Empowering Change: Updates from the Legal Accountability Project with Aliza Shatzman [TFLP219]

Today’s podcast episode brings back a previous guest to update listeners. Aliza Shatzman previously appeared to talk with Sarah about The Legal Accountability Project. She co-founded this project based on a nightmare clerkship scenario she faced and wanted to help lawyers find recourse if they find themselves in this situation. She is sharing where things are today and the initiatives they’ve made progress on in the last year.

A Brief Reintroduction to Aliza & The Legal Accountability Project

Aliza is the president and founder of the Legal Accountability Project (LAP), which is a nonprofit aimed at ensuring that law clerks have a positive experience and extending support to those who do not. She graduated from law school in 2019 and did not set out to be a nonprofit founder. However, her experience led to her working to help ensure fewer clerks have a similar experience.

When Aliza tells people about her work, people often share their own stories and experiences or know someone who has had a similar experience. It’s a toxic clerkship culture. The LAP is working hard to change the messaging and culture in clerkships. Many of these problematic players work at law schools and share the message that it’s worth the mistreatment for the prestige. 

What the Legal Accountability Project Has Been Doing

One of the biggest changes for Aliza is that she is now firmly in the former lawyer camp. Now, she considers herself “law adjacent.” She maintains her bar license and still uses her legal training, but never really wanted to become a lawyer. The last time Aliza was on the pod, the Lap Accountability Project was just launching. They were prepping for a tour of law schools to change the clerkship culture, build a central database, and democratize information about judges.

During the 2022-2023 school year, the LAP visited about 30 law schools, and they have added more this year. In doing this, Aliza has received feedback from clerkship directors that they have meaningfully changed the clerkship messaging, programming, and advising. They are more mindful that some experiences are not positive and that information should be shared.

The LAP has been building a database and is preparing to launch it this winter for the first set of law school and student subscribers. Using nearly 1,000 candid survey submissions, they will have a collection that is nearly double the size of the current databases at top schools. Plus, there is the added benefit of having actual candid information instead of just uniformly positive information.

The Importance of the LAP Pledge

In January, Aliza just announced a new initiative called the LAP Pledge, where judges are publicly conveying their support for this clerkship’s database, circulating the survey to their clerks, and pledging to send it to future clerks. The judges will be listed on their website as pledge takers. It will also help tackle the problem of judges telling clerks not to take post-clerkship surveys. 

Anytime someone doesn’t want feedback, it should be a bit of a red flag, especially when you don’t want it to be accessible to people who are applying to work for you. It’s not a problem with all law schools, some don’t understand or don’t care, but it’s information that should be shared.

During the first year, the LAP was just getting things off the ground with the database. Students need to watch for the signal of a lack of transparency. If judges support the LAP pledge, it’s a great sign that you could send students to clerk for them. This can go the other way as well for judges to be cautious of hiring from schools that oppose LAP’s work.

There’s a conversation in some institutions where people should have a mentality that they are lucky to have a certain opportunity and should just ignore mistreatment and be grateful. Having that mentality will just push people to tolerate that mistreatment in any environment. When people see judges mistreating their clerks, others who witness it will likely take that to their next position. 

Those who are mistreated in their position will take it to their next role as well. They will be afraid of making mistakes and being yelled at. Judges model this bad behavior, and it trickles up through the legal profession. 

The Power Dynamic Between Clerks and Judges

Aliza says two things to people in this position. First of all, you do not have to tolerate this. Every single clerk is empowered to stand up for themselves and say no. Second, there is no guarantee this mistreatment will stop when the clerkship ends. If you just try to power through, the judges could give you negative references for your entire legal career. 

Clerks are in a tough spot. They are just out of law school, and it’s supposed to be prestigious and help open doors. There is such a power disparity between life-tenured federal judges and a freshly out-of-school law clerk. Consider that, along with the lack of accountability for judges who mistreat their clerks, and it’s clear why this work is so important. 

There is some impressive student advocacy on various issues on these law school campuses right now. The LAP wants to keep that advocacy spirit up and not lose it when transitioning from law student to law clerk. 

