Pro Bono Program

Pro Bono Program 7

Pro Bono Program

Law students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to volunteer with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project as part of Alternative Spring Break 2016. The students were supervised by alumna Eunice Cho, JD ’09. See the article written by Elena Mercado, JD ’18 on page 6 of our Summer 2016 issue of Create Change.

From left, Elena Mercado, JD ’18; Lindsey Jackson, JD ’16; and Yvette Borja, JD ’18 posed outside the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. They interviewed children detained at the Center about the conditions of their confinement.

It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect...If we are able to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.

Learned Hand, Address at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Legal Aid Society of New York

Why Pro Bono?

One of the most noble aspects of the American legal profession, and one outlined in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules, is its recognition that lawyers should aspire to provide significant pro bono publico legal service; using our legal expertise and skills to provide assistance to those who are most in need. Stanford Law School (SLS) similarly expects and encourages its students and faculty to provide such service. SLS views the Pro Bono Program as integral to its commitment to excellence in legal education. But to best understand the reason for SLS’s vibrant public service programs, one need only consider the words of students themselves:

John Drdek, ’16, said: “It is a gift to advocate for those with no voice – the trees that shade us, the water that feeds us, and the air that gives us life.”

Amy Heath, ’16, said: “So many people are left to navigate the legal system alone and for so many of them, so much hangs in the balance.  It is asking so little of law students and lawyers to spend a few hours to help.”

And Gagan Gupta, ’16, said: “Public service is first and foremost an ethical commitment. But it is also the space where we debate our values and our visions for a stronger collective future. My pro bono internship at the North Carolina Legal Aid Society allowed me to witness how those debates manifest in people’s daily encounters with the legal system. And it provided a platform from where I could work in a community about which I care deeply.”

These students were not alone. In 2016, 59 graduating 3Ls earned Pro Bono Distinction, which means that they spent at least 50 hours using their legal skills in unpaid public service during law school for which they received no academic credit. Additionally, 15 3Ls completed more than 150 hours, graduating with High Distinction, and 16 3Ls completed more than 300 hours of pro bono, graduating with High Distinction. Together, graduating 3Ls contributed over 13,000 hours of Pro Bono work, a remarkable achievement.

Even more important than the benefits students receive from pro bono are those they provide to the clients they serve. Through our various pro bono projects, SLS students do impactful work that provides much-needed aid to the people who seek their assistance. One client of SLS students who participated in a Justice Bus Trip to Fresno said: “The help I got today has made my future very bright!”

Another client from Fresno said: “I was convicted of a DUI in 2004.  It is the only crime I’ve ever committed.  [You] have assisted me in moving on in my life.  [The volunteers] redefine the meaning of professionalism, and just plain helping people.  Thank you for everything!”

A third client said: “I have had my criminal record keeping me from opportunities to volunteer for over 19 years.  I feel completely rehabilitated and active in a 12-step program for over 16 years.  A modification on my record will allow me to be a better citizen.  Your staff was very enthusiastic and helpful in getting me started on the road to achieving this goal.  Keep up the good work!”

As these comments illustrate, the work SLS students do through their pro bono projects transforms the lives of the clients they serve. SLS students volunteer for myriad reasons, but there are many common motivations: The need is dire; they learn a lot about themselves and the law; it’s fulfilling; and its fun. Everyone, regardless of career goal, should participate.

If you are a current or prospective student and have questions, please contact Holly Parrish at hparrish@law.stanford.edu.

 

FAQ

What is SLS’s Pro Bono Program?

Stanford Law School has a robust Pro Bono Program with many student-led pro bono projects.  SLS defines pro bono work as any law-related work done in the public service that is

  • Uncompensated
  • At or with an SLS-approved non-profit or government agency
  • Performed under the supervision of an attorney, faculty member or other qualified supervisor
  • For which no academic credit is received.
What pro bono projects are available?

SLS’s pro bono projects cover diverse subject matters and types of legal work.  Examples of projects include StreetLaw, where students educate incarcerated youth about their legal rights and responsibilities, develop their advocacy skills, and promote critical thinking about our justice system, the Immigration Pro Bono, where students work with licensed volunteer attorneys to interview potential clients at Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), screen for legal issues, and help CLSEPA’s immigration staff provide counsel, and Project ReMade, where students provide recently incarcerated individuals comprehensive entrepreneurship training, leadership development, and mentoring in teams comprised of a law student, a business school student, and a Silicon Valley business executive. Other students participate in pro bono projects focused on, for example, providing pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the United States, or assisting people who wish to become naturalized citizens.

How Do I Earn Pro Bono Distinction at SLS?

Students who volunteer at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono work without compensation or academic credit before graduation will receive Pro Bono Distinction.  Those who complete 150 hours or more of Pro Bono may graduate with High Distinction, and those who complete 300 hours or more will graduate with Highest Distinction.

Students who receive Pro Bono Distinction will receive a pin to wear on their graduation robes to recognize their achievement, it will be noted in the graduation program, and they will be able to note it on their résumé.

Members of the faculty and staff are also encouraged to aspire to meet the standard of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which call for fifty hours of pro bono service annually, or the financial equivalent.  Faculty and staff who complete 50 hours of pro bono service within a year will also receive Pro Bono Distinction.

What Hours Count for Pro Bono Distinction Credit at SLS?

