Pro Bono Program 7

Pro Bono Program

The Levin Center offers Stanford law students the opportunity to use their burgeoning legal skills to help communities in need and serve the public interest generally. Whether by providing in-person assistance to immigrants seeking asylum, or by fighting for environmental justice through impact litigation, students have the chance–almost immediately after joining the law school–to create change in our communities, in our country, and in the world.

I was convicted of a DUI in 2004. It is the only crime I’ve ever committed. [Stanford law students] have assisted me in moving on in my life. [They] redefine the meaning of professionalism, and just plain helping people. Thank you for everything!

Client from Stanford Law Student-Staffed "Clean Slate" Clinic

Student-Led Pro Bono Projects

The Levin Center empowers students to lead and participate in 16 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects. Each project partners with a local nonprofit, government agency, or SLS clinic to engage students in personally meaningful, substantive, and life-changing work. Student work is supervised by expert attorneys. Below are descriptions of each Student-Led Project (organized by subject area and skill category).

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 Mike Winn.

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.

Student-Led Projects By Subject Area

Criminal Justice

After Innocence
After Innocence is a 501 (c) (3) public charity that provides re-entry assistance to America's exonerees - people who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit - and advocates for policy reform on their behalf. The organization works one-on-one with exoneree-clients to ensure they have access to - and make good use of - the health care, public benefits and legal services they are eligible for.

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

We will work one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the exoneree clients we serve are spread widely across the country. For more information on the national exoneree population and their overwhelming needs for legal support, see: www.exonerationregistry.org.

For registered student participants, several other types of legal projects on behalf of exonerees are available on a volunteer basis, in addition to 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 with minimal meetings.

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

Co-Leaders: Emily Pehrsson and Danny Yadron


Prisoner Legal Services
The Prisoner Legal Services Pro Bono Project is run by the Stanford Prisoner Advocacy and Resources Coalition (SPARC), a student organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for incarcerated individuals and their families. SPARC members currently volunteer with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department of Prisoner Legal Services (PLS) to provide pro bono legal services to prisoners at the San Francisco Jail (San Bruno facility). Supervised by PLS attorneys, student volunteers provide prisoners with legal assistance on criminal, conditions of confinement, collateral consequences, custody, and release matters.

SPARC students staff PLS twice a week, focusing on providing services to individuals in solitary confinement. During the inaugural Winter and Spring 2017 quarters, 21 Stanford Law School students provided over 200 hours of service. Volunteers are asked to commit to one weekly two-hour shift at the San Bruno Jail Complex (about 30 minutes from campus), as well as to complete necessary follow up from jail visits, sometimes including legal research (typically 20-60 minutes of remote work per week). Prior to starting, students will receive training from PLS attorneys and be required to attend a cultural competency training and receive security clearance from the Sheriff’s Department.

Co-Leaders: Anjuli Branz and John Bonacorsi


Project Clean Slate
The Project Clean Slate, partnering with the Record Clearance Project, supports people to rebuild their lives and gain opportunities after criminal convictions by helping them get eligible misdemeanor and felony convictions dismissed from their records. PCS hosts speed screenings where SLS and San Jose State University volunteers meet with clients, review their criminal record, and determine what legal remedies are available for expunging criminal convictions.

Students can expect to meet 1-6 clients per screening. There will also be the opportunity for interested SLS volunteers to attend PCS's presentations to people currently in local jails and to present some of the material themselves. Finally, interested students may craft policy proposals to streamline the expungement process and develop tools for practitioners and community members. Students will gain insight into the criminal justice system and how it affects people on both sides of a conviction, and learn to interact with clients and provide direct services.

PCS is seeking about 40 members from all classes. PCS asks students to volunteer in one PCS activity each quarter, including at least one speed screening, for a time commitment of 3-5 hours each. Students are welcome to volunteer more frequently if desired. As a volunteer, you will receive training on the criminal justice system, client interviewing techniques, and California criminal law. This project is an excellent opportunity to positively impact peoples’ lives and engage in the criminal justice system before having a law degree.

