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Programs of Change: Law Schools Explain Their Commitment to Public Service

Law schools participating in the U.S. Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative discuss how they are institutionalizing their commitment to pro bono and public service following a "Champions of Change: Justice" event.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

At the October 13 Champions of Change event, Stanford Law Professor Deborah Rhode noted that it is a “shameful irony that the country with the highest concentration of lawyers in the world does such an abysmal job of ensuring that they are available for the vast majority of low-income people who need them, and whose needs are greatest.” 

Millions of people in the United States cannot access legal assistance that is often critical to their wellbeing and freedom.  All parts of the legal profession need to be engaged to address this crisis. There is no better place to begin than when future lawyers are at the very start of their careers – when they are still in law school. 

Champion Martha Bergmark, President of the Mississippi Center for Justice, noted with some envy that when she was in law school, clinics were only just beginning.  But as most Champions observed on October 13, times have changed and law schools now offer a wide range of opportunities for students to learn about legal issues involving poverty and equal justice.

 Students are able to get hands-on experience helping victims of domestic violence, individuals who need a second chance, or Native Americans in need of defender services. There are a diverse range of opportunities for students interested in supporting the cause of access to justice.  

 The U.S. Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative asked participating law schools to discuss how they are institutionalizing their commitment to pro bono work and public service. They were asked to address two questions: 

  1. What is your school doing to support a public service ethic in every student?
  2. What new public service opportunities are you offering in the 2011-12 academic year? 

Their answers are below.

The Access to Justice Initiative is grateful to law schools that foster a strong public service ethic in their students. Together, we can ensure that all people, regardless of their status, have equal access to justice in America.

The Albany Law School Pro Bono Program launched by the Student Affairs Office in October 2009, provides law students with a broad range of service learning opportunities through which they provide law-related assistance in a broad range of matters.   Last year, nearly 300 students collectively provided 4,000 hours of vital assistance to low-income communities.  Read the rest

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School enjoys a rich history of inspiring and supporting a public service-centered work ethic. That commitment to the community and understanding of the lawyer’s role in serving the greater good is even more present in the school’s work and mission today. Read the rest

Boston University School of Law students find encouragement and support to make public service a central part of their legal educations and their professional lives. Starting at orientation, students participate in a Service Day. Read the rest

Brooklyn Law School’s Office of Public Service Programs provides a variety of services for students interested in public service as a career and those who are exploring that option. We provide individual counseling, sponsor a series of workshops, speakers and events, coordinate pro bono projects, assist students with fellowships and funding, and apprise students of current opportunities such as job fairs, social justice events, and writing competitions. Read the rest

Campbell University School of Law  is committed to producing highly competent, deeply compassionate lawyers who view the practice of law as a calling to serve others. As such, Campbell Law recognizes that serving others is embedded in the professional responsibility of a lawyer.   Read the rest

Chapman University School of Law, founded in 1995 in Orange, California, is a young law school that continues to develop and strengthen its public interest programs. The school has consistently demonstrated a commitment to public service, and strives to encourage its students and alumni to actively pursue careers in public interest law and engage in pro bono legal activities. Read the rest

Instilling a commitment to public service within its student body lies at the very heart of the Charleston School of Law's mission statement. The Charleston School of Law is one of only a few law schools in the nation that requires its students, as a condition of graduation, to perform 30 hours of free legal work in the public interest under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Read the rest

One of the mission pillars of the Charlotte School of Law is “serving the underserved.” The goal of the Charlotte School of Law Pro Bono Program is to engage students in law-related service projects, which provide an opportunity for our students to develop practical skills and gain an awareness of the problems of the poor in accessing legal representation. Read the rest

With world-renowned faculty, hands-on lawyering opportunities, and a multidisciplinary approach to public interest legal education, Columbia Law School prepares graduates to become future leaders - whether they serve society through full-time careers in public interest law, government service, or pro bono work at law firms. Read the rest

Concord Law School of Kaplan University, launched in 1998, is the first realistic, committed, and comprehensive effort to harness the power of technology and the Internet to benefit legal education. As a wholly online, robust, and interactive, part-time program, Concord meets the needs of a working, adult student population. Read the rest

Cornell Law School is an extremely collegial and supportive environment for every student, including those students pursuing public interest careers. Dean Stewart Schwab has prioritized public service as an important aspect of the Law School's mission. Read the rest

Students who plan to use their DePaul University College of Law degree to help others will find a welcoming community at the Center for Public Interest Law. From a law student's first day of class until long after our alumni take their first public interest job, CPIL's mission is to support students and lawyers who work in the public interest. Read the rest

