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Pennsylvania State – Dickinson Law

Pennsylvania State - Dickinson Law
Lewis Katz Hall
150 S. College St
Carlisle, PA 17013

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Gary S. Gildin, Professor of Law
Director, Miller Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy
[email protected] 


Category Type

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


Description of Programs

Penn State Law offers a variety of pro bono opportunities through the Miller Pro Bono Program. The Program serves to educate students about their professional responsibility to provide legal services to the poor and underrepresented through the provision of pro bono opportunities as well as through recognition of students' pro bono service. The Program's faculty, staff and students are dedicated to furthering the legal profession's responsibility to increase access to justice. In doing so, we are able to provide assistance to those individuals who are already dedicated to representing the underrepresented.

Matching Program:

The Program connects law students with private attorneys providing pro bono representation, legal services attorneys, public defenders, and court appointed counsel for indigent litigants. The students matched with attorneys through the Center provide assistance with discrete research requests and support for ongoing pro bono projects. These projects can often be completed remotely and provide students with exposure to poverty law issues as well as the opportunity to develop their research and writing skills.

Shelter Outreach Projects:

Students are encouraged to participate in shelter outreach programs where they accompany attorneys to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters to staff legal information tables and provide intake screenings. These programs are coordinated through county bar associations and legal services offices and provide students with the opportunity to team with local attorneys interested in combating issues of poverty, homelessness and abuse.

Pro Se Divorce and Custody Clinics:

Students have the opportunity to assist pro se litigants in completing forms to initiate proceedings under the supervision of attorneys through local bar associations and MidPenn Legal Services pro se clinics.

Alternative Break Projects:

The pro bono program works with the Public Interest Law Fund student organization to support students' interested in organizing alternative semester break events where pro bono serves as the focal point of students' winter, summer and/or spring break. Past events have included multiple trips to New Orleans to participate in the Student Hurricane Network as well as a local focus on assisting first responders obtain end of life documents through the Wills For Heroes program.

Wills for Heroes:

Wills for Heroes is a national program with support from the ABA and PBA. The idea for the program stems from the events of 9/11 and a desire on the part of the legal community to protect those who protect us. Student volunteers participate in training and are paired with licensed attorneys to provide wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders who are traditionally unlikely to have these documents in place to protect them and their families. Student volunteers assisted in coordinating Cumberland Counties first WFHs event in the fall of 2010 and programs are anticipated to occur in both Centre and Cumberland counties in future semesters.

Pro Bono Opportunities Initiated by Students:

Each new class of students brings with it a breadth of experience and passions with respect to serving the needs of the poor. As individual students discover opportunities to engage in pro bono, the Center will provide assistance with coordinating the project as well as recognition of attorney supervised law related pro bono work through the Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy certification program.


Location of Programs

The Miller Pro Bono Program is housed with Penn State Law's Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy.



The program is staffed and managed by Professor Gildin and director of public interest programming, Kate Cramer Lawrence. As director of the Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy, Professor Gildin has been instrumental in providing Penn State Law students with many opportunities to participate in public interest law practice, including as interns during their legal education. Professor Gildin is not merely an excellent teacher and scholar; he has served as an officer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and of its South Central Pennsylvania chapter. His work as counsel in civil liberties cases often affords our students opportunities for observation or participation in significant litigation.

In addition to coordinating the school's pro bono and public interest initiatives, Kate Cramer Lawrence's work at the Law School involves supervising and teaching in the clinical setting. In recent years, she has served as a panelist for the ABA/NLADA sponsored Equal Justice Conference, the AALS Clinical Teaching Conference, and a number of CLE presentations. She has also served as a faculty member at the 2008 Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Trial Skills Training program and beginning in 2011, as a member of the National Advisory Committee to Equal Justice Works.



The program is funded through the Law School's budget allocations and was initiated with the assistance of a significant donation.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

The main public interest student organization, the Public Interest Law Fund (PILF), includes in its programming an Alternative Break coordinator who organizes pro bono trips such as hurricane relief efforts. In the fall of 2011, the PILF students coordinated a Citizenship Day service trip and well as student recruitment for Wills For Heroes.


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono



Students who have performed at least sixty hours of public interest work over the course of their law school careers can apply to be formally recognized as Public Interest Advocates at graduation. Each academic year, students are offered a minimum of two opportunities to submit certification applications in order to receive recognition as a public interest advocate. In addition to recognition at graduation, students are honored for their commitment to service at an annual reception. The Pro Bono Program gives special recognition to students who have completed those sixty hours in a pro bono setting, with no compensation in the form or credit or pay.


