Directory

Vanderbilt University Law School

Vanderbilt University Law School
131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
law.vanderbilt.edu/

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Lisa Doster
Career Counselor, Government & Public Interest Specialist
E-mail
P: (615) 322-6192

Susan Kay
Clinical Professor and Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs
E-mail
P: (615) 322-4964

Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator

Description of Programs

The law school has a policy encouraging pro bono activity by law students. The Pro Bono Program of the Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society is student run by students but has a professor as the faculty sponsor. The VLAS organizes a number of activities designed to assist traditionally underrepresented groups in the Nashville area, such as residents of state prisons, mental health hospitals, and juvenile detention facilities. These activities are directed by law student members of the Society, assisted by members of the Law School's clinical faculty. Informal meetings are sponsored for law students to exchange ideas and experiences relating to public interest law practice.

The Pro Bono Program allows students to assist local attorneys with pro bono cases. The Program is administered in coordination with the Nashville Bar Association, with the objective of encouraging current and future lawyers to undertake more pro bono work. The cases involve a variety of practice areas such as personal injury, social security benefits, and divorce. Participating students work one-on-one with attorneys and gain practical experience assisting in library research, legal writing, and client or witness interviews. Any student may participate on a voluntary basis; second-year and third-year students can earn one extracurricular credit per semester by completing certain requirements set by the Legal Aid Society. In addition, during orientation, all 1Ls are required to engage in a pro bono project.

Location of Programs

None listed

Staffing/Management/Oversight

Volunteer students run the program with a faculty advisor.

Funding

None listed

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Amnesty International – AI is an international human rights organization that seeks the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, fair trials for all properly charged with legitimate criminal offenses, and the complete abolition of torture, disappearance, and state-sanctioned killing world wide. The Law School chapter takes up cases of individual prisoners on a regular basis, using letter-writing campaigns and telex-petition drives. The chapter also sponsors educational forums on major international human rights treaties and campaigns for their U.S. ratification.

Animal Law Society – This group of students focus on the nexus between animals and the law. Some of the organization's goals and activities include: conducting a Holiday Pet Food Drive to benefit a local Humane Society; sponsoring an Animal Law Lunchtime Discussion Series; participating in Nashville Cares PAWS, an organization which helps HIV+ individuals care for their pets; assisting a local county in establishing an animal control organization; and building a resource center that students and faculty can use to learn about the current state of animal laws on a local, national, and global level.

Ayuda Legal Independiente A Nashville (ALIANza) – Through this project, students assist public defenders with cases involving Spanish-speaking clients. ALIANza was created to provide Vanderbilt students with the opportunity to help serve the needs of Nashville's quite large Hispanic population.

The Rutherford Institute – The Rutherford Institute at Vanderbilt Law School is a student organization dedicated to the protection of First Amendment rights and the preservation of religious liberty in this country and abroad. In addition to sponsoring educational and social events, the Institute gives student members the opportunity to acquire hands-on legal experience by providing legal research for First Amendment cases tried by the national Rutherford Institute. The group has a faculty sponsor.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

None listed

Awards/Recognition

A reception is held to recognize those students and faculty who contribute to Public Service and Pro Bono at the Law School. Career Services sponsors the Public Interest Service Awards that are given to students. The Legal Clinic and Legal Aid Society announce and award the Public Interest Stipend Fund Recipients.

The Junius Allison Legal Aid Award and the Carl Rutkowski Clinic Award are announced at graduation.

Community Service

We have an annual Community Service project as part of our orientation for 1L students, in which groups of 5-8 students go to a number of community agencies for 3 hours and work together on a project. The Vanderbilt Bar Association (VBA) has organized a Habitat for Humanity project for the entire law school community over the past two years. The Women's Law Student Association (WLSA) sponsors a law school team for the Komen Race for the Cure funding breast cancer research. The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) usually has a monthly community service program.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Lisa Doster
Career Counselor, Government & Public Interest Specialist
E-mail
P: (615) 322-6192

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

None listed

Public Interest Centers

None listed

Public Interest Clinics

Civil Practice Clinic – Introduction to civil law practice gained by representing clients through the Vanderbilt Legal Clinic, a legal aid office located in the Law School building. Students are supervised by clinical faculty during all stages of representation, from initial interviews through trials and appeals. The course emphasizes the techniques of client interviewing and counseling; fact-finding and formal discovery; negotiation; trial and administrative advocacy; and the role of the lawyer in the legal system.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/civil-practice-clinic/index.aspx

Community & Economic Development Clinic – The Community and Economic Development Clinic represents low income communities in forming entities and finding creative legal solutions to economic and legal issues. Students provide transactional legal services that help an individual, group, or organization to initiate operation, continue operation, or address a particular legal problem. The Clinic does not provide any legal assistance in initiating or defending litigation. The Community and Economic Development Clinic provides transactional legal services for client groups engaged in different kinds of neighborhood-based community development. It represents and helps organize small non-profits and businesses, and tenants' associations in the public and private sectors, all of whom share the goal of developing different kinds of resources for greatly underserved urban communities. Through participation in the Clinic, students enhance their understanding of business concepts through the representation of traditionally underserved clients. Students also have the opportunity to examine the ethical and social change issues involved in group transactional representation as an innovative approach to poverty law practice.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/community-and-economic-development-clinic/index.aspx