Leaders: Clare Riva, Alex Trieger, and Caroline Cohn


StreetLaw
StreetLaw teachers work in teams to teach incarcerated and at-risk youth at San Mateo County Juvenile Hall (“Hillcrest”). 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 teaching at least two of three quarters their first year. As a teacher, you will 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: Eugénie Iseman and Abby Walter

Environmental

Environmental Law Pro Bono Project
The Environmental Law Pro Bono Project provides students the opportunity to research, analyze, and write about pressing issues in the environmental law field. Our project will 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 Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment a national environmental justice organization, on issues such as sustainable agriculture, climate justice, toxic waste, and community education. Students are expected to commit about 8 to 10 hours per quarter and may begin to receive training in the Fall or Winter.

Co-Leaders:  Donna Ni and Peter Gilchrist


Stanford Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Stanford Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) is dedicated to providing a forum for education, advocacy and scholarship aimed at protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system and raising the profile of the field of animal law. Partnered with its parent organization, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) , SALDF is committed to the goals of educating the law school and surrounding communities about forms of institutionalized animal abuse and engaging in projects that combat that abuse.

Our organization seeks to vindicate animal rights through the legal system. The past and future activities of SALDF include: hosting speakers, debates, panels and conferences on current issues in animal rights law; carrying out research projects for lawyers and organizations involved in animal rights litigation; networking with students at other law schools, colleges, universities and high schools who are pursuing interests in animal rights and environmental issues; networking with other Stanford Law School student groups on points of intersection between their causes and that of SALDF, including, but not limited to, social justice, environmentalism and feminism; conducting educational events such as information tables and film screenings on pertinent issues; organizing an animal law reading group and lobbying the administration for the creation of an Animal Law course at Stanford Law School; contributing to the criminal defense and political support of those who have committed nonviolent illegal acts in defense of animals; and advocating on behalf of vegetarian and vegan students within our law school.

Co-Leaders:  Dan Brenner and Natalie Peelish

Immigration/Refugees

Immigration Pro Bono Project
SLS partners with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto’s Immigration (CLSEPA) 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 most of our clients are Spanish-speaking, Spanish fluency is a plus.

Co-Leaders: Hannah Coleman and Ruthie Welch


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. IRAP later expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students perform legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases.

The Policy Team is also active: two IRAP students co-wrote a phenomenal article on America’s betrayal of thousands who risked their lives for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and are owed Special Immigrant Visas. In March, Stanford IRAP students travel to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. There are also opportunities to conduct client intake interviews to help determine which clients are eligible for IRAP representation, as well as work with our NGO partners on the ground in Lebanon (a school for Syrian refugees and a LGBT advocacy organization).

Students commit to their client’s case, which can extend on for multiple years and over summers. This commitment includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter/Spring/Summer, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week (depending on the client and if the student decides to join our policy or partnerships teams).

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: Thomas Davidson and Emily Hawley


Naturalization Pro Bono Project
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 civic questions. 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: some aspects of this project do not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Leader: Jamie Davidson

Poverty

Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project
The Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project seeks to support survivors of domestic violence in two ways: first, by providing direct legal services to survivors of domestic violence seeking civil remedies and relief; and second, by impacting the institutional infrastructure responsible for the legal remedies and protections available to survivors. For direct legal services, the Project has partnered with Bay Area Legal Aid.

Student volunteers will attend special “clinic” hours, where survivors of domestic violence can seek information from Bay Area Legal Aid without becoming full-blown clients. The student volunteers will facilitate this flow of information and assist individuals with preparation of legal filings. Each student volunteer will have the opportunity to meet with survivors one-on-one or with a partner, and the clinic format will allow volunteers to follow-up with additional meetings later in the process if necessary.