Community Service

  • Coordinate Volunteering with the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
  • Participate in the Carlisle Chapter of Big Brother Big Sister - Law School Mentor Program
  • Send volunteer to work with Habitat for Humanity
  • Chili Cook-off fundraiser for local food bank


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Gary S. Gildin, Professor of Law
Director, Miller Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy
[email protected] 


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Students who perform at least sixty hours of public interest work during their law school careers are formally recognized as Miller Center Public Interest Advocates upon graduation.


Public Interest Centers

The Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy houses the formal pro bono program as well as the public interest certificate/recognition program. In addition to the Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy, the Law School supports the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center, the Center on Children and the Law, and the Center for Immigrants' Rights.


Public Interest Clinics

Students learn by experience in Penn State Law's legal clinics. Under the guidance of clinical faculty, second- and third-year students earn academic credit while engaging in all aspects of the legal process, from legislative advocacy to client representation. Corresponding skills training courses give students a knowledge base on which to build their professional experiences.

Center for Immigrants' Rights

Launched in 2008, the Center for Immigrants' Rights provides students with the opportunity to work on innovative advocacy and policy projects relating to U.S. immigration primarily through representation of immigration organizations.

Children's Advocacy Clinic

The Children's Advocacy Clinic (CAC) is an innovative multidisciplinary clinical setting in which law students and graduate social work students represent children in the legal system. The clinic provides students with the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on training serving children and advocating for policy issues related to children in the welfare system.

Civil Rights Appellate Clinic

The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic provides intensive training in appellate advocacy by involving students in noncriminal civil rights cases before the state appellate courts, federal courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Disability Law Clinic

The Disability Law Clinic offers free legal services to people with disability-related problems such as Supplemental Security Income claims, handicap discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act claims, and special education problems.

Family Law Clinic

The Family Law Clinic is a free service providing legal help for people in central Pennsylvania who are having problems related to family matters. Qualified law students provide legal services under the supervision of law professors who are members of the Pennsylvania Bar.

International Sustainable Development Projects Clinic

Through this first-of-its-kind clinic, law students will collaborate in interdisciplinary teams brought together by Penn State's Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship program, (HESE) to develop, design, and implement humanitarian projects in the developing world. The International Sustainable Development Projects (ISDP) Law Clinic provides students with the opportunity to build the legal skills necessary to bring sustainable new ventures to market in an International environment. Under the direction of Professor Jeff Erickson, students will learn how to work effectively in a multi-disciplinary setting and with in-country legal advisors.

Rural Economic Development Clinic

With one of the nation's largest rural populations, Pennsylvania's prosperity depends upon its rural communities. The Rural Economic Development Clinic is committed to the complementary goals of training talented lawyers while encouraging sustainable rural economic development by representing clients in agricultural, food, and energy law sectors.



Penn State Law students extern with federal government agencies, judicial chambers, and public defender and prosecutor offices. Students participate in all aspects of civil and criminal litigation, draft legislation, prepare testimony and attend administrative proceedings, and work directly with federal judges and law clerks in observing trials, oral arguments, and the work of the court.

Government Placements

State Government Placements

Public Interest and Nonprofit Placements

Semester in Washington

Penn State Law students who participate in the Semester in Washington program spend one semester during their third year of law school in Washington, D.C., externing at an approved federal government agency, nonprofit organization, or public interest group. The experience provides advanced study in federal law and serves as a capstone experience for students interested in federal practice.

Semester in Harrisburg

The Semester in Harrisburg program allows students to spend a semester during the third year of law school in the Pennsylvania state capital, working for academic credit at an approved state government agency, the state legislature, or a nonprofit group that focuses on state government affairs. The program is recommended for students who are interested in pursuing a career in state government or a particular regulatory area, such as banking regulation, environmental law, or securities regulation.

International Justice Externship Program

Penn State Law's International Justice Externship offers students an opportunity to pursue advanced international study and gain legal experience in a global setting. Working side-by-side with senior prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, both located in The Hague, Netherlands, students participate in some of the most significant international criminal cases being prosecuted today.


Classes with a Public Service Component

The Legal Problems of Indigents course serves as a complement to one of our larger summer public interest employment programs. Students who receive funding through the summer fellowship program are required to participate in this poverty law course in preparation for their service in non-profit legal offices.


