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SUNY Buffalo Law School

SUNY Buffalo Law School
309 John Lord O'Brian Hall
North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Melinda R. Saran
Vice Dean for Student Affairs
[email protected] 716-645-6223

Kim Diana Connolly
Director of Clinical Legal Education, Vice Dean for Legal Skills
[email protected]

Dawn Skopinski
Externship Program Administrator & Public Interest Coordinator
[email protected]


Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by Administrative Support for Student Group Program


Description of Programs

Law-related pro bono service is encouraged from the first day of Law School at SUNY Buffalo. Students are provided opportunities through organized service days, students groups, volunteer opportunities and credit-bearing experiences such as Clinics, Externships and Practicums. Student groups such as the Domestic Violence Task Force and the Prison Task Force provide information on our student organization web site, though our Student Information Portal (SIP) as well as through "table days" for student groups every fall in our building's lobby. Curricular offerings are advertised through registration programs, SIP postings and registration materials available on our web site. The Career Services Office and the Student Services Office advertise volunteer opportunities and internships through internet and other postings.

Voluntary Pro Bono Program to assist students to:

  • meet the 50-hour pro bono pre-admission requirement for the New York State bar; and
  • provide supervised legal and other services to low-income and underrepresented populations.

Link to our pro bono site:


Location of Programs

Office of Student Affairs, Clinical Programs, Externship Program, and Career Services Office



Melinda R. Saran
Vice Dean for Student Affairs
[email protected]

Kim Diana Connolly
Director of Clinical Legal Education, Vice Dean for Legal Skills
[email protected]



The Law School provides office space and other supports not covered by the student groups' budgets. The annual budgets of the Domestic Violence Task Force and the Prison Task Force are determined and provided through student funds by the Student Bar Association, based on the student groups' budget requests. Special functions and activities of these student groups may also be funded through grants from the Dean of the Law School.

The Law School has also provided computers and furniture that has been refurbished from faculty offices and through donations. The Law School's information technology (IT) staff has provided computer technical support, as needed. Occasional secretarial support is provided if the group is unable to obtain assistance from the Student Bar Association.

The Law School will provide administrative and secretarial assistance for faculty pro bono projects.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Domestic Violence Task Force - The Domestic Violence Task Force, a student-run group, provides advocacy through the Niagara County Family Court Resource Project to assist victims of domestic violence in obtaining temporary and permanent orders of protection. The Task Force also provides weekly legal services for Haven House residents and their outreach program participants in conjunction with the Bar Association of Erie County, Volunteer Lawyers Project, and the Western New York Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of New York State. See . Clinical Professors Suzanne Tomkins and Catherine Cerulli, who were the founders of the Family Violence Task Force in 1990 when they were students, supervise the Domestic Violence Task Force in some of its efforts.

Prison Law Task Force - The Prison Law Task Force is a student-run group that travels to certain area prisons to provide legal research and writing training to inmates seeking to represent themselves in legal matters. Professor Teresa A. Miller supervises the Prison Task Force and its pro bono efforts.


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Faculty are involved heavily in the advisement and training of students for both the Family Violence Task Force and the Prison Task Force. A number of faculty and several administrators who are attorneys provide pro bono legal services to community agencies and through legal service organizations.



Haywood Burns/Shanara Gilbert Award - A national award presented yearly by the Northeast People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference to a law professor who has displayed exemplary activist work as a teacher, scholar, and lawyer. A national award presented yearly by the Northeast People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference to a law professor who has displayed exemplary activist work as a teacher, scholar, and lawyer.

Faculty can designate a Faculty Award to recognize a student who has excelled outside the classroom setting, which may include pro bono service.

The Dale S. Margulis Award is presented to the member of the graduating class who has contributed most to the Law School and the community.

The Distinguished Service Professorship is conferred upon faculty having achieved a distinguished reputation for service not only to the campus and the University, but also to the community, the State of New York or even the nation, by sustained effort in the application of intellectual skills drawing from the candidate's scholarly and research interests to issues of public concern. It is bestowed on faculty in any of the disciplines or fields of study.

The Women Lawyers of Western New York Award This award is a new award to be given annually to a woman member of the graduating class whose performance in academic and Law School activities in the areas of children's rights and/or family violence is exceptional. It is given by the Women Lawyers of Western New York.


