Liberal Arts Career Services
Liberal Arts Career Services

Equal Justice Center

Summer 2017

Position: Bilingual Intake and Employee Specialist Intern
Student: Government Junior

I am a 4th year Government major at the University of Texas. I am graduating in

the Spring of 2018 but before I graduated I wanted to gain experience in a government office, non-profit organization, or going advocacy work. This summer, I interned at the Equal Justice Center, a non-profit law firm based in Austin, Texas, which seeks fair treatment of workers regardless of immigration status. I volunteered as an intake intern, along with other 7 incredible individuals. My responsibilities included performing initial screening for potential clients. I gathered basic information about them, but also, and most importantly, I gathered detailed information about their story and claim. However, before we talk to the potential clients, we make sure that they have not been called before by another intern, if they have, then we move to the next person. We keep a call roster where with all the calls and voicemails from clients reside. They include name, phone number, day of the call, city, language, and reason for their call.

We also have a system that redirects their voicemail to our intern email; we check those every morning too. If we have to contact a client because of a tight timeframe to file a claim, we make those calls first. Once we make those calls, we then move down the call roster. If they answer their phone, we ask them if they have 20-30 to talk to us and conduct an initial intake. If they can, we conduct the intake. It the cannot, we ask what time to call back and put a note on the call roster. If we get no response, we leave a voicemail. Once we are able to do an intake, we then create a file on PIKA, the system we use to keep track of our cases. We must add all

communications we make with the client on here. Once we open a file, we added to another excel sheet only used by team of attorneys we collaborate with. We conduct meetings with the attorneys once a week, if they refer the clients out, then I must inform the clients about this. If the attorneys have follow up questions, then I also ask them to the client. Once the attorney has all the information they need for the final decision on a case, we must also inform the potential client about. We refer out 97% of the people that call, which was reflected by the zero cases I opened during my internship at the Equal Justice Center.

Fall 2016

Position: Worker's Rights Intern/ Bilingual Intake Employment Law Intern
Student: Government and Mexican American Latina/o Studies Junior

Interning at the Equal Justice Center is a fulfilling opportunity that I would recommend to any student interested in pursuing a career as a public interest lawyer. Students get hands on experience with legal cases and gain education and relationships connected to public interest law.

Interns begin their 10 hour work week by conducting detailed interviews with clients over the phone or in-person. The intakes often have highly sensitive information regarding labor injustice and interns are required to pass on this information to attorneys. Once a week, interns meet with their assigned attorneys for about an hour (though it depends on the caseload) to review the intakes conducted. In these meetings, the intern and attorneys review each case to decide if there is any legal action that can be pursued and if the EJC can provide legal representation, limited counsel, or referrals. The attorneys often have follow up questions for each case before they decided on what course of action to take. These follow up questions are assigned to interns to conduct. Interns then conduct follow up questions and review the information with attorneys through the legal case management online system. After more extensive vetting is conducted, interns and attorneys reach a conclusion about the case using state and federal employment laws. Finally, interns whose cases are accepted for legal service work with the attorneys with any issue relating to that case.

In addition, interns can attend the Transnational Workers Rights Clinic hosted at the EJC once a week to become more educated about employment and immigration information. This is a unique opportunity that can benefit students who are interested in attending law school because it allows interns to work alongside law students, attorneys, and law professors. Aside from the education gained in these classes, interns also create professional relationships with people who have pursued or are pursuing careers they (interns) are interested in.

Spring 2016 

Position: Intake Intern
Student: IRG Junior

After almost a full semester though I am glad to say that my time spent as an intern at the Equal Justice Center was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in my college career. Not only did I learn more about myself, and what I would want in my future career, but I also learned what it is like to work in an office setting with coworkers much older than me. Overall, my experience as an intern was truly a highlight of my spring semester.

The Equal Justice Center (EJC) is a non-profit law firm that seeks to empower low-wage workers by providing free legal representation for workers to recover unpaid wages or fight other injustices in the workplace. As an intern, I am mostly in charge of intakes which are basically questionnaires that help the EJC’s lawyers better understand the situations specific people are in in their work.

When I first arrive at the office I usually check the office phone’s voice mail and record any messages on a Google document that anyone in the office can access. After this, I begin to call back people that gave us a call about injustices in the workplace. Many times I have to leave a voicemail because no one answers, but if someone does answer I fill out an intake form which takes about 20 minutes, and I then place the intake file in a shared folder with the office.

If I am not working on new intakes, I am following up with potential clients with a status on their case. Since the EJC is non-profit and still very small we usually cannot represent people unless they have overwhelming evidence against their employer. I meet once a week with 2 EJC attorneys’ to evaluate all the intakes I’ve gotten done, and if any of them are cases the EJC might be interested in pursuing.

Although we are not able to take on everyone’s case, I work hard with the EJC’s attorneys’ to give legal advice to every person who calls us and I make sure to let them know the legal resources the state of Texas offers. It can be disheartening to have to turn so many people down, but finally getting justice to a low wage worker that otherwise would not have gotten it is one of the best feelings in the world.

Spring 2015 

Position: Intake and Outake Specalist
Student: IRG and Anthropology Senior 

A Day in the Life of an Intern at the Equal Justice Center begins before I arrive at the office. I use public transportation to arrive at the office building in South Congress, one of the perks of being a UT student, is that the bus fares are free. Next I enter the office, and get comfortable in one of the Intake stations  which include a computer, chair, and phone. The first thing I do is go through the messages on our Spanish and the English mail box. I either deliver the messages to the corresponding people in the office, or if they are new potential clients I put their name, description of their problem, language, phone number, and date they called on our Call Roster.

My main responsibility is calling the people on our Call Roster. I go down the list of clients, which we each give three calls until we remove them from the list. If they do not answer I leave a voicemail explaining that I am calling back and hoping to hear back from them to do an Initial Intake form with them to see if they have a viable case. If I finally get someone to answer who is available, usually it takes a while because most of our clients work during the day, I do an Initial Intake form with them. This consists of a list of basic questions about the potential client, the employer, and specifics of the work done which was unpaid, or any issues of discrimination or harassment.
After I have gone through all the questions I explain to the potential clients that I will send all this information to the lawyers and they will either give me follow up information if the case is potentially viable and we can take it, or referral information if we cannot take on the case. After the phone call I put all of their information on our software and server where our client information is stored.

On days that I review the cases with the lawyers they give me all the information I need to follow up with our clients, or all the referral information I need to give to them as well. On those days I also have to include calling these individuals back, and letting them know how their case will proceed. If the case is urgent, or extremely viable the lawyers themselves take care of the cases, but if not I have to do my best to give the clients the best information I can about how to proceed. After this whole process is over I must update the case on our software. I either close the case, or write notes about every action I do regarding a case. I am usually in the office for four hours a day, so that means a lot of time on a computer and a lot of time on the phone

Spring 2013 

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

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 

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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    University of Texas at Austin
    FAC 18
    2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200
    Austin, Texas 78712-1508