PRO BONO OPPORTUNITIES

Villanova Law students make a difference in the lives of many by providing free legal services to people who otherwise could not afford the help they need. 

Pro bono work enables students to affect the lives of others, while exploring various fields of law, networking with attorneys, and also advancing their own skills. Pro bono legal work puts classroom learning into practice through hands-on experience. Volunteers perform the work of practicing attorneys, including interviewing and counseling clients, drafting pleadings, negotiating deals and appearing in court. By using 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 associated with poverty and powerlessness.

 

GETTING INVOLVED

A variety of pro bono opportunities exist for Villanova Law students, including Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunities that are coordinated with student organizations like the Pro Bono Society, opportunities through other student organizations, as well as independent volunteer work with 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 advisor 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.

 

FACILITATED OPPORTUNITIES

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 - Melissa Durante
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - Michael Adams, Operations Manager

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 - Keira Leventhal and Lisa McConnell
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - John Winicov, Esq., Attorney

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 Liaisons – Kayla DiPaolo and Andrew Green
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Steve Chanenson
Placement Contact – Erin Boyle, Esq., Assistant Public Defender

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 Coordinator – Angela Boyer
Faculty Liaison – Prof. Amanda Rogers
Placement Contact – Tobey Oxholm, Director, The Pardon Project

The Pardon Project (an initiative of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity “PLSE”) has two student volunteer opportunities:

1: Pardon Project Coach: This is an interview and writing project where the student-volunteer will be connected to an individual looking to fill out a pardon application in Pennsylvania. A pardon represents total forgiveness of a criminal record. If granted, the individual’s entire criminal record in Pennsylvania will be erased and restore the rights and privileges that were lost as a result of their convictions.  PLSE will pre-screen the individual to make sure they are a good candidate for a pardon and the student liaison will then connect the student-volunteer to the client. The student-volunteer will attend a 1-hour training (likely via zoom) before starting the project. The student-volunteer will interview (either by phone, zoom, or in-person) the client to help write a persuasive narrative for the pardon application. Generally, 2-4 interviews and 3-5 hours will be needed to finish the application before providing the application to Professor Rogers for review prior to filing the application.

2: Community Education and Intakes: This is an opportunity to provide assistance to community members who are seeking to learn about criminal records, expungements and pardons. Student-volunteers will attend a 1-hour training to learn how to answer general questions at a community-based intake/community event, After the training, the student-volunteer can sign up to participate with PLSE staff in a one-day event that lasts approximately 3-4 hours. At the event, student-volunteers will (with some additional training at the event) interview community members, conduct intake, review online rap sheets and counsel individuals on the pardon process and whether now is a good time for them to apply.

Student Liaison - Anderson Amaya
Faculty Liaison - Prof. Doris Brogan
Placement Contact - Nilam Sanghvi, Esq., Interim Executive Director and Legal Director

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 - Michaela Kelly
Faculty Liaison - Prof. Mary Ann Robinson
Placement Contact - Kersey Cunningham, Helpline Legal Advocate

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES

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:  Arika Troxell
Faculty Liaison: Prof. 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.