Directory

Brooklyn Law School

Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
www.brooklaw.edu

Law School Pro Bono Programs 

Contact Information

Elizabeth Kane

Director, Public Service Programs Office
Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
P: (718) 780-0335
elizabeth.kane@brooklaw.edu

Category Type

Formal Voluntary Program Characterized by Administrative Support for In- house and Collaborative Student Group Projects

Description of Programs

The Brooklyn Law School Pro Bono program encompasses a) a large number of on-campus pro bono projects in which students provide assistance to clients in conjunction with established legal organizations or in student run programs; b) resources and assistance linking students to training and other pro bono projects in New York City; c) collaborative student projects including the Student Hurricane Network; d) pro bono projects and representation undertaken in partnership with a law firm; and, e) internships and externships at local, national and international non-profit organizations and government agencies. The School provides financial and professional support including the Public Service Programs Office, an office dedicated to assisting students with public interest, government and pro bono opportunities in a variety of contexts.

Location of Programs

Pubic Services Program Office

Staffing/Management/Oversight

Staffing, management and oversight of pro bono projects vary. In several cases, local non-profits operate and monitor the projects providing supervision as necessary. Others are under the auspices of a firm, entirely student run, or coordinated by the Public Service Programs Office.

Funding

Brooklyn Law School provides financial assistance to pro bono projects on an ad hoc basis, and has established and maintains the Public Service Programs Office to provide ongoing support to established projects and to develop new projects as interest and opportunities arise.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Brooklyn Family Court Evening Session /Assigned Domestic Violence Counsel Project
Students attend night court and help victims of domestic violence to navigate the family court system, and understand their legal rights. Student volunteers draft petitions for orders of protection and help petitioners access appropriate domestic violence services while reviewing petitioner's circumstances and identifying the need for representation by attorneys from the Assigned Domestic Violence Counsel Project.

Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office (CLARO)
Co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and Brooklyn Law School, students assist consumer debtors, often victims of aggressive or predatory lending or collection practices by assisting attorneys at a weekly advice only clinic, and playing an active role for their pro se clients as student advocates under the supervision of the supervising attorney from the VLP. It is anticipated that students will also represent clients in negotiations or court actions under a student practice order in their third year of participation.

Courtroom Advocates Program (CAP)
Students assist and advocate for victims of domestic violence seeking orders of protection under the supervision of attorneys from Sanctuary for Families. Students help women fill out petitions for orders of protection and maintain contact and advocate as necessary to ensure petitioners return for their next court date and get referrals and services as needed. Students may also advocate for the petitioner's best interests before the judge on the return date of the petition.

Housing Court – Resolution Assistant Part (RAP)
Students in this program are assigned to one pro se litigant at each session to ensure that tenants or unrepresented landlords are aware of their rights, are not badgered by the other party, and do not sign stipulations in court that they do not fully understand. Students accompany the litigant in court conferences and settlement negotiations and while not representing the litigant, students assist litigants to articulate their claims and defenses, raise red flags for the court or encourages litigants to seek help from the court.

Law Students for Veterans' Rights
Students assist veterans confronting inadequate health care, delays in benefits, treatment and rehabilitation for disorders and injuries, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, domestic problems and the overall reintegration into civilian life. Students work in conjunction with three non-profit organizations and a clinic run by ten New York City law firms. Students also assist those discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell"policy to upgrade their discharge.

M.Y.L.E (Motivating Youth through Legal Education)
Brooklyn Law School students coach high school students in understanding constitutional issues, and in developing and arguing their position in a mock debate program. Law students join judges and attorneys in judging the final competition. This program is overseen by the Legal Outreach program.

Project FAIR
Students assist welfare consumers regarding the denial, delay, reduction, or termination of their public assistance, under the supervision of the Legal-Aid Society's Civil Division and/or the New York Legal Assistance Group. Student advocates interview clients, draft informal written communications, and negotiate with city and state agencies. Eventually, students may appear on behalf of their clients at hearings before administrative judges.

Suspension Representation Project
Students in this project, many of them former public school teachers, represent and advocate for high school students faced with suspension or expulsion hearings before the Department of Education hearing officer, often negotiating terms by which students may remain in school and obviating the need for a hearing.

Student Hurricane Network (SHN)
The Brooklyn Law School SHN has remained active subsequent to the dissolution of the nation-wide organization and continues to volunteers in the Gulf Coast region in a variety of contexts, both criminal and civil, with a variety of local non-profits and government agencies.

Urban Assembly High School for Law and Justice (SLJ) Programs
Brooklyn Law School is the academic partner to this high school serving inner city students. Law students participate in several programs with SLJ students including hosting competitively selected students from SLJ's Constitutional Law class for a day in law school, participating on college informational panels, a luncheon program introducing the SLJ students to legal careers, and other activities as needed each year.