Students will be given pro bono credit at SLS for the following public service work:

  • Law-related assistance to a non-profit agency engaged in uncompensated legal representation of low-income clients
  • Law-related assistance to a governmental entity
  • Lesson preparation and presentation in legal education projects
  • Hours in excess of those for which a student is receiving summer funding at a public interest placement
  • Substantive training directly relating to the pro bono project
  • Student leader time spent organizing and coordinating projects
  • Note: Travel time does not count towards pro bono hours
New York Bar Pro Bono Requirements

The New York Bar has also recognized that the provision of pro bono services is central to the legal profession, and now requires all those who wish to be admitted to practice law in New York to complete 50 hours of pro bono work prior to admission.  The New York Bar’s definition of pro bono is slightly different than SLS’s definition; for example, clinical coursework can count towards the New York Bar’s requirements, but not towards SLS’s requirements.  By contrast, lesson preparation and presentation of legal education projects counts towards our requirements, but not towards the New York Bar’s requirements.  Please note: those students, particularly LLM students, wishing to meet the New York Bar’s pro bono requirements while at SLS should begin their pro bono work early in the academic year.

More information about the New York Bar’s pro bono requirements

Who Can Participate?

Everyone!  Students at all levels, from 1L to LLM, are encouraged to participate in these projects, regardless of your ultimate career goals.  Just as lawyers in all walks of life can and should contribute to the public good, whether as firm lawyers donating their time and skills to those in need, or as life-long public interest or government lawyers, so too, can students pursuing any career path.

How Can I Participate?

Each fall, a Pro Bono Fair is held for 1Ls, where they can learn about and sign up for pro bono projects.  Students returning to campus, transfer students and LLM students are also invited to sign up for pro bono projects in the fall. For more information on these projects and SLS’s Pro Bono Program, please contact Holly Parrish.

What Training is Required?

Every student who commits to participate in a project must attend the SLS Ethics Training (given in the fall of each year), any student who will be interviewing clients must watch a video on how to interview clients, and students must participate in any training required by the project itself.

Stanford students help formerly incarcerated people become entrepreneurs

Stanford Law School’s Project ReMADE is a pro bono boot camp for formerly incarcerated people seeking to start their own businesses. The Project began during the 2011-2012 school year, graduating its first class of entrepreneurs in 2012. The 12-week program teaches basic business skills to aspiring entrepreneurs and helps them build the social capital needed to launch and sustain their enterprises. Students from Stanford’s Law School and Graduate School of Business lead biweekly classes on topics ranging from accounting and marketing to negotiations and public speaking. Additionally, entrepreneurs meet with student mentors and Silicon Valley professionals to develop individualized business plans. At the program’s end, the new entrepreneurs present their business plans to a panel of executives from local micro-development organizations.

Pro Bono Projects By Subject Area

Criminal Justice

After Innocence
After Innocence is a non-profit that provides re-entry assistance for America’s exonerees - people who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit - and advocates for policy reform on their behalf.

Stanford Law student volunteers will be working on After Innocence’s “clean slate” project to ensure that exonerees’ criminal records and general background checks accurately reflect their criminal histories, and to help them take advantage of any opportunities to clean up those records. This work is essential in helping exonerees find jobs and housing, in addition to restoring rights and dignity after release.

The work will be one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the clients After Innocence serves are spread widely across the country. This is an exceptional opportunity to develop a one-on-one connection with a client early on in your legal career.

For SLS students, several other types of legal projects on behalf of client-exonerees will also be available on a volunteer basis. For students interested in assisting this population on a more systemic level, there will also be opportunities for some policy work (including research and drafting of legislation) to improve compensation laws.

Brief training will be provided, and volunteers can consult with the student and attorney project directors as needed by phone or email. Volunteers will generally self-manage their respective cases, with great flexibility as to when and where to do the work, and minimal meetings.

One quarter commitment (minimum 20 hours), with option to continue.

Co-Leaders: Abbee Cox, Annick Jordan, and Samson Schatz


Project ReMADE
Project ReMADE is a four month entrepreneurship program that helps those who were formerly incarcerated start their owns businesses. SLS students get involved by either (i) serving as mentors alongside Graduate School of Business (GSB) students and Bay Area executives as part of a mentor team or (ii) teaching a class on a fundamental aspect of operating a business (e.g., accounting, marketing, creditworthiness, etc.). Mentors must commit to meeting with their entrepreneur and other team members approximately 7 times over the course of the program, with each meeting lasting approximately 2 hours. Teachers must commit to teaching one class lasting approximately 2 hours on a Sunday during the winter or spring quarter. Although students must apply in the fall, the program does not begin in earnest until the winter. We do not have requirements by year in school; we simply take the most qualified applicants with prior business or other relevant experience. This is a serious, demanding, and rewarding commitment. Project ReMADE requires a separate application that will be submitted directly to the project leaders. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Eric Silverberg, Nicole Bronnimann, and Carly Hite


StreetLaw
StreetLaw teachers work in teams to teach incarcerated and at-risk youth at San Mateo County juvenile hall (“Hillcrest”) and other local facilities. Each week, teachers choose a lesson on substantive law (e.g., Gangs, Drugs, Immigration) or criminal procedure (e.g., Hearings and Pleas, Search and Seizure), or life skills (e.g., Interacting with Police Officers). Each comes with a detailed and ready-to-use lesson plan, though teachers are welcome and encouraged to modify these or create new ones. The goal of StreetLaw is to inform incarcerated youth of their rights and responsibilities, develop their advocacy skills, and promote critical thinking about our justice system. New teachers are often surprised by how engaged and insightful their students are — and they often find themselves learning as much as they teach.

