Villanova Law hosts a number of exciting public service and pro bono opportunities for students. These and other programs offer to serve those in need, while developing your own lawyering skills.
For some students, the fact that they are providing desperately needed legal services to people who cannot afford them is sufficient reason. Doing pro bono work enables law students to touch and change the lives of others. Many students came to law school with the goal of helping people; doing pro bono work can help them reconnect to the motivation that brought them here.
Pro bono legal work can also advance your professional development and career planning goals. For example, performing pro bono legal work can help you better understand the substantive issues you are studying in your courses. Trying to use the law to help clients achieve their goals, pro bono volunteers learn about the power--and the limits--of the law and the lawyer’s role in resolving complex problems associate with poverty and powerlessness.
In addition, pro bono legal work can enhance marketable skills that you will need as practicing lawyers. For instance, pro bono programs offer great “hands on” experiences – such as interviewing and counseling clients, drafting pleadings, negotiating deals, or appearing in court – that are very attractive to prospective employers. Pro bono legal work can also help you identify areas of practice you may (or may not) wish to pursue when you graduate. Finally, pro bono legal volunteers meet practicing lawyers who may be helpful to them as they consider and search for employment opportunities.
How do busy students find the time to do pro bono? For most law students, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done—much less to do things we’d like to do. Indeed, once you graduate and become practicing lawyers, the demands on your time can seem even more overwhelming. The “Lawyering Together” program lets students see how and why busy practicing lawyers choose to integrate pro bono into their schedules and still find time to fulfill their other professional and personal commitments.
Summer is a good time to begin developing a time-management plan that can include pro bono legal service into your schedule for the upcoming year. In addition, in the summer you may also find opportunities to volunteer for pro bono projects through your employer or other avenues. Even the most modest commitment can make a difference to a client in need.
We have a number of pro bono projects, including “street law” presentations to high school students and a legal clinic at a homeless shelter and involvement with PA innocence Project. We can also give you information about pro bono and public interest organizations that are eager to recruit volunteer law students. In addition to our established programs, we can work with you to develop an individual pro bono project.
Consider your academic, personal and community service interests. Is there any area of law that intrigues you? Is there specific groups of people – children, the elderly, people with physical disabilities – with whom you are particularly interested in working? Was there any project that you are worked on in high school or college that you particularly enjoyed? What was it about that project that you valued?
That organization may be at Villanova or in the Philadelphia area. Check out the resources on the Career Strategy website and on the Public Service Job Directory-www.psjd.org. PSJD is a database of pro bono and public interest / public service opportunities linked to the Career Strategy website and available on the Internet, it contains extensive information about volunteer projects and resources for getting involved.
The Dorothy Day Award for Pro Bono Service acknowledges students who have volunteered at the inception of their careers to take on the added responsibility of pro bono service.
The award is named for Dorothy Day (1895-1980), a Catholic journalist and peace and justice activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker and established Houses of Hospitality to help feed, clothe and comfort the poor.
Qualifying Pro Bono Work
For purposes of the Dorothy Day Award, pro bono service is defined as unpaid, not-for-credit legal work for the poor or disenfranchised, performed at a public interest/non-profit agency or with a private attorney working on a pro bono case. Hours must be completed during the academic year.
To be eligible for the award, students graduating in 2015 or before must have performed at least 40 hours of pro bono service during their three years of law school (summer not included). Students graduating in 2016 or after must have completed 60 hours during their three years of law school (summer not included).
Reporting Pro Bono Hours
To report pro bono hours students must complete the form included below with the signature of the supervising attorney. Students may submit the signed NY Affidavit of Compliance in place of the pro bono reporting form if the hours reflect work that satisfy the definition of pro bono included above. Work for which a student has received academic credit is not considered pro bono for the purposes of the Dorothy Day Award.
Villanova Law hosts a number of exciting Pro Bono programs. These and other programs offer tremendous opportunities to serve those in need, while developing your own lawyering skills.
Through the "Lawyering Together" program, law students are matched with volunteer attorneys, who then represent indigent clients referred from several Philadelphia pro bono organizations. The referring organizations include Senior Law Center, Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP) and the Support Center for Child Advocates. The cases cover a broad spectrum of civil matters, including domestic relations (including custody, adoption, and domestic violence), immigration, wills and other personal planning documents, consumer rights and personal injury litigation defense.