Public Interest Journals

While Penn State Law does not have a specific public interest journal, it does have a number of public interest publications including an annually updated "Guide to Public Interest Opportunities", weekly public interest updates, bi-annual newsletters, and the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs.


PI Career Support Center

The director of public interest programming and the Career Services Office coordinate to provide career assistance to public interest minded students. Specialized counseling is available through the Director and the Law School participates in a number of local, regional and national public interest events designed to encourage public interest career opportunities. These events include sponsorship for students' attendance at the Robert M Cover Public Interest Law Retreat, the greater Philadelphia area Public Interest / Public Service Career Fair and Sponsor level membership in Equal Justice Works.


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

In an effort to encourage and enable Penn State Law graduates to pursue careers in public interest law, the Law School has established a Loan Repayment and Assistance Program (LRAP) that can assist qualified graduates working in public interest law with their loan repayment obligations.


Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Clinic and Center Fellows program assists Penn State Law students as they transition from graduation to employment while simultaneously enriching the research and programming available through our diverse clinic and center programs. Recent graduates may apply for part-time, fixed-term academic year positions.


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

The Law School has recently instituted a "Public Interest Scholars" program where select incoming students receive financial support based on the demonstrated commitment to public service.


Graduate Student Funded


Other Funding Sources:

The George I. Bloom Scholarship

Given by the estate of the late George I. Bloom to highly qualified students who are residents of Pennsylvania and interested in careers in local, state, or federal government service

The William H. Dodd Prize

Given to the third-year student who exemplifies the highest ideals of the legal profession

The Gornall Scholarship

Given to a student who ranks in the top 25 percent of the class at the end of the first year of study and who demonstrates a commitment to the highest ethical standards and evidences a propensity to provide meaningful service to the community in which he or she ultimately elects to practice law

The Robert J. and Mary Ellen Landy Award

Given by the Landy children in honor of their parents, Robert J., Class of 1952, and Mary Ellen, to the student who has demonstrated excellence in the areas of ethics and professional responsibility and overall devotion to the highest ideals of the legal profession

The D. Arthur Magaziner Human Services Award

Given by the family of D. Arthur Magaziner to the third-year student who has demonstrated good character, sound academic performance, high ethical standards, fidelity to the highest goals of the profession, and commitment to selfless human service

The Judge Roy Wilkinson Jr. Scholarship

Given to a student demonstrating great promise of being an effective and socially responsible lawyer

The Honorable Leroy S. Zimmerman Public Service Scholarship

Given to a student who has achieved a superior academic record and who aspires to serve as an attorney for federal, state, or local government


Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Cherie M. Millage Summer Fellowship Program

Established by students in the fall of 1990, The Penn State Dickinson Public Interest Law Fund (PILF) is dedicated to promoting student interest and community involvement in the field of public interest law. PILF promotes its goals by fundraising and sponsoring public interest events on campus to educate students about the rewarding career possibilities in public interest law. Each year, PILF raises thousands of dollars to underwrite The Cherie M. Millage Summer Fellowship Program. Fellowship awards enable Penn State Law students to accept summer employment with public interest firms and organizations that desperately need student assistance but do not have the resources to compensate summer interns.


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

IOLTA Summer Fellowship Program

The Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law annually offers approximately seventeen IOLTA Summer Fellowships to first- and second-year students in the summer of 2012. Recipients of the fellowships will be placed in summer jobs at Legal Services offices in Pennsylvania or at other IOLTA-funded organizations in Pennsylvania. Each fellowship is intended to fund approximately 375 hours of work over a period of 10-12 weeks and the fellowship funding is distributed in 4 payments over the course of the summer totaling $5,250.

Fellowship students will be supervised on a day-to-day basis by staff and managing attorneys. Those placed in Legal Services programs will assist staff attorneys in representing eligible clients in a variety of case types, most commonly, protection from abuse, custody, landlord tenant, public benefits, and consumer law matters. Students in these positions have extensive contact with clients, and may carry a caseload of their own. Some students will have the opportunity to represent clients in administrative hearings such as unemployment compensation hearings. Students placed in statewide advocacy or pro bono organizations will work on policy or broad-scope matters affecting access to justice and other substantive areas of law.


Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Public Interest Law Week - Bring in Fellowship speakers, provide lunches with local attorney on relevant topics, etc.

Public Interest Speaker - Past speakers: Barry Scheck, Morris Dees, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Abby Ginzberg



Student Public Interest Groups