We generally have about 45 members, of whom 20-25 teach during any given quarter. Active teachers teach a one-hour lesson each week for 7-8 weeks each quarter (plus travel and prep time), and new teachers commit to teach at least two of three quarters their first year. As a teacher, you’ll receive training in the juvenile justice system as well as teaching techniques and classroom management. We welcome members with no prior teaching experience.

Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Jonathan Berry-Smith, Christen Philips, Juan Pablo Perez-Sangimino, Joseph Montoya, Rachel Suhr, Julia Sprangers, and  Nina Monfredo

Environmental

Environmental Pro Bono
The Environmental Law Pro Bono provides students an opportunity to research, analyze, and write about pressing issues in the environmental law field. The Pro Bono works to introduce students to local attorneys practicing environmental law, familiarize them with the complex array of laws and regulations surrounding environmental issues, and expose them to the local communities that are often most negatively impacted by development. This year, students will work under the guidance of attorneys at Communities for a Better Environment, a California environmental justice group, as well as the California Coastal Commission, a state governmental agency. The work with CBE focuses on a range of issues from air regulations related to crude oil processing, the CEQA process, evidentiary rules, creating public green spaces, and more. The work with the CCC will focus on securing public access and protection of the California coastline through support of Commission enforcement investigations and litigation preparation. Students are expected to commit about 8 to 10 hours per quarter and will receive training in the Fall. We hope to engage 8 1Ls, 4 LLMs, and 10 2L/3Ls.

Co-Leaders:  Miles Muller and Savannah Fletcher


Stanford Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Stanford Student Animal Legal Defense Fund works on a wide range of projects all with the goal of improving the welfare of animals. These projects benefit wildlife, companion animals, and farm animals. Once we choose a project, we work in teams to provide legal support for the staff attorneys handling the case. Past projects have included "Ag-Gag laws", Endangered Species Act claims, shelter dog protection, and exotic pet cases. Our project is a relatively light time commitment and will accept 6 new students. We will also take new members after the fall quarter if you don't feel ready to join a pro-bono project now. If you're interested in animal law or environmental protection, this is a great pro-bono project to join.

Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders:  Ann Linder and Maya Spitzer

Refugees

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a national student organization that provides pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. Stanford's student-run chapter offers students an opportunity to earn Pro Bono Distinction hours through both its client and policy teams. While the client teams began by helping Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement, students have also worked to support Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a visa designed to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to help American forces. See this article about an IRAP client who worked closely with Matt Ball when he served in Afghanistan. Last year, IRAP expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students do legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases. The Policy Team is also active: last year it produced a report documenting "inadvertent" polygamous cases for Syrian refugees who have divorced and remarried but lack proper documentation. Last March, six Stanford IRAP members travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. Students commit to 1 year, which includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter and Spring, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week. Please note: the advocacy component of this project meets the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar, but the policy component does not.

Co-Leaders: Tara Rangchi, Matthew Ball, Andrea Donahue, Julie Goldrosen, and Kristina Alekseyeva

Immigration

Immigration Pro Bono
SLS partners with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto’s Immigration practice to provide crucial legal services to the marginalized communities of undocumented immigrants in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities.  Undocumented immigrants face major challenges in accessing legal services in pursuit of lawful status in the United States.  This often keeps them from finding employment, escaping dependence on an abusive family member, and generally accessing the social and economic institutions within society.  Students in the Immigration Pro Bono Project work with a licensed volunteer attorney to interview potential clients, screen for legal issues, and help CLSEPA's immigration staff provide counsel.  Students learn immigration law fundamentals, such as the special routes in place for victims of crime or domestic abuse to become legal permanent residents, or the process through which individuals fleeing violence in their home countries may obtain asylum.  Students also gain experience communicating with a diverse range of clients.  This is a year-long project that requires several hours of training during Fall Quarter, and volunteering at approximately two four-hour sessions per quarter.  If interested, participants can choose to volunteer at additional asylum workshops.  Although we have interpreters who will translate interviews for students who do not speak Spanish, because the majority of our clients are Spanish-speaking, Spanish fluency is a plus.

Co-Leaders: Tory Tilton and Collin Vierra


Naturalization Pro Bono
Students working with the Naturalization Pro Bono project assist local community members as they prepare for the interview component of the naturalization process. The International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) runs classes for adult community members that prepare them for and help them through the naturalization process. Stanford students assist IIBA by going to the Fair Oaks Community Center in Redwood City and running mock naturalization interviews with the IIBA students. The goal of the mock interviews is to get the naturalization candidates comfortable with the format and questions that will be asked of them when they have their official naturalization interview. The interview contains both personal questions—about the candidate’s travels, family, etc.—and civics question. The mock interviews are extremely important to preparing the IIBA students for their real interview: many of the students are older and have an intermediate level of comfort with English, so mock interviews are great practice for them. And the mock interviews are a fun and relaxed way to talk to people and get to know them as they work towards citizenship.

