Member Profile: Jaya Saxena
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. I am an Assistant Director at The George Washington University Law School's Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy (Career Center). In that role, I advise JD students on a variety of career-related issues, including self-assessment, resume and cover letter reviews, networking and informational interviewing, and job search strategies. I also advise students specifically interested in public sector opportunities in the government and nonprofit sectors and state court judicial clerkships. In addition to counseling students, I help to coordinate a variety of programs in these areas throughout the year. Before joining GW Law's Career Center, I was a Career Counselor at the George Mason University School of Law. The work that I do now is a wonderful bridge between my coaching background and prior legal experience. Other prior experiences include working at a national healthcare advocacy organization where I primarily assisted in the management of funding to state-based health care advocacy organizations and practicing law as a legal services attorney at Maryland Legal Aid. In the five years that I was at Legal Aid, my practice focused on public benefits and elder law. I also worked on issues related to Limited English Proficient individuals and health care reform and co-chaired the Elder Law Task Force, which comprised elder law practitioners throughout the community who regularly met to discuss legal issues relevant to an elder law practice. Immediately after graduating law school in 2005, I clerked for the Honorable John M. Mott of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. 2. What are you working on right now? Most of our students have either started their summer internships or are getting ready to graduate so the summer is the perfect time to reflect, re-energize, and start planning for the next school year. In terms of advising, I am mostly counseling students who are still seeking summer or post-graduate employment. I’m also starting to respond to inquiries about our Fall Recruitment Program. Many of my colleagues and I recently returned from the 2015 Annual Education Conference in Chicago that was hosted by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and I’m also working to put together proposals for public sector programming at next year’s conference. 3. How long have you been a Washington Council of Lawyers member, why did you join, and what are some things you've done as a member? I have been a member for about two years. I had identified Washington Council of Lawyers as an organization that I wanted to get involved with given my commitment to public interest law, and I thought that serving as a mentor in the mentoring program would be a great way to get more active. This is my second year participating in that program;. I firmly believe that a mentor is really just anyone you can learn from and I have tremendously enjoyed my participation in that program. Through my participation in the mentoring program, I became more familiar with the organization and very quickly realized it is an incredible community of public-interest minded individuals. That insight, along with my increased familiarity with Washington Council of Lawyers programming, prompted me to get even more involved as a member of its Board of Directors. This is my first year serving on the Board of Directors and I am currently co-chair of our Membership Committee. 4. What has been most valuable about membership and participation in Washington Council of Lawyers? There have been many valuable aspects about membership and participation in Washington Council of Lawyers. First and foremost is the opportunity to meet and interact with public interest minded law students and lawyers in the community. Whenever I attend an event—be it a happy hour or a substantive program—I walk away feeling reenergized and eager to support law students and recent graduates interested in public interest and pro bono work in my day-to-day job counseling GW Law students. Another tremendous benefit is the extensive programming that takes place throughout the year, including practical skills trainings, post-graduate public interest fellowship programs, and the upcoming Summer Forum that draws law students from throughout the country who are working in DC for the summer. 5. How has legal practice/the DC legal scene changed since you’ve started practicing? I think it’s a tough legal market and it’s definitely more competitive than when I graduated from law school in 2005. Disadvantaged communities continue to remain in dire need of legal services, so the work is out there, but employers and organizations don’t necessarily have the resources to hire people. Meanwhile, DC has 7 area law schools with many graduates interested in establishing their legal careers in the area. If you’re a law student or recent graduate seeking public interest employment, it is critical to demonstrate a commitment to the issues and to build relationships with practitioners in the field, and Washington Council of Lawyers provides the space to do both. 6. Any advice for law students/new lawyers? I will preface my response by stating that much of my perspective stems from my health and wellness coaching background and a blog series I’m currently writing. Generally, I think it’s critically important for law students and lawyers to engage in an ongoing process of self-reflection and discovery in order to identify their values and strengths, areas in need of improvement, what they enjoy doing, the kind of work environment suited to their personalities,…
Member Profile: David Steib
