Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Jersey can't afford to hire all the lawyers it needs in government, so it's asking for volunteers.
Since 2006, New Jersey's Office of the Attorney General has lost about 150 lawyers, and because of a hiring freeze, hasn't been allowed to replace them. Unable to get all the state's legal work done, officials are tapping law school graduates and a growing pool of unemployed attorneys to do the work for free. Dubbed the Volunteer Associates in Public Service Program, the state is recruiting lawyers and law school graduates to help conduct depositions, write briefs, perform research and handle trial work (if a member of the state bar). In return, qualified candidates get the opportunity to learn how state government works and exposure to unfamiliar fields of law. They can also get credits towards continuing education if they participate in training sessions or attend seminars offered by the Attorney General's Advocacy Institute, a highly regarded program available to state lawyers. A volunteer must commit to at least 20 hours a week for a minimum of three months. Since the program began this summer, more than 100 people have applied, and more than 60 have been placed. Not only will the state be plugging necessary holes, it will also be making money. Several volunteers will be helping out in the debt recovery unit, where the state already brings in $20 million a year. The most sensitive areas, such as the corruption unit, won't be taking volunteers.