Thursday, February 12, 2015

Figuring Out USAJobs (A How-To for Navigating an Administrative Obstacle Course)

If any of you are interested in working for the federal government once you graduate or even during school, you will [unfortunately] have to navigate the treacherous journey through USAJobs. Luckily for you, I happen to be master sensei at USAJobs. Shameless plug: I have worked in the federal government for almost seven years in several different positions and I have turned the USAJobs application process into a science. I’m here to give you some general tips and tricks to getting through it while avoiding dumb administrative mistakes that can jeopardize your application. ***Keep in mind this is a very brief overview. For seriously detailed information, get in touch with me. I am more than happy to help.***

  1. Create an account. That’s simple. I don’t think I should have to tell you how to make a password etc, etc. We are all geniuses.
  2.  Make PDFs of everything (I mean EVERYTHING) and upload them into saved documents. When you have all of these uploaded to your profile, it makes the application process much more efficient because the agency’s application can access them directly via the USAJobs server. 
    1. Your resume, which should be only one page. Okay, so you were the best at handball in middle school, no one cares anymore! Leave it out!
    2. A cover letter. You should probably get administrative guidance on this because I have never once submitted a cover letter in a job application. Sorry I’m not sorry.
    3.  Your transcripts. Unofficial transcripts are totally fine. If you get an offer, the agency might request official ones- no need to go all out just for an application. In my case, I have just used my school’s web portal showing I finished my bachelors, a pdf of the webpage showing I was at an NYU grad program (that I never finished), and my law school grades and schedule of what classes are in progress.
    4. A writing sample. Find your best piece of legal writing and upload it.
    5. **For the Veterans** Upload a PDF of your DD-214 and a VA disability letter (I can show you how to get those things instantly on the internet.) 
  3. Now you are ready to start hunting for jobs…

Interpreting the job posting:

Alright! If everything checks out, scroll back up and click APPLY ONLINE!

You will be directed to a new page. The next process is the last process and, arguably, the worst process. It varies from agency to agency. Generally, you will begin by verifying your demographic information: social security number, name, address, preferences. Then you get to the good stuff; a slew of tedious and redundant questions that evaluate if you’re qualified for the position. Answer honestly! They are somewhat multiple choice. Example: What is your experience giving oral presentations? A) I have studied this but never actually done it. B) I have done this on some occasions under supervision. C) I have given presentations frequently without supervision. D) I am an expert at giving presentations and have given presentations to upper-level management. Select one and continue. This will go on for a while, sometimes. The questions quantitatively evaluate your experience and qualifications.

You will get to a final page that asks what supporting documents you would like to upload in order to substantiate your application. Just check the boxes and continue! See why uploading everything first is key?! ;)

You get to review all of your answers and then submit your application.

Eventually you will get an email with a score that shows how you’ve been rated, if you’ve been referred to a selecting official, if you have been found unqualified/not selected/ineligible, or if your application was incomplete and you missed the boat.

Any questions?! Shoot me an email J
Saundra Ramirez

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stein Scholars Participate in Alternatives to Incarceration Event

On Wednesday, October 29, 2014, the Stein Scholars Program sponsored "Alternatives to Incarceration," an event highlighting the importance of alternative approaches to incarceration and their potential benefits, especially for populations with mental health issues or socioeconomic challenges. The speakers were:

Carol Fisler, the Director of Mental Health Court and Alternative-to-Detention Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.

Jim St. German, the founder of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT), a nonprofit organization that provides mentors to youth involved with or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.

Both speakers drew on their professional and personal experiences with the justice system. Carol Fisler discussed recent research in mental health courts, and her work with Mayor De Blasio's task force on mental illness in the criminal justice system. Jim St. Germain discussed his personal experiences with the juvenile justice system and how it led him to the work he does today.  A lively Q&A session followed. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Stein Service Project: A Discussion About Domestic Violence

Stein Scholars kicked off their 2014 season of service on October 1st with a Discussion About Domestic Violence aimed at raising awareness and promoting understanding. The conversation focused on three perspectives: The Batterer, The Battered and The Public. The first two points of view were explored via web clips followed by Q&A/debates.

The Batterer

Deanna Baumle introduced the first clip, in which we learned about Emerge, an abuser rehabilitation program in Massachusetts. A clip of a video was played, featuring a group interview of three anonymous men who were receiving counseling at Emerge. I can't say that they all sounded remorseful. But they all seemed to use the language prescribed by the program: partner, entitled, rationalization. All of these men were court ordered to enroll in the program. David Adams, co-director of Emerge, said that the men who are court ordered to participate in counseling often do better than those who enroll voluntarily. The reason for this is that the men who are forced to be there will generally stay in the program longer.   