Generational divides play into these dynamics a bit. Many judges use their own personal experiences as clerks to validate their own behaviors. Clerks today want more feedback, and Aliza spends time with judges on how to provide feedback in a respectful way. Young attornies are more empowered, but many law schools have such a chokehold on the messaging around clerkships. 

The LAP has more success with younger judges. They range from conservative to progressive, but no matter where they fall on that range, they are more likely to sign on than older judges. This isn’t something that can just wait 10-20 years until they make up the majority of judges. There are quite a few people who feel like new clerks should have to go through the same experiences that they did instead of working to improve the system.

Aliza hears often that people support the work she’s doing, but they don’t want to piss off any judges. It’s frustrating for her because most judges are not upset by the LAP. The people she’s talking to are in a position of power to change the system, but it requires action and speaking up. 

How You Can Help The Legal Accountability Project

Aliza and the organization have recently obtained tax-exempt status. They are seeking sponsorships and donations for anyone excited about their work. The database will be released this year. If you clerked or know others who have, they want you to share your experience. Tell your law school to participate. Spread the word about this work. 

Aliza describes the work as pushing a boulder up a hill to get the law schools to subscribe. It would be great to see alumni reach out to their schools and push them to join. Law schools need to build relationships with judges, and they will prioritize those over the care of their students. 

The LAP incentivizes every judge to become a better manager. Law students will be logging on and reading these reviews. People won’t be able to hide behind a whisper network. The entire clerkship program has been problematic for so long, and law schools are tied to that. The LAP accountability messaging is not just for judges but for law schools as well. Law students should not be sent into cruel and toxic situations knowingly. Since schools are part of the problem, they must be part of the solution. 

The momentum over the last 18 months is incredible. Students and clerks are reaching out every day with gratitude. The work isn’t stopping anytime soon. The LAP wants to help with accountability mechanisms like helping employees dispute resolution complaints. They also want to connect employment attorneys with mistreated law clerks to help. 

If you want to get involved or help them with this important work, visit their websites to learn how. You can also connect with Aliza on LinkedIn or X. Aliza shares her story to empower more clerks and mistreated employees. This area of the legal profession has resisted change, but it’s time to hold people in power accountable.

Sarah Cottrell: Hi, and welcome to The Former Lawyer Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Cottrell. I practiced law for 10 years and now I help unhappy lawyers ditch their soul-sucking jobs. On this show, I share advice and strategies for aspiring former lawyers, and interviews with former lawyers who have left the law behind to find careers and lives that they love.

Today, Aliza Shatzman is back on the podcast sharing an update about The Legal Accountability Project. Aliza was on previously right around the time that she initially co-founded The Legal Accountability Project based on a truly nightmare clerkship scenario that she experienced and the realization that there is not a lot of recourse for lawyers who find themselves in that type of situation.

Today, she is sharing where things are with The Legal Accountability Project, what they've done in the last year plus, some of the initiatives that they've made progress on, some of the things that they're continuing to want to work on.

I think this is such an important conversation, it really gets to the heart of some of the things that we talk about on the podcast all the time about the nature of the legal profession, the abuse and bullying that often goes on unchecked. I'm really pleased to have Aliza back on the podcast. Here is my conversation with Aliza Schatzman.

Hey, Aliza, welcome back to The Former Lawyer Podcast.

Aliza Shatzman: Thanks for having me back.

Sarah Cottrell: For people who haven't listened, Aliza was on once before talking about her story and you can go back and listen to that. It'll be linked in your podcast player and in the blog post in the show notes. But for people who didn't listen to the previous episode, Aliza, do you want to briefly introduce yourself?

Aliza Shatzman: Sure. I am the president and founder of The Legal Accountability Project. We are a nonprofit aimed at ensuring that law clerks have a positive clerkship experience while extending support and resources to those who don't.

I graduated from Williams in 2013 and Wash U Law in 2019. Definitely didn't set out to be a nonprofit founder. But as anybody who Googles me will find out pretty quickly, I had a very, very negative clerkship experience, which I now share a lot in my daily work, and really have dedicated my life's work to ensuring that fewer clerks have experiences like mine and those who do actually have resources available to them.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, it's interesting, the day that we're talking for listeners is a Monday and new episodes of the podcast come out on Monday. I was listening to today's episode where I interviewed Strawberry Nevill about leaving a public interest job.

