Boston University School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator
Description of Programs
BU Law students are invited to participate in our voluntary pro bono program and to pledge to perform a minimum of 50 hours during their three years in law school. Participating LLM students pledge a minimum of 18 hours for the same pro bono work. Upon completion of the pro bono hours, students will receive a notation on their law school transcripts attesting to their participation in the program.
Pro bono work, for the purposes of the BU Law program, must be unpaid and not for academic credit. Legal work performed in one of the BU Law clinical programs for academic credit will not qualify. Legal work performed during full-time unpaid summer internships also will not qualify, nor will work done during a leave of absence. To meet the goals of our program, student pro bono work should involve the rendering of meaningful law-related service to persons of limited means, or to organizations or government in matters designed to primarily address the needs of persons of limited means or to organizations or government agencies dedicated to underrepresented groups and/or social issues including those groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights.
Every year, students can also participate in substantially subsidized spring break service trips to a variety of destinations which have included New Orleans, LA, Biloxi, MS, Detroit, MI, Portland, ME, Kansas City, MO, Boston, MA, Newark, NJ, Los Angeles, CA and Harlingen, TX.
Every year, BU Law School honors faculty and alumni who have engaged in substantial pro bono work during their careers by presenting them with pro bono awards. BU Law also recognizes the graduating student who has completed the highest number of pro bono hours.
Location of Programs
The Pro Bono Program is housed within the Office of Career Development and Public Service ("CDO").
The Pro Bono Program is staffed by Toni Hicks, Director for Public Service and Pro Bono and Caroline Brantley, Senior Program Coordinator. The Assistant Dean of Career Development and Public Service and the BU Law Public Service Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and students, also advise the program.
The Pro Bono Program is funded through the law school operating budget.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
There are no formal student-run pro bono groups, but each year student organizations, including the Public Interest Project, organize pro bono projects for its members.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
There is no formal faculty pro bono policy, but faculty members engage in pro bono projects each year. Students may assist faculty members with these projects which may take the form of research and publication. Every year, a faculty member who has engaged in substantial pro bono work is honored by being presented with a pro bono award.
The J.D. student and LL.M. student who complete the most hours in their graduating class are recognized with an award. Additionally, those students who have completed the required number of pro bono hours are recognized with a notation on their law school transcript. A faculty member also receives an award.
Every fall, BU Law holds a pro bono event to kick off the year. The event is attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and the legal community. Each year, an alumnus/a is presented with the Victor J. Garo, Esq. Award for Public Service
In April, towards the end of the school year, the school hosts an event honoring students who have completed the pledge.
Graduating 3Ls and LL.M. students who have completed the Pro Bono Pledge receive Certificates.
Part of BU Law's first year orientation includes an optional community service day. Students sign up to do a variety of service projects in the Boston area.
Additionally, the Public Interest Project organizes community service projects.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Public Interest Centers
Public Interest Clinics
Civil Litigation Clinic:
The Boston University Civil Litigation Program is one of the oldest clinical law programs in the country. Today, four clinical law faculty oversee a program of more than 30 students who practice law out of their own suite of offices in the headquarters of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in downtown Boston.
Students in the Civil Litigation Clinic choose from two options:
Housing, Employment, Family and Disability Clinic (HEFD) (full-year program) - The average HEFD clinic caseload over two semesters typically includes 4-5 cases in areas such as domestic relations, eviction defense, employment law and Social Security appeals. Other kinds of cases may also be assigned.
Employment Rights Clinic (ERC) (one semester program, fall or spring) -
Students represent clients in unemployment compensation cases, and there is a possibility of working on wage and hour disputes, discrimination/sexual harassment cases, and Family Medical Leave Act cases.
