ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

November 5, 2009

2009.11.05: RE: Please Read [Externship]

From: Morris, Susan
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 9:37 AM
To: Wright, Deborah; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: RE: Please Read

Aside from substantive problems with the externship agreement (the fact that it is union-busting),

the process here is entirely undemocratic:

1. The membership hasn’t even seen this proposed agreement.

2. This should be decided by the JC, not the EB. See bylaws:

–Article V, § 1: The (J)C will be the highest authority in the union after the membership.

–Article VI, § 1: The EB will be empowered to represent the union between meetings of the union when urgent business requires prompt and decisive action.  (Emphasis mine.)

This is not “urgent” business … apparently it has been in “process” for many months, and only *after* an “agreement” was reached (the externs are already here!) was it even brought out to the EB/ALAA.

The memo from Steve Banks is CONFIRMING the agreement!

From: Wright, Deborah
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 1:47 PM
Subject: Please Read

As you can see below, I have forwarded the final draft agreement between LAS and ALAA regarding the extern

and rotator programs in CDD.  Earlier this week, management conceded to the last demands of the CDD VPs.

This issue will be placed on the [Susan Morris] (EB)]  agenda for discussion and vote.

From: Banks, Steve
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 8:33 PM
To: Wright, Deborah; Albro, George
Cc: James, Seymour
Subject: Externs

As a follow up to our prior discussions and our meeting with the Bronx Criminal Defense staff on October 16, this is to confirm the following:

In the Criminal Defense Practice, law firm externs are not replacing existing staff attorney positions.  For the current fiscal year, we are staffing up to the 435 level for staff attorneys that is authorized in our City contract, taking into account attorneys who are on leave or going on leave and are returning to staff during the fiscal year.  In order to do so, we have hired a new class of 15 staff attorneys who will be allocated among the four Criminal Defense offices irrespective of the number of externs deployed in these offices.  Beginning next Fall, we anticipate increasing substantially the number of Criminal Defense staff attorneys as part of the State case cap law implementation process.  The law firm deferral programs that have resulted in this externship program in the Criminal Defense area are, in part, time-limited responses to major changes that are occurring in the law firms which provide annual support to the Civil Practice.  This law firm support is the lifeblood of the Civil Practice, particularly in light of the projected dramatic drop in Civil IOLA funding beginning in 2010.  The Society’s current comprehensive extern program in all three practice areas is an important component of the Society’s relationship with these firms and is consistent with the Society’s long-standing externship programs with law firms.

In order to appropriately operate the externship program in the Criminal Defense area, the following are key elements of the program: Because of the need to manage the implementation of expanded Criminal Defense staffing as part of the case cap process, we do not anticipate expanding the number of externs in the current program in the Criminal Defense offices.  The current program involves eight full-time externs participating in 12-month externships.  We will seek ALAA’s input before expanding this program, at which point we understand that ALAA is reserving any rights it has with respect to this program.  We will also include staff attorneys in the selection process for 12-month Criminal Defense externs.  Each of the eight current externs have had at least some level of relevant advocacy experience as law students and affirmatively chose to work in the Criminal Practice over other Society Practice areas.  While our preference is to allocate two externs to each of the four Criminal Defense offices, based on the input that we have received, we are allocating three externs to the Queens office, three to the Manhattan office, and two to the Bronx office.  Although these externs are not employees of the Society, they will be subject to all of the Society’s policies, such as the rules with respect to new attorney training, professional conduct, time off, and shift assignments.  They have been advised of the Society’s policies at an orientation session.  They will not be on the ALAA e-mail group and those who have been added erroneously have been removed.  The caseloads of the externs will be monitored closely and each case in which they are involved will be recorded in our case management system as assigned to the extern and a supervising attorney, which will require some reprogramming.  These externs will cease to be assigned new cases in June in order to provide a substantial period to work down their caseload before their externships conclude in October.  If necessary to accomplish this aim in individual cases, new case assignments may cease earlier.  During the balance of the Summer and the early Fall, the externs will also be available to cover arraignment assignments for permanent staff.  Any cases that cannot be resolved at the end of these 12-month externships will be handled by supervisors or staff attorneys depending on the nature of the cases, all of which will be misdemeanors.  The externs may seek permanent staff attorney positions through the normal hiring process for positions that will be available at the conclusion of their 12-month externships; if they seek permanent employment at the Legal Aid Society, there will be no special hiring process for the externs other than the normal hiring process.

In addition to 12-month externships, the Society has also operated externship programs involving law firm associates who spend varying amounts of time in rotations in offices.  In the Criminal Defense area, the Society has just expanded a well-publicized program that has operated for a year in Manhattan to the Bronx.  For the new Bronx program, the Society has reopened the process for selecting mentors to make sure that all staff attorneys interested in being mentors have an opportunity to be considered by the office managers who select the mentors.  As in the Manhattan rotational program, in the Bronx program the law firm associates receive prior training and are assigned to mentors.  These rotating externs will work on the mentor’s caseload and handle cases only with the mentor’s oversight.  Any cases on which externs work will remain assigned to the mentor although for reporting purposes the rotating extern’s name will also be listed in the case management system.  When these rotating externships conclude, the mentors will continue to work on the cases.  As with all rotating extern programs that the Society has operated over the years with the law firms which support the Civil Practice, the Society has no role in selecting law firm associates to be rotating externs but the Society reserves the right to terminate any rotating externship placement based on performance.  Because of the need to manage the implementation of expanded Criminal Defense staffing as part of the case cap process, we do not anticipate expanding beyond these two current rotational programs in the Manhattan and Bronx Criminal Defense offices.  We will seek ALAA’s input before expanding this program to other Criminal Defense trial offices, at which point we understand that ALAA is reserving any rights it has with respect to this program.

Finally, as we have said previously in the Law Journal, while we greatly appreciate the contributions that externs have made to the Society over the years, externship programs are no substitute for permanent staff even in difficult economic times.  Our successful efforts to establish case caps for the Juvenile Rights Practice and now for Criminal Defense and our current efforts to secure a bailout of the IOLA Fund to maintain the crucial legal assistance which Civil staff provides are all aimed at obtaining sufficient resources to have a permanent staff with proper caseloads.  The Society has no plans to institutionalize one-year rotations of externs in our offices before law firm associates begin work at their firms.  In fact, we have spoken against such a broad-based program which would not provide the experienced and stable staffing that our clients need.


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