One of the things that they said on the episode was something that made me think about the fact that we were going to be recording later, which was they said something like there's this level of misery and just basically hardship that is treated as normal in the legal profession even though it is actually not normal nor necessary, and it just made me think about the experience of people in clerkships because we all know people who have had not great clerkship experiences but there has been very much this sense of like, “Well, that's just how it is.” It's like, “Why, why?”

Aliza Shatzman: Yeah. Yes. That is many people's response when they learn about my work is they'll either share their own experience with me or they'll comment publicly or share with me privately that they didn't clerk, their experience was positive, but we all know people who.

There's really toxic clerkship culture that is uniformly positive that we continue to push back against. LAP has definitely, definitely changed the messaging, changed the culture on clerkships over the past 18 months. But there are still so many people and many of them work at law schools--My favorite topic.

Sarah Cottrell: Conveniently.

Aliza Shatzman: Yeah, who message a challenging clerkship, which is a euphemism for mistreatment is worth it for the prestige. Some of them are engaging in some revisionist thinking about their own clerkship experiences. Some truly believe that. There is this messaging that the right professional decision is to stay silent, that law clerks just want to keep their heads down and move on.

We still bump up against that messaging and that is terrible. That messaging has pervaded throughout the legal profession about other jobs, too, it is not just clerkships, but it is particularly pointed during clerkships, and is particularly hard to change.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, so one of the reasons that I wanted to have you on was that the last time we were on the podcast, it was right around when The Legal Accountability Project was started and now lots of things have happened. It's something I feel really strongly about because, to your point, we use a lot of euphemisms in the legal profession to describe what is abusive behavior.

I talk about this on the podcast all the time, more so in the context of law firms, but there are lots of ways that people might describe or talk about an experience that, at its root, at the most basic, is, in fact, abusive, an abusive situation. But we don't call it that, we call it all sorts of other things, and that's a huge problem, in my opinion, and that extends, of course, to clerkship.

Aliza, can you tell us about some of the things that have happened since the last time you were on the podcast?

Aliza Shatzman: Definitely. Happy to talk about them. I think one of them, though, is that I am more squarely in the former lawyer camp than I was when we launched. I think I was just still noodling over this when I was on the podcast last time.

I mean, I consider myself law adjacent, which people don't like that, and it's like, “Well, this is how I talk about myself. Why do you care how I talk about myself?” It was my bar-versary this week. It's been four years since I was sworn into the bar. I do maintain my bar license because I worked hard for that and I still use my legal training.

But people do ask me do I intend to practice law again, they're looking for the response to be yes, I think. No, I went to law school for a very specific goal. I wanted to be a reproductive rights litigator. Then I had a new specific goal, I wanted to be a homicide prosecutor. When those things were no longer possible, I just realized, I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have gone to law school.

I never really wanted to become a lawyer. Because one of the weirdest, well, not weirdest, most disheartening discoveries has been how risk-averse the legal profession is. It makes it clear that I don't fit in well with that. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to law school. But granted, here I am using my JD critiquing law schools, particularly my alma mater who really hates what I am doing now.

When I was last on the pod, we had just launched the nonprofit. We were preparing to go on this fall fixing our clerkship system tour of a lot of law schools to talk about what we were trying to do: change the clerkship culture, build this centralized clerkship database, legal tech to democratize information about judges.

We visited close to 30 law schools during the 2022-2023 school year. We have visited more this past fall and I'll be back out on the road this spring for season four of this tour. Some of the best feedback I've gotten, including from clerkship directors and deans is that we have meaningfully changed the clerkship messaging, programming, and advising on their campuses. They're now mindful that not everyone has a positive experience and that that information should be shared.

That was a big first hurdle to climb over because what we came up against was uniformly positive messaging, everybody has a positive experience except the first clerkship you're offered, and it's going to be wonderful. And if it's not, don't tell us. We've changed that.

