Liberal Arts Career Services
Liberal Arts Career Services

Equal Justice Center

Fall 2019

Position: Worker's Rights and Employment Law Intern
Student: Philosophy and History Senior 

The Equal Justice Center is a non-profit law firm with several offices in Texas. They offer various internships that are ideal for liberal arts students thinking about pursuing a career in law. As a non-profit, the Equal Justice Center prides itself on representing the disenfranchised. Their mission statement explains that they work to empower low-income families, workers, and communities in the workplace, in the justice system, and in our society. This highlights the progressive values carried by the Equal Justice Center and the attorneys who work there. For someone looking to go to law school and practice public interest-law, the Worker’s Rights and Employment Law internship is a perfect fit. This internship gives students the opportunity to see the day to day operations of a non-profit law firm. It also allows students to actively work in social justice; specifically, worker’s rights. As a Worker’s Rights and Employment law intern, you can expect to conduct interviews with workers who come to the Equal Justice Center looking for help. Interns hear the stories that these workers bring, and then relay this information to the attorneys. Every intern is assigned two attorneys, with which interns have weekly meetings to discuss potential cases. Though the intention of this meeting is to review potential cases, this meeting allows time for the interns to talk and get to know the attorneys. For me, getting to know the attorneys I work with has been an incredibly rewarding experience. The attorneys are very friendly people and have given me advice on law school and my goal of working as an attorney in the public interest field. I often ask them questions about their career and their lives as attorneys. On any typical day as an intern, you will call and interview potential clients who have reached out to us, maintain correspondence with clients whose cases your attorneys are taking, and discuss these cases with the attorneys. It is an ideal organization to do an undergraduate internship with.

Position: Worker's Rights and Employment Law Intern
Student: IRG Junior

As a Workers’ Rights and Employment Law Intern, a typical shift starts with checking the voicemail boxes, English and Spanish, for messages from potential clients calling the Equal Justice Center for legal assistance. As we listened to these messages, we typed the information of the caller into an Excel sheet called the Call Roster, where we have all of the potential clients listed that have called in regarding a labor issue. Due to the high number of calls that the EJC receives, we make sure to label when each call came in, in order to call those who called in first to make sure their issue is addressed in time by the attorneys, given that many possible lawsuits or claims have to be filed within a specific timeframe, depending on the law. We also have to make sure that the people who have called in are not already current clients or have already spoken with someone at EJC, so we crosscheck their names on the database, PIKA, where we store all of the records of all of the cases that EJC has represented or just taken the clients’ stories.  We call people back and ask them questions based on a script already laid out for us and we type their answers out to eventually be written into a set of notes to be presented to the attorneys assigned to each intern. Every week, after we have accumulated a number of intake interviews, interns attend a meeting with two attorneys at EJC, and they go through each intake and the attorneys decide whether or not the person has a potential case and whether the EJC can represent them at all. Through these meetings, interns learn a lot about the laws that protect both workers and employees and this is probably the time during my internship where I learned the most about the world of law and government. My attorneys were very easy going, making it easy and comfortable for me to ask them all types of questions when I struggled to understand why we could not represent a particular person. All in all, my experience at the Equal Justice Center was very rewarding to me in terms of knowledge, the new friendships with the other interns and the professional relationships I was able to develop throughout my time there.

 

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

 


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    University of Texas at Austin
    FAC 18
    2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200
    Austin, Texas 78712-1508
    512-471-7900