Criminal Law Clinic:
Students enrolled in the Criminal Law Clinic carry full responsibility for the prosecution or defense of criminal cases in Municipal and Juvenile Boston or Quincy District Courts while receiving close faculty supervision. Students participating in the Criminal Law Clinic can expect to conduct investigations to formulate trial strategy, file appropriate pre-trial motions, participate in plea bargaining, try cases before judges and make sentencing arguments. Students are expected to follow their cases from beginning to end; in recent years some clinic students have taken their cases to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Environmental Law Practicum:
Students complete an environmental-law related legal project for a Boston-based environmental law organization. Projects vary in scope and content based on student interest and the needs of the partnering organization. In Spring 2017, students worked on environmental law projects on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation and Alternatives for Community and Environment. Project topics may include clean energy, water regulation, and environmental justice, which concerns the intersection of civil rights, fundamental fairness, and environmental policy.
Legislative Policy & Drafting Clinic:
Students learn about the law-making process through coursework and hand-on experience working with a client seeking to advance a bill or project through the state legislature. Students work on several projects during the semester that highlight different aspects of the legislative process, allowing students to relate and test the theories discussed in class to real life situations. The in-class seminar covers subjects that affect the legislative process including: constitutional interpretation by legislatures, theories of representation, legislative organization and rules, lobbying, legislative oversight powers, and legislature-executive agency relationships.
International Human Rights Clinic:
Students in the Clinic work on human rights projects such as: working with NGO's in advocacy in the UN human rights system or in regional organs (e.g. Inter-American and European human rights bodies); filing briefs on human rights law issues in US domestic courts; counseling individual clients with human rights claims and without recourse within a domestic jurisdiction. While the nature of the fieldwork varies from year to year, the clinic has previously partnered with domestic and international NGOs on the Guantanamo cases, habeas cases, and Alien Tort Claims Act cases; drafted submissions to UN treaty bodies; and worked on the health and human rights aspects of humanitarian crises. Students conduct legal and factual research, conduct outreach to partners and project strategy development, and may prepare amicus briefs on human rights issues and appeals in human rights cases. The clinic fieldwork may include international travel.
Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program:
The Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Program, launched in July 2017, combines BU Law’s nationally recognized Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the Human Trafficking Clinic and creates an integrated new clinical program. In the Program, students learn practical legal skills while providing pro bono representation to vulnerable non-citizens facing deportation and survivors of human trafficking. Law students participate in a seminar led by experienced faculty and focus on clinical fieldwork in the areas of immigrants’ rights, human trafficking, or both. In addition to pro bono legal representation, students and Program faculty will work to increase protections available to vulnerable populations and contribute to the national policy landscape by providing new models that address emerging challenges in the immigrants’ rights and human trafficking contexts.
Wrongful Convictions Clinic:
Participants will engage in screening applications from prisoners claiming innocence who have requested help from the New England Innocence Project. This may involve reading prisoner questionnaires, pleadings and court opinions in the case, legal research and analysis of the requirements for obtaining a new trial, review of attorney files, and search for forensic evidence in the case.
Through an externship, students work out-in-the-field at a legal office, handling real legal work under the supervision of an attorney mentor. Boston’s vibrant legal community offers a vast array of placements in countless practice areas. Students have recently worked at organizations that handle affordable housing, education, microfinance, IP, health law, and environmental law, to name a few.
Students may work with one of BU Law’s many partnering organizations, or students are welcome to cultivate a new placement. Placements may be at a nonprofit, with a government agency or state legislator, for a judge, in a corporate legal department, or at small/mid-size law firms. All work must be performed under the direct supervision of an attorney. Placements may be paid or unpaid. Each student’s field experience is supported by a required seminar.
Affordable Housing Externship – An externship opportunity available for students taking the Affordable Housing Law seminar. Students receive 3 credits for 150 hours of fieldwork at a public or non-profit housing and community development agency.
Corporate Counsel Externship – Dedicated to exposing students to the role and work of in-house counsel for for-profit and nonprofit corporations in an array of global industries, as well as the business and lawyering skills essential to representing the internal corporate client. The seminar covers the modern role of in-house counsel; becoming a trusted advisor to the client; learning business; communicating effectively in a business setting; collaborating with a legal team; and solving problems to advance the client’s strategic objectives.