Community Service

Annual community service activities include:

  • Two Law School Service Days (fall and spring) where law students, faculty and staff provide assistance to a number of community agencies;
  • Minority high school law experience day hosted by the Black Law Students Association and the Admissions Office;
  • Lawyers for Learning, a tutoring program for inner city school children by law students and faculty; and
  • Collections for community agencies such as Haven House (battered women's shelter for which toiletries and toys were collected), the Food Bank of Western New York and Toys for Tots.
  • In addition, students perform pro bono legal work at Volunteer Lawyers Project, Neighborhood Legal Services; Journey's End Refugee Services and other agencies providing legal services to low-income and underrepresented populations.


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Dawn Skopinski
Externship Program Administrator & Public Interest Coordinator
[email protected]

Lisa M. Patterson
Associate Dean for Career Services
[email protected]
(716) 645-2056
Career Services Office

Lise Gelernter
Teaching Faculty and Director, Externship Program
[email protected] (716) 645-5540

Kim Diana Connolly
Vice Dean for Legal Skills
[email protected]
(716) 645-2092


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Among its concentrations, UB Law School has curricular concentration programs in Affordable Housing and Community Economic Development Law and Law and Social Justice. Certificate programs in State and Local Government and Education Law may focus on public interest emphasis based on the student's interests. These concentrations and the certificate program, as well other concentrations not specifically designed as public interest (e.g. concentration in Family Law), provide opportunities for students to develop skills in areas of law amenable to public interest practice.


Public Interest Centers

Buffalo Human Rights Center - The Center fosters the study and practice of international human rights law. The Center organizes student internships with leading human rights organizations in this country and abroad and organizes conferences and symposia on human rights law.

For more information contact Professor Tara Melish Director, 716/645-2257 or [email protected]. Visit:

The Buffalo Criminal Law Center - The Buffalo Criminal Law Center pursues three objectives, one legislative, one scholarly, and one pedagogic:

  • to provide state and federal legislatures with in-depth analyses of criminal justice issues to encourage the development of long-term approaches to the problem of crime and punishment
  • to serve as a forum for innovative research on criminal law to reinvigorate the study of criminal law in the United States, and
  • to permit students at the State University of New York Buffalo School of Law to conduct advanced research on criminal law under close faculty supervision.


The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy- The Center is an internationally recognized institute that supports the interdisciplinary study of law and legal institutions. Research activities of the Baldy Center are organized within five programs: Children, Families and the Law; Community and Identity; Gender, Law and Social Policy; International and Comparative Legal Studies; and Regulation and Public Policy. The Center maintains cooperative ties to other interdisciplinary research centers at UB and co-sponsors a regional network of sociolegal scholars in New York and Canada. For more information, contact Errol Meidinger, Director, 716/645-6692 or [email protected].

Edwin F. Jaeckle Center for State and Local Government Law - The Center provides a forum for expanded inquiry into wide ranges of topics concerning intergovernmental relations and finance, activity oriented and quasi-governmental involvement in providing services, and financial support and the direct delivery of services to the populace. For more information, contact Professor James Gardner, Director, 716/645-2080 or [email protected].



Public Interest Clinics

Our Clinical Legal Education program offers diverse and sophisticated practice opportunities to upper-class and LL.M. students working closely with skilled supervising attorneys. Our clinical offerings involve cutting-edge issues and complex matters in which creativity and innovation play key roles in serving clients effectively. Our clinics empower you to be successful.

Affordable Housing Clinic

This clinic works with developers to create high-quality housing for low-income families, the elderly, targets of domestic violence and persons with disabilities. In the more than two decades since it was launched, the clinic has leveraged nearly $165 million in public and private funds to create close to 2,000 units of affordable housing in Western New York.


George M. Hezel Director

Consumer and Financial Advocacy Clinic

In SUNY Buffalo Law's newest clinic, students provide limited-scope legal advice to unrepresented consumer debtor-defendants. Students leave with litigation and other consumer advocacy experience helping real people facing heartbreaking financial issues.