To ensure program quality and continuity, the Director of Public Service Careers & Pro Bono Programs administers a rich array of pro bono programs that are now established components of Villanova Law School’s institutional commitment to pro bono service to the disadvantaged.
In Fall 2002, Villanova “adopted” the HELP Homeless Shelter through the Homeless Advocacy Project Adopt-A-Shelter Program. By adopting the shelter, Villanova agrees to staff a legal clinic every month on the first Wednesday of the month. Villanova students perform intake interviews and then assist clients with legal problems, supervised by the HAP staff attorney.
The Face to Face Legal Clinic in Germantown provides students with an opportunity to conduct intake interviews and work on cases involving social security, employment and housing issues. The Villanova Pro Bono Society organizes several bith certificate clinics at the Legal Clinic each year and has also organized information sessions to help individuals take atvantage of LIHEAP (Low Income Heating Assistance Program) funding.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project advocates for incarcerated individuals with a factual claim to innocence. Students partner with the PA Innocence Project to review initial files and make a determination whether the claim may be appropriate for further review by the PA Innocence Project attorneys. Interested 2L and 3L students worked on cases in the second stage of review, delving further into investigation and case preparation.
The Supervision To Aid Re-Entry (STAR) court program is an innovative program designed to assist individuals as they complete their period of incarceration. Many of the participants in the Re-entry program also have civil legal issues that they need help resolving. Villanova students work with the participants in the program to help resolve these issues. This year Villanova students will be representing STAR participants in Traffic Court hearings.
Villanova operates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, assisting low-income taxpayers in the Philadelphia area to prepare their returns. Additionally, Tax Law Society students offer “Know Your Rights” presentations to indigent taxpayers.
The Federal Defender's Capital Case Project started in Fall 2003, places two students per semester, who are selected through a competitive application process, to devote 5 hours per week working on capital cases supervised by the Federal Defender's Office. Students selected receive extensive training and mentoring as part of this project.
In addition, other pro bono programs are offered through student organizations at the law school, including the Pro Bono Society, the Tax Law Society and other student groups. The Pro Bono Society, for example, offers law students short-term and long-term pro bono and community services opportunities. Through the Pro Bono Society and other student groups, students have given "Know Your Rights" presentations to audiences ranging from immigrant detainees, migrant workers, people on the verge of homelessness. In addition, through the Tax Law Society, students have volunteered at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites at which they assist low-income taxpayers.
Stop in to speak with or e-mail the Law School's Director of Public Service Careers & Pro Bono Programs. The Director can also give you information about pro bono opportunities, as well as information about public interest organizations that are eager to recruit volunteer law students. The Director would also be willing to work with you to create a new program, if the community need and student interest is there.
If you plan to take the New York State Bar Exam, please read the following information carefully, and make sure that you visit all links to the New York Bar Requirement. All individuals who are admitted to the New York bar after January 1, 2015 must demonstrate that they have completed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work.
The New York Bar Requirement is different from the Villanova Law Dorothy Day Award Requirement. Many of the activities that will satisfy the New York Requirement do not count as pro bono hours toward the Dorothy Day Award. Clinics, externships, law firm pro bono work in summer placements and summer internships may satisfy the New York Requirement, but will not count toward the Dorothy Day Award. Similarly, there are programs that satisfy the Dorothy Day Requirement that will not count toward the New York Requirement.
Reporting Pro Bono Hours to the New York Bar
As part of your application to the New York Bar, you will be required to submit an Affidavit of Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirement documenting how and where you completed your pro bono work. The form will include a section to be completed by your supervising attorney, judge or legal officer confirming that you completed the hours. The link to the Affidavit of Compliance is included g.
Helpful Links, New York Pro Bono Requirement
New York State Board of Bar Examiners: http://www.nybarexam.org/
New York Pro Bono Requirement Overview: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml
New York Pro Bono Requirement Rule: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/Rule520_16.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf
The Form of Affidavit of Compliance http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/AppForAdmission_Pro-BonoReq_Fillable.pdf
If you have additional questions after reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions, please contact ProBonoRule@nycourts.gov.