From the California Bar Journal:Founded in 1990, the California State Bar Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization affiliated with the State Bar of California, dedicated to building a better justice system for all Californians. Through the voluntary donations of California lawyers and other donors and the contributions of our corporate sponsors, the Foundation distributes grants to nonprofit organizations, courts, and bar associations for law-related projects; awards scholarships to law school students committed to public service; runs a legal literacy program for high school students; promotes and encourages the philanthropic and charitable efforts of California's lawyers; and supports an array of other education and outreach programs.
Listening is job one for new Bar Foundation chief
Bringing with her a deep understanding of disparities within the American justice system, Sonia Gonzales’ self-imposed goal as the new executive director of the California Bar Foundation is to listen.
“The legal community as a whole has a responsibility to help improve access to appropriate legal services for all Californians, especially those from low-income or ethnic minority communities,” said Gonzales, a product of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law. “We will be judged on how we treat the least among us.”
Feel free to publish the letter below. I sent this to the CA Bar Foundation and a section of the CA Bar itself. It galls me that they prominently feature the new foundation director talking about helping the poor when they can't do anything for their poor attorneys. I am waiting for a response.
I am really poor. I grew up poor and thought I could change that by going to law school. Instead I'm poorer than my parents ever were with 6 children and one income (at least they didn't have loans to deal with).
(Excuse the errors in the letter, I was really mad when I wrote it. It's just so unfair; we're in a crisis and institutions like the bar and law schools and even legal employers act like everything is the same as it's always been.)
I want to scream. Even my twin brother tells me it's my fault because I chose to move to California! Imagine that. After years of school, how dare I decide where I want to live? He's under the delusion that if I move elsewhere, I'll have a chance to get a job and that I can apply for federal government positions because I have a JD. It's so depressing all around. We (unemployed law grads) are invisible.
Dear Ms. Gonzales:
It is rather ironic that the Bar Foundation and the Bar Association make such a big deal about caring for "the least among us." The most that they can offer new attorneys who haven't been able to find a job is a meager fee reduction that apparently can't be applied if the deadline is missed. In any regard, the fee reduction is useless if you can't find employment anywhere.
Whatever gets you through the night.
I have been looking for work in this illustrious field since 2010. I don't have family connections unfortunately. I was the first to go to college and my parents had five other children, thus there isn't any money from them to fall back on. So, while the bar goes on about helping those who are the least and listening to people, I would hope that they would listen to me and the many others like me. Not everyone has a silver spoon or good fortune. I didn't imagine that almost two years after graduation, I would still be unemployed. I never wanted to be rich; I just wanted to be able to provide for myself like my parents weren't able to do.
I've applied for thousands of jobs and contacted alumni; I would volunteer but I don't have the money to afford to.
I rue the day I thought that law school was a path to better future. All I have to show for it is a JD that does nothing for me. I had an okay job as a Paralegal before, but I thought (foolishly) that getting a law degree would have been a better option. Now, I see the folly of my decision and it is too late.
The legal profession does not care about the least among us. Most people only care about people with experience and if you don't have the experience, then you don't matter. It's very funny and bitterly ironic that I will probably get suspended for failure to come up with the fees for my membership because I haven't been able to find a job while the bar association claims to care about people from my social status.
I'm sure that in the offices and nice board meetings and in the foundation of the Bar Association they are listening to the dozens and dozens of new grads who are struggling to survive when they demand that we pay fees we can't afford. If you really were listening, you would change the system. Even if I found the money later on to pay, I'd always have the fact that I couldn't reflected on my record for the entire world to see, as I willfully chose not to pay.
You ought to a) excuse fees for people who genuinely can't afford them and b) not tar them with this fact forever on their record.
I realize that this is unorthodox but it is galling to see how injustice goes unchecked within the Bar Association/Foundation and the legal community at large. I guess, if I lose my license, I can take comfort in knowing that while I can't practice law, I can turn to the foundation for help.
[Name redacted. The writer is a 2010 graduate of a top 25 law school, and a member of the California Bar]
I had a conversation yesterday with a younger colleague, i.e., someone who doesn't have the excuse of suffering from Baby Boomer Delusion Syndrome, who on some level simply refuses to believe that the unemployment rate (this means people who have no job of any kind) for our graduates nine months after graduation is nearly 20%. He insists that a lot of these people could get jobs as lawyers -- mind you, not just jobs, but jobs as lawyers -- if they really wanted to. "Really wanting to," according to him, would include things like getting out of Colorado, where as even a lot of our faculty is finally starting to notice, it's real hard to get a job as a lawyer. I asked him where they were supposed to go, and he suggested Wyoming (pop. 568,158), Iowa (our CSO is currently listing one job available for a lawyer in the state of Iowa), or Houston.
At least he didn't say California.
He also suggested that part of the problem is that some people come to law school, especially our law school, wanting to practice international environmental human rights law, and won't "settle" for a six-figure private firm job if they can't get the kind of work they prefer. (He actually said this).
Part of the problem here -- "here" being within a ten-minute drive of some of the world's best rock climbing canyons, and an hour away from first-rate ski slopes -- is that there probably are around a dozen or so trustifarian slackers in every graduating class who are going to law school more or less on a whim, and all it takes is a conversation or two with a couple of these people to start imagining that their circumstances are typical of that large portion of our graduates who are either severely underemployed, or simply not employed at all.
Whatever gets you through the night.