Each Stanford participant should expect to volunteer for two and a half hours, two to five times a quarter (for a total of 5-12 hours a quarter, factoring in the time it takes to get to Redwood City). The times will all be on a weekday evening: last year there were slots on Thursdays from 6-8:30 PM. No prior knowledge of the naturalization process or language skills required. We would love to have at least ten Stanford students from any year participate. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Sarah Brim, Erica Miranda, Christopher Best, Brian Shiue, and Leonardo Villalobos

Poverty

Housing Pro Bono
Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono works with CLSEPA in order to help renters with housing issues in East Palo Alto and the surrounding area.  Stanford students work with clients in landlord disputes – whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increase in rent, or other housing problems.

Housing is a vital issue in the Bay Area.  Low-income housing is difficult to find, and even among the units that are relatively affordable, often landlords do not provide habitable residences. For example, many of our clients come from East Palo Alto, which is the city with the most legal protections for renters in the area. These protections could be powerful, but they do nothing for renters who do not have the legal background to know what their rights are. Landlords often attempt to evict our clients without providing good cause (which EPA’s city code requires), or even fabricate good cause by falsely telling tenants that family members or the landlord herself will move in imminently.

CLSEPA and the Housing Pro Bono are able to tell these clients that they have a right to remain in their residence, and the law student who performed an intake with that client often writes follow-up letters to the landlord explaining that the client has a right to remain. We help resolve a client’s issue, and we explain the law to the client so that they know their rights in the future and are able to share their knowledge with their community.

Stanford students will gain experience in the Housing Pro Bono individually interviewing clients, researching and interpreting local rent ordinances, and generally learning how community-based legal aid organizations operate. After interviewing the client to gain a proper understanding of the facts and the client’s goals, the student will discuss the issue with a CLSEPA attorney and together brainstorm potential solutions to the problem. Students will write a memo about the intake and, depending on the issue, may also do further work on the issue like writing a demand letter to the landlord or filing a rent board petition with the county.

Each intake takes around four hours in total, including driving to and from CLSEPA’s office in East Palo Alto (we carpool to their office, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car) and drafting the legal documents after the interview. We ask that students sign up for at least two intakes each quarter, so the total time commitment per quarter is only eight hours.

Co-Leaders: Gemma Donofrio, Drew Flood, and Frank Pensabene


Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP)
The Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP) works directly with military veterans of all stripes and eras in the local area to help them access the benefits and services they are entitled to. Through our partnership with the San Francisco-based non-profit Swords to Plowshares and attorneys from local law firms volunteering pro bono, we work directly with veterans at twice-monthly clinics held at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to assist them in accessing service-connected disability benefits, pensions, VA healthcare, and other veterans' services.  A huge concentration of veterans live in the Bay Area, a large percentage of which struggles with untreated mental and physical health issues, homelessness, and unemployment. Without an advocate to help them navigate the complicated maze of the VA, many veterans will never access the benefits they are entitled to, and these benefits can make a huge difference in veterans' quality of life.

VLAP is open to all SLS students, not just veterans. In partnership with staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares and volunteer attorneys from local law firms, students will assist in staffing twice-monthly legal clinics at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park VA Hospitals. Students interview veteran clients when they arrive at the legal clinic and brief pro bono attorneys on each client's case, all under the supervision of staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares. Students also conduct follow-up for each client and make referrals to outside legal aid organizations for legal needs that exceed the scope of our clinics.

Students will sign up to staff legal clinics, which will most likely be held 12:00-4:30 two Wednesdays per month at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park (alternating locations; split into two shifts). We ask that students commit to helping out with at least two clinics per quarter. Even if your class schedule does not accommodate staffing clinics this quarter, there are other ways for students to be involved in outreach, publicity, and expansion of VLAP. If you are interested now but cannot staff a clinic until next quarter because of your schedule, please go ahead and sign up so we can include you in training this fall, and just let us know that you won't be staffing clinics right away.

VLAP is named in honor of Paul Lomio, a veteran and the law school's former Library Director, who passed away on March 6, 2015. He was involved in the formation of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization (SLVO) and an early supporter of VLAP.

Co-Leaders: Caleb Griscom and Joe Reed


Social Security Disability Project (SSDP)
The Social Security Disability Project (SSDP), housed within the Mills Legal Clinic, assists local clients in need with applications for federal disability benefits. Students play a key role in clients' cases: they conduct in-depth interviews to gain an understanding of the clients' disabilities; they work with clients to prepare benefits applications and appeals; and they request medical records from health care providers to help prove that the clients qualify for benefits.

SSDP Volunteers sign up to attend at least one office hour session per quarter, held mostly on Friday afternoons. All office hour sessions are located at the Opportunity Center of the Mid-Peninsula, a housing facility and drop-in social services center in downtown Palo Alto, right across the street from Stanford campus. Students attending office hours will usually handle an intake interview and initial application or an appeal of an initial denial by the Social Security Administration. After each office hour session, the students finish the applications or appeals for the clients they interviewed. The followup usually takes between two and four hours and can be done anytime in the several days following the office hours session. There will also be an evening training session in early October, a tour of the Opportunity Center with staff from the Center, and a lunch meeting during the winter and spring to check in as a group and look at ways to improve the project for students and clients.

The project is supervised by Lisa Douglass, a Lecturer-in-law and Supervising Attorney in SLS's Community Law Clinic. When cases cannot be resolved without an administrative hearing, Community Law Clinic students and faculty continue to represent SSDP clients before the administrative law judge.

