As the fifth year of the CLP gets underway, we are accepting applications until noon on August 30 for the 15 law-related volunteer, or pro bono projects. Up to 70 students — 1L, 2L, and 3L, will be placed starting early September. A full listing and description of the projects, as well as a downloadable application form, can be viewed on our webpage here . Eight different legal agencies use our law student volunteers, from helping in divorce clinics, on bankruptcy cases, to prosecutor and public defender office or judicial clerk work.
These projects are the backbone of our work. They present students with opportunities to develop skills, meet clients, learn substantive areas of law, try different practice settings, and learn the value of doing pro bono publico work. Students make application for one or more projects and I select based on their interest and experience as well as the needs of the agency.
Last year, 160 student placements were made, up from 2009-10, when 126 students were placed. During the 2010-11 academic year, more than 3000 hours were logged in pro bono projects. There was also an increase in the proportion of the student body who participated in pro bono projects: 27% of 2010 graduates and 38% of 2011 graduates.
The pro bono projects are custom designed with local government or nonprofit agencies to meet the legal needs of the agency and match students’ abilities to make real contributions. Projects must meet four criteria: the work must be distinctly law-related, respond to an identified community need, and preferably provide services to those unable to pay for an attorney; the offerings as a whole should provide an array of opportunities for students to experience different legal subjects, settings, and skills; no certification must be required under the state Supreme Court’s student practice rule; and the students’ work must be supervised by an attorney or paralegal at the placement (rather than by the law school).
Quality control is critical to the success of the pro bono projects. This is accomplished through a variety of means that the associate dean and the program RAs undertake. Project offerings are kept current and fresh, administration is improved, and projects are discontinued, suspended, or revised as needed. For example, last spring past year we restructured Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program management with the results that more law students participated, training was held at the law school, and an hourly RA with tax background was hired to coordinate the project between the Tippie College of Business, the home for the project, and law -students.