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Washington University School of Law

Washington University School of Law
One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Elizabeth P. Walsh
Assistant Dean for Student Services
P; (314) 935-5861

Category Type

Formal Voluntary Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator

Description of Programs

The Public Service Project at Washington University School of Law was established in 2000 to encourage and facilitate law student, faculty and staff participation in volunteer public service projects. Its goals are (1) to foster and encourage in law students an understanding of professional responsibility that includes a commitment to public service during and after law school; (2) to benefit the community by providing desperately needed services that those with legal training are privileged to possess; and (3) to strengthen law students' legal and professional skills by providing both valuable hands-on experience and opportunities to establish ties with community leaders and organizations. Both legal and non-legal volunteer opportunities are encouraged.

The Public Service Coordinator, with the help of the student Public Service Advisory Board, administers the public service project by supporting public service initiatives and developing new opportunities for students. Opportunities are publicized through the Public Service Bulletin, sent out weekly via email, and displayed on the Public Service Project website.

The following pro bono projects are administered directly through the Public Service Project:

  • St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts (VLAA) Nonprofit Incorporation Project - VLAA student volunteers, under the supervision of an attorney, assist arts organizations by helping them incorporate as nonprofit organizations.
  • Refugee/Asylum Seekers Project (RASP) - Students are trained to work with Interfaith Legal Services for Immigrants to assist its clients in completing asylum applications. Students have the option of assisting the client beyond the application process.
  • Public Service Research Initiative (PSRI) - Students involved with PSRI provide research assistance to legal aid/legal services attorneys, pro bono attorneys, and attorneys working for nonprofit organizations or the government in Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Location of Programs

Office of Student Affairs


The full-time Public Service Coordinator, who also administers the Mel Brown Family Loan Repayment Assistance Program, oversees the Public Service Project.


The Public Service Project is part of the Office of Student Affairs budget.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

  • International Humanitarian Law Teaching Project (IHLTP): In conjunction with the American Red Cross, law students educate high school students about international humanitarian law on topics like the Geneva Conventions and Protocols.
  • Criminal Law Society Conflict Resolution Project: Law students use Street Law curriculum to teach conflict resolution skills to area elementary and secondary students.
  • Know Your Rights: The student chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) facilitate workshops for high school students to educate them about their rights and responsibilities when dealing with law enforcement officials.
  • Family Court Mentoring Project: Members of the Women's Law Caucus mentor adolescent girls through the St. Louis City Family Court - Juvenile Division. Each session focuses on a different topic (e.g., finding a job, life after high school, studying).
  • Law Related Education: Law students teach basic legal concepts to 4th and 5th grade students, and the program ends with a mock trial.

In addition, the Public Service Coordinator and the Public Service Advisory Board provide assistance to students and student organizations interested in implementing public service projects.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal policy on faculty pro bono.


Washington University School of Law grants special recognition to students who make significant public service contributions. Every spring the School of Law holds the Public Service Law Celebration for students and supervisors who volunteered during the year, student organization leaders, Public Interest Summer Stipend recipients, and others who have made significant contributions to public service programs. At the Celebration, the Public Service Law Student of the Year and the Public Service Employer of the Year awards are presented.

The Public Service Student of the Month award is designed to highlight dedicated students. The chosen student's picture and a description of what the student is doing are featured on the Public Service Project's bulletin board in the Student Commons.

Commitment to public service is recognized on transcripts with the following labels:

  • Public Service Project Participant, with honors: 15-25 hours in one year.
  • Public Service Project Participant, with high honors: 25-45 hours in one year.
  • Public Service Project Participant, with highest honors: 45 or more hours in one year.

The Pro Bono & Public Service award is given to graduating students in recognition of outstanding pro bono and/or public service commitment. The Associate Dean for Student Affairs and the Public Service Coordinator select each year's recipients.