In order to impact institutional infrastructure, our project performs large-scale research analyzing the role of court processes and the law in domestic violence situations. A past project included compiling move-away statutes, laws regarding whether a survivor of domestic violence can leave the state with their children, for all fifty states. This compilation is now used by Bay Area Legal Aid offices, and the Pro Bono Project has turned it into a computerized program that survivors, social workers, and other attorneys can access.

This coming year, the Pro Bono Project will work with Santa Clara County Courts to compile data on all domestic violence cases processed through the County. The Project will then use this data to recommend models and best practices for other California counties, with a focus on mediation techniques.

Student volunteers for the direct service component are asked to attend one clinic session a month, each session lasting anywhere between one and three hours depending on the student’s availability. Driving to the office takes approximately twenty minutes, and Project Leaders will coordinate rides for those who do not have access to a car. Volunteering for the direct service component requires a minimum one academic-year commitment due to the extensive training needed to interface with a survivor of domestic violence. Volunteers will need to attend two to three training sessions in the fall quarter. The ability to speak Spanish is a boon, but it is not necessary to speak a foreign language to have an impact. With regard to infrastructure research, SLS students can volunteer at any time to help. The Project will organize both one-time and ongoing research opportunities. However, any SLS student, with priority given to direct service volunteers and regular research volunteers, can lead a research assignment by taking full responsibility for a research area, spearheading research efforts, and/or coordinating the research of others.

Co-Leaders: Emma Eastwood-Paticchio and Rachel Dominguez


Economic Advancement Program
Under attorney supervision at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), Economic Advancement Program volunteers help to solve legal issues in a wide variety of areas, including contract law, family law, employment law, consumer protection law, debt consolidation, and more. Volunteers conduct client intake interviews, write follow-up memos to attorneys, and in some cases draft demand letters and answers to complaints. Students develop skills in effective client interviewing and counseling and will have the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios.

The program involves an average time commitment of about ten hours per quarter (including transportation time). While students are not required to start volunteering in the fall quarter, all new volunteers are required to attend an Economic Advancement Program-sponsored lunchtime training by a CLSEPA attorney.

Co-Leaders: Melissa Cornell and Viola Li


Housing Pro Bono Project
Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono Project works with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CSLEPA)  in order to help renters with housing issues in the communities that surround Stanford. Students work with clients in landlord disputes—whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increases in rent, or other housing problems.

The Bay Area is a phenomenally expensive place to live. This tilts the inequitable landlord-tenant relationship in the landlord's favor. Low-income housing is difficult to find, and often landlords do not provide habitable residences. Many of our clients come from East Palo Alto, the local city with the most expansive legal protections for renters. These protections could be powerful, but they do nothing for renters who do not have the legal background to know their rights. 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 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 can share their knowledge with their community.

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 brainstorm together 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 pursue further work on the issue, such as writing a demand letter to the landlord or filing a rent board petition with the county. They may also draft contracts, or take their client’s landlord to small claims court. In many cases, law students will practice the difficult skill of explaining to their client that they have no legal recourse in a deeply unfair situation.

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: Peter Vogel and Jacob Addelson


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 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-ups 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 from 12:00-4:30 pm 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: Sean Rosenberg and Katie Guthrie


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 their clients qualify for benefits.

SSDP represents its clients in-house at SLS throughout their disability claims and appeals process. This gives students the opportunity to follow a client’s case through final resolution. SSDP Volunteers sign up to attend at least one office hour session per quarter, held mostly on Thursday or 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. 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. Students attending office hours will conduct an interview with the client. Following each office hour session, the students finish the initial applications or appeals for the clients they interviewed. The follow-up work usually takes between two and four hours and can be completed anytime in the several days following the office hours session.

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, students and faculty continue to represent SSDP clients before the administrative law judge.

SSDP has assisted 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: Sam Gerleman and David Huang


Tax Pro Bono Project
The Tax Pro Bono Project partners with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the United Way to provide free, high-quality tax assistance to lower-income members of our community. By preparing tax returns free of charge, we help local families save hundreds of dollars on paid tax preparers, and also help them access benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year, our clients received an average tax refund of $1,237.

