The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia seeks a candidate to sponsor for an Equal Justice Works and/or Skadden Fellowship to commence in the fall of 2020. The candidate selected will work with Legal Aid to develop a project proposal related to one of the following two areas that the organization has identified for possible expansion: (a) a D.C. Superior Court-based legal services project that assists low-income families with child custody and other family law matters; or (b) a legal services project based at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings that assists low-income families who have been denied, terminated from, or had reduced basic safety-net public benefits. Regardless of which project is selected, the Fellow will have significant litigation, outreach, and advocacy responsibilities.
Since 1932, Legal Aid has been working to make justice real—in individual and systemic ways —for persons living in poverty in the District of Columbia. Legal Aid provides individual representation, advice, and brief services in a wide range of domestic violence/family, housing, public benefits, and consumer law matters. We also work on immigration matters and help individuals with the collateral consequences of their involvement with the criminal justice system. From our work with clients, we identify opportunities for—and engage in—law and court reform work, public policy advocacy, and appellate and impact litigation. In addition, Legal Aid maintains a robust pro bono program. For more information about Legal Aid, please visit our website, www.LegalAidDC.org, and our blog, www.MakingJusticeReal.Org. Legal Aid has successfully sponsored both Equal Justice Works and Skadden Fellows in the past, and our staff includes numerous current and former fellows. Legal Aid will assist the applicant we select in formulating a project to present to the fellowship programs.
Potential Project Ideas
Free, high-quality legal services are often too difficult to access for those who most need them. In recent years, Legal Aid has found that locating resources and lawyers where individuals already must go to have their cases heard can significantly reduce the burden and difficulty of obtaining legal advice and representation. Today, Legal Aid maintains projects at a number of locations, including the Landlord & Tenant Branch, the Paternity & Support Branch, and the Foreclosure, Small Claims, and Debt Collection Calendars of D.C. Superior Court, as well as the Northwest and Southeast Domestic Violence Intake Centers (located at D. C. Superior Court and United Medical Center, respectively).
Legal Aid has identified two areas for possible growth through a fellowship project that would further expand access to justice by establishing or supporting a Legal Aid presence at another court branch or administrative body where the vast majority of individuals currently do not have legal representation. Applicants should indicate in their cover letters which of the following two potential projects they are interested in working with Legal Aid to flesh out, and why. (Indicating an interest in both is also an option.)
Family Law. A family law project would involve establishing or supporting a new court-based legal services project at the Domestic Relations Branch of the D.C. Superior Court. The Fellow would provide both same-day and extended representation to low-income families in child custody and other family law matters. The Fellow pursuing this project would join Legal Aid’s domestic violence/family law practice, which is currently staffed by three supervising attorneys, eight senior staff and staff attorneys, and a legal assistant.
Public Benefits. A public benefits law project would involve establishing or supporting a new legal services project based at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. The Fellow would provide both same-day and extended representation to low-income families in a wide range of matters involving essential safety-net public benefits, such as Food Stamps (or SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid and unemployment insurance. The Fellow pursuing this project would join Legal Aid’s public benefits law practice, which is currently staffed by two supervising attorneys, six senior staff and staff attorneys, one volunteer staff attorney, and a legal assistant.
A Fellow pursuing either project will dedicate the bulk of his/her/their time to handling a docket of direct representation matters in family law or public benefits. The Fellow will also engage in community outreach and education, conduct interviews of prospective clients, and work on systemic advocacy efforts in the substantive legal area as well as the practices of the court or administrative body. Moreover, the Fellow will work closely with the D.C. Superior Court or the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings both to determine the best way to intervene in the matters where a lawyer can be most effective in advancing justice and to provide general legal information and/or “know your rights” trainings to court personnel, community partners and our client community.
Applicants must be law students entering their third year or recent graduates who expect to complete a judicial clerkship in the summer of 2020. Applicants should have a commitment to a career in the public interest and a desire to work in a collaborative work environment. Additional qualifications include:
Membership or eligibility for membership in the D.C. Bar is required.
Legal Aid values an inclusive, diverse workplace and encourages applications from interested persons from diverse backgrounds of any race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, personal appearance, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, genetic information, or any other legally protected status. We strongly encourage applications from people with personal experience with the criminal justice system and/or with lived experiences in the communities we serve.
Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until a candidate is selected. To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter. Additional information, such as writing samples, transcripts, and references, may be sought from those selected to interview with Legal Aid. The selected candidate will work with Legal Aid on fellowship applications to be submitted to the Skadden Foundation and/or Equal Justice Works in the fall of 2019. The fellowship, if awarded, will begin in the fall of 2020 and is anticipated to last two years.