Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

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seagan823
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Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby seagan823 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:10 am

For the past few years I have been working for and volunteering with organizations that provide services to low income families and individuals. I have found it rewarding and I would like to continue that work through legal services work. Some of the advice I have received for finding a career in this field deviates from TLS wisdom for those who are seeking BigLaw, BigGov or Art. III clerkships. I have been advised to go to law school in the area I wish to practice in, and to consider going to a lower ranked school with better scholarships opportunities because LRAP is still less certain than no loans. I have also been told that law review is much less important than clinical experience and that grades are less important than building a network. I have heard that if I decided to clerk before doing legal services work it might be better to clerk for a state level judge so that I may better learn the legal system for those I would be representing in the future.

Does anyone on TLS work for legal aid? How much what I have been told is true and what should I do if I am committed to becoming a legal services lawyer. I know the salary is low. The only financial concern I have is debt financing.

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YankeesFan
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby YankeesFan » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:21 am

I worked for legal aid last summer and the best advice I could give to someone who wants Legal Aid is to build a resume that screams public interest. Work for legal aid your 1L summer. At least in my state, if you did that, you were eleigible to get a paid fellowship for the 2L summer, which is where they hired most of their permanent employees from. Even if you don't go that route, volunteer with them during the year. Work at other non-profits. They want to know that you are dedicated to the cause.

As for financing, my state gave LA lawyers a stipend each month to help with debt repayment. It was small and by no means wiped out loan balances, but if you to school for free and incur only COL expenses, it might actually be enough to make your monthly payments.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:00 pm

seagan823 wrote:For the past few years I have been working for and volunteering with organizations that provide services to low income families and individuals. I have found it rewarding and I would like to continue that work through legal services work. Some of the advice I have received for finding a career in this field deviates from TLS wisdom for those who are seeking BigLaw, BigGov or Art. III clerkships. I have been advised to go to law school in the area I wish to practice in, and to consider going to a lower ranked school with better scholarships opportunities because LRAP is still less certain than no loans. I have also been told that law review is much less important than clinical experience and that grades are less important than building a network. I have heard that if I decided to clerk before doing legal services work it might be better to clerk for a state level judge so that I may better learn the legal system for those I would be representing in the future.

Does anyone on TLS work for legal aid? How much what I have been told is true and what should I do if I am committed to becoming a legal services lawyer. I know the salary is low. The only financial concern I have is debt financing.

This is pretty consistent with all the advice I've seen people give about working in Legal Aid. Demonstrated dedication to the cause is the biggest criterion. On top of what you mention, practice courses like trial advocacy or motions advocacy, and maybe mock trial, would be good (although mock trial wouldn't be nearly as good as clinics and internships that get you into a real courtroom - more like if you really wanted a school extracurricular for some reason; it would be better than journal/moot court). Keep in mind that legal aid should qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, too, which helps in terms of the debt.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:35 pm

BUMP, also strongly interested in Legal Aid, and there seems to be a dearth of information about it on TLS.

Is is generally true that Legal Aid looks askance at folks with DA experience? A legal services attorney I had a networking lunch with told me that this was her impression, and I was a bit taken aback.

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okinawa
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby okinawa » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:19 pm

BlueLotus wrote:Is is generally true that Legal Aid looks askance at folks with DA experience? A legal services attorney I had a networking lunch with told me that this was her impression, and I was a bit taken aback.

It depends on the office, but this was my impression when I was interning in legal services. If you think about it, most of these attorneys spend a lot of time dealing with the government in an adversarial manner, and often see issues involving poverty (including most of the crimes DAs prosecute) from a perspective more similar to a PD than a DA.

OTOH I've never had a government-side interviewer or colleague look negatively on legal services work.

Void
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Void » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:06 am

Pretty much all of the advice OP has received is true, IMO. For Legal Aid or many other public interest type jobs, the conventional TLS employment advice is not applicable. If you're reading this thread, you probably want to help people more than you want to earn money, and that trait significantly differentiates you from the majority of the TLS biglaw-or-bust folks.