We hold regular clinics during the tax season (January through April 15), and ask volunteers to commit approximately 20 hours over the winter and spring quarters. Our project offers students the chance to work directly with clients in a fast-paced environment, as most clients are served in the span of one clinic session. Client interviews typically require working through complicated fact patterns, dealing with sensitive issues, and researching legal questions. No tax or accounting experience is necessary. Students in this project will be trained in basic tax preparation in order to become IRS certified volunteer tax preparers.

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

Leader: Kelsey Merrick


Workers' Rights Pro Bono Project
The Workers’ Rights Pro Bono Project will work with Bay Area nonprofit Legal Aid at Work to provide free and confidential information to workers about their legal rights. Each clinic has a teaching 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 4-5 1Ls and 1-2 2L/3Ls to join the project.

Co-Leaders: Hannah Matsunaga and Lincoln Mitchell

Student-Led Pro Bono Projects By Skills Categories

Direct Services

After Innocence
After Innocence is a 501 (c) (3) public charity that provides re-entry assistance to America's exonerees - people who have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit - and advocates for policy reform on their behalf. The organization works one-on-one with exoneree-clients to ensure they have access to - and make good use of - the health care, public benefits and legal services they are eligible for.

Stanford Law student volunteers will work on a “clean slate” project to ensure that exonerees’ criminal records and general background checks accurately reflect their criminal histories and 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.

We will work one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the exoneree clients we serve are spread widely across the country. For more information on the national exoneree population and their overwhelming needs for legal support, see: www.exonerationregistry.org.

For registered student participants, several other types of legal projects on behalf of exonerees are available on a volunteer basis, in addition to 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: Emily Pehrsson and Danny Yadron


Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project
The Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project seeks to support survivors of domestic violence in two ways: first, by providing direct legal services to survivors of domestic violence seeking civil remedies and relief; and second, by impacting the institutional infrastructure responsible for the legal remedies and protections available to survivors. For direct legal services, the Project has partnered with Bay Area Legal Aid

Student volunteers will attend special “clinic” hours, where survivors of domestic violence can seek information from Bay Area Legal Aid without becoming full-blown clients. The student volunteers will facilitate this flow of information and assist individuals with preparation of legal filings. Each student volunteer will have the opportunity to meet with survivors one-on-one or with a partner, and the clinic format will allow volunteers to follow-up with additional meetings later in the process if necessary.

In order to impact institutional infrastructure, our project performs large-scale research analyzing the role of court processes and the law in domestic violence situations. A past project included compiling move-away statutes, laws regarding whether a survivor of domestic violence can leave the state with their children, for all fifty states. This compilation is now used by Bay Area Legal Aid offices, and the Pro Bono Project has turned it into a computerized program that survivors, social workers, and other attorneys can access.

This coming year, the Pro Bono Project will work with Santa Clara County Courts to compile data on all domestic violence cases processed through the County. The Project will then use this data to recommend models and best practices for other California counties, with a focus on mediation techniques.

Student volunteers for the direct service component are asked to attend one clinic session a month, each session lasting anywhere between one and three hours depending on the student’s availability. Driving to the office takes approximately twenty minutes, and Project Leaders will coordinate rides for those that do not have access to a car. Volunteering for the direct service component requires a minimum one academic-year commitment due to the extensive training needed to interface with a survivor of domestic violence. Volunteers will need to attend two to three training sessions in the fall quarter. The ability to speak Spanish is a boon, but it is not necessary to speak a foreign language to have an impact. With regard to infrastructure research, SLS students can volunteer at any time to help. The Project will organize both one-time and ongoing research opportunities. However, any SLS student, with priority given to direct service volunteers and regular research volunteers, can lead a research assignment by taking full responsibility for a research area, spearheading research efforts, and/or coordinating the research of others.