We started building this database, which we are now preparing to launch this winter for our first set of law school and student subscribers. We have amassed nearly 1,000 candid survey submissions from law clerks nationwide, which is about twice the size of many T14 law schools' clerkship databases with the added benefit of having actual candid information rather than the uniformly positive bullsh*t that shows up in these clerkship surveys for law school's internal databases.

We're recording in January, we just announced a new initiative called the LAP Pledge by which judges are publicly conveying their support for this clerkship's database, circulating our survey to their clerks, pledging to send it to future clerks. We're listing them on our websites and in the database as pledge takers. Finally, answering the bad faith question from law schools, “But what about judges blackballing our law schools with a resounding ‘judges support this’?”

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, so many things. I mean, among other things, it's like, how do I put this? If a judge does not want feedback about how they treat their clerks to be in a way publicly available, that at least should give you some pause as to the way that the clerkship, the clerkship experience. Now, I'm not saying that in a completely blanket way, but realistically, come on, people.

Aliza Shatzman: Exactly, yes. We know that there are judges, clerkship directors have told me there are judges who have said to their clerks, "Don't fill out your law school's internal post-clerkship survey."

Now, that should of course be a red flag, but law schools either don't understand that or don't care. Look, it's not all law schools, and I'm not trying to make blanket statements, but I interface with more than 80, and many are quite challenging, and every single one, even the ones that are most welcoming has room to improve. It should be an enormous red flag if you do not want information about your work environment to be accessible to the people who are applying to work for you.

With this first year, we're just getting the LAP Pledge off the ground, we're just getting the database off the ground. But ultimately, we think that this should be a signal for students applying for clerkships as to whether the judge supports transparency, supports LAP's clerkship database, that should be a signal as to whether you should apply. For law schools, judges who support LAP and the Pledge, that should be a signal of whether you should send students to clerk for them.

The reverse should be true too. Judges, it should be a red flag about law schools who are going to continue opposing LAP's work, maybe you shouldn't hire from their schools. So it goes both ways.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think one of the things too that is really significant about just the whole conversation around this is that we are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think that this mentality of “Just be glad that you have this job and no matter how you're treated, don't say anything to anyone because it's worth it,” or whatever, we are completely kidding ourselves if we think that only impacts the way that lawyers think about their clerkships or only impacts lawyers who clerk, of course, it impacts them.

When you know that your profession, that some of the most “prestigious” roles that you can get coming out of law school are treated in this way, if you're in another environment where you're being mistreated, I think that just fundamentally, it just increases the likelihood that you are going to assume that you're just supposed to tolerate being mistreated.

Aliza Shatzman: Absolutely. I see that in several ways. When a judge is mistreating clerks, they're modeling poor behavior. If you are the one who's witnessing it but not being mistreated, you will take that to your next role. When you're in a supervisory role, when you're the law firm partner, when you are the federal defender, when you are the U.S. attorney, when you're the professor or the judge, you're going to mistreat people because you saw mistreatment occurring.

If you're the mistreated one, you're going to take that to your next role. I see many clerks fearing when they submit an assignment that they're going to be berated for perceived mistakes, that they're going to be yelled at, that things will be thrown at them, because that's how the judge treated them. By judges modeling this bad behavior, it trickles up throughout the legal profession.

The thing I try to say, well, two things, you do not have to tolerate this. Every single person, every single clerk is empowered to stand up for themselves, to say no, and to say things need to change. There is no reason why we confer upon judges absolute respect and total deference.

The other thing about mistreatment is that there is no guarantee, as my experience illustrates, that the mistreatment will stop once the clerkship ends. For anybody who foolishly thinks that you will just power through the mistreatment because it's a prestigious clerkship, judges are empowered to give you negative references until they die for your entire legal career. There is no way to preclude them from doing that unless you tell them to stop or don't pursue a clerkship with a notorious harasser.

Sarah Cottrell: Yes, literally all of the things, agree.

Aliza Shatzman: That’s why I love talking to you.

