PRO BONO OPPORTUNITIES & DOROTHY DAY AWARD
Current students can choose from a number of pro bono opportunities including Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunities and with other 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 if you find an organization that better suits your interests. One resource for opportunities is the Public Service Job Directory—a database of pro bono and public interest/service opportunities. We also encourage you to work closely with your faculty adviser in determining a suitable opportunity.
In recognition of their service, students who complete a set number of hours before graduation are awarded the Dorothy Day Award for Pro Bono Service.
A Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunity is one that has the following features:
- Villanova shares these opportunities with students;
- A student liaison from the Pro Bono Society is assigned to that opportunity;
- A faculty liaison is assigned to that opportunity;
- Information regarding the opportunity (including brief description, contact person at the organization, name/email of student and faculty liaison) is provided on our website;
- Villanova students will have the opportunity to express interest in working with the opportunity by completing a webform listed in each Program Description.
Student Coordinator - Hannah Schroer
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - Jaimee L. Moore, Esq, LLM, Legal Director at Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia
CLC is an urban legal ministry that seeks to address injustice and poverty in partnership with existing inner city host ministries by bringing volunteer attorneys into neighborhoods where their services are most needed. Students will work with volunteer attorneys on clinic days to provide a wide range of legal services.
Student Liaisons - Yuliya Khromyak (3L) & Catherine Kapples (3L)
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - Anna Brickman
The Face to Face Legal Center protects the human, civil and legal rights of low income and homeless individuals. It bridges the “justice gap” by offering free legal services to individuals who live below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. The center is staffed by volunteer attorneys and law students; it provides a full range of legal services from consumer to family law. Our Legal Center’s nationally recognized birth certificate clinic helps countless people secure legal identification without which they are prevented from full participation in society.
Student Liaison – Ronald Avila (3L) & Mary Jacob (2L)
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Steve Chanenson
Placement Contact – Keisha Hudson (Deputy Chief, Montgomery County Public Defenders Office)
Since 2013, the Montgomery County Public Defender Office has offered free criminal record expungements for eligible clients. The Montgomery County Expungement Clinic is staffed by law student volunteers who are supervised by the Policy Director and Chief Public Defender. For first year law students, the clinic presents an excellent opportunity for direct, one on one contact with adult and juvenile clients by conducting intake interviews and follow up calls. Certified law students who volunteer for the clinic may also represent clients in contested hearings. In addition to working directly with clients, clinic volunteers get valuable experience drafting legal petitions and orders to file in the Criminal Clerk’s Office.
Student Liaison - Lauren Ferguson (3L)
Faculty Liaison - Doris Brogan
Placement Contact - Contact Nilam Sanghvi, Staff Attorney at PA Innocence Project
The Innocence Project has two student volunteer opportunities:
1: Stage 2 reviews: This is a high-level review of some information provided by an inmate and documents from the inmate’s appeal to determine whether there is a plausible case of innocence that should be moved forward to a more in-depth review. The student will draft a 2-4 page memo with his/her recommendation for review. A Stage 2 review takes between 6-12 hours, and they ask that a student complete the review in 4 weeks or less. This is the only volunteer opportunity available to 1Ls, who must be in their second semester of law school. (2Ls and 3Ls are also welcome to do Stage 2 reviews.)
2: Stage 3 reviews: This is a much more in-depth review to determine whether an inmate presents a compelling case of innocence that might be appropriate for the PA Innocence Project to investigate and potentially litigate. Students working on Stage 3 reviews are required to work for four hours a week for at least one semester. The students will draft 25-50 page memos about the case they are working on for review with the attorneys and investigator.
Because PA Innocence Project deals with inmates’ original documents, they require that all students do their volunteer work at the office, located in center city. The office is easily accessible from Villanova by regional rail.
Student Liaison - Gabi Lipschitz
Faculty Liaison - Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - Wendy Bookler, Legal Director
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.
Student Coordinator: (pending) Tax Law Society
Faculty Liaison: Les Book
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.
Dorothy Day Award
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. This definition is intentionally narrow, as the intent of the award is to recognize students who provide direct legal services to the poor or disenfranchised. (Please see below for an expanded definition of qualifying work that is temporarily in place due to the pandemic.) Hours must be completed during the academic year, and work for which a student has received academic credit is not considered pro bono for the purposes of the award.
Due to the international pandemic, Villanova students have fewer opportunities to engage in the kinds of pro bono service that qualifies for the Dorothy Day Award. In light of this, the Public Interest Committee has voted to temporarily amend the definition of qualifying work for the Dorothy Day Award.
Under this amendment, for purposes of the Dorothy Day Award, “pro bono service” is expanded beyond the current definition to also include any community lawyering or educational work for the primary benefit of poor or disenfranchised individuals performed under the auspices of any non-profit, public service, or community-based organization with a mission to serve those individuals.
Students may not be paid and may not receive academic credit for this work. Hours may be completed any time during the summer or during the academic year.
These amendments are effective for work done since March 15, 2020, and continue in effect until revoked by the Public Interest Committee.
Work completed on behalf of the following organizations qualifies towards the Dorothy Day Award: Face to Face Legal Clinic, PA Innocence Project, STAR Federal Prisoner Reentry Project, VITA, Federal Defender’s Capital Habeas Unit, Senior Law Center, Pennsylvania Volunteers for the Indigent Program, Support Center for Child Advocates, Wills for Heroes, Medical-Legal-Community Partnership (MLCP), Homeless Advocacy Project, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and Villanova Law-sponsored pro bono service spring break trips. This is not an exhaustive list; work performed on behalf of other organizations that provide direct legal services to the poor or disenfranchised is also eligible for credit, provided all award criteria is met.
Please Note: Work at most government agencies and offices (including District Attorney and Attorney General offices) typically does NOT qualify toward the Dorothy Day Award. In addition, participation in the following activities does not qualify: Street Law, VLS Days of Service (unless legal work is completed on behalf of the poor or disenfranchised), tutoring, and coaching and/or judging mock trial competitions.
Please contact Sharon Buckingham if you have any question as to whether your project qualifies.
To be eligible for the award, students must have completed 60 hours of pro bono service during their three years of law school (not including summers).
To report pro bono hours, students may use the new online reporting system.
Students may still use the old forms for hours completed before February 1, 2020.
Students should report hours as they are earned but no later than the end of the academic year during which the work was completed. During 3L spring semester, all hours must be submitted prior to March 31.
Note: for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, in cases where student hours are not directly supervised by an attorney or faculty member, students are still required to submit the applicable form(s), signed by the student organizer/officer of the Pro Bono Society who can verify the hours. Also, students may submit a signed NY Affidavit of Compliance in place of the VLS pro bono reporting form, if the hours reflect work that satisfies the definition of pro bono indicated above.