Uncontested Divorce Preparation for Battered Women
Following a training session by the non-profit organization Sanctuary for Families, student volunteers interview their assigned client, prepare and file divorce petitions, and follow-up to facilitate petitioner's court appearance. Students also counsel petitioners to ensure they understand the legal process, and follow-up to make sure petitioner has access to appropriate social services and other resources.

Unemployment Action Center (UAC)
In this student run program, volunteers advise those trying to recover or enroll in unemployment insurance. Students prepare and conduct hearings (including direct and cross examinations of claimants and witnesses where appropriate) before administrative judges at the New York Department of Labor.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
VITA volunteers assist low wage workers to file their income taxes and ensure that they get available low-income and child tax credits, avoid predatory lenders, and get prompt refunds and other financial services. Last year Brooklyn Law School students put over $300,000 back into the local low-income community through this program.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Brooklyn Law School does not have a faculty pro bono policy, but many faculty participate in programs in various contexts. Some participate in programs with the High School for Law and Justice, others are active through service as directors on the boards of non-profit organizations, bar association committee work, writing on topics of importance in the public interest arena, or providing services as counsel to non-profit organizations. More about the faculty can be viewed at the website..

Awards/Recognition

Students are urged to keep a public service work log, and those graduating students who have performed more than 50 hours of public service during law school are recognized at a Pro Bono Awards Ceremony and Reception. Five levels of awards are presented to students reflecting the number of hours of pro bono service they have done, as well as one or two students designated by the faculty for a special award recognizing outstanding leadership and commitment to underserved communities.

Community Service

Students participate annually in a variety of community service activities including:

A blood drive,

Race Judicata, a 5K race to help fund programs at the High School for Law and Justice,

A voter registration drive,

An auction to raise money for public interest fellowships,

A production of the Vagina Monologues to help fund a domestic violence shelter,

A toy drive for the children in that shelter,

A food drive,

A clothing drive, and.

Law School Public Interest Programs 

Contact Information

Elizabeth Kane
Director, Public Service Programs Office
Brooklyn Law School
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
P: (718) 780-0335
Email

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Brooklyn Law School does not have a public interest certificate program but its curriculum includes many classes and clinics of interest to public interest students. These classes and clinics provide students with the legal and advocacy skills to ensure access to the courts for vulnerable individuals and populations. See http://www.brooklaw.edu/centers/sparer/curriculum.php for more information.

Public Interest Centers

The Public Service Programs Office is staffed with a director and part time administrative assistant. The Office counsels students interested in public interest and government work concerning career-related matters such as resume and cover letter writing, interviewing, and developing experience. The Office also develops and coordinates pro bono projects, and sponsors a lunchtime series of speakers, panels and workshops, produces a bi-weekly newsletter with items of interest to the public interest community, offers a program for post-graduate fellowship candidates, and sponsors annual events including a welcome reception and pro bono fair, a pro bono awards ceremony, and the like. The Office also administers one of the school's two Public Interest Fellowship programs, offers workshops on such topics as financial resources for the public interest student, and maintains a website of information and resources relevant to the public interest student. The Public Service Programs Office also provides material, presentations, information or other help to other departments such as Admissions, Financial Aid, External Affairs and Alumni regarding the public service aspects of the School's program.

In addition, Brooklyn Law School Sponsors the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellowship Program, Zaretsky International Business Fellowship program and the Centers for Health, Science and Public Policy, and Law, Language and Cognition.

Public Interest Clinics

Brooklyn Law School's program includes the following public interest clinics:

  • Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy (BLIP) Clinic
  • Capital Defender and Federal Habeas Clinic
  • Community Development Clinic
  • Consumer Counseling and Bankruptcy Clinic
  • Corporate and Real Estate Clinic
  • Criminal Appeals – Manhattan D.A. Clinic
  • Criminal Appeals – Legal Aid Society
  • Employment Law Clinic
  • Federal Litigation Clinic: NYC Law Department
  • Health Law Practice and Policy Internship
  • Mediation Clinic
  • Prosecutors Clinic – Brooklyn District Attorney
  • Prosecutors Clinic – U.S. Attorney, EDNY
  • Safe Harbor Project (Immigration)
  • Investors' Rights Clinic
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Transactional Law Clinic

Externships/Internships

Approximately 400 students undertake internships or externships each summer and around 175 during the fall and spring semesters. Internships are paid through work-study or Brooklyn Law School's Public Service Grant program, and all students wanting public service internships are guaranteed funding. Externships with approved non-profits and government agencies grant clinic credit. Approximately 100-120 students elect externships for which they receive credit in the summer, and as many as 200 during the fall and spring semesters.

Classes with a Public Service Component

We currently have no classes with a public service component, and at least one is currently under consideration.

