Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

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20jr5

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Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby 20jr5 » Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:05 pm

How hard is getting a civil legal aid position straight out of law school from a T14?

If I go into law school dead set on acquiring this kind of position (meaning I’ll start networking with PI alumni and gaining client experience through clinics and externships ASAP), am I likely to find a few offers? Or should I see it as a unicorn-like job and actively prepare myself for another career path?

Right now, i’d love to defend tenants in housing/rent disputes, but who am I, as a 0L, to pretend to know whether I’ll prefer housing, employment, immigration, or some other kind of law (i.e. planning on testing the waters a bit first). I do feel pretty committed to PI, and the lifestyle and responsibilities of a civil legal aid lawyer are really appealing to me.

albanach

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby albanach » Tue Apr 02, 2019 1:18 pm

20jr5 wrote:How hard is getting a civil legal aid position straight out of law school from a T14?

If I go into law school dead set on acquiring this kind of position (meaning I’ll start networking with PI alumni and gaining client experience through clinics and externships ASAP), am I likely to find a few offers? Or should I see it as a unicorn-like job and actively prepare myself for another career path?

Right now, i’d love to defend tenants in housing/rent disputes, but who am I, as a 0L, to pretend to know whether I’ll prefer housing, employment, immigration, or some other kind of law (i.e. planning on testing the waters a bit first). I do feel pretty committed to PI, and the lifestyle and responsibilities of a civil legal aid lawyer are really appealing to me.


I think the most common path today is to find a fellowship for one or two years and then, once you have experience, get a permanent gig. Experience is key, so from the start of law school you should be volunteering your time (less so as a 1L, but certainly from your first summer on).

20jr5

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby 20jr5 » Tue Apr 02, 2019 2:06 pm

albanach wrote:
20jr5 wrote:How hard is getting a civil legal aid position straight out of law school from a T14?

If I go into law school dead set on acquiring this kind of position (meaning I’ll start networking with PI alumni and gaining client experience through clinics and externships ASAP), am I likely to find a few offers? Or should I see it as a unicorn-like job and actively prepare myself for another career path?

Right now, i’d love to defend tenants in housing/rent disputes, but who am I, as a 0L, to pretend to know whether I’ll prefer housing, employment, immigration, or some other kind of law (i.e. planning on testing the waters a bit first). I do feel pretty committed to PI, and the lifestyle and responsibilities of a civil legal aid lawyer are really appealing to me.


I think the most common path today is to find a fellowship for one or two years and then, once you have experience, get a permanent gig. Experience is key, so from the start of law school you should be volunteering your time (less so as a 1L, but certainly from your first summer on).


Okay I’ve heard that, but it’s been hard for me to get a sense for how attainable those fellowships are. I understand there are multiple competitive fellowships, but there are also school funded fellowships that seem to be much easier to get.

So how easy is it to get a fellowship and then land a civil legal aid job from a T14? Is there a significant difference among T14s when it comes to this question?

The root of these questions is my concern about whether it is “safe” to throw a lot of eggs in the civil legal aid basket. I haven’t been able to find a lot of discussion about this specific question.

Part of me thinks I should see the 95% employment rates as support for the idea that a relatively unambitious PI career from a t14 is easily attainable. But what if 5-10% of those people are suffering in big law after failing to go down the civil legal aid path?

Any guidance?

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby albanach » Tue Apr 02, 2019 2:54 pm

20jr5 wrote:
albanach wrote:I think the most common path today is to find a fellowship for one or two years and then, once you have experience, get a permanent gig. Experience is key, so from the start of law school you should be volunteering your time (less so as a 1L, but certainly from your first summer on).

Okay I’ve heard that, but it’s been hard for me to get a sense for how attainable those fellowships are. I understand there are multiple competitive fellowships, but there are also school funded fellowships that seem to be much easier to get.

So how easy is it to get a fellowship and then land a civil legal aid job from a T14? Is there a significant difference among T14s when it comes to this question?

The root of these questions is my concern about whether it is “safe” to throw a lot of eggs in the civil legal aid basket. I haven’t been able to find a lot of discussion about this specific question.

Part of me thinks I should see the 95% employment rates as support for the idea that a relatively unambitious PI career from a t14 is easily attainable. But what if 5-10% of those people are suffering in big law after failing to go down the civil legal aid path?

Any guidance?


I think almost all my class who were seeking a PI career ended up in one. Some of those who were more ambivalent are certainly working in firms today. Yes, your career goal is generally attainable if you're graduating now from a T14. That could change if, for example, PSLF were to be scrapped - then the job would be easier to obtain because more students would be excluded from it because the pay is not nearly enough to pay for a legal education unless you have a huge scholarship.

The above still stands - even though the job is attainable from a T-14, you will need to work at it while in school.