Getting a job in public interest is more like getting a job in the normal non-legal world, because employers are looking for legitimately good, honest, passionate, and mulit talented employees. So your resume actually does matter more than your GPA. You might actually be better off avoiding journal membership, or choosing a public interest oriented journal over law review. You should forget about OCI altogether (if it consists only of firms) and focus on diversifying your resume, taking classes that actually relate to your interests, and making an effort to learn things rather than pump up your GPA.

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edgeofthenight
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby edgeofthenight » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:39 am

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Last edited by edgeofthenight on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

FuturePD
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby FuturePD » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:50 pm

edgeofthenight wrote:
It depends on the office, but this was my impression when I was interning in legal services. If you think about it, most of these attorneys spend a lot of time dealing with the government in an adversarial manner, and often see issues involving poverty (including most of the crimes DAs prosecute) from a perspective more similar to a PD than a DA.


I don't want to chime in too much because I'm a rising 1L and have nothing to add on the hiring front. But I interned at Legal Aid (in a major city) as a fully committed future prosecutor in udergrad. I was open about it in the interview and with all the attorneys I worked with - they were incredibly respectful (there was a concerted effort to convert me, but nothing bad), and gave me the best pre-law experience I ever had, which translated well into my personal statement. If any 0Ls are reading this and want to know more, PM me.


There's a big difference between someone who wants to be a prosecutor applying for an undergrad internship with Legal Aid, and someone who is applying for a full-time job with Legal Aid going into the application process with DA experience on her resume. First, undergrad vs. law school makes a difference. Second, there's a huge difference between hiring an intern with some idiosyncratic hypothetical career plans, and hiring a full-time employee who has recent, demonstrated interest in working for a prosecutor. I have no doubt that you enjoyed Legal Aid, and that they were happy to have you as an undergrad intern. That doesn't change the fact that a law student seeking full-time employment representing poor people of color puts herself at a serious disadvantage if she has recently worked at an organization whose primary activity is putting poor people of color in jail. You may disagree with them, but most Legal Aid employers don't like that, and will hold it against you.

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Mick Haller
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Mick Haller » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:14 pm

My bro works for a legal aid office in the South. They have been ravaged by the sequester budget cuts. It looks like all branch offices will be closed (one already has been) leaving a single office in the Capitol city.

My brother is working on a part time schedule now.

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edgeofthenight
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby edgeofthenight » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:29 pm

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Last edited by edgeofthenight on Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

Void
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Void » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:37 pm

edgeofthenight wrote:
There's a big difference between someone who wants to be a prosecutor applying for an undergrad internship with Legal Aid, and someone who is applying for a full-time job with Legal Aid going into the application process with DA experience on her resume. First, undergrad vs. law school makes a difference. Second, there's a huge difference between hiring an intern with some idiosyncratic hypothetical career plans, and hiring a full-time employee who has recent, demonstrated interest in working for a prosecutor. I have no doubt that you enjoyed Legal Aid, and that they were happy to have you as an undergrad intern. That doesn't change the fact that a law student seeking full-time employment representing poor people of color puts herself at a serious disadvantage if she has recently worked at an organization whose primary activity is putting poor people of color in jail. You may disagree with them, but most Legal Aid employers don't like that, and will hold it against you.


Of course it's a completely different situation, as I said, I'm completely ignorant about the hiring side of things and I wouldn't dispute anything you're saying. Just if any 0Ls are reading the thread - it is possible to get an undergrad internship with a strong prosecution background, the employees I personally worked with didn't have a problem with it (or were willing to overlook it given that I was an undergrad intern), and (from the extremely limited perspective I have now), I would absolutely recommend doing it if you're considering either one.


Ok, I recognize that this is a thread derail but I have to ask: how is it that you, or any other 0L, has a "strong prosecution background"?

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:29 pm

Does Legal Aid ever straight up hire folks outta law school, or do you need a hypercompetitive fellowship (EJW, Skadden, etc.) to get your foot in the door?

