Community Profiles: Berkeley Law’s Student Initiated and Student Run Pro Bono Program (cont.)

In part two of this week’s Community Profile Sue Schechter, Field Placement Program Director and Lecturer–n-Residence at Berkeley Law, discusses how she would like to see law school public service change in the future:

Ideally, I would like to see law school public service support change in three ways: First, I believe law schools need to provide more support to law students who want to pursue public service/pro bono careers in the form of fellowships and focused career advising. Many students come to law school and are surprised to find it much harder to find public service jobs than law firm jobs. These students need support and guidance if they are to be successful finding and creating opportunities within the public interest field. Second, I believe that law schools need to provide support to students providing pro bono while in law school. As the ABA requires, each law school should provide meaningful opportunities to do pro bono and I think many schools are just at the beginning of trying to figure out what that means for their school’s mission and resources  Ideally, this means having adequate staff to administer quality pro bono programs.

Lastly, I believe we need to continue to enhance the dialogue between legal services/pro bono providers and the law schools. It is a conversation that does not happen nearly enough. The ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference provides the only opportunity for legal services/pro bono providers and law schools to sit in the same room at the same time. Law schools need an opportunity to ask legal services and pro bono programs what they need, what they want new lawyers to look like and how we can better train them to be prepared to fit the needs of the legal services community. This is important even for students who are going to law firms. Law schools need to have the knowledge and tools necessary to teach students how to easily plug into pro bono once they are out in their practice. New lawyers should not be left to figure it out when they get to the firm; by the time they arrive fitting into the firm’s pro bono program should be the least of their concerns. Given their law school pro bono work many law students are eager and ready to make real and meaningful contributions to their firm’s pro bono practices.

I love working in law schools because so many law students come to law school wanting to make a real difference, although they may not be sure what that means in the law school and legal profession context. While they are at law school, they can be a ‘captive’ audience. You have a three year window to work with them, train them and help them find their path. They are eager, hungry and really intelligent. Being able to be a part of their journey, particularly as it relates to providing assistance to those most in need, is really incredible, it is really a gift and an honor.

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