SSDP has been assisting local clients since 2007, and in that time Stanford Law students have helped hundreds of clients secure a steady income. The Project's clients are all low-income and often homeless, and securing benefits can go a long way toward helping clients find stable housing, receive consistent medical care, and add stability to their lives.

Co-Leaders: Karen Ding,  Kelsey MerrickLeah Yaffe,  and Kirsten Dedrickson


Tax Pro Bono Project
The Tax Pro Bono Project assists lower-income individuals in filing their tax returns throughout the winter and early spring (January through April 15).  Students in this project will interview clients, and help them put together their tax return using IRS-provided software.  Our projects offers students the chance to work directly with clients, and enables students to impact positively the lives of those who come into our clinic.  We are looking for 25-30 students, with a total time commitment of approximately 20 hours in the winter and early spring quarter.  No tax or accounting experience is necessary. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Jon Saltz, Kelsey Merrick, and Carl Hudson


Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP)
Students in the Volunteer Attorney Program conduct intake interviews at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. Under CLSEPA attorney supervision, VAP volunteers counsel clients on a broad range of issues, including personal injury, debt consolidation, contract law, consumer protection law, small claims, family law, and more. The volunteers write follow-up memos and in some cases draft demand letters and answers to complaints. Students are required to attend a VAP-sponsored lunchtime training prior to participating. The program, which has about two sessions per quarter, involves a total time commitment of about ten hours per quarter (including transportation time). Students learn how to effectively communicate with clients and will have an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios.

Co-Leaders: Brian Baran and Katie Kelsh


Workers’ Rights Pro Bono
The Workers Rights Pro Bono will work with the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center to provide free and confidential information to workers about their legal rights. Each clinic will have a topic, including denial of wages, discrimination, work and safety issues, unemployment benefits, harassment, and wrongful termination.  Students are asked to commit to all three quarters and to all of the two to three clinics per quarter (the schedule will be set in advance). We are looking for 3-4 1Ls and 2-3 2L/3Ls to join the project.

Co-Leaders: Matthew Garcia, Yvette Borja,and Shane Seppinni

Pro Bono Projects By Skills Categories

Direct Services

After Innocence
After Innocence is a non-profit that provides re-entry assistance for America’s exonerees - people who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit - and advocates for policy reform on their behalf.

Stanford Law student volunteers will be working on After Innocence’s “clean slate” project to ensure that exonerees’ criminal records and general background checks accurately reflect their criminal histories, and to help them take advantage of any opportunities to clean up those records. This work is essential in helping exonerees find jobs and housing, in addition to restoring rights and dignity after release.

The work will be one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the clients After Innocence serves are spread widely across the country. This is an exceptional opportunity to develop a one-on-one connection with a client early on in your legal career.

For SLS students, several other types of legal projects on behalf of client-exonerees will also be available on a volunteer basis. For students interested in assisting this population on a more systemic level, there will also be opportunities for some policy work (including research and drafting of legislation) to improve compensation laws.

Brief training will be provided, and volunteers can consult with the student and attorney project directors as needed by phone or email. Volunteers will generally self-manage their respective cases, with great flexibility as to when and where to do the work, and minimal meetings.

One quarter commitment (minimum 20 hours), with option to continue.

Co-Leaders: Abbee Cox, Annick Jordan, and Samson Schatz


Housing Pro Bono
Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono works with CLSEPA in order to help renters with housing issues in East Palo Alto and the surrounding area.  Stanford students work with clients in landlord disputes – whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increase in rent, or other housing problems.

Housing is an incredibly important issue in the Bay Area.  Low-income housing is difficult to find, and often the landlord for low-income housing units do not provide habitable residences.  For example, many of our clients come from East Palo Alto, which is the city with the most legal protections for renters in the area.  These protections could be powerful, but they do nothing for renters who do not have the legal background to know what their rights are.  Landlords often attempt to evict our clients without providing good cause (which EPA’s city code requires).  CLSEPA and the Housing Pro Bono are able to tell these clients that they have a right to remain in their residence, and the law student who did intake with that client often writes follow-up letters to the landlord explaining that the client has a right to remain.  We help resolve a client’s issue, and we explain the law to the client so that they know their rights in the future and are able to share their knowledge with neighborhoods, friends, etc.

Stanford students will individually interview clients about their housing issues.  Once they have an understanding of the facts and the client’s goals, they will discuss the issue with a CLSEPA attorney and together brainstorm potential solutions to the problem.  Students will often conduct legal research and then advise their clients on the matter. Depending on the issue, students may also do further work on the issue, such as writing a demand letter to the landlord or filing a rent board petition with the county.

Each intake takes around four hours in total, including driving to and from CLSEPA’s office in East Palo Alto (we carpool to their office, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car) and drafting the legal documents after the interview. We ask that students sign up for at least two intakes each quarter, so the total time commitment per quarter is only eight hours.

