April 23, 2020

Law Students Respond to Pro Bono Needs

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the nature of education in the US as many states have issued shelter in place orders and schools across the country have transitioned to remote learning. However, social distancing hasn’t stopped law students from mobilizing to assist those in need of legal assistance in new and creative ways. Law students are finding ways to do pro bono work remotely to meet client needs. 

UC Irvine Law Students

According to a National Jurist Article, over 90 percent of students usually participate in pro bono while attending UCI Law, volunteering with legal clinics, courthouses, or legal services offices. Since social distancing protocols were put in place, Anna Davis, Director of Pro Bono Programs, reports that over 30 students have begun new projects.

Students are working with programs to submit remote parole requests for immigrants in detention centers who are more susceptible to COVID-19. In addition, another group of students is submitting public comments on city and county activities that may adversely affect homeless or housing insecure individuals. UCI students are also conducting legal research for legal services and legal aid offices and assisting with representation in remote clinics. One unique way that UCI students are supporting legal services offices is by volunteering to do document delivery to vulnerable individuals who are unable to leave their homes.

University of Arkansas School of Law

University of Arkansas students continue to find ways to do pro bono work, even without in-person interaction. According to the April 6, 2020 University of Arkansas News,  law students are working with the Center for Arkansas Legal Services to assist with a strategy to address evictions and foreclosures that are likely to result from COVID-19. Students who planned to join the annual “Spring Break on the Road to Justice,” with Legal Aid of Arkansas will now be working remotely with the agency. For this project, students assist with drafting petitions and orders that they receive via email.

The students report that doing pro bono during the global pandemic is not only helpful to clients, but it also serves as a coping strategy for students by giving them a sense of purpose and agency during an uncertain time.

Richmond School of Law

The University of Richmond School of Law is mobilizing a statewide law student pro bono engagement effort. As reporting on the Richmond law website, “The Carrico Center for Pro Bono and Public Service is reaching out to local community partners to identify remote volunteer opportunities to help those most in need.”

Students and soon to be law school grads will be matched with community partners in need of assistance. Student projects include translating documents and research to support undocumented immigrants. Richmond students also participated in a special webinar with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to volunteer on a helpline for eviction assistance. The Greater Richmond Bar Association also trained Richmond students on their JusticeServer, which allows students to be matched to legal services providers in need of volunteers.

UC Berkeley School of Law

UC Berkeley students are working on several pro bono projects to remotely assist those in need. The Berkeley Center on Law and Business is leading a pro bono project to assist small businesses during the pandemic. The BCLB is matching students with companies and volunteer attorneys to assist them in navigating the process of seeking relief under the CARES act. Students continue working on a remote advocacy project to assist detained immigrants with bond and parole. One student whose spring break trip was cancelled is now working with an organization to provide remote pro bono support to detained individuals.

Berkeley students are also assisting in remote pro bono legal research for issues ranging from sustainable economics to reproductive justice to health care policy to reentry of those currently incarcerated, consumer justice, and global worker’s rights issues. In addition, students continue to work on direct advocacy efforts for workers and tenants under attorney supervision.

Thank you law students for your inspiring efforts and ability to find ways to assist individuals even under difficult circumstances!