dismal state of access to justice, but is this what we may have to succumb to? What do you think?
So, how does one get into the public interest field? How do you find out that public interest law is what you want to do?
Well, a Ms. JD contributor chatted with the Assistant Director at the University of Washington Center for Public Service Law who answered these questions and more… Read it here!
by Kristen Pavón
With legal services providers closing their doors, fewer public interest attorney hires and a seemingly insurmountable need for civil legal aid, trying to stay positive about where public interest law is headed is beyond difficult.
As a new attorney who wants to work in a legal aid capacity and do “good,” the prospects are bleak and consequently, I’ve felt it necessary to broaden my own job search.
However, reading Judith Sandalow’s HuffPost DC piece, Why We Never Give Up, reminded me of why I, and you, should continue to search in the public interest field (but keep all your options open!).
Usually, I would quote the highlights here and then direct you to read the rest at HuffPost, but today — I’m just going to give you the last two paragraphs of the piece, which I’m confident will get you to head over to HuffPost to read the whole thing.
Charline’s birth parents gave up on her. Charline’s adoptive mother gave up on her. Charline had even given up on herself. But Gabby never did. She pursued Charline on the street and online. When Charline dropped out of one program Gabby found her another.
Gabby proved the pundits wrong. Helping Charline wasn’t cheap. And it wasn’t easy. But our community has an amazing return on Gabby’s investment: Today, Charline is a proud young woman heading toward a productive adulthood. She is one less statistic and one more success story. Every youth we meet has this potential, and that’s why we never give up.
WEAVE, Washington Empowered Against Violence, a holistic legal services provider in D.C. will be shutting its doors at the end of the week. Here’s what Weave’s Board had to say:
We are disappointed to report that WEAVE is in the process of winding down its affairs, which it expects to complete by February 3, 2012. We are deeply grateful for the hard work and support of WEAVE staff, volunteers, government and community partners, and donors over the years.
WEAVE’s mission is no less important today than in the past. However, WEAVE is no exception to the harsh realities of this economy. Lack of adequate funding has made our continued operation impossible.
After considering every possible alternative, the Board has decided the most responsible course of action is to manage a transition of cases and clients with the help of our funders and community partners. For information on transferring legal cases please contact Lolita Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on transferring counseling clients please contact Donna Alexander at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support,
Fernando Laguarda, Board Chair
If you are in the DC area and have the capacity to help some of WEAVE’s clients, please please please reach out to them. Their clients need help with immigration issues, domestic relations and civil protection orders.
According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, legal aid boosted the state’s economy by $53 million in 2011 through federal benefits won and state costs saved.
Those numbers sparked legislators’ interest in Massachusetts and have led to a recent proposal to increase MA’s Legal Assistance Corporation’s funding. Here’s more from The Boston Globe:
Civil legal aid has always been underfunded. But over the past three years, the work of these attorneys has hung by a slender thread. State appropriations have shrunk, and private donations have dwindled. The result? Legal aid programs have lost a third of their staff in the last three years. For every five people who come to legal aid attorneys for help navigating the court system, three are turned away, says Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for legal civil aid in the state.
“They’re on their own,’’ Powers says. “They lump it or go to court by themselves.’’
Lumping it costs not just those who find themselves alone in the maze of our legal system, but all of us. The asthma sufferer whose medication is no longer covered by Medicare ends up in the far more expensive emergency room. A family unfairly evicted ends up in pricier temporary housing. A worker unjustly denied jobless benefits lands on welfare. A study by Powers’s outfit estimates that legal aid boosted the state’s economy by $53 million last year through federal benefits won and state costs saved.
Read the rest here.
Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., a 70-lawyer legal services organization, serving 36 counties in northern and central Illinois outside of Cook County, is seeking applicants for a Staff Attorney position in our community legal services office located in Peoria.
The successful applicant will participate in a full range of legal activities, including the preparation and conduct of administrative hearings and trials of cases for elderly and low-income persons.
For more information, check out the listing at PSLawNet!
Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMo) has been providing essential legal services to low-income citizens since 1964. LAWMo staff attorneys, paralegals and volunteers assist over 20,000 people each year with problems that seriously affect their ability to provide for themselves and their families. With that level of service, it is important that the community be aware of the organization’s mission and activities.
The Attorney/Director will continue an extensive public awareness campaign targeting the English as a Second Language (ESL) and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) population of our 40 county service area to provide info/workshops about ITINs, W2 and Earned Income Tax Credits.
Additional duties include but not limited to handling relatively straightforward tax controversy cases, recruiting volunteer attorneys to handle tax controversy cases and overseeing the implementation and enhancement of Legal Aid’s policy for serving clients with Limited English Proficiency.
To find out how to apply, see the listing at PSLawNet!
While this opportunity is unpaid, there is a possibility of permanent employment after the internship training. Check it out —
Eviction Defense Network (EDN) is a network of trial lawyers founded in 2003 that advocates for tenants. EDN is dedicated to defending the right to affordable housing and ensuring access to justice in housing matters to tenants in Los Angeles County. EDN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance and representation to tenants facing eviction.
Eviction Defense Network (EDN) is be expanding its services starting with a two-month training opportunity for four attorneys.
From January 28, 2012 through March 30, 2012, EDN is offering a training opportunity with possible salaried positions at the conclusion of the two-month training.
This is a two-month unpaid Internship Program for attorneys interested in then applying for 4 possible job openings at the conclusion of the training.
The training starts with a half day orientation on January 13, 2011 and 1 full day of classroom training on January 14 (Saturday).
Is this position for you? Find out how to apply at PSLawNet!
by Kristen Pavón
As if shrinking budgets weren’t enough, a legal aid office in Athens, Georgia was burglarized last weekend. I mean, really?
Almost a dozen laptop computers were stolen. Attorneys didn’t seem too upset about it though…
“As far as the effect of the theft on our work, it’s not going to slow us down much,” he [Public Defender John Donnelly] said. “We’ll work around it until we can get them back or replaced.”
“They are all password protected, so the files are not easily accessible,” Donnelly said.
That’s a great attitude. If it were me, I’d be up-the-wall upset — what could I get done without my computer?! Nada.
Read the rest of the story here.