Dozens of Iowa law students will be placed in pro bono (law-related volunteer) projects this spring, and others will continue their service in year-long projects started in the fall. Arranged and coordinated by the Citizen Lawyer Program, these placements give students the chance to take a break from studies, get exposure and experience in a real-life legal setting, and donate time and energy to persons who cannot otherwise afford legal services or access to the justice system.
Obtaining these positions has become increasingly competitive. Students interested in applying for one or more projects – listed below – are encouraged to review the full descriptions for each project to determine whether they are eligible and available. Application forms are available starting Monday, January 14, and can be obtained by downloading Word fill-in here or a .pdf here, via email to email@example.com; or in the Citizen Lawyer Program office (room 216). Completed application forms, with class schedules and resumes attached, are due no later than noon Wednesday, January 23. (Note: students interested in VITA should get their applications in by noon on January 17.). Applications may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or may be dropped off to the CLP office in room 216.
Spring 2013 pro bono projects include:
State Public Defender –Students assist with the operations of the office as needed, including case management, research, and document/exhibit organization. Other duties as assigned may include covering phones or calling defendants regarding court hearings. 3 to 5 hours per week. Two students. Suitable for all students. See the full description here.
County Attorney Payment Plans (CAPP), – Johnson County Attorney’s Office (JCAO) (Iowa City). The Johnson County Attorney is the chief legal representative for the county and serves as the legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the county. Students work to help persons get their drivers licenses back after having lost them for non-payment of fines. Students have client contact, research criminal history and driver’s license data bases, and draft payment plans. Training session to be scheduled. Three hours per week on a flexible schedule. Applicants must be available for one or more shifts. Up to 2 students. Suitable for all 2Ls & 3Ls with interest, experience or coursework in debt collection or bankruptcy. Read the full description here.
Rocket Docket – (Johnson County Attorney). One Thursday morning each month, starting at 8 a.m., persons charged with Driving Under Suspension (DUS) charges are called to court to respond to the charges by entering a plea (guilty or not guilty) or by negotiating a plea agreement. Student volunteers will work as arranged to do the pre-hearing checking on compliance for those participants already in the program. On Thursdays, students will assist with the court’s docket review session. Students must be available Thursdays from 8 a.m. to approximately noon on the following dates: Feb. 21, March 21, April 18 and May 16 (optional), and at a few other times as arranged to check on compliance for program participants. Up to 2 students. Suitable for all students, especially those interested in criminal law. Read the full description here.
Iowa Legal Aid – Iowa Legal Aid is a nonprofit organization that provides critical civil legal assistance to low-income Iowans who have nowhere else to turn. Iowa Legal Aid and volunteer attorneys help the legal system work for those who cannot afford help with legal issues. There are five projects through Iowa Legal Aid this semester:
Staff Attorney Research – Under the direction of a staff attorney, students complete one or more research project(s) on discrete legal issues relevant to the attorney’s caseload. The final products may include an oral or written report of identified resources, and a memorandum of potentially relevant material and legal analysis. Selected students will attend a training meeting to be scheduled. Time commitment 10 to 20 hours per semester, up to 3 students. Suitable for upperclass students only. Read the full description here.
Divorce Self-Represented Litigant Clinics – Students work one-on-one with persons who are representing themselves in divorce proceedings, under the supervision of a volunteer attorney in a clinic setting at the Johnson County (Iowa City) courthouses on Monday afternoons (Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25, April 22) and in Linn County (Cedar Rapids) courthouse on February 25 and April 22. Iowa City clinics are held between 2:30 and 4 p.m.; Cedar Rapids clinics are between 1 and 4 p.m. Applicants must be available for either clinic or both. Students review pleadings and other forms, and triage with the litigants for questions to be directed to the on-site attorney. Students complete training on their own and at a session scheduled for Friday, Jan. 25 from 2:15-3:45 p.m. Monday in BLB room TBA. Total time commitment from 12 to 15 hours over the course of the semester. Up to 5 students. Read the full description here.
Family Law Case Work – Students are assigned to work with a private practice attorney who has agreed to take a pro bono family law case through Iowa Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Project. Work will likely consist of a wide range of service from research to gathering and organizing evidence and documents to all other aspects of a family law case. Up to two students; 3L and 2L students are strongly preferred, as are students who have taken or are taking family law or who have previously worked in a law firm. Students must be able to travel to the local attorney’s office or courthouse as needed. Read the full description here.