The Battered

Saundra Ramirez led the next section of the talk. Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of Crazy Love, a memoir that details her marriage to an abusive spouse. In her talk, she discusses some of the ways in which abusers lull their victims into a sense of security before they strike. She spoke of the way her ex-husband created the illusion that she was the dominant partner in the relationship. Then he moved into the next phase: isolation. They moved to a small New England town where she didn't know anyone and the neighbors would not be close enough to hear the beatings. Eventually, he choked her, and banged her head against a wall. A week later she married him

Steiner never thought of herself as a victim. She believed she was a very strong woman in love with a deeply disturbed man. And she was the only person who could help him. And that mindset leads some women to stay. Some victims stay out of economic necessity. And some stay out of a reasonable fear that they will be murdered. As Steiner points out, 70% of domestic violence related murders take place after the break up.

The Public

Public perception of domestic violence was examined by discussing the two faces of Ray Rice, the pride of New Rochelle, a man committed to his community and inspiring young men and women. And the Ray Rice we have all come to know, a man who is capable of punching his fiancee in the head, knocking her unconscious, spitting on her, and dragging her out of an elevator by her feet. 

Allison Richman led this part of the discussion as she and Rice are alumni of the same high school. She raised questions of what is private v. public? What is the NFL's responsibility, if any? Should Rice be allowed to attend events at the high school? The most disheartening anecdote from this portion of the event was a quote from a fourteen year old student at Allison's old high school, "well, if he did that, then she did something to deserve it."

If the goal of the event was to inspire a rousing debate about the responsibilities of the victim... Then mission accomplished.  

The entire event was set in motion by an announcement made by Nicole Abene regarding a couple of ways in which those interested could get involved with this cause:
  • Story by Story Stair Climb on Oct. 23 
  • Used Cellphone Drive: Accepting donations throughout October in the PIRC Office. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Please join us on Tuesday, October 21st as we celebrate two Fordham Law alums and Stein Scholars who have shown their dedication to work in the service of others. The reception will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Constantino Room of the new Law School building. 

FUA ATTA-MENSH '04- Is currently the director of litigation at the Urban Justice Center. 

ERIC MONTROY '03-has shown his dedication by working in the field of criminal defense. 

There will be hot and cold hors d'oeuvres served, as well as wine and beer. 
Get an early bird ticket before October 6th! Register here: Register for Alumni Reception.

For more information, contact Sherri Levine, Stein Center Associate Director, at 212-636-6988.

If the ticket prices listed are a barrier to your attendance, please contact Sherri Levine at 212-636-6988 (, so alternative arrangements can be made.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

On March 26th, The Stein Scholars program presented a panel conversation about gun control, the Second Amendment and the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 2008 decision, DC v. Heller. This event was inspired in part by artist Pedro Reyes exhibition "Palas Por Pistolas" (shovels for guns) on temporary display in the Ildiko Butler Gallery in the Lowenstein building lobby. 

Father Gregory Waldrop, executive director of Fordham's art collections, began the discussion by showing a poignant video presentation showcasing Pedro Reyes's transformative exhibit. Palas Por Pistolas began with broadcast media invitations for the inhabitants of Culiacan, Mexico to offer up their guns in defiance of a pervasive culture of fear brought upon the city by the local drug cartel. For each of the 1,527 guns received by the authorities, Palas Por Pistolas issued a shovel to plant a tree, 1,527 in total, thus turning each "agent of death into an agent of life."  

The event continued with a panel discussion regarding the status of gun regulation efforts in America today as well as the legal aftermath of the Heller decision among the lower courts. Panelists included:

  • Leah Gunn Barrett - Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun violence. Leah has played an important role in the passage of New York's SAFE Act as well as educating the public officials alike in her endeavor to promote responsible gun ownership. 
  • Saul Cornell, Ph.D - Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University. Saul brought a historical perspective to the "originalist" legal construction arguments that lie at the heart of the debate over the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. Saul clarified the practical purpose of the Second Amendment at the time of its ratification and criticized conservative originalist arguments as overly steeped in modern ideology.
  • Adam Skaggs - Senior counsel for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national bipartisan coalition of mayors and grassroots supporters working to pass gun legislation. Adam provided a critique of the Supreme Court's "intermediate scrutiny" standard used in its construction of Second Amendment rights in Heller. He also spoke about later court decisions that have distinguished Heller, such as the 9th Circuit's upholding of gun lock requirements and the Castleman case, in which a perpetrator of domestic violence was prohibited from gun ownership.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ending the War on Marijuana? The Legalization Movement in New York and the Nation