Criminal Practice Clinic – Students obtain experience in pretrial, trial, and post-conviction matters under the close supervision of clinical faculty. Students represent individuals charged with felonies from indictment through disposition - either trial or plea negotiation and sentencing - and, in some instances, on appeal. In addition, students handle post-conviction relief petitions on behalf of persons in prison.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/criminal-practice-clinic/index.aspx

Domestic Violence Clinic – Under the close supervision of a faculty member, students in the Domestic Violence Clinic represent victims of domestic violence in civil matters. Representation focuses on obtaining orders of protection and on divorce and custody matters. Through their representation, students learn about and experience interviewing and counseling, negotiation, investigation and discovery, advocacy techniques and the role of the lawyer in the legal system. Students also gain insight into the sociological and psychological aspects of domestic violence by working collaboratively with other service providers to victims of domestic violence.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/domestic-violence-clinic/index.aspx

Intellectual Property and the Arts Clinic – The Intellectual Property and the Arts Clinic allows students to practice and represent clients in the areas of intellectual property and the arts. Students, under faculty supervision, will represent and counsel individuals, businesses, organizations, groups and associations in matters in various intellectual property fields, including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark, publicity rights, and trade secrets. Such work may include drafting, filing, and prosecuting copyright registrations and trademark applications; negotiating and drafting contracts; transactional projects, such as acquisitions, sales, and transfers of intellectual property or licensing agreements; advising and counseling clients; policy development and advocacy; internet and technology issues; and litigation. In addition, students will work with entertainers, artists, and arts organizations on other legal matters such as entertainment-related contracts; music and film industry issues; and the drafting and filing of corporate and non-profit documents for arts and entertainment-related organizations.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/intellectual-property-and-the-arts-clinic/index.aspx

Externships/Internships

LAW 802 and 804: The basic requirements are: (1) Students may receive credit only for work supervised by faculty-approved fieldwork supervisors at faculty-approved placements. (2) Various types of externships may qualify, including placements with federal and state prosecutors and defenders, the state attorney general's office, state legislative offices, federal and state agencies, state and federal judges, and legal aid or other non-profit programs. Students may not receive credit for work for which they are paid. For placements in the Nashville area, the main course requirements are:

  • 110 hours of fieldwork (or approximately 8 hours per week over a 14-week semester);
  • approximately 10 hours of classroom-type sessions, arranged by the faculty member in cooperation with the fieldwork supervisors;
  • recording a journal of work experience, which will be reviewed periodically by the faculty member;
  • submission of a written product to the faculty member at the end of the semester, either a copy of something prepared during the externship or prepared specially to meet this requirement.

The course for Nashville area placements carries 3 academic credits. A student may enroll in an externship in Nashville during the summer and receive up to 6 credits.

A student may also engage in externships over the summer. The student may work in judicial chambers, in a government office, with a prosecutor or defender, or with a not-for-profit organization. For each credit, the student must work 55 hours at the placement site. Students are supervised by faculty members who review journals and work product. A student wishing to pursue a full-time externship during the school year must receive approval from the administration. Such placement is full-time for 14 weeks and carries 8 academic credits. The student must also submit an extensive research paper.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Social Security Law & Practice - Students assist a legal aid attorney with cases. http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/curriculum/elective-courses/social-security-law-and-practice/index.aspx

Public Interest Journals

None listed

PI Career Support Center

Career Services offers resume workshops, individual counseling and informational speakers for all students, and a manual on applying for public service jobs. In conjunction with the Legal Aid Society, an informal Coffee Talk time is held in November to allow 2L and 3L students to talk about what they did in their first summer to interested 1L students. Other students who worked for the public interest join in the November seminar for 1Ls to discuss the advantages of working in the public sector.

Government and Public Interest Information Exchange Day is held in January to acquaint first year students with various facets of public service work by bringing in attorneys from various local, state and federal government agencies and public interest attorneys from the region. Job opportunities, with descriptions of the work and deadlines, are published weekly.

Career Services partners with student groups throughout the year to sponsor attorneys to speak to students about their particular practice area. Public Interest Week is a spring event that Career Services co-sponsors to draw attention to public service careers. This culminates in the student run auction that raises money for summer public interest stipends.

Vanderbilt also takes students to the Equal Justice Career Fair in Washington DC.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Law school operating expenses and some dedicated funds.

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Students raised money for public interest stipend fund and dean matched the amount raised. Hard money funded 3 summer clerks for clinical faculty, to assist with on-going live-client representation, and paid 25% of salary for 2 additional summer clerks. Federal Work Study Funds paid 75% of salary for 2 summer clerks. Student raised funds provided stipends for 11 law students to work non-paid public interest summer jobs. This money was matched by the law school.

http://law.vanderbilt.edu/student-resources/student-organizations/legal-aid-society-and-public-interest-stipend-fund/index.aspx

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Annual Government/Public Interest Information Exchange Day - The information day is designed to expose students to a broad spectrum of public sector employers and the work they perform.

Student Public Interest Groups

American Constitution Society

Black Law Students Association

Criminal Law Society

Health Law Society

Latin American Law Society

Legal Aid Society

Vanderbilt Alternative Dispute Resolution Organization

Vanderbilt Bar Association

Women Law Student Association

August 7, 2018