Sarah Cottrell: Well, I think the thing that comes to mind, literally I was just going to say that we are all adults, there are literally no words for the fact that essentially behavior that is toddler-level behavior being perpetrated by adults is not just tolerated but that--

Aliza Shatzman: It's encouraged. I mean, in a certain way, [inaudible] encouraging it.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah. I think also, again, and I know we talked about this the last time you were on, clerks are in such a difficult position. I think of myself as a baby lawyer, just out of law school. If you take a clerkship, which I did not clerk after law school, but if you go and take a clerkship, a huge part of why you're taking a clerkship is that it's supposed to be prestigious, it's supposed to be good for your resume, it's supposed to open doors.

If you're having an experience that is abusive or you're being mistreated, it puts you in this impossible situation where you're spending a year, maybe more of your life doing this job that is supposed to open doors and it's just the position that clerks are put in and by the system as is, continuing to be perpetuated is just so obviously problematic to me and so clearly relates to some of the broader issues that we have in the legal profession, that I'm just like, “Okay, people, can we all just get on board with not doing this anymore?”

Aliza Shatzman: I mean, the power disparity between a life-tenured federal judge and a fresh out-of-law school clerk in their first job dependent on the judge for references and career advancement, is of course enormous. Layer on top of that the lack of Title VII protections, the lack of workplace redress, the lack of accountability for judges who mistreat their clerks. The headwinds against reporting or standing up for yourself are, of course, enormous.

At the same time, these are law students, they're just out of law school, so they're new attorneys, and we're seeing a lot of impressive student advocacy on a variety of issues on these law school campuses right now, and I think students are primed coming out of law school to stand up for themselves, to say no. I really hope that they will, that that advocacy spirit is not lost when they go from law student to law clerk. You are empowered to stand up for yourself.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I can't remember if we talked about this on the last episode, Aliza, but I'm wondering if you see any differences in terms of generational response to this. The main reason I'm asking is that my perspective, at least in some of the other pieces of how the legal profession is structured and run is that Gen Z is much less likely to tolerate some of the things that those of us in previous generations—and I'm an elder millennial—often treated as just like, “Well, that's just how it is.” Is that something that you're seeing or no, do you not really see a particular pattern?

Aliza Shatzman: I'd say a few things about generational divides. One thing we see is how clerks and judges interact. I'll speak with judges who were clerks themselves, and they'll say, “When I was a clerk, if a judge said that's okay to file, that was great feedback. I felt like I did a great job.” But now clerks want feedback, they want praise, and that's a difference.

So I spent a lot of time speaking with judges about their managerial style and how to provide feedback in a respectful way, how to convey that, and how to interface with your clerks. Maybe I see young attorneys more empowered, but I do worry that some of these law schools are really, when they have a chokehold on the clerkship messaging, it is so hard to reach some of these students. That's very disheartening.

I can think of one or two law schools where we just cannot get through to the students. Their toxic positive messaging has just penetrated. There may be a generational divide among judges. What LAP sees is younger judges, from the most conservative to the most progressive, are more supportive of our work, older judges less so. That has been interesting. But we cannot wait 10 or 20 years until new judges are appointed and elected.

I also worry that our diverse judicial appointments are not doing any better on the treatment of clerks front, or they're certainly not doing as well as some groups who focus exclusively on diversifying the bench would have you believe.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I think that to your point about lawyers being risk-averse, I think there is definitely an impulse often amongst lawyers to just say, “Oh, well, things are trending in the right direction. So basically let's hope for the best.”

Aliza Shatzman: [inaudible] So disheartening.

Sarah Cottrell: I was going to say, but when there are such straightforward things that could so significantly improve, so many people's experiences prevent and uncover abuse, to me, clearly, yes.

Aliza Shatzman: There are some people who really think that they went through it and so others should too, and we still see that. But at the end of the day, there was a real problem in the legal profession of people either fearing judges or placing them on this pedestal, whether they are perceived as deserving absolute respect and total deference in all things.

Now, that starts on law school campuses, the way judges are treated, brought to campus, basically feted, and how the messaging is that these judges, you should pursue a clerkship with them and we really don't give a sh*t about how they treat their clerks. The clerkship is prestigious, and so we're not going to question these judges. That trickles up throughout the profession.

