TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and Division of Law Director Christopher S. Porrino announced Thursday that the Division of Law is actively soliciting applications for its Volunteer Associates in Public Service (VAPS) Program.
VAPS is an initiative through which attorneys who are currently not working can gain experience — and possibly position themselves to be hired as Deputy Attorneys General – by working on State legal matters as volunteers.
Since the program’s inception three years ago, 41 lawyers who began as volunteer associates have found full-time employment with the Division of Law. Chiesa noted that, in each case, those hired were brought on to fill full-time Deputy Attorney General slots vacated through attrition.
“The VAPS program offers an excellent opportunity for lawyers to stay current in the profession by getting valuable, hands-on experience, and to do it in a realm they may not have considered before,” said Chiesa. “I can tell you from personal experience that public service is a very rewarding career path for attorneys. Working for the State, participants in the VAPS programs have a great chance to see how government works, to gain experience in areas of the law that may be less familiar to them and, best of all, to do work that helps people.”
According to Chiesa, the Division of Law has had more than 175 lawyers participate in the VAPS program since it began. Those volunteers have handled a broad range of tasks while working in every Division of Law section from environmental to child protection, and from treasury to tort.
Some volunteers have been new law school graduates, Chiesa explained, while others have recently completed judicial clerkships and been undecided about their next career step, and still others have been non-working lawyers seeking to ultimately re-enter the job market.
“This is New Jersey’s largest law firm giving back,” said Porrino. “We’re offering unemployed lawyers a chance to gain experience in a collegial, supportive environment, while at the same time showcasing their abilities for potential full- time employment with the State.”
“Coming out of law school and being unemployed for an extended period of time, or taking a lengthy hiatus for one reason or another, can be a high hurdle for lawyers to overcome,” Porrino added. “Serving as a volunteer associate is a great way to enter or re-enter the practice of law, keep up with changes in the profession, and gain valuable courtroom and other experience that can be difficult to come by in the private sector.”
The Volunteer Associates Program is open to law school graduates, deferred associates, furloughed or laid off attorneys and lawyers re-entering legal practice after a hiatus. Volunteer Associates are asked to work a minimum of 20 hours per week for a period of at least three months. Volunteers who are already admitted to the New Jersey bar, and who are able to commit to longer service periods, may be given a broader range of responsibilities, including the possibility of courtroom work.
Depending on their areas of interest and experience, volunteers may be asked to conduct depositions, perform research and write briefs, work with investigators, assist with discovery demands and even make trial appearances. Ongoing supervision and mentoring is provided to ensure that participants have a valuable experience.
Volunteers are also able to take part in informal section training, and to attend seminars offered by the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute, a highly-regarded professional enrichment program available to Division of Law attorneys.
The Division of Law maintains offices in three municipalities, each of them accessible via mass transit. Those locations include:
- Newark: Housed at 124 Halsey Street and 33 Washington Street, the Newark Division of Law offices handle principally securities, public utilities, consumer protection (including professional licensing) and public transportation. In both Newark offices, Deputy Attorneys General also handle such Department of Children and Families (DCF) matters as child abuse and neglect cases, appeals and guardianship matters.
- Trenton: Housed at the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market Street, the Trenton Division of Law offices handle such areas of the law as environmental protection, education, health and financial matters.
The tort, corrections and employment litigation sections are also located in Trenton, as are attorneys who handle DCF child-protection matters. Two satellite offices with Deputy Attorneys General handling Department of Banking and Insurance and Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor matters are also located in the Trenton area.
- Voorhees: Located at 4 Echelon Plaza, 201 Laurel Road, the Voorhees offices also handle child-protection-related matters.
Applicants to the Volunteer Associates Program should have strong research and writing skills. In order to apply, prospective volunteers should send a cover letter — including information on preferred areas of the law and/or a preferred work location — as well as a resume, unofficial law school transcript, a writing sample and two references to the Division of Law, c.o. Director Christopher S. Porrino, P.O. Box 112, Trenton, New Jersey, 08625. Prospective volunteers can also apply on-line by visiting the Division of Law Web site at www.nj.gov/oag/law/home.htm and locating the Volunteer Attorney Program icon.
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