More News for Legal Services Corp.

An Update: A few weeks ago, we told you about slashes in funds to Legal Services Corp. and the legal services jobs that would be lost as a result.  This week, good news appeared on the horizon.  President Obama has urged Congress to increase funds to LSC for fiscal year 2013.  The proposal would mean a 15.5% increase in the agency’s current budget.  The agency has requested a 35% increase for 2013, however, which means that even if President Obama’s recommendation is heard, Legal Services Corp. will still be in great need.  Still, any increase in funding means more people can receive the legal services they need.

Legal Services Cuts

In November, congress passed a bill that slashed funds to Legal Services Corp. by 14%.  As a result, many low income Americans will be unable to receive legal assistance, and many attorneys who have dedicated their careers to public interest will lose their jobs. You can read more on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, but the outlook is grim.  Legal aid organizations will have to work with even fewer resources than last year, while still attempting to serve a growing number of clients.  What do you think about the cuts in funding? Are there viable solutions for organizations trying to do more with less? What do you plan on doing about it? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Additional Opportunity

The IU Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides help to
low-income citizens and IU students in completing their Federal and State
Income tax returns.

Each VITA Volunteer meets one-on-one with a VITA client, or can choose to
operate in a pair. Based on the information provided by and solicited
from the client, the volunteer completes a 1040 tax return that is then
submitted to the IRS.

IU VITA is a great opportunity to demonstrate an interest in business or
tax law on your resume! VITA operates on Mondays and Tuesdays during
February and March for 3 hours each night. A call-out meeting will be
held on January 18 at noon in room 120 to ascertain interest in the
program. A training session will follow on Saturday January 21nd from
1:15 to 4 pm in room 123. If you re unable to attend the callout session,
you can still attend the training session on the 21nd! For more
information, email Daniel Huntley at danhuntl@indiana.edu

Public Interest Opportunities

If you weren’t able to get involved in any extra curricular public interest activities last semester, or you’re looking for more ways to volunteer your time, it’s not too late. There are many student organizations that provide ways to volunteer including:

When you volunteer your time pro bono, you can report those hours to wedogood@indiana.edu and track your pro bono commitment. The law school recommends each student volunteer at least 20 hours per year, but getting involved in any of these opportunities can allow you to go above and beyond.  In addition to pro bono opportunities, the law school has many other student organizations and ways to get involved–you can check out a full list of activities here.

Movie Night, Law School Style

Now that the semester is winding down and we’re fast approaching finals season, we’d like to offer a suggestion for inspiration/relaxation.  There are numerous films and documentaries featuring public interest lawyers, public interest cases, and other influential members of the law community; taking a few hours off from studying and learning more about inspiring members of our profession might be a good way to spend an evening between now and finals.

The William S. Boyd School of Law hosted a public interest film festival earlier this year featuring 4 films worth checking out: American Idealist: The Story of Sargent ShriverCruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice, Chrisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, and Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey.  Another inspiring film, Crime After Crime details the work of two lawyers who worked pro bono to see that justice was served.  Conviction, starring Hilary Swank, is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters who put herself through law school in an attempt to free her wrongly incarcerated brother.  The HBO documentary Hot Coffee is also a great watch and attempts to reveal what really happened to Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s.

After you’ve grabbed your friends and some popcorn for an evening of law-related film, feel free to play critic and let us know what you think.

Unique Volunteering Opportunity

AIM is a non-profit arm of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force. They train volunteer adults to serve as mentors to teens from 13 to 18 years of age. For nearly 16 years, AIM has been providing Indiana youth a second chance. Right now, AIM is seeking new mentors. They are looking for dedicated, caring adults to serve as positive role models for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. If you would like to become a mentor, or obtain more information, please visit the website or email aimvolunteer@ifftf.org. It takes as little as 2 or 3 hours a week to make a difference in the life of a youth at risk. This is another opportunity that you can use to rack up your pro bono hours, not to mention you’ll be providing a helpful service to the youth of our Indiana community. Training and support are provided to all of volunteer mentors.


Lawyers in the Library Today

Lawyers in the Library is taking place today at the Monroe County Library from 1pm-5pm. It’s a free, walk-in community legal clinic and we need student volunteers to conduct intake interviews with clients in areas such as landlord-tenant disputes and family law. Please contact Susan Tanner at sltanner@indiana.edu with any questions, otherwise, just come for all or part of the time to help indigent Bloomington residents with legal issues!

Two Great Student Orgs You Can Join Today

Want to get more involved in the Law School?  The Inmate Legal Assistance Project (ILAP) and Outreach for Legal Literacy (OLL) are two amazing organizations, and they’re looking for volunteers.  Start today and your volunteer hours will count toward the Law School’s pro bono goal.

The Inmate Legal Assistance Project (ILAP) offers students a unique opportunity to sharpen their practical legal skills, while providing valuable free legal assistance to inmates at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.  This semester, ILAP will visit the Terre Haute FCI four times.  To go on a visit, ILAP will need you to complete an NCIC Check form in advance.  E-mail ilap@indiana.edu to learn more, fill out the form, and get involved.

Outreach for Legal Literacy (OLL) connects individuals or pairs of students with a local 5th grade classroom where the law students get to teach the 5th graders the basics of the US government, the US Constitution, and courtroom procedure.  The time commitment is 1 hour a week, and the lessons are all pre-written for the law students. The classroom instruction culminates in a mock trial and tour of the law school where the 5th graders apply what they’ve learned throughout the year as they play jurors, witnesses, and attorneys in front of a law faculty judge. Contact Allie Feary at alliefeary@gmail.com to start today.

A Call to Action

Check out this recent Op-ed from the New York Times addressing the widening justice gap in our country.  Many in the legal community are calling for changes that would help provide legal assistance to those in need–and they’re urging the legal community to work together to solve this problem.  Esther Lardent of the Pro Bono Institute ponders whether it is also time for mandatory pro bono–a requirement that could help address the justice gap as well.

What are your ideas? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on the widening justice gap and what you think can be done.

Public Interest Touches All Lawyers

If you’ve taken The Legal Professions then you know that the ABA Model Rules recommend attorneys complete 50 hours of pro bono work per year.  Pro bono work provides an opportunity for lawyers who choose private practice to engage in public interest work and often involves interacting with public interest lawyers.  If you’re looking for a good example, check out the documentary Crime After Crime. This documentary tells the story of Debbie Peagler–a woman imprisoned for over 25 years due to her link to the murder of the man who abused her–and the two attorneys who volunteered to re-examine her case.  After years of hard work, Debbie’s attorneys find long-lost witnesses, new testimonies from the men who committed the murder, and proof of perjured evidence.  Besides being a truly remarkable and unforgettable story, the film is also a great example of why public interest law is relevant to all attorneys.