I interface with law firms about supporting LAP's work through sponsorship, through empowering clerks, through representing law clerks, and the employee dispute resolution process. There is just so much fear. So many people will say, “Oh, you know, I support you privately, but we don't want to piss off any judges.” Well, first of all, most judges are not pissed off by LAP. Even if they were, you are in the kind of position of power where you can stand up and you can help change things and you are not. So, you know, stop complaining about how much you fear judges if you're not going to help us change the system.

Sarah Cottrell: Literally, I was just nodding my head. I'm like, "Oh, that's not coming through on the recording."

Aliza Shatzman: I didn't know if silence was an affirmation or no.

Sarah Cottrell: Aliza, is there anything else that you'd like to share about what has happened since the last time you were on the podcast?

Aliza Shatzman: Yeah. A couple of things. I mean, as we talked about before we started recording, we have now obtained tax-exempt status, we're a 501(c)(3), which is exciting. We are definitely seeking sponsorship and seeking donations from anybody who's excited about our work. This database is launching this year. I'm guessing many people who are listening to this podcast are in some way affiliated with the legal profession.

If you clerked, if you know others who clerked, we want people to share their experiences in this database. We're really trying to get some legal profession-wide momentum going. Because here's the deal, despite the fact that I know some people think I should critique these law schools less, law schools are really part of the problem and I imagine that as I say that and I talk about how tied up they are in the clerkship system, many listeners are going to nod along. You should tell your law school to participate in this clerkship's database.

We are pushing a boulder up a hill trying to get these law schools to subscribe to the database to give their students access to information about judges. You should say first to yourself, “Why wouldn't law schools want students to have more information about judges?” When you realize your law school probably doesn't, you should reach out to them and say, “Here's why you should care.” We really want to see a groundswell of attorneys, of alums reaching out to these law schools and urging them to participate.

I initially thought that I would work with law schools to urge the judiciary to make changes. Now it looks like I'm going to work with the judiciary to urge the law schools to make changes.

Sarah Cottrell: Okay, actually I'm not super surprised, but here's why. I can't remember where I read this originally. It was in a slightly different context, but it was this idea that every organization has a stated mission, and then also a shadow mission. A lot of times, the stated mission is not actually what ultimately drives behavior.

For most organizations, including law schools, the shadow mission is the continued existence of the organization, continuing as a going concern. When you think about that in terms of law schools, it creates some real problematic incentives in terms of willingness to participate and to actually put their student's welfare above other things like being able to place students in “prestigious clerkships.”

Because if ultimately your shadow mission is to continue/increase essentially the economics of the organization, that creates a really problematic incentive. Honestly, to me, that clearly is what underlies some of this resistance, right?

Aliza Shatzman: Yeah, I've called these perverse incentives or misaligned incentives. Yeah, I think it's important to unpack, again, with the caveat that not all law schools are doing the wrong thing. But very much every single law school has room to improve and they are on a spectrum.

When I think about law schools, all of them, not just the T14s, their goal is to build relationships with judges. Now, perhaps that's clerkship pipelines for students, perhaps that is just so they can publicly announce that they have these relationships with judges.

But that is their goal. They will prioritize their relationships with the judiciary over their duty of care to all of their students. When you speak with law students and you ask them, “How will you get information about judges?” Universally, they lack information about judges.

Why don't law schools want them to have more? Well, because then they may not apply to some prestigious clerkships. As we think about the downstream implications, it's like, “Well, we can't report as many prestigious clerkships, and then these people won't get prestigious jobs, and they won't donate to the law school.” Well, we're still going to get lots of student clerkships, but we're going to help them get better clerkships.

We're incentivizing every judge to become a better manager, knowing that the spotlight is on them now. Law students are going to be logging into this database and reading thousands of reviews about judges. Judges can no longer hide behind the clerkship's whisper network. They can no longer keep their poor behavior secret. They're incentivized for the reviews to be positive, or it's going to be known that they're mistreating people and they'll get fewer applicants.

I think the clerkship system is just so problematic and the law schools are just so tied in with it. It just worries me that nobody is willing to stand up to them until now. I want to work with as many law schools as possible. I work really hard to engage productively with them.