Today, the Stein Scholars hosted a panel discussion on the merits of legalizing marijuana. Three panelists joined Stein Scholars and other members of the law school community:

Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Gabriel Sayegh directs the New York State office of the Drug Policy Alliance, partnering with community organizing groups, human service agencies, and researchers to advance effective drug policies guided by science, equity and compassion. Recent campaigns include ending New York’s marijuana arrest crusade, developing municipal-based drug strategies, passing and implementing historic 911 Good Samaritan legislation to prevent accidental overdose fatalities, creating a tightly-regulated medical marijuana program, and reforming New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. He is the author of numerous articles and several reports, including Blueprint for a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy (the subject of a New York Times editorial) and From Handcuffs to Healthcare: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Law Reform.

Emma Andersson, Staff attorney with American Civil Liberties Union Criminal Law Reform

Emma A. Andersson is a staff attorney with the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. Her practice includes litigation relating to police practices, indigent defense reform, marijuana law reform, and federal and state sentencing. Emma was previously a fellow with the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project, a fellow at Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC, and a law clerk for Judge Richard Paez in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is a graduate of Yale Law School and Barnard College.

Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds is the Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). With offices in Mineola, Ronkonkoma and Riverhead, LICADD provides screening, brief intervention and referrals to treatment, as well as professionally-facilitated family interventions, relapse prevention programs and anger management services to adults and adolescents. Under Dr. Reynolds’ leadership, LICADD has pioneered the launch of “Too Good for Drugs”, an evidence-based K-12 substance abuse prevention program in several Long Island schools, initiated a new mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents and re-branded its Employee Assistance Program, now called “Open Arms EAP.” Dr. Reynolds currently serves as Chair of the Suffolk County Heroin/Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, is on the Executive Committee of the Nassau County Heroin Prevention Task Force and serves on Suffolk County’s Welfare to Work Commission.

The discussion focused on the failures of the drug war, the disproportionate impact of the criminalization of marijuana, the opiate and prescription drugs crisis, the need for treatment, education about drugs, and a host of other related issues. The conversation lasted for over an hour and at became heated at times. Everyone walked away having learned more about drug policy and the debate around it. This event was definitely a success.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Steins Learn About Public Interest Firm and Pro Bono Opportunities

Last Wednesday, Stein Scholars had a chance to learn about what kinds of opportunities exist for law students and new lawyers in public interest firms, and how people who chose to go into corporate law can pursue public interest work through pro bono opportunities. 

Steins were joined by Alice Morey of the NYC Bar Justice Center; Amanda Niederauer ’14, who talked about her experience at the public interest law firm Mayerson & Associates, which focuses on the rights and entitlements of individuals with autism; and Richard Hendrix’14, who shared his experiences at the civil rights firm Beldeck Levine Hoffman.

Also contributing by phone were Melissa Lardo ’09 of Outten & Golding, Artemio Guerra ’10 of Getman Sweeney, and Peggy Farber ’04 of Kramer Levin.

It was a very educational evening, and more than one Stein noted that the participants provided a lot of very useful and new information about the variety of public interest firms and public interest firm internship opportunities and hiring practices.  Some tip highlights included:

  • ·         Public interest firms tend to hire a lot based on word of mouth, rather than through formal recruitment processes, so building a network and finding mentors in this field can be key to finding a job with a public interest firm.  Developing your interests early can also be very helpful, so that you have plenty of time to demonstrate that interest through internships and other involvement in law school.
  • ·         Public interest firms may not look to hire new lawyers until after they have passed the bar.
  • ·         Public interest firms, while very busy, tend to have more of a focus on cultivating a reasonable work environment and work/life balance than big law.
  • ·         Different big law firms place different importance on pro bono work, but some place no limits on the number of pro bono hours attorneys can do (and some strongly encourage young associates to do a lot of pro bono works right when they start).
  • ·         Benefits of doing pro bono work in big law include being able to have direct control over your own cases right away.
  • ·         Big law firms place a premium on law school grades when hiring; a demonstrated interest in public interest usually won’t get you over the grades hurdle, so those interested in big law must take studying very seriously.
  • ·         A commitment to public interest work can, however, help graduating students secure a clerkship with certain judges—and a clerkship can in turn help lawyers get jobs in big law firms despite lackluster grades.

Those interested in public interest firms should check out the 2013 edition of Private Public Interest and Plaintiffs' Firm Guide.  This source, put together by Harvard Law’s office of public interest advising, includes information about what it’s like to work in a public interest firm and how they operate along with a state-by-state directory of public interest and plaintiffs’ firms.

Many thanks to all panel participants!