Iowa Immigration Education Coalition – The IIEC educates Iowans about immigrants, and immigration issues and informs the development of immigration policies that enhance Iowa’s economy and quality of life, preserve families, and affirm the dignity of immigrants. This project involves students working with IIEC to promote the understanding of immigration issues among Iowans. There are several efforts that students can contribute to. The three projects are: 1) writing issue briefs, 2) composing the monthly newsletter, and 3) researching articles from other organizations that would be posted on the IIEC’s website. Students must commit on average 3 hours each week, 36 hours over the course of the semester. Hours are flexible but students must meet weekly deadlines. Up to 2 students. The projects are well-suited for upper-class students with an understanding of immigration laws and policies and solid reasearch and writing skills. 1L students with experience in journalism and/or immigration work will also be considered. Read the full description here.
The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights – This project involves a student working with UICHR (see website here) to create a Know Your Rights Manual for detained immigrants. This work involves researching relevant immigration laws and procedures, synthesizing the information on a clear and concise manner, and potentially assisting with the distribution of the final work product to detention facilities across Iowa. Required training meeting with Amy Weismann to be arranged. Student must commit 20 hours the project over its 14 week duration. That is about one and half hours each week. Read the full description here.
American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Rights Project – the ACLU/IRP is opening a Midwest office. Attorneys assigned to the office will require research assistance to learn all the immigration-related laws and policies in the states served in the new catchment area. There are two projects:
Staff Attorney Research – Students provide oral or written legal analysis or gather legal research related to a question posed by an ACLU attorney. Students should commit to taking at least two projects over the course of the semester. Susitable for upperclass students only, preferably students who have taken Immigration Law or who have relevant experience. 5 students. See the full description here.
State Law Survey – Working as a team, student volunteers will compile a survey of state and local law and policies in the relevant states. Students will work under a timetable consisting of deadlines for various stages of the project, may be required to attend periodic group meetings, and will compile the research into a format useful to ACLU attorneys. Estimated 15-20 hours over the course of the semester. Suitable for upperclass students or 1Ls with prior research experience. Four students. See the full description here.
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services – CVLS is recognized as the most comprehensive, efficient, and cost-effective civil legal aid provider in Chicago. Under the direction of a staff attorney, volunteer students will complete one or more research projects on a specific legal issue relevant to the attorney’s caseload. The final product may include a weritten reprot of identified resources, and a memorandum of potentially relevant material and legal analysis. 5 students. Suitable for upper class students only. See the full description here.
Iowa Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts – IVLA is devoted to helping artists and arts organizations gain legal assistance and education on matters that affect them. Students should be prepared to complete one or more research projects on a discrete legal issue relevant to arts and entertainment law. Working as a team, volunteer students will also be responsible for education and outreach to Iowa’s current and future artists, as well as IVLA’s communications, including maintenance of IVLA’s Internet presence. 2-3 students, upperclass preferred. See the full description here.
Iowa State Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division Elder Law Committee - Under the direction of an attorney member of the YLD Elder Law Committee, student volunteers will work together to become familiar with elder law principles, and, working from draft manuscripts, will do research, citation and formatting for an elder law manual for use by attorneys. Students must do a self-training and attend an in-person training. This is a new project, so time commitment is difficult to predict. Estimated 15-20 hours over the course of the semester. Project is suitable for upperclass students or 1Ls with prior legal research experience. Two students. See the full description here.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance - The VITA program offers free tax help to low- and moderate-income individuals who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers help prepare basic tax returns. The VITA program runs from January through April, but students are recruited and do training during the fall semester and over winter break. At this point, we are taking the names of interested students (no commitment required at this point). Write to email@example.com to express your interest and to be put on an email mailing list. See the full description here.
The following projects will be ongoing during the spring semester, but are not open to new students:
- Iowa Legal Aid General Intake
- Iowa Legal Aid Foreclosure Project
- Kids First
- Iowa Legal Aid, Website updates
- Innocence Project of Iowa
- Iowa District Court for Johnson County