University of Akron

University of Akron
C. Blake McDowell Law Center
150 University Avenue
Akron, OH 44325

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Alisa N. Benedict O’Brien
Assistant Dean for Career Services and Strategic Initiatives
(330) 972-8540

Category Type

Public Service Graduation Requirement Program

Description of Programs

Akron Law's program (the Program) has two components: community service and pro bono. Both components require specific hours devoted to providing assistance to persons of limited financial means. The Program is headed by the Assistant Director of the Legal Clinic (the Program Coordinator), who coordinates the Program and assists in recruiting and placing students with appropriate community service/pro bono opportunities. The Assistant Dean for Career Services and Strategic Initiatives also works closely with the Program Coordinator and is responsible for tracking the students' community service and pro bono hours.

The Program encourages and helps to coordinate events sponsored by many student organizations which include community service/pro bono activities as part of their regular programming. Each year Akron Law sponsors Akron Law Cares, the law school's annual community service, and outreach project. Akron Law also participates in National Pro Bono Week.

For further information, including the text of Akron Law's mandatory community service/pro bono graduation requirement, see The website also contains convenient links to (1) the Certification of Supervisor form that students are required to submit; and (2) Reporting Instructions for students. In order to receive credit for hours served, the Program requires that students complete and submit both the Certification of Supervisor form and an online submission via Simplicity by the established deadlines for each semester.

Location of Programs

The University of Akron School of Law Legal Clinic.


Joann M. Sahl, Esq., Assistant Director, Legal Clinic. Professor Sahl acts as Program Coordinator, along with Alisa N. Benedict O'Brien, Assistant Dean for Career Services and Strategic Initiatives.


The Assistant Director of the Legal Clinic, as part of the position's duties, devotes a portion of her time to coordinating the Program. She facilitates the Program, obtains appropriate community service/pro bono opportunities, and recruits students to participate in these opportunities. The Program Coordinator communicates opportunities to students via the Akron Law Community Service blog and via other forms of social media. The Assistant Dean of Career Services and Strategic Initiatives also devotes a portion of her time to the Program, including meeting with students to coordinate volunteer opportunities, tracking student hours, running reports, and planning Program events.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Street Law is a joint endeavor between the Akron Bar Association, Akron Law, and local public schools to teach students law and citizenship. Street Law brings local attorneys and law students into area classrooms in partnership with high school and middle school teachers. Street Law has a summer component for elementary students (camp law school), middle school and high school students (the minority pipeline program).

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Akron Law faculty members participate in both community service and pro bono opportunities. Akron Law faculty and administrators participate in the Akron Bar Association's community service and pro bono projects. Both the Akron Bar and Akron Law work closely with Community Legal Aid to support their programs and thus provides an avenue for faculty and administrators to provide pro bono service.

Faculty members serve as chairs and reporters for local, state, national and international bar and professional committees. The Faculty Evaluation Criteria and Procedures specifically recognize the importance of service to both the profession and community in reappointment, tenure, promotion, salary decisions and incorporate the AALS Statement of Good Practices for law professors, encouraging pro bono service.

Faculty members serve as advisors to student groups, including those devoted to pro bono causes.


The Program Coordinator, with the assistance of the Assistant Dean for Career Services and Strategic Initiatives, tracks the total number of student community and pro bono service hours using a two-pronged methodology. First, students must complete a Certification of Supervisor form detailing, among other things, the hours worked, and the name and type of service project. This form must be signed by an authorized representative of the organization.  Second, students must submit all hours in a web-based reporting application via Symplicity and upload their signed Certification of Supervisor form. To receive credit toward the graduation requirement students must complete both prongs of the reporting procedure by an established deadline for each semester. The Assistant Dean for Career Services and Strategic Initiatives. verifies and approves all hours submitted.

The student(s) (one full-time and one part-time) with the highest total number of pro bono hours at graduation, as determined by compiling the data received from the reporting procedure, are recognized at commencement and given a monetary award funded by a local law firm. Additionally, all graduating students who complete over 300 hours of pro bono and community service hours receive a certificate and gold cords to be worn at commencement and are recognized in the commencement program, and at a special ceremony held prior to commencement.

Students completing 150 or more hours of pro bono work during law school are recognized by The Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation.

Community Service

Akron Law student groups often work with faculty advisors and administrators to organize community service activities. Akron Law students also assist with multiple free legal clinics and other projects sponsored by Akron Law legal clinics and the local Community Legal Aid office.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Professor Joann Sahl
Assistant Director, Legal Clinic
(330) 972-7189

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Public Interest Centers

Public Interest Clinics

The Legal Clinic provides assistance to low-income clients in the following specialty clinics:

Small Entrepreneur and Economic Development (SEED) Legal Clinic: provides low-cost legal and business assistance to small and emerging businesses in the local community. This assistance includes business planning, employment, contract/lease, tax, and entity formation information.