20jr5

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby 20jr5 » Tue Apr 02, 2019 5:13 pm

Okay thank you so much!

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby QContinuum » Tue Apr 02, 2019 5:46 pm

To be clear, going to a T14 certainly wouldn't hurt you w.r.t. landing "nonprestigious" PI of the sort you want. It's just that "nonprestigious" PI places far more weight on networking and a demonstrated commitment to PI than law school prestige or grades, so - unlike with BigLaw or BigFed or clerkships or academia - going to a T14 won't give you a huge "boost" vs. going to a T20 or T1 or even T2. You'll still need to put in the networking legwork and demonstrate your commitment to PI (by taking PI-relevant classes and clinics, doing PI both your 1L and 2L summers, doing PI internships or externships during the academic year, etc.). You won't "automatically" land the job just on the basis of your T14 pedigree or your law school grades.

Of course, even though there's no real "T14 advantage" for "nonprestigious" PI, it still makes sense to go to the best law school possible in case you change your mind (as often happens to others in your position). You might decide you're interested in doing a few years of BigLaw after all. Or that doing a federal clerkship or DoJ Honors would be sooo cool. Going to a T14 will keep those doors open to you.

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Ohiobumpkin

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby Ohiobumpkin » Tue Apr 02, 2019 6:15 pm

Volunteering at a legal aid organization is critical (ideally one you would like to work for or at least in the geographic area you want to work in). You need to develop a record during law school that shows you have drunk the public interest kool aid. At least at my law school, you could pretty easily find externships/internships during both the school year and summers at public interest organizations.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby Sls17 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:31 am

It is not the path of least resistance, but it is definitely attainable. If you are sufficiently committed from 1L onward, I think you can safely count on a public interest / legal aid career from any of the T14.

It’s a lot easier to deflect to biglaw though, and you’ll find that come OCI about half the PI community in law school suddenly just peels away. That doesn’t have to be you, but just know that you’re going to face much more of a grind to find a 2L internship and then (especially) to find post-grad employment compared to most of your class.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby QContinuum » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:56 am

Sls17 wrote:It is not the path of least resistance, but it is definitely attainable. If you are sufficiently committed from 1L onward, I think you can safely count on a public interest / legal aid career from any of the T14.

It’s a lot easier to deflect to biglaw though, and you’ll find that come OCI about half the PI community in law school suddenly just peels away. That doesn’t have to be you, but just know that you’re going to face much more of a grind to find a 2L internship and then (especially) to find post-grad employment compared to most of your class.

A great point. The pull of the BigLaw vortex is strong. Many folks who entered 1L as "hardcore" PI folks end up deciding to do 2L OCI anyway and then are seduced into accepting a 2L SA, followed by joining BigLaw after graduation...

There's a strong allure to having your post-graduation job more or less locked up before 2L even starts. It's tough to look at all of your happy, relaxed classmates and realize that you likely won't know your post-graduation plans until late in 3L.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby albanach » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:25 am

QContinuum wrote:To be clear, going to a T14 certainly wouldn't hurt you w.r.t. landing "nonprestigious" PI of the sort you want. It's just that "nonprestigious" PI places far more weight on networking and a demonstrated commitment to PI than law school prestige or grades, so - unlike with BigLaw or BigFed or clerkships or academia - going to a T14 won't give you a huge "boost" vs. going to a T20 or T1 or even T2.


I should have been clearer earlier. While I agree that the fact you attended a T14 won't provide that great boost, if you don't qualify for an external scholarship and you attend a school that has PI fellowships (something you typically find in the T14) that alone is a huge boost. So there is an advantage to attending a top school that has the sort of huge endowment to make this possible.

Also, just like in the world of biglaw, that T14 degree helps with portability even among non-prestigious PI gigs when you're starting out. Particularly if you can pair it with some relevant experience gained during law school from a nationally recognized organization.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby 20jr5 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:00 pm

Yeah I want that portability and security. And I don’t mind keeping BigFed and academia doors open for later on in my career.

I really appreciate the help.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby QContinuum » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:07 pm

albanach wrote:
QContinuum wrote:To be clear, going to a T14 certainly wouldn't hurt you w.r.t. landing "nonprestigious" PI of the sort you want. It's just that "nonprestigious" PI places far more weight on networking and a demonstrated commitment to PI than law school prestige or grades, so - unlike with BigLaw or BigFed or clerkships or academia - going to a T14 won't give you a huge "boost" vs. going to a T20 or T1 or even T2.


I should have been clearer earlier. While I agree that the fact you attended a T14 won't provide that great boost, if you don't qualify for an external scholarship and you attend a school that has PI fellowships (something you typically find in the T14) that alone is a huge boost. So there is an advantage to attending a top school that has the sort of huge endowment to make this possible.