Lauren Breen, Director

Environmental Policy Clinic

The Environmental Policy Clinic works with non-profit environmental groups to protect the environmental and ecological resources of the Great Lakes basin. Clinic students gain practical legal experience in environmental advocacy, client representation and community-based conservation.


Law and Social Work Clinic

Through this clinic, students in SUNY Buffalo Law School's dual program in Law and Social Work gain experience in legal service agencies, social service agencies, prosecutor offices, or therapeutic courts such as drug and domestic violence courts.


Melinda R. Saran, Director

Mediation Clinic

The increasingly vital craft of conflict resolution is the focus of the Law School's Mediation Clinic. Working on cases referred by local courts or other mediation agencies, students help resolve disputes in family law, small claims and the community.


Steven Sugarman, Director

William and Mary Foster Elder Law Clinic

The Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic is committed to preventing domestic violence and promoting the legal rights of targets of domestic violence, including women, children, the elderly and same-sex partners. The clinic seeks justice and provides legal resources for people on the margins of our society from Western New York to international venues.


Anthony H. Szczygiel, Director

Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic

Students and faculty of the clinic seek justice and provide legal resources for people on the margins of our society, including the homeless, the impoverished and economically disadvantaged, immigrants, and the disabled. Students and faculty of the clinic seek justice and provide legal resources for people on the margins of our society, including the homeless, the impoverished and economically disadvantaged, immigrants, and the disabled.


Learn more about the Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic


Students may enroll in a practicum course, in which they combine study of a substantive area under a full-time professor with service learning alongside practicing lawyers. These courses include the Criminal Law Practicum, Healthy Homes Practicum and Post-Incarceration Re-entry Practicum, all of which give students direct experience with clients through expert attorneys.

Currently Available Practicums

Healthy Homes Legal Practicum. Students advocate for safer living conditions in the City of Buffalo. Their work ranges from research to drafting proposed ordinances to working on Housing Court cases, on behalf of citizens at risk from such dangers as lead, asbestos and mold, typically in rented apartments. The practicum also provides legal support to the National Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, which has chosen Buffalo as one of 17 pilot cities for its work in promoting safer housing.

Criminal Law Practicum. Students will spend about 10 hours a week observing and assisting practitioners who represent indigent defendants as assigned counsel in county, state and federal courts. Course requirements include assigned reading, weekly journaling to reflect on the students' experiences in practice, and an end-of-semester white paper on a legal topic that grows from their work. These papers are published on the Law School's Web site, making them available to practicing attorneys and scholars worldwide, and also demonstrating the students' analytical and legal writing skills.



SUNY Buffalo Law School offers its second and third-year students for-credit judicial clerkships and externships at governmental, not-for-profit legal offices and courts in Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls and surrounding communities. The possible placements are listed in each semester's registration materials so that students can apply for placements that best meet their professional and academic aspirations and experience.

Student judicial clerks work at all court levels and jurisdictions, including federal appeals court, federal district court, state intermediate appeals court, and state, county and city trial level courts. Externs work in a wide variety of over 25 city, county and state legal offices, as well as not-for-profit offices, including the offices of the U.S. Attorney, Legal Aid, the state Attorney General, the Empire Justice Center, the Erie County District Attorney, the University Counsel for the State University of New York, the National Labor Relations Board, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Monroe County Public Defender and the Buffalo Corporation Counsel, just to name a few.

Externships and judicial clerkships are great opportunities for SUNY Buffalo law students to learn by working with good lawyers and to give back to their community by helping to provide legal services to the public and to those in need.

Lise Gelernter
Teaching Faculty and Director, Externship Program
[email protected]
(716) 645-5540

Dawn Skopinski
Externship Program Administrator & Public Interest Coordinator
[email protected]

More information on the program can be found at:


Classes with a Public Service Component

A Critical Look at Theraputic Drug Courts: Drug Treatment, Domestic Violence, Mental Health and Gambling Courts - Explores in depth, a radical change in the criminal justice system with a practical analysis drug treatment, domestic violence, mental heath and gambling courts situated in Western New York. Includes dialogue with the presiding judges and courtroom clinical experience. Students will analyze and interact with sessions of the Amherst Drug Treatment court at the Letro Courtroom in the UB Law School and at the Amherst Town Court.