Co-Leaders: Emma Eastwood-Paticchio and Rachel Dominguez


Economic Advancement Program
Under attorney supervision at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), Economic Advancement Program volunteers help to solve legal issues in a wide variety of areas, including contract law, family law, employment law, consumer protection law, debt consolidation, and more. Volunteers conduct client intake interviews, write follow-up memos to attorneys, and in some cases draft demand letters and answers to complaints. Students develop skills in effective client interviewing and counseling and will have the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios.

The program involves an average time commitment of about ten hours per quarter (including transportation time). While students are not required to start volunteering in the fall quarter, all new volunteers are required to attend an Economic Advancement Program-sponsored lunchtime training by a CLSEPA attorney.

Co-Leaders: Melissa Cornell and Viola Li


Housing Pro Bono Project
Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono Project works with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CSLEPA) in order to help renters with housing issues in the communities that surround Stanford. Students work with clients in landlord disputes—whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increases in rent, or other housing problems.

The Bay Area is a phenomenally expensive place to live. This tilts the inequitable landlord-tenant relationship in the landlord's favor. Low-income housing is difficult to find, and often landlords do not provide habitable residences. Many of our clients come from East Palo Alto, the local city with the most expansive legal protections for renters. These protections could be powerful, but they do nothing for renters who do not have the legal background to know their rights. 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 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 can share their knowledge with their community.

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 brainstorm together 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 pursue further work on the issue, such as writing a demand letter to the landlord or filing a rent board petition with the county. They may also draft contracts, or take their client’s landlord to small claims court. In many cases, law students will practice the difficult skill of explaining to their client that they have no legal recourse in a deeply unfair situation.

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: Peter Vogel and Jacob Addelson


Immigration Pro Bono Project
SLS partners with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto’s Immigration (CLSEPA) 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 most of our clients are Spanish-speaking, Spanish fluency is a plus.

Co-Leaders: Hannah Coleman and Ruthie Welch


Naturalization Pro Bono Project
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 civic questions. 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: some aspects of this project do not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Leader: Jamie Davidson


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 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-ups 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 from 12:00-4:30 pm 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: Sean Rosenberg and Katie Guthrie


Prisoner Legal Services
The Prisoner Legal Services Pro Bono Project is run by the Stanford Prisoner Advocacy and Resources Coalition (SPARC), a student organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for incarcerated individuals and their families. SPARC members currently volunteer with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department of Prisoner Legal Services (PLS) to provide pro bono legal services to prisoners at the San Francisco Jail (San Bruno facility). Supervised by PLS attorneys, student volunteers provide prisoners with legal assistance on criminal, conditions of confinement, collateral consequences, custody, and release matters.

SPARC students staff PLS twice a week, focusing on providing services to individuals in solitary confinement. During the inaugural Winter and Spring 2017 quarters, 21 Stanford Law School students provided over 200 hours of service. Volunteers are asked to commit to one weekly two-hour shift at the San Bruno Jail Complex (about 30 minutes from campus), as well as to complete necessary follow up from jail visits, sometimes including legal research (typically 20-60 minutes of remote work per week). Prior to starting, students will receive training from PLS attorneys and be required to attend a cultural competency training and receive security clearance from the Sheriff’s Department.

Co-Leaders: Anjuli Branz and John Bonacorsi


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 represents its clients in-house at SLS throughout their disability claims and appeals process. This gives students the opportunity to follow a client’s case through final resolution. SSDP Volunteers sign up to attend at least one office hour session per quarter, held mostly on Thursday or 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. 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. Students attending office hours will conduct an interview with the client. Following each office hour session, the students finish the initial applications or appeals for the clients they interviewed. The follow-up work usually takes between two and four hours and can be completed anytime in the several days following the office hours session.

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, students and faculty continue to represent SSDP clients before the administrative law judge.

SSDP has assisted 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: Sam Gerleman and David Huang


Tax Pro Bono Project
The Tax Pro Bono Project partners with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the United Way to provide free, high-quality tax assistance to lower-income members of our community. By preparing tax returns free of charge, we help local families save hundreds of dollars on paid tax preparers, and also help them access benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year, our clients received an average tax refund of $1,237.

