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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Equal Justice Center

Spring 2013 Site Review

Position: Legal Intern
Student: English Senior

First, the EJC is extremely flexible with the hours they allow you to work.  The office is open every day from around 9:00AM to 5:00PM, and as an intern I was able to pick and choose which days and hours worked the best for me.  The only thing they asked was that I would be in the office working for at least ten hours a week. I chose to be in the office from 9:00AM to 2:00PM every Monday and Wednesday.  Often times, I’m the first one to arrive at the office, so I was given a key to get in and start working. This key also means that I can come in even earlier or after hours to get work done if necessary – however, I haven’t had to do that.

The first thing I do is check the office voicemail.  It is my duty as an intern to transfer those messages to the Call Roster, so that all the interns can keep track of who has called when. After updating the Call Roster, I start from the top and return calls according to the earliest dates.  If the potential client (PC) doesn’t answer, I leave a voicemail message explaining who I am and ask them to call back.  The real work begins when a PC answers the phone.

When a PC answers, I immediately pull up the “Intake Template,” which has a list of questions and guidelines to help me interview the person on the phone. I go through the list of questions, I ask any other questions that I deem are relevant, I try to answer immediate questions the PC has to the best of my ability, and then I inform them that I will be back in touch with them as soon as I’ve spoken to the lawyers of the office about their situation.  In all, the process can take anywhere between ten minutes to an hour, depending on the complexity of the situation, and the emotional level of the PC. I then upload all the information onto the EJC database, where the information will be stored forever.

Once a week, I meet with the lawyers to discuss the cases I have dealt with over the past week.  They give me a detailed description of what the PC will need to do next in order to resolve their situation.  It is then my responsibility to call those PCs back, and relay the information to them.  I then close out their case on the EJC database, and my work is done for that PC.  Then, it begins again!

Spring 2013 Site Review

Position: Legal Intake Intern
Student: English Junior

The Equal Justice Center is a non-profit law firm that provides direct legal representation to people and groups of people with employment issues.  As an intake intern, you are the first person that potential clients talk to when calling the office about their claim.  An intake intern has the responsibility of being the face of the law firm and providing the first impressions.  This great responsibility requires being an expert listener and communicator so that the attorneys will know all potential clients’ issues through your accounts.

With a humble main office, the EJC has been active since 2001.  In the time since, it has expanded to two other offices, one in Dallas and another in San Antonio.  All offices focus on the same issues that plague low-wage workers such as unpaid labor, minimum wage violations, no overtime pay, and discriminatory working conditions.  It is a fascinating law firm that focuses entirely on one issue and so can serve a demographic that normally would not be able to gather the attention of high-paid attorney’s offices.  Director Bill Beardall, having over thirty years of experience under his belt, began his career representing migrant workers and has since gathered a team of nine lawyers in total with his level of progressive idealism.

In the time that the office has expanded, it has also taken on more responsibilities.  Handling intake from practically every major city in Texas, one can imagine there are massive amounts of workers with issues.  The office still does not have the proper amount of lawyers to handle every one of these cases, and being non-profit complicates things further.  This was a major reason the EJC partnered with the UT Law School clinic to provide unpaid interns the opportunity to help the office in its goals in return for experience in employment law.

Spring 2012 Site Review

Position: Intake/Translation Intern
Student: Philosophy Sophomore

The Equal Justice Center is a non-profit law firm. Their purpose is to help low-income families achieve justice in the workforce. They are partly founded by IOLTA, which is a lawyer trust fund that is possible through the interest accrued by the interest gained on lawyers that deposit temporary funds to that fund. There are four staff attorneys, supervised by Bill who also runs the law clinic at the UT law school.

In a typical day as an intake intern, I spent most of my time speaking with potential customers. The primary duties of an intake intern are to answer the phone, conduct intakes and after meeting with the staff attorneys to discuss potential cases, call back the people that I took their intake and either reject them, give them legal advise instructed by the attorneys or schedule them to come to the office.