 At Duke Law School we celebrate service as an inherent element of the lawyering profession. The Law School’s Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono () supports an ethic of service throughout the school by coordinating: the Duke Law Pro Bono Project; the annual Public Interest Retreat and Careers in Service Symposium; summer fellowship programs in support of public interest work; and the externship program, which allows students to gain hands-on experience working for academic credit with a government or public interest organization. Read the rest

 The Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University motto - Scientia, Ars, Officium - Knowledge, Skill, Duty - reflects the goals Drexel has for its law student graduates. The third element of our school’s mission, Officium, means “the duty to the public good owed by a public official." Read the rest

Building on a foundation of innovative programs that put into practice the university’s hallmarks of engaged and experiential learning, a commitment to leadership and service, Elon University School of Law has quickly distinguished itself since opening its doors in 2006. Read the rest

Emory University School of Law is committed to encouraging and supporting a spirit of public service among its students.  This commitment begins when students first arrive on campus and continues throughout their time at Emory. Read the rest

 Located in one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan urban centers, Florida International UniversityCollege of Law offers a curriculum that prepares its students to both compete and thrive as future lawyers in an increasingly global and multicultural world and who also maintain a high regard for professionalism and awareness of their social responsibility. Read the rest

Fordham University School of Law instills a public service ethic in every student...So much so that we received the 2008 American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award for our work. Read the rest

Pro bono at George Washington University Law School: An Innovative Approach. A major problem for all law school pro bono programs is connecting students with potential clients in a way that is efficient for everyone – when the provider and the person in need of services live in different worlds and there is no common location where they regularly meet. We at GW have a new program that seems to solve that problem and reduce a serious barrier to the delivery of needed services. Read the rest

Golden Gate UniversitySchool of Law is consistently ranked one of the best public interest law schools in the country. Last year, the National Jurist found that GGU Law was one of the six best in California. GGU Law ensures that the values that underpin public service permeate campus life, and students have every opportunity to become engaged in the public sector. Read the rest

 Hofstra Law School first encouraged a public service commitment in its students over thirty years ago when it became a pioneer in integrating clinical education into a law school. Hofstra was one of the first law schools in the country to open a clinic, and by the late 1970’s had one of the largest clinical programs in the country. Read the rest

 The halls of Howard University School of Law are filled with “Champions of Change” past and present.  From Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Honorable Damon Keith of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, to our recent graduates working at the Southern Poverty Law Center and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Howard Law alumni have a proud legacy of championing social justice causes.  Read the rest

Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Access to Justice Program is Celebrating Pro Bono Week with a week-long informational campaign designed to foster student interest in pro bono service. The week will begin with a free CLE for local pro bono attorneys and ethics training for law student volunteers. Read the rest

Loyola University Chicago School of Law is committed to preparing its students to fulfill their professional obligation to serve the public. This commitment is consistent with the Jesuit mission of being of service to others. Read the rest

Loyola Law School – Los Angeles is committed to helping the community and providing pro bono and public services opportunities to all of our students. We have many programs, both faculty and student directed. Since 1997, every student who has graduated from Loyola has completed a minimum of 40 hours of pro bono services to the community with over 100 different public interest organizations. Read the rest

Public service is central to the mission of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Consistent with St. Ignatius’ call for each of us to be “a person for others,” all law students are strongly encouraged to give their time and skills to the community through a variety of programs.   Read the rest

New York University School of Law has a long-standing goal for all of its graduates to pursue public service throughout their careers.  NYU provides the highest standard of training for students pursuing public service by offering myriad clinics, courses, and symposia to train students in the complex skill sets required for public service lawyering. Read the rest

Northeastern University School of Law is one of the nation’s top public interest law schools. Our experiential approach is steeped in social justice values, providing students with both hands-on skills obtained in real legal settings and an awareness of their responsibility to serve society regardless of their chosen field. Read the rest

The Salmon P. Chase College of Law, founded in 1893, is located on the main campus of Northern Kentucky University, a metropolitan university in a thriving legal and business community just seven miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio. Read the rest

Northwestern Law has a long history of fostering a commitment to public service in its students and graduates. In 2002, we adopted a Public Service Strategy, designed to build an ethic of service and giving among all students, regardless of their career path. Read the rest

Visit Penn State School of Law or meet our alumni and you will learn quickly that we derive our strength from one another. Whether it’s the “Best Student Section” in the country or the PSU Dance Marathon raising enormous sums of money to benefit pediatric cancer research, we function best as a team. Read the rest