Co-Leaders: Gemma Donofrio, Drew Flood, and Frank Pensabene


Immigration Pro Bono
SLS partners with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto’s Immigration practice to provide crucial legal services to the marginalized communities of undocumented immigrants in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities.  Undocumented immigrants face major challenges in accessing legal services in pursuit of lawful status in the United States.  This often keeps them from finding employment, escaping dependence on an abusive family member, and generally accessing the social and economic institutions within society.  Students in the Immigration Pro Bono Project work with a licensed volunteer attorney to interview potential clients, screen for legal issues, and help CLSEPA's immigration staff provide counsel.  Students learn immigration law fundamentals, such as the special routes in place for victims of crime or domestic abuse to become legal permanent residents, or the process through which individuals fleeing violence in their home countries may obtain asylum.  Students also gain experience communicating with a diverse range of clients.  This is a year-long project that requires several hours of training during Fall Quarter, and volunteering at approximately two four-hour sessions per quarter.  If interested, participants can choose to volunteer at additional asylum workshops.  Although we have interpreters who will translate interviews for students who do not speak Spanish, because the majority of our clients are Spanish-speaking, Spanish fluency is a plus.

Co-Leaders: Tory Tilton and Collin Vierra


International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a national student organization that provides pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. Stanford's student-run chapter offers students an opportunity to earn Pro Bono Distinction hours through both its client and policy teams. While the client teams began by helping Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement, students have also worked to support Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a visa designed to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to help American forces. See this article about an IRAP client who worked closely with Matt Ball when he served in Afghanistan. Last year, IRAP expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students do legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases. The Policy Team is also active: last year it produced a report documenting "inadvertent" polygamous cases for Syrian refugees who have divorced and remarried but lack proper documentation. Last March, six Stanford IRAP members travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. Students commit to 1 year, which includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter and Spring, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week. Please note: the advocacy component of this project meets the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar, but the policy component does not.

Co-Leaders: Tara Rangchi, Matthew Ball, Andrea Donahue, Julie Goldrosen, and Kristina Alekseyeva


Naturalization Pro Bono
Students working with the Naturalization Pro Bono project assist local community members as they prepare for the interview component of the naturalization process. The International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) runs classes for adult community members that prepare them for and help them through the naturalization process. Stanford students assist IIBA by going to the Fair Oaks Community Center in Redwood City and running mock naturalization interviews with the IIBA students. The goal of the mock interviews is to get the naturalization candidates comfortable with the format and questions that will be asked of them when they have their official naturalization interview. The interview contains both personal questions—about the candidate’s travels, family, etc.—and civics question. The mock interviews are extremely important to preparing the IIBA students for their real interview: many of the students are older and have an intermediate level of comfort with English, so mock interviews are great practice for them. And the mock interviews are a fun and relaxed way to talk to people and get to know them as they work towards citizenship.

Each Stanford participant should expect to volunteer for two and a half hours, two to five times a quarter (for a total of 5-12 hours a quarter, factoring in the time it takes to get to Redwood City). The times will all be on a weekday evening: last year there were slots on Thursdays from 6-8:30 PM. No prior knowledge of the naturalization process or language skills required. We would love to have at least ten Stanford students from any year participate. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Sarah Brim, Erica Miranda, Christopher Best, Brian Shiue, and Leonardo Villalobos

Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP)
The Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP) works directly with military veterans of all stripes and eras in the local area to help them access the benefits and services they are entitled to. Through our partnership with the San Francisco-based non-profit Swords to Plowshares and attorneys from local law firms volunteering pro bono, we work directly with veterans at twice-monthly clinics held at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to assist them in accessing service-connected disability benefits, pensions, VA healthcare, and other veterans' services.  A huge concentration of veterans live in the Bay Area, a large percentage of which struggles with untreated mental and physical health issues, homelessness, and unemployment. Without an advocate to help them navigate the complicated maze of the VA, many veterans will never access the benefits they are entitled to, and these benefits can make a huge difference in veterans' quality of life.

VLAP is open to all SLS students, not just veterans. In partnership with staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares and volunteer attorneys from local law firms, students will assist in staffing twice-monthly legal clinics at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park VA Hospitals. Students interview veteran clients when they arrive at the legal clinic and brief pro bono attorneys on each client's case, all under the supervision of staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares. Students also conduct follow-up for each client and make referrals to outside legal aid organizations for legal needs that exceed the scope of our clinics.

Students will sign up to staff legal clinics, which will most likely be held 12:00-4:30 two Wednesdays per month at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park (alternating locations; split into two shifts). We ask that students commit to helping out with at least two clinics per quarter. Even if your class schedule does not accommodate staffing clinics this quarter, there are other ways for students to be involved in outreach, publicity, and expansion of VLAP. If you are interested now but cannot staff a clinic until next quarter because of your schedule, please go ahead and sign up so we can include you in training this fall, and just let us know that you won't be staffing clinics right away.

VLAP is named in honor of Paul Lomio, a veteran and the law school's former Library Director, who passed away on March 6, 2015. He was involved in the formation of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization (SLVO) and an early supporter of VLAP.

Co-Leaders: Caleb Griscom and Joe Reed


Social Security Disability Project (SSDP)
The Social Security Disability Project (SSDP), housed within the Mills Legal Clinic, assists local clients in need with applications for federal disability benefits. Students play a key role in clients' cases: they conduct in-depth interviews to gain an understanding of the clients' disabilities; they work with clients to prepare benefits applications and appeals; and they request medical records from health care providers to help prove that the clients qualify for benefits.