We hold regular clinics during the tax season (January through April 15), and ask volunteers to commit approximately 20 hours over the winter and spring quarters. Our project offers students the chance to work directly with clients in a fast-paced environment, as most clients are served in the span of one clinic session. Client interviews typically require working through complicated fact patterns, dealing with sensitive issues, and researching legal questions. No tax or accounting experience is necessary. Students in this project will be trained in basic tax preparation in order to become IRS certified volunteer tax preparers.

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

Leader: Kelsey Merrick


Workers' Rights Pro Bono Project
The Workers’ Rights Pro Bono Project will work with Bay Area nonprofit Legal Aid at Work provide free and confidential information to workers about their legal rights. Each clinic has a teaching 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 4-5 1Ls and 1-2 2L/3Ls to join the project.

Co-Leaders: Hannah Matsunaga and Lincoln Mitchell

Litigation

Environmental Law Pro Bono Project
The Environmental Law Pro Bono Project provides students the opportunity to research, analyze, and write about pressing issues in the environmental law field. Our project will 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 Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment a national environmental justice organization, on issues such as sustainable agriculture, climate justice, toxic waste, and community education. Students are expected to commit about 8 to 10 hours per quarter and may begin to receive training in the Fall or Winter.

Co-Leaders: Donna Ni and Peter Gilchrist


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. IRAP later expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students perform legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases.

The Policy Team is also active: two IRAP students co-wrote a phenomenal article on America’s betrayal of thousands who risked their lives for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and are owed Special Immigrant Visas. In March, Stanford IRAP students travel to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. There are also opportunities to conduct client intake interviews to help determine which clients are eligible for IRAP representation, as well as work with our NGO partners on the ground in Lebanon (a school for Syrian refugees and a LGBT advocacy organization).

Students commit to their client’s case, which can extend on for multiple years and over summers. This commitment includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter/Spring/Summer, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week (depending on the client and if the student decides to join our policy or partnerships teams).

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: Thomas Davidson and Emily Hawley


Naturalization Pro Bono Project
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 civic questions. 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: some aspects of this project do not meet the Pro Bono requirements of the New York State Bar.

Leader: Jamie Davidson


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.

Co-Leaders:  Dan Brenner and Natalie Peelish

Policy

After Innocence
After Innocence is a 501 (c) (3) public charity 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. The organization works one-on-one with exoneree-clients to ensure they have access to - and make good use of - the health care, public benefits and legal services they are eligible for.

Stanford Law student volunteers will work on a “clean slate” project to ensure that exonerees’ criminal records and general background checks accurately reflect their criminal histories and 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.

We will work one-on-one with exonerees over the phone, as the exoneree clients we serve are spread widely across the country. For more on information on the national exoneree population and their overwhelming needs for legal support, see: www.exonerationregistry.org.

For registered student participants, several other types of legal projects on behalf of exonerees are available on a volunteer basis, in addition to 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: Emily Pehrsson and Danny Yadron


Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project
The Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project seeks to support survivors of domestic violence in two ways: first, by providing direct legal services to survivors of domestic violence seeking civil remedies and relief; and second, by impacting the institutional infrastructure responsible for the legal remedies and protections available to survivors. For direct legal services, the Project has partnered with Bay Area Legal Aid

Student volunteers will attend special “clinic” hours, where survivors of domestic violence can seek information from Bay Area Legal Aid without becoming full-blown clients. The student volunteers will facilitate this flow of information and assist individuals with preparation of legal filings. Each student volunteer will have the opportunity to meet with survivors one-on-one or with a partner, and the clinic format will allow volunteers to follow-up with additional meetings later in the process if necessary.