Roger Williams University School of Law is committed to the principle that every lawyer should use his or her legal skills to serve the community and address unmet legal need. An important part of the law school’s mission is to introduce students to public service during law school in order to set the stage for a lifetime of valuable pro bono work.  Read the rest

At Seattle University School of Law, we take to heart our mission to educate outstanding lawyers who are leaders for a just and humane world. The values of equal justice for all permeate every aspect of the law school. Read the rest

A legal education can bring justice to the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. Seton Hall University School of Law offers outstanding opportunities to students considering careers in public interest and government, as well as to students seeking to make public service a continuing part of their professional lives.  Read the rest

The mission of the Southern University Law Center is to provide sound legal education and training to a diverse student body, while maintaining our historic role of providing legal educational opportunities to under-represented racial, ethnic, and economic groups.  It is our desire that our students will return to their communities, equipped with a legal education, and ready to pursue goals that include public service. Read the rest

Very few experiences match the gratification that comes from making a difference in the lives of people in need, and Southwestern Law School students have many avenues through which they can have that kind of connection to the community. Read the rest

At Stanford Law School public service is more than a program pursued by a handful of students: it is a central part of our mission and our culture. We believe that the privilege to practice law includes a responsibility to the larger society. Every lawyer has the capacity to make a positive difference in the world, and we expect every student and every faculty member to step up to that role.  Read the rest

For more than 100 years, Suffolk University Law School has produced leaders dedicated to public service. In 1997, the law school established the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, the public service hub of the law school. Read the rest

Syracuse University College of Law is proud of our students’ commitment to public service, through their pro bono and community service and community engagement work and choice of careers post-graduation. Read the rest

At Temple University Beasley School of Law, we believe that increasing access to justice is among the highest duties of every lawyer – not just those whose jobs are in public interest and public service. It’s a commitment to community that’s rooted in the vision of our University’s Founder, Russell H. Conwell, and that remains vibrant and pressing for us today. Read the rest

Established in 1989 and located in downtown Fort Worth since 1997 Texas Wesleyan School of Law is committed to providing its students with the strong theoretical foundation and practical skills necessary to traverse the dynamic legal landscape of the 21st century. Read the rest

 Supporting a public service ethic in every student falls squarely within the mission of The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.  Among its tenets is a core commitment to the ideals of the dignity of each person, justice rooted in the common good and care for the vulnerable.  These values are manifested in practice at the Law School in a variety of ways: Read the rest

The City University of New York School of Law is ranked #1 in the nation for public interest law by PreLaw magazine. Our graduates work across the social justice spectrum advocating and lawyering nationally and abroad for the greater good. Read the rest

In order to provide positive experiences to our law students that will promote their future involvement as practitioners and provide independent educational value and direct knowledge concerning the plight of persons of limited means and their access to justice, The University of Akron School of Law has adopted a Community and Pro Bono Publico Service Requirement policy. Read the rest

 The University of Denver Sturm College of Law has a long tradition of promoting public service and legal practice among its students. We strive to remain in the forefront of public service and to advance the law school as “The Public Interest Law Center of the Rockies.”  Read the rest

The University of Iowa College of Law’s curriculum, clinics and culture reflect a deep commitment to training the next generation of lawyers and leaders to serve their clients and communities. Classes, seminars, in-house clinics, externships and seven faculty-run centers offer students paid, volunteer and credit opportunities in public interest subjects. Read the rest

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law does more than simply observe pro bono week; we celebrate pro bono month because of a spirit of service that pervades the students, faculty and staff.  Read the rest

At the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in August, the Law School Division honored The University of Miami School of Law with the 2011 National Achievement Award in Public Interest for its commitment to public interest work and public service. Read the rest

The University of Mississippi School of Law offers nine in-house clinics, a variety of field placements, and in-house and external pro bono projects. In the Child Advocacy Clinic, students serve as court-appointed guardians ad litem in abuse and neglect cases. The Low-Income Housing Clinic offers assistance to individuals and families facing eviction, dangerous housing conditions, and foreclosure. Read the rest

The University of Montana School of Law, which celebrates its Centennial in 2011, is a pioneer in providing legal services to underserved populations in Montana and the American West.  With its emphasis on practical skills training dating to the first curriculum in 1911 (which required trial practice), pro bono legal work by students is a natural fit at UM Law. Read the rest

The University of New Mexico School of Law encourages all its students to think about how they can use their legal education for public service, training public service lawyers with attention to what they need to be successful, and instilling a sense in those who will enter private practice to think about how they can serve the public as well. Read the rest