An intake is a simple form designed to guide the interns into finding out the facts that pertain to employment law. They are used to get a brief summary of what occurred to the person calling. The questions include; where they worked, how long and how much is owed. They are simple to follow, however in some cases they are not enough to understand the nature of the problem that occurred to the person calling. There are certain cases that are called mechanic’s lien cases, which involve construction work done at a sight. These types of cases are special. The attorneys at the EJC specialize in this type of case. They allow people not paid for their jobs to put a lien on a property to recover lost wages. These cases tend to be more difficult for me as an intake intern and probably intake interns in general since they add more questions to ask. They require interns to ask the chain of command, to try and find out when the work was done, under what company and to establish the chain of contractors and subcontractors that worked at the sight.

I like talking to people and hearing their problems, the part that makes the conversation unique however are the weekly intake meetings. The attorneys offer their inputs and put law into practice, they offer undergraduates the special perspective of the limits of the law. They allow us to recognize justice independent of the law. The most tedious task as an intake intern is inputting the information taken in an intake into PIKA, which is software that the EJC uses. However beyond that, the experience gears people into a new perspective, introducing us interns to the practice of law and the law that governs the workforce.

Fall 2011

Position: Intake Intern
Student: International Relations & Global Studies Sophomore

My time interning at the Equal Justice Center was spent mainly as an intake intern. My main duties consisted of listening to potential clients who called in to the center. Typically I would start my day at 10 o’clock by turning on my computer and accessing a call roster on the Equal Justice Center. If there were any messages on the general voicemail I would listen to those and then transfer that information to the Call Roster. Oftentimes people did not leave a complete message, however the voicemail had caller ID and the phone number was added to the call roster. After listening to the voicemails I would go down the call roster and call everyone who was designated as “awaiting call.” If the person was available I would pull up the intake form, and talk to the person to gain the information necessary to fill out the intake form. The intake form consisted of the potential clients contact information, their employer’s contact information, and the particulars of their case such as how much they are owed, what actions the person had taken so far, what jobs the potential client performed and when they started working for the employer. After filling out the information that took about 30 minutes, I would upload the file into the server and then copy the file into an internet site designed specifically for the Equal Justice Center, so that lawyers could handle intakes and ongoing cases in a more organized manner. After the information was uploaded to the system, a meeting would be held on Wednesday and Friday, so that the lawyers could evaluate the potential cases labeled in the servers as “intake pending.”  If the lawyers decided to take the case I would probably only have to set up a meeting. If the lawyers had to refer the case for whatever reason to another agency, I would have to call the potential client back and provide them with the contact information of the agency the lawyers had designated. On some occasions I would also have to provide further information so that the client could be fully aware of the situation they found themselves in.

Spring 2011

Position: Intern
Student: Sociology Senior

The Equal Justice Center is a non-profit law firm located here in Austin, Texas. The EJC is a group of attorneys who work together to promote worker’s rights of U.S. citizens and transnational workers. They promote justice for everyone and work hard to make sure all employees are paid the wages that they have earned. They also make sure that employers abide by minimum wage and overtime federal laws that are in place.

As an intern you have several responsibilities. When you first start it is your responsibility to sit in on the law student clinics to get an understanding of what the EJC does, the basic worker’s rights laws and standards, and how the problem of exploitation plays out in the United States. You are also responsible for practicing how to make initial or follow up calls to clients and dealing with clients on a walk-in basis.

Your main responsibility as an intern will be to handle new client intakes. This is the gateway into our office system. What happens is you make initial contact with the client and it is your job to obtain all the necessary information that one of the attorneys needs to decide whether a potential client has actual legal grounds for a claim and if it is in our best interest to represent them. You must be bilingual to work at the EJC seeing as that most of our clients do not speak English.

A typical day in the office involves opening up the current call roster and calling each client that is on the list. Usually these are people that have called in or left voicemails on our system and have not given us the complete intake information surrounding their case so they are not in the system yet. Sometimes people answer, sometimes they don’t. If they do, we make a file for them, take down their info, then save it on legal bookkeeping software. If they do not, we make a note that we have called and they didn’t answer, once we call a certain amount of times we take them off the list. Next, you check the voicemail system for any other potential calls we can make. Meanwhile you must deal with people as they call-in or walk-in. It is also our duty that clients waiting to see an attorney are comfortable and we have answered any questions they may have.
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