Also, just like in the world of biglaw, that T14 degree helps with portability even among non-prestigious PI gigs when you're starting out. Particularly if you can pair it with some relevant experience gained during law school from a nationally recognized organization.

All true, and of course going to a T14 has the additional advantage of providing a PSLF-independent LRAP to rely on, which provides additional financial assistance & security. AFAIK (though I could be wrong; I'm admittedly not an expert on T1/T2 LRAPs), T1/T2 schools don't usually have independent LRAPs.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby albanach » Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:30 pm

QContinuum wrote:All true, and of course going to a T14 has the additional advantage of providing a PSLF-independent LRAP to rely on, which provides additional financial assistance & security. AFAIK (though I could be wrong; I'm admittedly not an expert on T1/T2 LRAPs), T1/T2 schools don't usually have independent LRAPs.


I think a lot of lower T14 LRAP programs are predicated on PSLF - i.e. they cover your share of PSLF contributions. It'll be interesting to see how/if those develop if PSLF goes away or is altered in a way that would preclude discharging law school costs.

For example, UVA's requires enrolling your loans in IBR/PAYE. If you're not PSLF eligible or have another way to actually get rid of the debt, it's not going to have done much for you other than paid your premiums while you watch your debt increase due to interest.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby Lurker19 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 8:44 pm

albanach wrote:
QContinuum wrote:All true, and of course going to a T14 has the additional advantage of providing a PSLF-independent LRAP to rely on, which provides additional financial assistance & security. AFAIK (though I could be wrong; I'm admittedly not an expert on T1/T2 LRAPs), T1/T2 schools don't usually have independent LRAPs.


I think a lot of lower T14 LRAP programs are predicated on PSLF - i.e. they cover your share of PSLF contributions. It'll be interesting to see how/if those develop if PSLF goes away or is altered in a way that would preclude discharging law school costs.

For example, UVA's requires enrolling your loans in IBR/PAYE. If you're not PSLF eligible or have another way to actually get rid of the debt, it's not going to have done much for you other than paid your premiums while you watch your debt increase due to interest.

This is true at my lower T14 as well. The party line is that if PSLF were to get eliminated the LRAP would change to account for that as best they can, although of course no one can provide any details of what that would look like. Frankly it doesn't concern me much, I'm essentially betting on that even if PSLF is eliminated it would grandfather in current borrowers (which afaik all proposals to eliminate it have done).

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby 20jr5 » Sun Apr 07, 2019 7:02 am

Anyone know if federal clerkships are at all helpful in finding civil legal aid jobs? I would have assumed no, but one of the alums at a T14 I just got accepted to works for the LAF and had a federal circuit clerkship right out of school (according to some promotional material on the admitted students website).

Is he/she the exception? Would a clerkship, in any way, be considered “experience” in the eyes of a civil legal aid lawyer?

If so, does it make more sense to aim for fellowship —> clerkship —> civil legal aid job OR clerkship —> fellowship —> civil legal aid job

I suppose it would also be helpful to know if that clerkship would somehow be seen as a negative in the hiring process (maybe they see it as a sign of ambition, making it less likely I’ll stay for awhile? Or perhaps it would show a lack of interest or full commitment to the work?). I say this because I assume one of the biggest benefits of getting a good clerkship is that if I change my mind and want to do BigFed or something, it’ll really help.

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Re: Civil Legal Aid Job Prospects, T14

Postby we'rebothmenofthelaw » Mon Apr 08, 2019 12:58 pm

Re: clerkships-as-gold-stars (and other traditional indicia of academic success, like prestigious law schools, law review, grades, etc.) : Some legal services orgs value them a lot, some substantially less so or not at all. Same goes for how much fellowships care about them (Skadden has a reputation for caring much more than EJW about grades and stuff, for example).

Re: clerkships-as-experience: Legal Services lawyers who litigate start litigating quickly. Clerkships, especially at the trial court level, expose you to litigation and build your litigation skills at no cost to the organization. So that’s a plus, as far as I can tell. That said, the advantage of Fed clerkship compared to state may not be as big as it would be in BigLaw, although there are legal services practice areas (e.g. Social security) where Federal Court or federal agencies are the primary forum, so a fed court clerkship would be useful.

As far as ordering fellowships and clerkships, it’s a tough call. Legal services places generally don’t like to invest in training someone if they’re going to bounce as soon as they get a federal clerkship, but if youre bringing your own funding and communicating clearly, a legal services place probably wouldn’t mind you leaving and would consider you for a job down the road. Also, the work can be pretty tough, so its common for people to rotate in and out of direct service. However, if your goal is to roll from a fellowship to a staff attorney position, it might be good to clerk first...if you have the option of course. Jobs at legal services orgs tend to open pretty randomly, and you’re more likely to get one (or get one created for you) if you’re already there.



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