 The University of St. Thomas School of Law mission is to integrate faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice. To implement this mission, each member of the law school community is dedicated to promoting excellence in public service. Read the rest

The University of Texas School of Law is committed to developing lawyers who engage in public service by pursuing public interest careers and by doing pro bono work.  The William Wayne Justice Center, The UT Law Pro Bono Program, and the clinical program are three of several institutions supported by the law school to promote public service. Read the rest

As a second year student at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, I am thankful to find myself immersed in an environment that is strongly devoted to social justice and public service. I was drawn to TJSL because of the school’s commitment to diversity in all aspects, as well as its commitment to community outreach. Read the rest

 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.   Since its founding more than 40 years ago, UC Davis School of Law has dedicated itself to the ideals of social justice and public service espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for whom the Law School building is named. Read the rest

University of California Hastings College of the Law has a long-standing commitment to promoting the development of a pro bono ethic in all our students. Toward this end, in the fall of 2008, we adopted a formal, albeit voluntary, Pro Bono Program.  Read the rest

The Pro Bono Program at UC Irvine School of Law is a reflection of the school’s deep commitment to experiential learning and public service. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the program, providing legal services to underserved communities while supervised by an attorney or member of the law school faculty. Although the program is not mandatory, more than 90% of  students are participating. Read the rest

 UCLA School of Law,one of the nation’s premier public law schools, has a proud tradition of public service.  Through our rich and innovative academic and pro bono programs, our vibrant public interest community, our ties to one of the country’s foremost universities, and our location in one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world, we are committed to preparing the public interest lawyers and advocates of the future and nurturing a public service ethic in all of our students. Read the rest

At the University of Arkansas School of Law, we have embraced the celebration of National Pro Bono Week as part of our wider mission to expand the access to justice for citizens in our local community, the state, and the nation.  Under the leadership of our new Dean, Stacy L. Leeds, our faculty provides a workable model of Pro Bono service through their work on projects locally and nationwide, through their service on boards such as Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, and through their support of ongoing projects such as our poverty law clinics and our Habitat for Humanity Wills Project. Read the rest

As one of the foremost public law schools in the nation, UC Berkeley School of Law takes seriously its responsibility to develop, train, and support the next generations of attorneys in the value of public service. Through dedicated faculty, staff, and administrative resources, as well as clinics and research centers that focus on real-world problems, students receive the support they need to explore and pursue their public interest passions from the first day they arrive and throughout their careers. Read the rest

When Dean Michael Schill joined The University of Chicago Law School as its new Dean last year in 2010, he immediately began implementing programs and initiatives to renew the Law School’s emphasis on public service and public interest law. Read the rest

 "Public service is a core value at the  University of Florida Levin College of Law, and it has been at the heart of our mission for decades.  Preparing our students to serve not only their clients but also the justice system and the public consistently with the highest ethical standards and ideals of the legal profession is an indispensable part of providing students with a well-rounded legal education.”   UF Levin College of Law Dean Robert H. Jerry Read the rest

The University of La Verne College of Law is located in the inland region of Southern California, a large geographic area with a growing, diverse population that encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and extends from the eastern edge of Los Angeles County to the Nevada and Arizona border. We serve a population base of roughly 6 million people which is underserved by the legal profession. Read the rest

 Public interest is an integral part of the mission and culture at the University of Maine School of Law. We take our responsibility as a public institution seriously. Maine Law was one of the first law schools in the country to adopt a voluntary pro bono service requirement for students; and in every year since that the program has been in place, a significant fraction of the graduating class has been recognized at commencement for having completed 80 hours (or more) of pro bono service while attending law school. Read the rest

The University of Michigan Law School has long been a leader in public service. That’s part of our heritage as a public school, and it stretches back to our beginnings in 1859. In 2011, now more than ever, Michigan Law is dedicated to: Read the rest

University of Missouri School of Law will celebrate National Pro Bono week and the work done by pro bono lawyers in Missouri to meet the needs of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.  Throughout the week, students who have participated in pro bono activities will be recognized.  MU Law students will have the opportunity to attend several programs celebrating pro bono work.  Read the rest

The University of Montana School of Law, which celebrates its Centennial in 2011, is a pioneer in providing legal services to underserved populations in Montana and the American West.  With its emphasis on practical skills training dating to the first curriculum in 1911 (which required trial practice), pro bono legal work by students is a natural fit at UM Law. Read the rest

University of Oklahoma College of Law’s Students for Access to Justice promotes a culture of public service commitment by connecting University of Oklahoma law students with meaningful pro bono volunteer opportunities. Each year OU law students set new records for their contributions to public service. Read the rest

