Family Defense Pro Bono Project


We work with Partners for Justice (“PFJ”) Advocates throughout California to provide effective, compassionate, and client-centered family law support to public defender clients. PFJ Advocates are part of the defense team and assist clients with the collateral consequences of the criminal legal system. Most clients will have current criminal cases open. Some clients may be incarcerated or in ICE custody. The family law issue that they need assistance with might be related or unrelated to the criminal case. In California, family law is civil and includes divorce, child custody and support, and domestic violence restraining orders. Our clients might be the petitioners starting a family law case or the respondents. Parties in family law cases (unlike dependency cases) are not entitled to government provided attorneys. Most parties are self-represented with extremely limited legal aid in this area–we aim to bridge that gap for the most marginalized Californians.

Commitment Required of Members:

Members should commit to 1 to 4 hours/week for the school year, though work during breaks may be required depending on the case a volunteer is assisting with. Almost all members work directly with clients (collaborating with a PFJ Advocate, developing a plan with our team, and then directly assisting the client). Members will check in briefly with project leaders bi-weekly to discuss progress on their case and receive guidance about next steps. Members will also communicate with volunteer Family Attorneys to receive support on their cases when necessary. This project is a good fit for students who are flexible, want direct client experience, and are interested in assisting Californians in the criminal system.

Open Membership Spots: 6

Adv. Degree Student Participation: Permitted

Winter Start: Not Permitted; Fall Quarter Start Required

Eligible for Meeting NYS Bar Pro Bono Requirement: Likely

Language Ability Preference: None

Project Leaders: Salma Abdelrahman and Marin Callaway