From time to time, we'll be sharing interviews with our members, so we can learn more about their legal careers and the role that Washington Council of Lawyers has played in their professional development. Today we spoke with our Membership Co-Chair, David Steib. 1. Tell us a bit about yourself. I am the Language Access Director at Ayuda, a nonprofit in DC that helps immigrants overcome obstacles in order to succeed and thrive in the United States. In my role, I work to eradicate discrimination based on national origin or disability by advocating for the use of interpreters and translators to ensure that language barriers never impede a person from receiving the services to which he or she is entitled. I have been a lawyer since 2008, when I graduated from law school. In that time, I have spent four years as a litigator in the housing unit at the Legal Aid Society of DC and two years heading the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law. 2. What are you working on right now? One exciting initiative that I am working on right now is getting legislation passed to add a private right of action to the DC Language Access Act of 2004, so that people whose rights have been violated will be able to sue to enforce their rights. 3. How long have you been a Washington Council of Lawyer member, why did you join, and what are some things you've done as a member? I have been a member since 2008. I joined because I was a new public interest attorney (I graduated from law school in 2008) and one of my colleagues at Legal Aid (Jodi Feldman) encouraged me to become a mentee in the mentoring program. I was accepted into the program, and Dena Bauman, the public interest advisor at UDC Law, was my mentor. Now I work with her as a fellow board member and on our membership committee. I have loved being a member of Washington Council of Lawyers. As a member, I have been both a mentee and mentor in the mentoring program and have attended many related events. I have also been to many of the organization's happy hours and awards functions. I have volunteered with Gifts for the Homeless. I have also participated in the litigation skills training. And I have served on the Board for the last two years. 4. What have you found most valuable about your membership in Washington Council of Lawyers? Membership has exposed me to great lawyers doing great work. That exposure has resulted in new friendships, new professional ties, and continued inspiration. In law school, my friends and I created a new student group: Students for Public Interest Community Enhancement (SPICE). The group was meant to ensure that public interest law students (as well as law students committed to pro bono) had the moral support, access to information, and camaraderie they needed in order to devote themselves to the hard row that they were hoeing. Washington Council of Lawyers is like SPICE for practicing attorneys. 5. How has legal practice/DC legal scene changed since you’ve started practicing? Since I started practicing, there has been a great increase in the number of postgraduate fellowships sponsored by law schools. These fellowships are meant to help graduating students who do not yet have employment by giving them the opportunity to practice and get experience while conducting a job search and while waiting for their bar results. On the one hand, they are a great way to get your foot in the door as a new attorney. On the other hand, they don’t always give you enough money to pay the bills. Big law firms in DC are also hiring fewer people than they were when I graduated from law school. In general, the job market seems tougher. 6. Any advice for law students/new lawyers? Don’t hesitate to ask folks for informational interviews. You can learn a lot by talking to people about their career paths and about the resources that they rely on to keep abreast of the field and of new opportunities. Thanks to David for answering our questions. And if you'd like to join David and the other wonderful members of Washington Council of Lawyers, you can do so here.
Member Profile: Taryn Wilgus Null
From time to time, we'll be sharing interviews with our members, so we can learn more about their legal careers and the role that Washington Council of Lawyers has played in their professional development. For our inaugural installment, we spoke with longtime member Taryn Wilgus Null. Tell us a bit about yourself. Currently, I’m an associate at Mehri & Skalet, a small, public spirited law firm that represents plaintiffs in employment, fair housing, and consumer protection cases. In June, I’ll be joining the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section as a Trial Attorney. I have been out of law school for nearly eight years and have previously clerked for a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals and completed fellowships at the National Women’s Law Center, where I worked on education and employment issues, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, where I litigated First Amendment religion issues. What are you working on right now? I am drafting a complaint in a Title VII class action involving race discrimination, working on an opposition to a motion for summary judgment in an individual Title VII case, and working on a post-hearing brief in a Fair Labor Standards Act arbitration involving unpaid pre- and post-shift work at a federal prison. How long have you been a Washington Council of Lawyers member, why did you join, and what are some things you've done as a member? I joined Washington Council of Lawyers in 2007 when I was working at my first job out of law school. One of my colleagues at the National Women’s Law Center sent me an email about the mentoring program and told me that WCL was a great organization. I joined the the mentoring program as a mentee. The year after I was a mentee in the mentoring program, I joined the Board and co-chaired the mentoring program. I have since served as the Board President and Secretary and have served as a mentor in the mentoring program. What have you found most valuable about your membership in Washington Council of Lawyers? The connections that the organization provides have been invaluable. The community of lawyers has profoundly affected the enthusiasm that I have for practicing public interest law in DC. How has legal practice/DC legal scene changed since you’ve started practicing? The legal job market has unfortunately become much, much more difficult since I started practicing. The silver lining for nonprofits is that in recent years they have had assistance from volunteer attorneys, as well as lawyers with fellowships funded by big law firms or law schools. Any advice for law students/new lawyers? In your first few years of practice, look for as many opportunities as you can to engage in work and activities that will expose you to new practice areas and new people. There are many dramatically different jobs that a lawyer can have, and it can take some time to find the right fit for you. Thanks to Taryn for answering our questions. And if you'd like to join Taryn and the other wonderful members of Washington Council of Lawyers, you can do so here.