Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So, like I didn't have enough reasons to hate the clinic I worked in this last year. The place continues to demonstrate to me that public interest law is full of people who spend most of their time twiddling their thumbs than actually working, or talking a lot about the good they do or war stories that one couldn't care less about. Or flirting with the male student attorneys. Which is somewhat interesting when you're dealing with domestic violence.

I really saw very little constructive work (with a few exceptions Nora), and a lot of hype in my clinic experience. It was disappointing. And continues to be annoying even though I should technically be clear of it.

I had turned in a check for a reimbursement about three months ago. I hadn't heard anything about it, and since everytime I was in the clinic I felt like I couldn't even breathe without everyone freaking out, I decided to just chalk it up to one more failure to meet my moderate expectations of competence. Which have been lowered even more since living in New Orleans, so this was pretty bad.

The week before graduation the accounts lady decided to tell me she put the check in my box. Hooray. I endorse the check and send it off to my out-of-state bank. Who contacts me a few days later to tell me the check had been voided. Send an email to the woman who issued the check who tells me she thought I needed a second reimbursement but only found the stub in her file, so voided the check. I tell her (nicely, because I am capable of being patient occasionally) that I only had one reimbursement coming, that it had come, and then been voided. She's confused. I break it down into steps. She finally gets it. But wants me to come in and fill out the paperwork again, to get another check that I already had because she can't remember who she gives money to.

That's just par for the course. Really.

After Katrina, I had a potential landlord cheat me out of a sizeable deposit for an apartment I didn't end up renting. Since I volunteered at a public interest place after the storm (and therefore have empirical evidence for my vindictive observations), they offered to take the case.

I called them monthly for about a year and they told me they were "working on it." I finally received a large packet of instructions on how to sue for myself along with a statement that I was not "insolvent" enough to qualify for help even though I had already been financially qualified from the very beginning. I received this packet one week after the prescription period (statute of limitations in Louisiana) had passed and I could no longer file.

I really wish I had sued those motherfuckers.

I am not against public interest, BTW. In my real work, I've done a lot of pro bono criminal cases which have been incredibly rewarding. And thank god for that, because the clinic had made me just about want to hang up my hat on litigation. Period. It just seems so cumbersome when you keep feeling like no one knows what the hell they are doing. And so refreshing when you have just the opposite.

Since I have been affected rather substantially for a failure to act, I'm not impressed by people who do it - whether or not they're paid one-third of my salary.

So, what is the point of this tirade?

Just because you're a public interest attorney does not mean you have the public's interest in mind. And just because you practice in a bigger firm does not mean you're not willing to lay it on the line for someone who can't pay you. And anyone who begs to differ can try getting anything done in a public interest law organization in New Orleans.

The End.

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