SSDP Volunteers sign up to attend at least one office hour session per quarter, held mostly on Friday afternoons. All office hour sessions are located at the Opportunity Center of the Mid-Peninsula, a housing facility and drop-in social services center in downtown Palo Alto, right across the street from Stanford campus. Students attending office hours will usually handle an intake interview and initial application or an appeal of an initial denial by the Social Security Administration. After each office hour session, the students finish the applications or appeals for the clients they interviewed. The followup usually takes between two and four hours and can be done anytime in the several days following the office hours session. There will also be an evening training session in early October, a tour of the Opportunity Center with staff from the Center, and a lunch meeting during the winter and spring to check in as a group and look at ways to improve the project for students and clients.

The project is supervised by Lisa Douglass, a Lecturer-in-law and Supervising Attorney in SLS's Community Law Clinic. When cases cannot be resolved without an administrative hearing, Community Law Clinic students and faculty continue to represent SSDP clients before the administrative law judge.

SSDP has been assisting local clients since 2007, and in that time Stanford Law students have helped hundreds of clients secure a steady income. The Project's clients are all low-income and often homeless, and securing benefits can go a long way toward helping clients find stable housing, receive consistent medical care, and add stability to their lives.

Co-Leaders: Karen Ding,  Kelsey MerrickLeah Yaffe,  and Kirsten Dedrickson


Tax Pro Bono Project
The Tax Pro Bono Project assists lower-income individuals in filing their tax returns throughout the winter and early spring (January through April 15).  Students in this project will interview clients, and help them put together their tax return using IRS-provided software.  Our projects offers students the chance to work directly with clients, and enables students to impact positively the lives of those who come into our clinic.  We are looking for 25-30 students, with a total time commitment of approximately 20 hours in the winter and early spring quarter.  No tax or accounting experience is necessary. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Jon Saltz, Kelsey Merrick, and Carl Hudson


Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP)
Students in the Volunteer Attorney Program conduct intake interviews at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. Under CLSEPA attorney supervision, VAP volunteers counsel clients on a broad range of issues, including personal injury, debt consolidation, contract law, consumer protection law, small claims, family law, and more. The volunteers write follow-up memos and in some cases draft demand letters and answers to complaints. Students are required to attend a VAP-sponsored lunchtime training prior to participating. The program, which has about two sessions per quarter, involves a total time commitment of about ten hours per quarter (including transportation time). Students learn how to effectively communicate with clients and will have an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios.

Co-Leaders: Brian Baran and Katie Kelsh


Workers’ Rights Pro Bono
The Workers Rights Pro Bono will work with the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center to provide free and confidential information to workers about their legal rights. Each clinic will have a topic, including denial of wages, discrimination, work and safety issues, unemployment benefits, harassment, and wrongful termination.  Students are asked to commit to all three quarters and to all of the two to three clinics per quarter (the schedule will be set in advance). We are looking for 3-4 1Ls and 2-3 2L/3Ls to join the project.

Co-Leaders: Matthew Garcia, Yvette Borja,and Shane Seppinni

Litigation

Stanford Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund works on a wide range of projects all with the goal of improving the welfare of animals. These projects benefit wildlife, companion animals, and farm animals. Once we choose a project, we work in teams to provide legal support for the staff attorneys handling the case. Past projects have included "Ag-Gag laws", Endangered Species Act claims, shelter dog protection, and exotic pet cases. Our project is a relatively light time commitment and will accept 6 new students. We will also take new members after the fall quarter if you don't feel ready to join a pro-bono project now. If you're interested in animal law or environmental protection, this is a great pro-bono project to join.Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders:  Ann Linder and Maya Spitzer


Environmental Pro Bono
The Environmental Law Pro Bono provides students with opportunities to research, analyze, and write about pressing issues in the environmental law field. The Pro Bono works to introduce students to expert attorneys practicing environmental law, familiarize them with the complex array of laws and regulations surrounding environmental issues, and expose them to the local communities that are often most negatively impacted by development. This year, students will work under the guidance of attorneys at Communities for a Better Environment, a California environmental justice group. The work will focus in large part on analyzing proposed Bay Area Air Quality Management District rules regarding increased dirty crude oil processing in the Bay Area. There will likely be additional opportunities throughout the year to engage with local environmental issues as needs arise at Communities for a Better Environment. Students are expected to commit about 8 to 10 hours per quarter. We hope to engage 5-10 1Ls, 5-10 2Ls, and 3-5 3Ls.

Co-Leaders:  Alison Gocke, Lauren Tarpey, Mary Rock and Michelle Wu


International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a national student organization that provides pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. Stanford's student-run chapter offers students an opportunity to earn Pro Bono Distinction hours through both its client and policy teams. While the client teams began by helping Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement, students have also worked to support Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a visa designed to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to help American forces. See this article about an IRAP client who worked closely with Matt Ball when he served in Afghanistan. Last year, IRAP expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students do legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases. The Policy Team is also active: last year it produced a report documenting "inadvertent" polygamous cases for Syrian refugees who have divorced and remarried but lack proper documentation. Last March, six Stanford IRAP members travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. Students commit to 1 year, which includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter and Spring, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week. Please note: the advocacy component of this project meets the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar, but the policy component does not.

Co-Leaders: Tara Rangchi, Matthew Ball, Andrea Donahue, Julie Goldrosen, and Kristina Alekseyeva

Policy

After Innocence
After Innocence is a non-profit that provides re-entry assistance for America’s exonerees - people who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit - and advocates for policy reform on their behalf.

