Public Interest Legal Fellowship

DC Law Students in Court (LSIC) invites creative, driven, and client-centered rising third-year law students and recent law graduates with judicial clerkships to apply for an opportunity to partner with LSIC on public interest legal Fellowship applications. LSIC is interested in hosting a fellow for the two-year Skadden, two-year Equal Justice Works, 18-month Soros Justice, and other post-graduate fellowships to begin in the fall 2019 in LSIC’s Washington DC office.

Founded in 1969, LSIC provides free, high-quality legal services to low-income District of Columbia residents while teaching and inspiring the next generation of lawyers to be social justice advocates.  We are committed to protecting the legal rights of vulnerable men, women, and children who have civil, criminal, and housing legal problems that originated in the District.  Our steady presence in the courts and in the community serves as a vital check on a system that favors people with resources over people without.

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NATURE OF THE FELLOWSHIP

A fellow will gain practical experience including client interviewing and counseling, case investigation, litigation, discovery, negotiations, trial skills, community engagement and outreach, legislative and public policy advocacy, and public education.

LSIC will work closely with the selected fellowship candidate to develop a collaborative project proposal addressing landlord-tenant, housing, support and advocacy for returning citizens, or other justice reform issues of special interest to the applicant.

Possible projects include, but are not limited to,  the following topic areas:

1)      Civil Public Defender and Affordable Housing Project

You would represent clients in rent stabilization and affordable housing cases to enforce DC housing law protections, preserve the supply of such housing in DC, and defend against eviction. For example, many units in DC are subject to Rent Stabilization laws that limit a landlord’s ability to increase the rent in units subject to these laws and provide additional remedies to a tenant residing in these units. Nevertheless, many landlords ignore these laws through either ignorance or a deliberate attempt to take advantage of their tenants. Tenants, themselves not knowing that their units should be subject to rent control, often are evicted or enter settlement agreements based on rent levels that are higher than are allowed under law. Another area for redress could be working to stop the current reduction of the number of rent stabilized units in DC, through legislative or other advocacy work. Additionally, the number of affordable Project Based Section 8 units, which allows a tenant to pay rent based on their income, is also being reduced. Your project could involve a combination of direct representation and systemic advocacy to help preserve the supply of affordable housing in DC and keep low-income tenants in their homes.

2)      Combatting the criminalization of public housing

You would engage in direct representation and systemic advocacy on behalf of residents issued illegal barring notices, removing them from their families. The DC Housing Authority (DCHA) is criminalizing the presence of DCHA residents and guests in DCHA properties. DCHA is the local housing authority that owns the majority of public housing units in the District of Columbia. DCHA employees have been routinely giving barring notices to persons visiting DCHA properties for little or no reason. Even residents have been giving barring notices from parts of the complex where they do not live. After a barring notice has been given, the recipient may be charged with criminal trespass if they return.

3)      Eviction defense and systemic advocacy on behalf of limited English proficient tenants

You could represent limited English proficient tenants illegally pressured out of affordable units. Many limited English proficient tenants, often first-generation immigrants, experience what they consider different treatment from white and more affluent tenants living in the same building. These tenants are often living in rent stabilized units that may be rented for much more money if they vacate the unit. You would represent clients in cases where landlords are threatening tenants they perceive to be undocumented, often limited English proficient immigrants, with deportation if the tenants assert their rights as tenants. If tenants seek repairs or to challenge a rent increase, the landlords obliquely, or not so obliquely, refer to deportation.

4) “Crimmigration”

LSIC is also in the process of piloting work in the “crimmigration” space. LSIC will be representing detained immigrants in bond hearings in the upcoming fall semester and hopes to build out similar, adjacent work through a Fellowship project. Your project could focus on advising noncitizen criminal defendants of the immigration consequences of their criminal cases, or something of LSIC’s and your mutual selection.

REQUIREMENTS

Applicants should have:

  • a demonstrated commitment to LSIC’s mission and social justice lawyering;
  • client-centered experience;
  • excellent legal research and writing skills;
  • the ability to work well in a team and independently;
  • current or pending membership in the DC bar (preferred);

Applicants should consult the Skadden Foundation, Equal Justice Works, and Open Society Foundation websites for more information about their selection processes and compensation.

TO APPLY

To apply, please submit the following to jchongsmith@dclawstudents.orgmcook@dclawstudents.org, and showard@dclawstudents.org:

  • 1 page letter of interest, detailing your interest in serving as a fellow with LSIC. If you have potential areas of interest or a project to propose, please include information on the nature of your proposed project and the population you seek to serve, and why you are well-suited to carry out this particular project;
  • Resume;
  • Legal writing sample, preferably a motion, memorandum, or brief;
  • Law school transcript (informal is acceptable);
  • Contact information for 3 references, identifying their relationship to you;
  • A statement indicating whether, if your application for a Skadden, Equal Justice Works, or other privately funded public service fellowship at LSIC is unsuccessful, your law school could fund a fellowship at LSIC and pertinent information regarding what funding opportunities would be available.

Please be sure to include “2019 Fellowship Candidate” in the subject line.

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis beginning June 27, 2018.

LSIC is an equal opportunity employer: people of color; women; people with disabilities; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; and people with personal/familial experience with the criminal justice and family court system are welcome and encouraged to apply.

Please contact Jade Chong-Smith, Director of Fellowships, via email at jchongsmith@dclawstudents.org with any questions regarding the fellowship application process. 

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