Public Interest Journals

Articles in The Brooklyn Law Review, Brooklyn Journal of International Law and particularly The Journal of Law and Policy often address issues relevant to the public interest community. In addition, website users can access the section on public service directly from the School's homepage. That section provides a wealth of information about many aspects of the public service program including pro bono opportunities, clinics, faculty, curriculum, funding, fellowships and internships, and others topics. Employment and job search resources are also available in the Public Service section of the website. As of the Fall of 2009, Brooklyn Law School's website will include an internal portal for enrolled students, and sections of the website intended for their use will not be viewable on the external website.

Public Interest Career Support Center

The Public Service Programs Office is dedicated to assisting students throughout law school and beyond to explore public service—to heighten awareness of public service and make opportunities readily available. Students are provided with appropriate support whether public interest is something they wish to explore during law school or is a career goal. Likewise, students may develop public interest credentials and experience in order to enter a corporate law firm equipped to handle pro bono cases or take a leadership role in a firm's pro bono efforts.

The Public Service Programs Office offers individual counseling to help students identify their career goals and appropriate opportunities to develop the credentials and skills to obtain those goals. It also provides extensive assistance in developing resumes and cover letters, finding placements with the right fit, and preparing for interviews. For 2L and 3L students help is provided in identifying potential post graduate fellowship opportunities, obtaining hosts and drafting proposals. The staff also facilitates access to resources such as public interest and government conferences and job fairs, and law school and post-graduate fellowships and awards. The Office also sponsors workshops, speakers and panels to expose students to career paths, and employment options. Through attendance at these events students are not only exposed to career options, but become savvy about issues in public interest law enhancing their marketability for highly competitive internships and jobs.

The Office is staffed by a full time director with 14 years of public interest litigation experience and eight years as a law school public service office director, and a part time administrative assistant dedicated to furthering students' public interest goals. In addition to counseling and programs the staff produces a bi-weekly newsletter, maintains a website with extensive resources for public interest and government students, and sponsors workshops on issues such as financial resources, online job research, resume and cover letter writing, post graduate fellowships and other practical matters, as well as resources about career options and opportunities. In addition, the Office organizes annual events such as a welcome reception, awards ceremony and reception, and a pro bono fair, to help form and support a public interest community.

Because the experiences students seek in government and public interest vary enormously, both in law school and during their careers, the office provides a well rounded program that can serve the needs of students at different stages, with different backgrounds, interests, abilities, and goals.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Brooklyn Law School's LRAP provides up to $7,000 per year for up to five years to qualified graduates. Recipients must meet certain criteria including a minimum debt, income limitations, and employment at a non-profit employer. In addition, the School's Financial Aid and Public Service Programs Offices help students to identify other post graduate funding including private resources as well as funding from city, state and federal sources. Finally, students are educated about and provided assistance to negotiate the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

Brooklyn Law School provides up to $5,000 in funding for public interest students to work in non-profit and government settings for 10 weeks in the fall and winter following graduation. These fellowships not only allow students to provide critical help to those otherwise unable to afford legal assistance and the organizations that represent them, but also allow them to enhance their marketability by developing additional skills and credentials while awaiting public interest jobs not available earlier in the year when many other jobs are listed.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

In order to give students access to the full range of fellowship funders, the Public Service Programs Office provides a range of services and ongoing support to post-graduate fellowship candidates. Two introductory workshop panels (with funders and prior fellows) are followed by ongoing individual assistance tailored to the type of fellowship sought by each candidate. Assistance may include help in developing a project, identifying a host, crafting a proposal, and mooting an interview before a panel of professors and experts in the area of the candidate's project. Additional assistance is tailored to the type of fellowship and its application requirementsn

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

The Public Service Grant program covers public interest and government employment both during the summer and term time.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

Federal Work Study funds.

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellowship: Twenty competitively selected Fellows are provided a $5,000 stipend for an internship in a non-profit representing low-income communities. Fellows also participate in a substantive program consisting of public interest presentations and events.

Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) Public Interest Fellowship: While this is a student run and primarily student funded public interest fellowship program, Brooklyn Law School underwrites the program at its discretion to ensure the program's viability. More information is provided under "Other Funding" below.

Public Service Grants: Students wanting to work in non-profit and government internships are guaranteed funding to do so. Some 300 students each summer receive some combination of Federal Work Study and law school funds under these grants.

Brooklyn Law School International Human Rights Fellowships: Through this program, Brooklyn Law School sponsors two students to perform human rights work in non-profits abroad.

Brooklyn Law School Summer Program in South Africa: Eight students are competitively selected to intern at the University of South Africa's Department on Law, Race and Gender.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

BLSPI Public Interest Fellowship Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI), is an entirely student run fellowship program. With financial assistance from the School and funds raised through an auction, the group makes grants to approximately 20 competitively selected public interest fellows. Fellows receive a $5,000 grant to work in either non-profit organizations or government agencies for one summer.