I'd imagine that if you wanna work with indigent DV victims, DA experience might not be terrible, but I'm still gonna stay away from it to avoid the possible "taint" to my resume.

Void
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Void » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:34 pm

BlueLotus wrote:Does Legal Aid ever straight up hire folks outta law school, or do you need a hypercompetitive fellowship (EJW, Skadden, etc.) to get your foot in the door?

I'd imagine that if you wanna work with indigent DV victims, DA experience might not be terrible, but I'm still gonna stay away from it to avoid the possible "taint" to my resume.


Are you asking about a particular organization (like the one in NY) or just legal aid in general (as in any organization that offers legal assistance to the indigent)? If the former, I don't know. If the latter, yeah- some definitely hire right out of law school.

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whirledpeas86
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby whirledpeas86 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:58 am

Tagging this for if/when my fellowship gamble doesn't pay off.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Aug 28, 2013 4:31 pm

whirledpeas86 wrote:Tagging this for if/when my fellowship gamble doesn't pay off.


What fellowships are you applying for?

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:50 pm

If I wanna go into legal aid, what is the best clinic for 3L?:

Juvenile Rights
Immigration
Civil Litigation
Criminal Justice (Defense/Prosecution)
Housing
Community Enterprise
Federal Appeals

I've heard that DA work is a no-no for people wanting Legal Aid, so I'm stayin away from the prosecution clinic, lol.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:02 pm

BlueLotus wrote:If I wanna go into legal aid, what is the best clinic for 3L?:

Juvenile Rights
Immigration
Civil Litigation
Criminal Justice (Defense/Prosecution)
Housing
Community Enterprise
Federal Appeals

I've heard that DA work is a no-no for people wanting Legal Aid, so I'm stayin away from the prosecution clinic, lol.

I would probably go with Civil Litigation, depending on what the scope of the clinic is (since all the legal aid organizations I know provide civil legal services); most of the civil clinics I've seen deal with things like domestic relations, social security, workers' comp, and the like, which would be a big part of legal aid. After that, probably Housing, Immigration, or Juvenile Rights? Criminal Justice probably isn't terrible, but would be more about getting you experience getting into court and working with clients than giving you experience in a relevant area of law. Federal Appeals would give you much less immediately practical experience (and I suspect you'd probably work on criminal appeals since they're much more common). Don't know enough about Community Enterprise to say if it'd be useful, but I suspect not (it sounds like working with entrepreneurs, which isn't traditionally a big legal aid thing).

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mr. wednesday
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby mr. wednesday » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:06 pm

BlueLotus wrote:If I wanna go into legal aid, what is the best clinic for 3L?:

Juvenile Rights
Immigration
Civil Litigation
Criminal Justice (Defense/Prosecution)
Housing
Community Enterprise
Federal Appeals

I've heard that DA work is a no-no for people wanting Legal Aid, so I'm stayin away from the prosecution clinic, lol.


Immigration if you speak Spanish, juvenile rights or housing if not. Defense if you're willing to be a PD, since there is some movement between the two. Plus it increases the chances that anyone anywhere will be hiring because you can apply to PDs and legal aid.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:24 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:If I wanna go into legal aid, what is the best clinic for 3L?:

Juvenile Rights
Immigration
Civil Litigation
Criminal Justice (Defense/Prosecution)
Housing
Community Enterprise
Federal Appeals

I've heard that DA work is a no-no for people wanting Legal Aid, so I'm stayin away from the prosecution clinic, lol.

I would probably go with Civil Litigation, depending on what the scope of the clinic is (since all the legal aid organizations I know provide civil legal services); most of the civil clinics I've seen deal with things like domestic relations, social security, workers' comp, and the like, which would be a big part of legal aid. After that, probably Housing, Immigration, or Juvenile Rights? Criminal Justice probably isn't terrible, but would be more about getting you experience getting into court and working with clients than giving you experience in a relevant area of law. Federal Appeals would give you much less immediately practical experience (and I suspect you'd probably work on criminal appeals since they're much more common). Don't know enough about Community Enterprise to say if it'd be useful, but I suspect not (it sounds like working with entrepreneurs, which isn't traditionally a big legal aid thing).


the scope of the civil lit clinic includes family law (particularly divorce, custody/support, protection from abuse) landlord-tenant disputes, Social Security disability appeals, and consumer complaints.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:39 pm

That sounds very close to what legal aid services I'm familiar with do. But mr. wednesday makes good points, too.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby BlueLotus » Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:27 am

thanks.

lack of journal shouldn't hurt, right?