Civil Litigation Clinic: provides low-income clients with legal representation in housing matters, including landlord/tenant and foreclosure actions.

Reentry Clinic: provides legal assistance to low-income clients seeking to have their record sealed, obtain a pardon from the governor or receive a Certificate of Qualification for Employment. The clinic also assists victims of human trafficking with the expungement of their records.

Immigration and Human Rights Clinic: provides assistance to individuals seeking asylum while detained in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Through its Externship Program, Akron Law places students for credit in public interest settings under the direct supervision of an attorney. Placements are coordinated by the Assistant Dean of Career Services and Strategic InitiativesDirector of the SEED Legal Clinic. Students earn academic credit for working 85 to 127.5 hours per semester at a public interest placement. Placements include a classroom component. Students may participate in the Externship Program more than once during their law school career, not to exceed 12 academic credits.

The Public Interest Fellowship Program ("PIFP") is designed to support the public interest endeavors of students in terms of related work experiences. The PIFP presents students with the opportunity to gain relevant public interest experiences and legal skills while earning a modest stipend. The PIFP is offered three times per year (fall, spring and summer semesters). Upon their application, Akron Law students are considered by a committee of Akron Law faculty and administrators, and if selected, receive a monetary award based upon the anticipated hours worked and available funding.

The PFIP stipends are funded by the Student Bar Association annual fundraiser, the Malkin - Koosed Public Interest Fellowship, and other private donors from time to time These sources together historically generate in excess of $10,000 per year for the PIFP stipends.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Externship Program: Students receive academic credit for their work in public interest placements under the supervision of an attorney, as discussed above.

Reentry Clinic: Students participate in a free monthly clinic for clients seeking to seal their criminal record, obtain a Certificate of Qualification for Employment. Attendees may also meet with attorneys to learn how to obtain a valid driver’s license.

Public Interest Journals

PI Career Support Center

Akron Law offers the following services:

Career consultations relative to public interest areas and programs inclusive of the Public Interest Fellowship Program.

Externships which take place exclusively in governmental, public sector or not-for-profit entities.

Akron Law's Career Services Office provides the following services:

  • Posts, through a variety of sources, including the Symplicity job database and multiple forms of social media, public interest job opportunities as they are received.
  • Career counseling regarding how to identify and obtain public interest careers, including opportunities for attorneys, law clerks, and fellowships.
  • Coordinates and hosts an annual Government and Public Interest Law Information Fair in March.
  • Hosts panels and speakers on public interest practice areas.
  • A library containing a multitude of print and electronic media concerning public interest careers and career opportunities.
  • Coordinates registration for Akron Law students who wish to attend and participate in the Annual Equal Justice Works Conference and Job Fair and the Midwest Public Interest Career Fair.
  • Coordinates and announces through a variety of sources, various public interest career fairs.
  • Provides PSJD to students and alumni.
  • Provides students with resources and counseling regarding Akron Law's clinical opportunities and the externship program.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Semester-long Public Interest Fellowships

Graduate Student Funded

Other Funding Sources:

Student Bar Association (SBA) Fundraiser
Malkin-Koosed Public Interest Fellowship
Akron Bar Association Fellowship (2 awards)
The David D. Dowd, Sr. Memorial Summer Job Placement Award
The Knight Foundation First Amendment Fellowship

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Summer Long Public Interest Fellowships

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

Student Bar Association (SBA) Fundraiser
Malkin-Koosed Public Interest Fellowship
Akron Bar Association Fellowship (2 awards)
The David D. Dowd, Sr. Memorial Summer Job Placement Award
The Knight Foundation First Amendment Fellowship

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Each academic year, students are provided with opportunities to attend or participate in various public interest programs and conferences including the Equal Works Public Interest Conference and Career Fair and Community Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland clinics.

Student Public Interest Groups

The Student Bar Association (SBA): The SBA is actively involved with public interest issues. The SBA Auction represents a portion of the monies used to fund the PIFP fellowships. The SBA fosters a cooperative working relationship with many community partners and assists with Akron Law’s annual day of service, Akron Law Cares, held each fall.

Other Student Group community service and pro bono activities include:

Asian-Latino Students Association / Black Law Students Association: Students tutor school children in the local area and are actively involved with the local Akron community.

Law Association for Women (LAW): LAW regularly and historically coordinates Red Cross blood drives, as well as food, clothing and gift drives for area shelters and agencies.

Phi Alpha Delta: Phi Alpha Delta regularly and historically conducts canned goods drives.

Street Law: Students volunteer with local attorneys and high school teachers to teach academic courses in local public schools on the issues of law and public citizenship.