John Coates, Sara Del Nido
February 9, 2012
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Two lawyers working for the legal non-profit Farmworker Legal Services of New York, Inc. consider their future plans. While passionate about their public interest work, they had begun to feel limited by their current practice. Options included staying and trying to change their current organization, branching out to found a new legal organization, and if the latter, a federally funded non-profit, a hybrid "public interest for-profit" law firm, a conventional law firm, or non-federally funded non-profit. Each option had pros and cons, constraints and opportunities. Whichever choice they made, they knew their careers were inevitably going to involve change.
The case provides a detailed snapshot of public interest lawyers poised to consider a significant mid-career move. Intended to be taught in conjunction with the (B) case, as well as with the Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady cases, the case should give students who have an interest in public service some insights into the kinds of questions they will be confronting a few years after law school, including how to adapt to the constrained resources that public interest law generally involves, how to reconcile personal and institutional values and objectives, and how "outside options"—reflecting the common fact that lawyers frequently change jobs—may present both opportunities but also dilemmas, including difficult trade-offs across different employment settings. The case also provides an opportunity for students to consider what is involved in starting up a legal organization from scratch—including the crucial foundational questions about funding, management, and strategic direction. While focused on the non-profit sector, many of these learning objectives extend to lawyers considering starting up a for-profit firm as well.
Geographic: United States
Event Year Begin: 2003
Workers' Rights in the Hudson Valley (B)