5 Reasons to Engage Law Students in Pro Bono

1. Law Students Provide Substantial Resources

Law students can perform client intake, perform client interviews, develop written materials and conduct presentations. Students with foreign language speaking skills can translate written materials or provide oral interpretation services. In addition, students who are certified under applicable student practice rules can provide direct representation in court or administrative hearings under attorney supervision.

Students can perform on-line research and writing opportunities from home, regardless of location. The ACS ResearchLink connects law students and faculty with the research needs of public interest organizations and advocates.

2. Law Students Want to Volunteer

Students recognize that employers today can’t afford to train young lawyers like they did previously. In order to be marketable, they must demonstrate substantial practice experience and legal skill development.

Students seeking law firm and corporate counsel positions are also influenced by the frequent press showcasing large firm pro bono. Inspired by this work, they seek pro bono opportunities while in law school and expect the same in their future legal career.

3. Law Schools Want It

Current developments in legal education call for increased experiential learning opportunities that integrate practical lawyering experiences into the curriculum. In addition, ABA law school accreditation Standard 302(b)(2) now requires schools to offer substantial opportunities for student participation in pro bono.

As a result, law schools are expanding opportunities that serve the dual goal of providing hands-on skills training and developing a sense of the professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services. This creates a ripe opportunity for legal services to develop and expand partnerships with law schools.

4. Partnership Opportunities Abound!

With so many law school faculty and staff charged with developing pro bono and public service opportunities, there is increased potential to build effective collaborative models. While clinics, externships and short-term pro bono opportunities are all wonderful ways to partner, consider other options, such as alternative winter and spring break projects, doctrinal courses with public service components and more. For examples of these models and others, check out the Center’s Directory of Law School Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs.

5. Students are Future Legal Provider Staff, Volunteers and Donors

Legal service and pro bono programs frequently report that law student volunteers return to the organization as staff and those who go into private firms often remain connected either as volunteers or as donors. The key to establishing this long-term connection is to provide students with meaningful experiences through quality supervision, mentorship, feedback and a range of responsibilities that will both challenge and strengthen students’ skills-set.

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For more info on ways to involve law students in your program and the different types of models in existence, visit www.abaprobono.org or contact me at Melanie.Kushnir (at) americanbar.org.

~ Melanie Kushnir

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One Response to 5 Reasons to Engage Law Students in Pro Bono

  1. Law students are a wonderful source of inspiration and innovative thinking. Our agency, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, truly could not undertake much of its work without the assistance of the dozens of local law students that volunteer with us. Thank you for providing these great resources.

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