Health Law Externship– For students working with health care institutions, biotech firms, or health advocacy nonprofits. The seminar adds to BU Law’s robust Health Law offerings by examining health law issues as they pertain to practice, as well as the challenges of working in a non-profit environment.
Judicial Externship – Students immerse themselves in a research- and writing-intensive experience working for a judge. Placements are at a range of courts: trial and appellate, state and federal, and at specialty courts such as Probate & Family Court. The seminar explores topics related to the judiciary, such as judicial ethics, judicial decision-making, specialty courts, and ADR.
Legal Externship – BU Law’s “catch-all” externship where students work at all types of placements. Recent placements include BU General Counsel’s Office, Victim Rights Law Center, and the SEC, to name a few. The seminar is an ethics class that examines legal practice and the ethics of lawyering.
Legislative Externship – Students learn about the lawmaking process on Beacon Hill by working for a Massachusetts state legislator. Students may draft legislation, evaluate testimony, attend meetings with legislators and staff, observe legislative strategy sessions and negotiations, attend floor debates and committee meetings, and research questions of law for proposed legislation. Students can work on general issues or focus in the following areas: Environmental Law, Health Law, and Tax & Business.
Small/Mid-Size Law Firm Externship – A new program beginning spring 2018. This course focuses on a range of topics unique to legal practice in small and medium-sized law firms, with a particular emphasis on developing the skills necessary for successful lawyering in this setting. Students will gain a foundational knowledge of smaller firms and learn how to cultivate mentors, seek and respond to feedback, obtain challenging assignments, and measure progress on professional development goals. This seminar is required for students working at small/mid-size law firm placements.
Semester-in-Practice The Semester-in-Practice Program is our full-time, full-semester externship program. Placements may be local or outside of Boston.
Classes with a Public Service Component
During 2L and 3L years, students choose their courses. Many students also decide to pursue a concentration in one of the six following areas: Health Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Risk Management and Compliance, and Transactional Practice. Classes from the core curriculum (for example, corporations, taxation, federal courts, commercial code, administrative law and evidence) offer students a foundation essential for many public interest jobs. In addition, there are numerous courses addressing issues related to public interest law, including a Public Interest Law Seminar.
Public Interest Journals
Founded in 1990 and published twice a year, the Public Interest Law Journal (PILJ ) is a non-partisan publication dedicated to academic discussion of legal issues in the public interest. It focuses on constitutional law, criminal law, family and legal ethics, environmental issues, education and civil rights law, and is particularly interested in submissions that combine theory and practical application. The Journal is edited by second- and third-year students selected for membership on the basis of a writing competition.
Each volume contains various articles relating to public interest written by practicing lawyers, professors, judges, scholars and public officials, as well as book reviews, current developments in the law and other commentaries. In addition, the Journal publishes student-written notes on current public interest issues.
In addition to PILJ, there are several other scholarly journals which offer students the opportunity to research and write about current legal topics in the field of public interest law. The other law school journals are the Boston University Law Review, American Journal of Law and Medicine, Annual Review of Banking & Financial Law, Boston University International Law Journal and Journal of Science & Technology Law .
PI Career Support Center
BU Law is a member of the Massachusetts Law School Consortium which organizes two public interest career fairs - one in the fall and another in the spring - devoted exclusively to public interest opportunities.
The CDO offers one-on-one advising sessions with dedicated public interest advisers. The CDO also holds government and public interest career related programs which may include topics such as interviewing skills, fellowships, summer funding, and alternative careers. The CDO organizes individual advising, lunches with government and public interest attorneys, and networking programs.
The CDO also makes available numerous print and online resource materials.
Every fall, BU Law holds a public interest and pro bono community-building event for students, faculty and staff. This program features an alumnus/a guest speaker who works in public interest, a student panel and an opportunity for students to connect with other students interested in public service.