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Kafkaesquire
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Kafkaesquire » Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:59 am

Void wrote:Pretty much all of the advice OP has received is true, IMO. For Legal Aid or many other public interest type jobs, the conventional TLS employment advice is not applicable. If you're reading this thread, you probably want to help people more than you want to earn money, and that trait significantly differentiates you from the majority of the TLS biglaw-or-bust folks.

Getting a job in public interest is more like getting a job in the normal non-legal world, because employers are looking for legitimately good, honest, passionate, and mulit talented employees. So your resume actually does matter more than your GPA. You might actually be better off avoiding journal membership, or choosing a public interest oriented journal over law review. You should forget about OCI altogether (if it consists only of firms) and focus on diversifying your resume, taking classes that actually relate to your interests, and making an effort to learn things rather than pump up your GPA.


People do all of that in law school? Sounds kind of weird. What are the hours like?

Void wrote:My bro works for a legal aid office in the South. They have been ravaged by the sequester budget cuts. It looks like all branch offices will be closed (one already has been) leaving a single office in the Capitol city.

My brother is working on a part time schedule now.


Oh, never mind.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:05 am

Kafkaesquire wrote:
Void wrote:Pretty much all of the advice OP has received is true, IMO. For Legal Aid or many other public interest type jobs, the conventional TLS employment advice is not applicable. If you're reading this thread, you probably want to help people more than you want to earn money, and that trait significantly differentiates you from the majority of the TLS biglaw-or-bust folks.

Getting a job in public interest is more like getting a job in the normal non-legal world, because employers are looking for legitimately good, honest, passionate, and mulit talented employees. So your resume actually does matter more than your GPA. You might actually be better off avoiding journal membership, or choosing a public interest oriented journal over law review. You should forget about OCI altogether (if it consists only of firms) and focus on diversifying your resume, taking classes that actually relate to your interests, and making an effort to learn things rather than pump up your GPA.


People do all of that in law school? Sounds kind of weird. What are the hours like?

What's weird about any of this?

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Kafkaesquire
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby Kafkaesquire » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:08 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Kafkaesquire wrote:
Void wrote:Pretty much all of the advice OP has received is true, IMO. For Legal Aid or many other public interest type jobs, the conventional TLS employment advice is not applicable. If you're reading this thread, you probably want to help people more than you want to earn money, and that trait significantly differentiates you from the majority of the TLS biglaw-or-bust folks.

Getting a job in public interest is more like getting a job in the normal non-legal world, because employers are looking for legitimately good, honest, passionate, and mulit talented employees. So your resume actually does matter more than your GPA. You might actually be better off avoiding journal membership, or choosing a public interest oriented journal over law review. You should forget about OCI altogether (if it consists only of firms) and focus on diversifying your resume, taking classes that actually relate to your interests, and making an effort to learn things rather than pump up your GPA.


People do all of that in law school? Sounds kind of weird. What are the hours like?

What's weird about any of this?


I am not even in law school, yet, but I have met a lot of people in law school. Every one of them comes off as a superficial/materialistic workaholic. Maybe I am making loose conclusions, but I just assumed that it was looked down upon or weird to go to law school to want to "make a difference" in the world or to "become well-rounded."

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Want to work for Legal Aid or Similar Organization

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:12 am

Oh, I thought you were questioning the feasibility of doing those particular activities in law school.

It can sound naive to say you're going to LS to make a difference in the world, but there are certainly plenty of people who go to law school to be a DA/PD/legal aid type. Just not as many of them here as those going into biglaw (which can also help people, of course - just different ones than the former kinds of jobs).




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