Advanced Mediation Practice - This course allows students to hone their mediation skills to an advanced level by mediating real conflict situations, including family law, small business or other disputes referred by local courts and/or other community mediation resources.

Child Welfare Law II - Students complete field work at the Children's Legal Center assisting in law guardian work. For information, contact Professor Susan Vivian Mangold, 716/645-2428 or [email protected].

Domestic Violence Advocacy - Students are responsible for administering outreach legal advocacy program for female clients of a local battered women's shelter. For more information, contact Clinical Professor Suzanne Tomkins, 716/645-2103 or [email protected].

Labor Law Practice, Living Wage Law - Students worked with the Citizen's Living Wage Commission in the City of Buffalo and the non-profit Coalition for Economic Justice, inc. To analyze potentially covered contracts, monitor worksites, interview workers and consult with Commission members and other government officials regarding procedures for implementation of the new Buffalo living wage law in its formative stages.

NY Criminal Appeals : Practice & Procedure - Combines discussion of New York appellate procedure with the practice of law in the Appellate Division. Students review the mechanics of appeal, the scope of judicial review and problems endemic to appellate practice. At the same time, students work on appeals assigned to the Legal Aid Bureau and research and draft the briefs and prepare appendices.


Public Interest Journals

ABA Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law (housed at UB Law School)

Buffalo Environmental Law Journal

Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal

Buffalo Human Rights Law Review b

Buffalo Journal of Gender, Law & Social Policy


PI Career Support Center

The Law School's Career Services Office has a Public Interest Coordinator (Dawn Skopinski) and a Student Assistant for Public Interest. In concert with the Career Services office, these individuals coordinate public interest career panels and provide individual counseling and assistance to students interested in public interest careers.

The Career Services Office, faculty, local and specialty bar associations (e.g. WNY Chapter of the Women Bar Association of the State of NY (WBASNY) and WNY Chapter of the Minority Bar Associations) and student groups sponsor job fairs, and career panels. Summer public interest fellows also make panel presentations.

The Law School also supports and encourages students to attend the Equal Justice Works Career Fair and Conference and the NYU Public Interest/Public Sector Legal Career Symposium.


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)


Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

The School's graduates have received:

Skadden Arps Fellowship, (one in 1996), $35,000.

Equal Justice Works Fellowships, one each year, $28,000.

Soros Foundation Fellowship, (one in 1999), $32,500.


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

The Law School funds one year-long Graduate Assistantship for Public Interest that includes a tuition waiver and stipend ($10,000).


Graduate Student Funded


Other Funding Sources:


Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

The Dean's Office sponsors two fellows per year at $3,000-3,500.

The Buffalo Public Interest Law Program (BPILP) awards 10-15 fellowships ($3,000-3,500 each). BPILP also collaborates with student groups to fund "Co-op" fellowships for students working in particular practice areas. Past co-op fellowships include: The Domestic Violence Task Force, the Environmental Law Society, the Latin American Law Students Association, OUTLaw, and the Student Bar Association.


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

The Human Rights Law Committee sponsors several students per summer to engage in international human rights work through the Buffalo Human Rights Law Center.

One Charles E. Mann Public Interest Award recipient in the amount of $1,000 each year.

One UB Law Alumni Association's Buffalo Public Interest Law Program fellow at $3,000 each year.

Two-three Kaplan & Reynolds Summer Public Interest Law Fellowships are awarded each year. These are $3000 each.

One Suzanne E. Tomkins Women, Children and Social Justice Advocacy Fellow at $3,000 each year.


Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The Career Services Office, faculty, local and specialty bar associations (e.g. WNY Chapter of the Women Bar Association of the State of NY (WBASNY) and WNY Chapter of the Minority Bar Associations) and student groups sponsor lectures, brown bag lunches, job fairs, and career panels. Summer public interest fellows also make panel presentations. Occasionally symposiums and conferences sponsored by faculty focus on public interest practice and areas of law practiced primarily in public interest settings.


Student Public Interest Groups

American Constitution Society
Armed Forces & Veterans Law Students Association
Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association
Black Law Students Association
Buffalo Environmental Law Society
Buffalo Public Interest Law Program
Domestic Violence Task Force
Enabling Justice
Latin American Law Students Association
National Lawyers Guild
Prison Task Force