For the past several years, a group of DC law schools has collaborated to organize DC Alternative Spring Break. This initiative allows students to do meaningful work with legal service providers in their own backyard while meeting peers from nearby schools who care about the same issues. This spring, students volunteered at Amara Legal Center, Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition, the D.C. Bar Landlord Tenant Resource Center, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, and Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Work included legal research, conducting intake, and engaging in outreach about legal rights.
For the law school pro bono coordinators, DC Alternative Spring Break is a great way to streamline efforts to connect interested students with needed pro bono work. Because the law school spring breaks don’t always align – this year they spanned two weeks – each pro bono coordinator from the respective schools seeks out opportunities that fall within either or both weeks. They then use a shared calendar and other online tools to place students from participating schools at the various local organizations.
The result is terrific: students are able to volunteer alongside counterparts from other institutions, and providers have the benefit of engaged volunteers. "The four DC law schools really work well together in this effort. We couldn't have done it without each other. Jen at GU brings the wisdom and connections of being plugged into the DC public interest community. Angie at AU brings a tech savviness that allows four schools to register for projects simultaneously, and Kiva at Catholic brings fresh energy, which is badly needed to keep such a project going annually. As for me, I just try to stay out of the way and not mess things up. It's genuinely nice - for our own careers and for our students - to have a community like this." - David Johnson, Assistant Dean for Pro Bono & Advocacy Programs, The George Washington University Law School.
The legal service providers also appreciate coordinating with a single point of contact, not to mention the opportunity to both work with and inspire committed students. “The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program was honored to participate for the third year with the Alternative Spring Break program for D.C. area law students. It is remarkable that there are law students willing to do pro bono work during their spring break and it shows with the caliber of students we have worked with since joining the program. We look forward to participating again next year as mission partners to provide veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors the best legal services, free of charge, to meet their challenges!” – Samantha Stiltner, Attorney & Program Manager with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program.
Reports from the students this year similarly demonstrate that DC Alternative Spring Break continues to be a win-win-win experience for all!
“The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project works to prevent and correct the conviction of innocent people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I worked on a team with two students from Georgetown Law Center to review a case that was previously closed. After a week of research and thorough review of the case file we gave a presentation to the board of MAIP on the case and recommended that they re-open the case.” - Ahad Khilji, 3L at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
“I came to law school to make an impact and help people, and my time with the Landlord Tenant Resource Center let me do both! It was a great chance to get off campus and do some good. I'd recommend it to any who want to experience working with clients and build their network by meeting local practitioners.” - Max Crema, 2L at Georgetown Law
“For Spring Break, I volunteered with Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition. I want to work in immigration and I have no experience in the field, so I thought I should get some exposure before the summer… [A]s a complete newbie, I didn’t expect to be entrusted with anything important. I was wrong…I translated documents for a brief, took calls from people in immigration detention, did background research on country conditions, summarized legal documents from a client’s former lawyer, and researched case history on the definition of “competence” for a hearing in the Fourth Circuit. The staff showed real appreciation for the efforts of all the volunteers and even gave us thank you notes at the end of the week, while in many ways we should have been thanking them.” - Nathan Sbar, 1L at American University Washington College of Law
Thank you for following our Spring Break Highlights Series! Check back next week for additional features on the great work being done by law school's during Spring Break 2019!