Stanford Law student volunteers will be working on After Innocence’s “clean slate” project to ensure that exonerees’ criminal records and general background checks accurately reflect their criminal histories, and to help them take advantage of any opportunities to clean up those records. This work is essential in helping exonerees find jobs and housing, in addition to restoring rights and dignity after release.

The work will be one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the clients After Innocence serves are spread widely across the country. This is an exceptional opportunity to develop a one-on-one connection with a client early on in your legal career.

For SLS students, several other types of legal projects on behalf of client-exonerees will also be available on a volunteer basis. For students interested in assisting this population on a more systemic level, there will also be opportunities for some policy work (including research and drafting of legislation) to improve compensation laws.

Brief training will be provided, and volunteers can consult with the student and attorney project directors as needed by phone or email. Volunteers will generally self-manage their respective cases, with great flexibility as to when and where to do the work, and minimal meetings.

One quarter commitment (minimum 20 hours), with option to continue.

Co-Leaders: Abbee Cox, Annick Jordan, and Samson Schatz


International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a national student organization that provides pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. Stanford's student-run chapter offers students an opportunity to earn Pro Bono Distinction hours through both its client and policy teams. While the client teams began by helping Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement, students have also worked to support Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a visa designed to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to help American forces. See this article about an IRAP client who worked closely with Matt Ball when he served in Afghanistan. Last year, IRAP expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students do legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases. The Policy Team is also active: last year it produced a report documenting "inadvertent" polygamous cases for Syrian refugees who have divorced and remarried but lack proper documentation. Last March, six Stanford IRAP members travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. Students commit to 1 year, which includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter and Spring, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week. Please note: the advocacy component of this project meets the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar, but the policy component does not.

Co-Leaders: Tara Rangchi, Matthew Ball, Andrea Donahue, Julie Goldrosen, and Kristina Alekseyeva

Teaching

Project ReMADE
Project ReMADE is a four month entrepreneurship program that helps those who were formerly incarcerated start their owns businesses. SLS students get involved by either (i) serving as mentors alongside Graduate School of Business (GSB) students and Bay Area executives as part of a mentor team or (ii) teaching a class on a fundamental aspect of operating a business (e.g., accounting, marketing, creditworthiness, etc.). Mentors must commit to meeting with their entrepreneur and other team members approximately 7 times over the course of the program, with each meeting lasting approximately 2 hours. Teachers must commit to teaching one class lasting approximately 2 hours on a Sunday during the winter or spring quarter. Although students must apply in the fall, the program does not begin in earnest until the winter. We do not have requirements by year in school; we simply take the most qualified applicants with prior business or other relevant experience. This is a serious, demanding, and rewarding commitment. Project ReMADE requires a separate application that will be submitted directly to the project leaders. Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Eric Silverberg, Nicole Bronnimann, and Carly Hite


StreetLaw
StreetLaw teachers work in teams to teach incarcerated and at-risk youth at San Mateo County juvenile hall (“Hillcrest”) and other local facilities. Each week, teachers choose a lesson on substantive law (e.g., Gangs, Drugs, Immigration) or criminal procedure (e.g., Hearings and Pleas, Search and Seizure), or life skills (e.g., Interacting with Police Officers). Each comes with a detailed and ready-to-use lesson plan, though teachers are welcome and encouraged to modify these or create new ones. The goal of StreetLaw is to inform incarcerated youth of their rights and responsibilities, develop their advocacy skills, and promote critical thinking about our justice system. New teachers are often surprised by how engaged and insightful their students are — and they often find themselves learning as much as they teach.

We generally have about 45 members, of whom 20-25 teach during any given quarter. Active teachers teach a one-hour lesson each week for 7-8 weeks each quarter (plus travel and prep time), and new teachers commit to teach at least two of three quarters their first year. As a teacher, you’ll receive training in the juvenile justice system as well as teaching techniques and classroom management. We welcome members with no prior teaching experience.

Please note: this project does not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Co-Leaders: Jonathan Berry-Smith, Christen Philips, Juan Pablo Perez-Sangimino, Joseph Montoya, Rachel Suhr, Julia Sprangers, and  Nina Monfredo

Alphabetical List of Pro Bono Projects

  • After Innocence (Criminal Justice, Direct Services, Policy)
  • Environmental Law Pro Bono (Environmental, Litigation)
  • Housing Pro Bono (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Immigration Pro Bono (Immigration, Direct Services)
  • International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) (Human Trafficking/Refugees, Direct Services, Litigation, Policy)
  • Naturalization Pro Bono (Immigration, Direct Services)
  • Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP) (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Project ReMADE (Criminal Justice, Teaching)
  • Social Security Disability Project (SSDP) (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • StreetLaw (Criminal Justice, Teaching)
  • Tax Pro Bono Project (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) (Environmental, Litigation)
  • Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Workers’ Rights Pro Bono (Poverty Related, Direct Services)

NOTE ON THE NY BAR REQUIREMENTS: Please note that while the majority of the pro bono projects approved by Stanford also satisfy the NY Bar Requirements, some do not. Every pro bono project listed herein DOES satisfy SLS’s pro bono criteria. Please don’t be dissuaded from participating in a pro bono project because it does not meet the NY Bar’s requirements. There are many other ways to satisfy the NY Bar requirements, including, for example, law school clinics and summer internships at non-profits.

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