Community Service

  • Monthly School-wide Volunteer Activities: Every month during the academic year, a group volunteer activity is scheduled. Most take place on a Saturday morning, and each one is co-sponsored by a student organization. Groups volunteer with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House, Forest ReLeaf, the St. Louis Area Foodbank, Special Olympics and Our Little Haven.
  • Orientation Service Project: To help instill the idea that public service is an integral part of an attorney's life and the School of Law's culture, a service project is a permanent part of first year orientation. In 2002, first year students did some spruce-up painting to get a local school district ready for its academic year.
  • Wash. U. Law Big Brothers Big Sisters Program: Through this site-based program, law students are matched with a "little brother or sister" through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. The "littles" come to the School of Law every other week for activities and mentoring.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Elizabeth P. Walsh
Assistant Dean for Student Services
P: (314) 935-5861

Certificate/Curriculum Programs


Public Interest Centers

The Public Service Project - Coordinates much of the public service programming at Washington University School of Law.

Public Interest Clinics

  • In the Civil Justice Clinic, students handle cases in areas including housing, consumer law, domestic relations and public benefits.
  • Civil Rights & Community Justice Clinic students work at a variety of organizations on cases of alleged discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and disability. Students also are trained as mediators.
  • Through the Congressional & Administrative Law Clinic third year law students spend the spring semester in Washington, DC, working for either a Congressional Office or Administrative Agency.
  • The Criminal Justice Clinic works with the Missouri State Public Defenders System and representing clients on criminal matters.
  • Students in the Government Lawyering Clinic work in the U.S. Attorney's Office.
  • In the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic teams of law students and students from other schools at Washington University work together to provide legal and technical assistance to individuals and organizations on environmental and community health problems.


Instead of an externship program, Washington University School of Law students can get credit for a supervised practicum. Through a supervised practicum, a student works on a clinical project under the direct supervision of a faculty member. In the past, practicum students have worked with organizations like Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, the St. Louis City Courts, and Metropolis St. Louis.

Classes with a Public Service Component

None listed

Public Interest Journals

The Washington University Journal of Law & Policy dedicates one of its volumes to the Public Interest Speakers Series.

PI Career Support Center

The Associate Director of Public Interest Advising is part of the Career Services Office. The Associate Director counsels students, provides employment-related programming for students interested in public service, and administers the Summer Public Interest Stipend Program.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The Mel Brown Family Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) was adopted in January 2002. LRAP provides forgivable loans to qualifying graduates. Graduates are eligible for partial or full loan forgiveness if they have at least $20,000 in law school loan debt, are employed by the government or a nonprofit organization, and earn less than $45,000 annually.

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:

The Webster Society, named in honor of our distinguished alumnus, William H. Webster, JD '49, is a three-year scholarship program for students committed to public service. 

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

  • Women's Law Caucus holds an auction in the spring to raise money for students who will spend their summer working on issues related to women and children.
  • Pro Bono Jurists raise money through a garage sale, candy gram sales, and pledge-a-day's wage campaigns. Funds raised are put in the general summer stipend budget.
  • Criminal Law Society provides money for a student doing summer work in the criminal law sector.

Other Funding Sources:

  • Public Interest Summer Stipends are funded through a combination of generous donations from alumni and friends and federal work-study funds.
  • Dagen-Legomsky Fellowships are awarded to students to work as externs during the summer with international public interest organizations.
  • J. Peter Schmitz Fellowships are awarded to at least two students working for environmental causes.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

  • A Student Public Service Fair is held each September to acquaint students with local public service opportunities. At the Fair, public interest lawyers, providers of legal and social services, members of nonprofit organizations, students, faculty and staff have the chance to meet and discuss public service opportunities.
  • The annual Public Interest Law Speakers Series brings in distinguished speakers to discuss the topic of "Access to Justice: the Social Responsibility of Lawyers." Past speakers include the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Erin Brockovitch, Scott Turow, Barry Scheck, Morris Dees, and Ralph Nader.
  • Public Service Brown Bag Panel Discussions are held monthly on a variety of public service related topics like civil rights, education law, immigration and community development. Through these informal panel discussions, students are given the opportunity to talk to local attorneys and community leaders about their work.
  • The Career Services Office and Pro Bono Jurists sponsor the Government & Public Interest Law Job Fair each spring.

Student Public Interest Groups

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Black Law Students Association
  • Criminal Law Society
  • Environmental Law Society
  • International Law Society
  • L-Span (formerly BAIL)
  • Phi Alpha Delta
  • Pro Bono Jurists (formerly NAPIL)
  • Women's Law Caucus

 August 7, 2018