But at the end of the day, the accountability messaging for LAP is not just for the judiciary. It's for these law schools who have not been held accountable for their poor behavior, who are sending students into bad clerkships. My law school did, and no one has ever apologized to me for that. Law schools should be held accountable for this type of bad behavior.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, I mean, when you think about it, it is extremely craven to send someone into a situation where you know they're going to be abused and not tell them. There is something wrong with the way that something is thought about if that is something that seems okay to anyone in any context.

Aliza Shatzman: But nobody is willing to really call them out. It would be nice if law schools would just do the right thing and participate because they know it's the right thing. I don't know if they need to be called out by alums who've had bad experiences and hold the law school responsible, but I think it's worth pointing out that law schools are partially responsible.

They're part of the problem, they can and should be part of the solution. But by not standing with their students, by not standing with their clerks, by instead standing with abusive judges, I mean, that is a choice and that is the wrong choice.

Sarah Cottrell: Yes, that is a choice. Okay, well, what else, Aliza, is there anything else that you'd like to share with the listeners about The Legal Accountability Project? What's coming up? What has happened between the last time you were on and now or anything else?

Aliza Shatzman: Yeah, it has been an incredible 18 months. The momentum is enormous. I receive outreach every single day from students and clerks thanking me and confiding in me. This is a clerkship transparency movement and everybody who's listening can be part of the solution, whether you're submitting a survey, urging your law school to participate, donating, encouraging your law firm to donate.

But we're not stopping with the law schools. For clerks who are mistreated, there are some accountability mechanisms open to them within the judiciary, including filing an employee dispute resolution complaint, filing a judicial conduct and disability act complaint.

One of the other initiatives we are working on getting off the ground at LAP is some sort of employment-attorney consortium to connect mistreated law clerks with attorneys who can help. I was represented by Sanford Heisler when I was a former clerk engaging in the judicial complaint process. I am just overwhelmingly grateful for everything they did for me.

Most law clerks are not that fortunate, and we routinely see law clerks struggling to find legal representation. If you really want to make a difference and you're an attorney, especially an employment attorney, you should consider providing counsel to mistreated clerks. That is how we change the culture.

Sarah Cottrell: I agree. Okay, anything else?

Aliza Shatzman: I think we covered it. Anybody who is interested in learning more can reach out to me, visit our websites. This is a movement. We want everybody to get involved.

Sarah Cottrell: I love it. Okay. We'll link The Legal Accountability Project in the show notes and all the things. I really think that this, among many things, is just such an important thing that we're doing because the legal profession should not be an environment where abuse is tolerated. I feel like that is such an obvious statement that I should not have to say it, but I have to say it, and I know most people listening understand why I have to say it because there are problems to wildly understate the case.

Aliza Shatzman: There are, but I guess I share my experience a lot, and it is a very negative one, but my story is one of empowerment, and I really think it's about empowering more clerks, more mistreated employees throughout the legal profession to stand up for themselves. We are creating, well, we are sparking a Me Too movement in the judiciary.

It is an area of the legal profession that has notoriously resisted change. But if you're mistreated, what you'll have to hold on to is your experience and you are empowered to share it. That is how you hold those in positions of power accountable. I'm definitely encouraging people to share their experiences in our clerkship database, but it's about holding those in positions of power accountable.

I am regularly disheartened when clerks reach out to confide in me and they don't want a report. I know it's hard for some people to hear this, but if you are mistreated and you do not report, the judge who mistreated you will mistreat others. Stopping the cycle of abuse starts with sharing those experiences.

I know from my experience with the judicial complaint process that judges don't find it fun to respond to a judicial misconduct complaint. That is a mode of accountability and it's important. It is about speaking out and sharing your experience. I hope more clerks will, whether you had a bad experience last year or 30 years ago.

My message to people who hear me speak is that you're not alone because when I was a mistreated clerk, that's what I heard from somebody who was testifying for the House Judiciary Committee, and that was empowering to me. If we have more people sharing their experiences, that is how we're going to change the culture.

Sarah Cottrell: Yeah, you're not alone. Okay, Aliza, thank you for coming back on the podcast and sharing all of these updates. I really appreciate you and all the work that you're doing.

Aliza Shatzman: Thank you, and I appreciate that Former Lawyer is one of our sponsors at LAP now, so we're excited.

Sarah Cottrell: Hooray!

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