In order to impact institutional infrastructure, our project performs large-scale research analyzing the role of court processes and the law in domestic violence situations. A past project included compiling move-away statutes, laws regarding whether a survivor of domestic violence can leave the state with their children, for all fifty states. This compilation is now used by Bay Area Legal Aid offices, and the Pro Bono Project has turned it into a computerized program that survivors, social workers, and other attorneys can access.

This coming year, the Pro Bono Project will work with Santa Clara County Courts to compile data on all domestic violence cases processed through the County. The Project will then use this data to recommend models and best practices for other California counties, with a focus on mediation techniques.

Student volunteers for the direct service component are asked to attend one clinic session a month, each session lasting anywhere between one and three hours depending on the student’s availability. Driving to the office takes approximately twenty minutes, and Project Leaders will coordinate rides for those that do not have access to a car. Volunteering for the direct service component requires a minimum one academic-year commitment due to the extensive training needed to interface with a survivor of domestic violence. Volunteers will need to attend two to three training sessions in the fall quarter. The ability to speak Spanish is a boon, but it is not necessary to speak a foreign language to have an impact. With regard to infrastructure research, SLS students can volunteer at any time to help. The Project will organize both one-time and ongoing research opportunities. However, any SLS student, with priority given to direct service volunteers and regular research volunteers, can lead a research assignment by taking full responsibility for a research area, spearheading research efforts, and/or coordinating the research of others.

Co-Leaders: Emma Eastwood-Paticchio and Rachel Dominguez


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. IRAP later expanded its assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon, and Stanford students have helped refugees from Somalia as well. Students perform legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients' cases.

The Policy Team is also active: two IRAP students co-wrote a phenomenal article on America’s betrayal of thousands who risked their lives for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and are owed Special Immigrant Visas. In March, Stanford IRAP students travel to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and conduct intake interviews with Syrian refugees. There are also opportunities to conduct client intake interviews to help determine which clients are eligible for IRAP representation, as well as work with our NGO partners on the ground in Lebanon (a school for Syrian refugees and a LGBT advocacy organization).

Students commit to their client’s case, which can extend on for multiple years and over summers. This commitment includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions. During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter/Spring/Summer, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week (depending on the client and if the student decides to join our policy or partnerships teams).

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: Thomas Davidson and Emily Hawley

Teaching

StreetLaw
StreetLaw teachers work in teams to teach incarcerated and at-risk youth at San Mateo County Juvenile Hall (“Hillcrest”). 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: Eugénie Iseman and Abby Walter

Alphabetical List of Student-Led Pro Bono Projects

  • After Innocence (Criminal Justice, Direct Services, Policy)
  • Domestic Violence Pro Bono Project (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Economic Advancement Program (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Environmental Law Pro Bono Project (Environmental, Litigation)
  • Housing Pro Bono Project (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Immigration Pro Bono Project (Immigration, Direct Services)
  • International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) (Human Trafficking/Refugees, Direct Services, Litigation, Policy)
  • Naturalization Pro Bono Project (Immigration, Direct Services)
  • Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP) (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Project Clean Slate (Criminal Justice, Direct Services)
  • Prisoner Legal Services (Criminal Justice, Direct Services)
  • Social Security Disability Project (SSDP) (Poverty Related, Direct Services)
  • Stanford Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) (Environmental, Litigation)
  • StreetLaw (Criminal Justice, Teaching)
  • Tax Pro Bono Project (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.

More Information

Pro Bono Distinction

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 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:

  • All training and service in support of the 16 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects
  • All training and service done during SLS-sponsored Alternative Break opportunities
  • All training and service done during SLS-sponsored Justice Bus trips
  • All organizing and coordinating work done by official student leaders of the 16 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects and the Alternative Break opportunities
  • All other work that is:
    • Law-related
    • Uncompensated (either with money or course credit)
    • At or with a public interest nonprofit, government agency, or other Levin Center-approved entity
    • Uncompensated (either with money or course credit)
    • Performed under the supervision of an attorney, faculty member, or Levin Center- approved qualified supervisor
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