International Law Society's Global Justice Fellowships: This is a student run program sponsoring two students annually to work abroad in a human rights organization. In its initial year, students were sponsored in Cambodia and South Africa.

Federal Work Study Funds
Brooklyn Law School has an extremely robust Federal Work Study program.

Other.
Assistance is provided to students by the Public Service Programs Office to obtain outside funding such as the Revson Foundation funded LSPIN grants, Equal Justice America, and many other grants funding law students working in the public interest.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Student groups such as the Student Hurricane Network engage in pro bono work during semester breaks or, for local projects, at other times. More than one group mentors or tutors in public schools, another provides assistance to those negotiating the immigration process in the courts, and yet another answers letters from prisoners regarding their legal questions. We also have an active community that, each semester, provides a broad array of panels, speakers, debates, roundtables and forums and symposia on public interest issues such as the following (taken from the fall semester 2008).

  • COINTELPRO, Then and Now: From the Black Panther Party to the 2008 RNC (Lawyer's Guild)
  • Of Civil Wrongs & Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story (Film Screening)
  • Transgender & Alternative Family Law (Lunch with a Practitioner)
  • Meltdown, Bailout and Transformation: A Week on Wall Street (Town Hall Meeting)
  • Is Morality Universal and Should the Law Care? (Center for Law, Language, and Cognition Symposium)
  • Grassroots Activism (Animal Legal Defense Fund Program)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Preview (Wednesdays in October Workshop)
  • Preventing a Disaster: Guidelines for Epidemics (Theory Practice Seminar)
  • Kings County District Attorney's ComALERT Program (Dean's Roundtable Luncheon)
  • International Human Rights Fellows and ILS Global Justice Fellows Present their IHR Work Abroad
  • Violence in Our Family: Successful Strategies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the LGBT Community
  • Climate Change/Renewable Energy (Lunch with a Practitioner)
  • Sex Trafficking: See No Evil? (Legal Association of Women sponsored panel)
  • Answering the Call of the Court: How Justices and Litigants Set the Supreme Court Agenda. (Faculty Workshop)
  • Global Tax Reform (International Economic Law Forum)
  • Does Your Vote Count? A Debate About the Electoral College (ACLU Student Debate)
  • IBL Symposium: Ruling the World: Problems and Concerns of Generating International Legal Norms (Center for the Study of International Business Law and the Brooklyn Journal of International Law)
  • Film Screening of "Maxed Out" (CLARO Student Action Group)
  • Lawyers' New Duties Concerning Real Evidence: Obstruction of Justice and Sarbanes-Oxley (Professional Ethics Series)
  • Subprime Lending (Lunch with a Practitioner)
  • Film Screening of "Blinders" (Animal Legal Defense Fund)
  • Intellectual Property Rights Meet International Public Health
  • The SuperLaw of the United States: The Global Diffusion of the American 'New Deal' and the Consolidation of State Capitalism in Latin America (Student/Faculty Talk)
  • What Now? Civil Liberties in the Post-Election Context (Student/Faculty Brown Bag)
  • Professional Ethics Series: Gender Bias in the Courts: Getting Better, Not Gone Lobbying (Lunch with a Practitioner)
  • Open Source Software Talk (Software Freedom Law Center Guest Presentation)
  • Film Screening of "At the Death House Door" (Students against the Death Penalty sponsored program)
  • Ramifications of CA Proposition 8 and other ballot measures passed during this election (OutLaws)
  • indicating International Human Rights in U.S. Federal Courts: The Case of Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

In addition, the Public Service Programs Office, the Career Center and student groups present dozens of programs providing legal and job search skills training sessions as well as programs exploring career options.

Student Public Interest Groups

The following student organizations are dedicated to public interest issues. 

American Civil Liberties Union (BLS-ACLU)
(Co-sponsors debate program, speakers and events.)

American Constitution Society (ACS)
(Co-sponsors debate program, speakers and events.)

Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI)
(Raises funds for and sponsors Summer Public Interest Fellowships and leads many community service activities.)

BLS Motivating Youth through Legal Education (M.Y.L.E.)
(Coaches high school students in a Constitutional debate program.)

Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office, Student Action Group
(Helps vulnerable consumer debtors.)

Legal Association For Women (LAW)
(Helps victims of domestic violence in three different programs.)

National Lawyers Guild
(Helps workers, immigrants, prisoners and others, sponsors debates and programs, and participates in legal monitoring of voting, protests and controversial events.)

Student Hurricane Network (SHN)
(Provides civil as well as criminal defense assistance to those in the Gulf Region suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.)

Tax Law Association
(Helps low-wage earners to file taxes and receive benefits.)

Unemployment Action Center
(Assists unemployment insurance claimants in New York City.)

Updated: August 6, 2018