The University of Oregon School of Law culture encourages student participation in public service. Students choose Oregon Law because of its public service emphasis and the rich offerings in public service through student group projects, curricular offerings, Centers and Programs, symposia, and more. In the last five years, an astounding 48 percent of Oregon Law graduates accepted positions in public service. Read the rest   

One of the first law schools in the country to require students to engage in pro bono work, the University of Pennsylvania Law School aims to promote an ethic of service in all students while encouraging them to develop professional skills and enhance their legal education. The centerpiece of Penn Law’s pledge to service is a graduation obligation for students of 70 hours of pro bono legal work.  Read the rest

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is committed to preparing students for careers in the public interest. Pitt Law created a Loan Repayment Assistance Program in 2007 which financially assists students who decide to pursue public interest careers. Additionally, Pitt Law operates a Public Interest Scholarship Program which provides scholarships for incoming students committed to working within the public sector. Read the rest

For over 21 years the University of South Carolina School of Law has offered a full range of public service opportunities to its students through the highly regarded Pro Bono Program. The students have responded with enthusiasm and as alumni they have demonstrated a life long commitment to pro bono service. Read the rest

University of Southern California Gould School of Law asks “Can one law student make a difference?” The USC Law community says, unequivocally, "Yes." Whether you're assisting a family in adopting a child, or a veteran with medical and housing benefits, you can make a difference through countless volunteer opportunities, internships, in-house legal clinics, and grant programs. Read the rest

The University of Tennessee College of Law’s UT Pro Bono is a student run community service organization at the University of Tennessee College of Law. The program strives to connect law students allowing them to represent and assist indigent clients in ways they wouldn’t be able to until later in their law school career. Read the rest

The University of Toledo College of Law has a rich history of promoting public service. The school provides students with a wide array of public interest practical, curricular, and extra-curricular public service programs and opportunities.  Read the rest

As dean of The University of Tulsa College of Law, I am proud of our efforts to instill a lifelong commitment to public service within our students. Those efforts begin prior to our students stepping foot in their first law classroom and continue throughout their time at TU. Read the rest

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law offers national and global service programs designed to provide graduates with experience, training, and skill sets required to prepare them for a variety of service opportunities in local, national, and global venues. Read the rest

I heard a speech at the beginning of the University of Washington School of Law  school year that lawyers should use their powers to do good, and that’s exactly what I intend to do after graduating from law school. I went into law school to change lives.   Read the rest

A momentous achievement took place for the University of Wisconsin Law School’s  Pro Bono Program in early September of this year.  With unanimous approval from the law school faculty, the Pro Bono Program has instituted a Pro Bono Society for students to receive institutional recognition of their pro bono service during law school. Read the rest

The Wyoming Law Students for Equal Justice organization at the University of Wyoming College of Law provides a forum for law students interested in public interest and pro bono service. The organization's goals are to increase awareness of public interest law by providing a forum for discussion of public interest issues, as well as an opportunity for law students to do pro bono public interest work. Read the rest

The Wake Forest University School of Law supports public service in each of its students in myriad ways, including through the Pro Bono Project launched two years ago. Since that time, the program has provided a pathway for law students to serve the public and to create bold new pro bono initiatives. Read the rest

From the moment students embark on their law studies at Washburn University School of Law, they are encouraged to participate in pro bono initiatives supported by the law school.  First Week activities for new students include an introduction to Washburn Law’s Pro Bono Program, which encourages students to understand and embrace their future professional obligation to provide legal services to individuals of limited means. Read the rest

We at Willamette University College of Law are proud of our history of public service. Located in Oregon’s capital, Salem, our students and graduates can be found at all levels of government, from the governor’s office to the local public defender, from the Oregon Supreme Court to city attorney offices, and everywhere in between. Read the rest

American legal education began at William & Mary in 1779 with an extraordinary vision, first articulated by Thomas Jefferson and George Wythe. Jefferson believed that aspiring members of the profession should be trained to be citizen lawyers — committed legal advocates and honorable human beings who were not only excellent at their legal craft but also good citizens and leaders of their communities, states, and nations. Read the rest

William Mitchell College of Law is a law school for the real world -- that means an ethic of service to clients and community and putting practical skills to work in infused through the school!  Graduates, faculty, staff and students are local champions of change. Read the rest

At Yale Law School students are at the center of a vibrant, active and activist community. Whether attending classes, organizing a slate of engaging conferences and events, or volunteering to work for the public interest, Yale Law students bring their idealism and passion into every aspect of their lives. Read the rest

Mark Childress is a Senior Counselor for Access to Justice