The CDO also engages in marketing and outreach to public interest and government employers to increase access to job opportunities for students.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
BU Law has a strong tradition of commitment to public service. We recognize that many law graduates have difficulties pursuing public interest careers because salaries are insufficient to enable them to pay loans in addition to covering their living expenses. Since 1993, BU Law has provided financial support to our alumni in order to relieve some of the burden of making monthly payments.
Under the terms of the current program, graduates are eligible to apply for assistance for up to ten years after graduation. Applications are submitted to the Law Financial Aid Office and reviewed by the Loan Repayment Assistance Program Committee, who consider several criteria, including current salary, total educational debt, year of graduation, spousal income and educational loans (if any), dependent responsibility, the monthly payment in relation to monthly income and any special circumstances affecting the applicant’s ability to repay outstanding debt. The Committee also considers the nature of the public service activity, the organization’s history, and its viability when deciding how to allocate the funds available.
A full description of the program is available on our website - http://www.bu.edu/law/admissions/financial-aid/loan-repayment-assistance-program/
Law School Funded:
N. Neal Pike Fellowship
Boston University School of Law awards the N. Neal Pike Disability Rights Fellowship to a graduate who will work on disability rights issues. This fellowship furthers the goals of N. Neal Pike, a BU Law graduate, distinguished lawyer, and lifelong advocate for individuals with disabilities.
Public Service Fellowships
Since 2011, BU Law has awarded Post-Graduate Public Service Fellowships.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
BU Law counsels students regarding fellowship opportunities and offers resources to help students identify post-graduate fellowships and awards.
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
The Public Interest Scholarship program at Boston University School of Law provides a full tuition scholarship for all three years to a number of our students who have demonstrated their desire to pursue a career in public interest law.
The definition of public interest law is broad and includes both domestic and international work; direct service, impact litigation, and policy work; and government and non-profit work. Recent public interest scholars have come to BU Law with career goals in international human rights, immigration law, public health, judicial clerkships, public defense, prosecution, government at all levels, housing policy, environmental policy, and criminal justice reform.
Applicants who wish to be considered for the Public Interest Scholarship must submit an additional essay with their applications for admission. Your personal statement cannot be used as the essay for the Public Interest Scholarship. The essay is your opportunity to explain your particular area of interest and how law school will help you to fulfill your public interest goals.
Applications must be submitted by January 15. Scholarship offers may be made on a rolling basis.
In addition to the Public Interest Scholarship, recipients are granted a $5,000 stipend for their 1L and 2L summers to pursue public interest internships, as well as career guidance and faculty mentoring.
For additional information please see: http://www.bu.edu/law/admissions/financial-aid/scholarships/public-interest-scholarships/
Graduate Student Funded
Other Funding Sources:
BU Law counsels students regarding fellowship opportunities and offers resources to help students identify term-time fellowships and awards.
Law School Funded:
BU Law supports the fundraising efforts of the Public Interest Project (PIP) Summer Fellowships.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
PIP is a student run organization that raises funds for grants to support students in summer public-interest and public-service positions.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Public Interest Project Annual Auction - Each year the BU Law Public Interest Project organizes an auction to raise money to support students engaging in nonpaying public interest summer jobs.
Student Public Interest Groups
BU Law has an engaged student population with many student organizations including:
American Constitution Society (ACS)
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)
Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
Business Law Society
Communication, Entertainment, and Sports Law Association (CESLA)
Education and School Law Association
Employment & Labor Law Student Association
Entrepreneur & Finance Club
Environmental and Energy Law Association
First Generation Professionals
Health Law Association
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Rights
Immigration Law and Policy Society
Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS)
International Law Society
Jewish Law Students Association (JLSA)
Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA)
Lawyers Christian Fellowship
Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian Law Students Association (MESALSA)
National Security Law Society
Native American and other Indigenous Peoples Law Students Association (NALSA)
Older Wiser Law Students (OWLS)
Public Interest Project (PIP)
Radical Lawyers: BU’s National Lawyers Guild Chapter
Real Estate Association
Student Government Association
Women's Law Association (WLA)