Saint John's University School of Law

Saint John's University
School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Alexis Martinez
Assistant Dean of Students
St. John's University School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
P: (718) 990-6600

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

The Public Interest Center offers students a range of opportunities to explore, experience and practice public interest law. We are also committed to teaching students the value and reward of pro bono work. In 2003, the Law School inaugurated the Pro Bono Service Project in furtherance of the University's Vincentian Mission and the principle that law students and members of the legal profession have a special obligation to assist in providing quality legal services to unrepresented communities, groups or interests.

The Pro Bono Service Project will recognize students with a Public Service Award which will be given at Commencement to students who have completed at least 500 hours of qualifying service.

Students who demonstrate an exceptional level of pro bono service, including dedicated service to specific pro bono projects (including student run programs), will be eligible for additional awards at Commencement.

Location of Programs

The Public Interest Center administers the Law School's Pro Bono Service Project.


Alexis Martinez, Assistant Dean of Students, oversees the Law School's Pro Bono Service Project. Dean Martinez will work collaboratively with the various pro bono projects, the partner agencies and each project's student coordinator.


The Pro Bono Service Project receives funding through the Law School's operating budget. Additionally, many of the projects receive funding from the Student Bar Association.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Pro Bono Service Opportunities *The list below represents just some of the pro bono opportunities coordinated through the Law School.

CLARO Training (Civil Legal Advice and Referral Office) CLARO is a walk in advice clinic for people representing themselves in lawsuits involving consumer debt (primarily credit card debt). Lawsuits seeking recovery of consumer debt have burgeoned exponentially over the last decade, largely because the debts are sold for pennies on the dollar to debt buyers who then collect and sue on the debts. Often the debts are stale, the amount sued for is inaccurate, the plaintiff has sued the wrong person, or the plaintiff lacks proof of the debt.

Law students work with volunteer attorneys to advise individuals on self-representation strategies such as re-opening default judgments, objecting to defective service of processor, or releasing a frozen bank account. As CLARO interns, students will greet clients, gather basic intake information about their legal matter, accompany volunteer attorneys at litigant interviews, and assist with and review follow up tasks, such as completing and filing court papers with the litigants.

Service Day Project: This training program will prepare students to participate in the following LIFT volunteer activities:

  • Staff Family Law Information Email Hotline: Provide legal information, support, and referrals to Hotline users. Under the supervision of a LIFT attorney, students will draft responses to family law questions that are submitted to the email hotline.

  • Answer Questions on Family Law Information Telephone Hotline: Provide legal support, information, and referrals to Hotline users.

  • Help Families Navigate NYC Family Courts: Work side-by-side with LIFT staff at Family Court-based sites to answer questions and address concerns about Court procedure and family law matters, and to distribute LIFT's Legal Resource Guides.

  • Assist with Document Translation: Help non-English speakers navigate the court system by translating LIFT's Legal Resource Guides into languages other than English.

New York State Access to Justice Program: Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day (VLFD) This program provides limited representation to pro se defendants in consumer debt cases in Queens Civil Court at pre-trial conferences. Under the supervision of an attorney, you will represent defendants in court, work to negotiate favorable settlements with opposing counsel, conference with court attorneys, argue before a judge, and advise clients on trial strategies.

New York State Access to Justice Program: Uncontested Divorce Program Through this pro bono opportunity, you will assist unrepresented litigants with the preparation of uncontested divorce forms under the supervision of an attorney. (Students do not represent litigants in court or file papers on their behalf.)

Courtroom Advocates Project CAP is a joint project of Sanctuary for Families' Center for Battered Women's Legal Services and the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). CAP trains and supervises advocates who assist domestic violence victims seeking protective orders in New York City's family courts. Under the supervision of an attorney, CAP Advocates help victims of domestic violence draft their petitions for protective orders, advocate for them at their initial appearance and at the next court date before Family Court judges, educate them about the Family Court process, and provide them with safety planning and referrals to needed resources.

Bankruptcy Assistance Program Student volunteers would meet with clients and provide initial interview and screening to determine eligibility for bankruptcy filing.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono program although some members of the faculty do perform pro bono work.


The Pro Bono Service Project recognizes students with a Public Service Award which will be given at Commencement to students who have completed at least 500 hours of qualifying service.

Students who demonstrate an exceptional level of pro bono service, including dedicated service to specific pro bono projects will be eligible for additional awards at Commencement.

Community Service

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

  • Food Drive
  • Clothing Drive
  • Blood Drive
  • Veteran's Fundraiser
  • Fundraising for summer public interest fellowship program and spring break service trip
  • University Service Day
  • Orientation Service Day

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Alexis Martinez
Assistant Dean of Students
St. John's University School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
P: (718) 990-6600
Fax: (718) 990-7469

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

The Law School does not have a public interest certificate program but students can choose to focus their studies on a public interest pathway.

Public Interest Centers

Building on St. John's Vincentian mission of serving those in need, the Center recognizes the ethical obligation of lawyers to promote social justice. The Center is charged with coordinating and expanding the Law School's Pro Bono Service Project, the Public Interest Auction, the Public Interest Summer Fellowship Program and other pro bono and public interest initiatives. The Center also collaborates with the Public Interest Law Students Association to host programs on public interest law, counsel students on public interest opportunities and generally foster a view of public interest as intrinsic to the study and practice of law.

Public Interest Clinics

Established in 1993, the Clinical Program at St. John's School of Law furthers our mission of providing students with practical, experiential learning opportunities while ensuring that underserved, low-income New York City residents have access to vital legal services. In meeting the needs of the underrepresented and disenfranchised in our community, the Law School clinics honor and foster St. John's Vincentian tradition.

The Law School offers the following clinics. Three are in-house clinics offered through our not-for-profit legal services organization, the St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program, Inc. Operating out of the Law School's state-of-the art Clinical Office, they are the:

  • Child Advocacy Clinic
  • Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic
  • Securities Arbitration Clinic

The other seven are partner clinics offered in collaboration with legal services organizations and Catholic charities, as well as the Queens County District Attorney's Office and Bronx County District Attorney's Office. They are the:

  • Bankruptcy Advocacy Clinic
  • Bread and Life Immigration Clinic
  • Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Domestic Violence Litigation Clinic
  • Economic Justice Clinic
  • Prosecution Clinic
  • Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic

Through their hands-on work in the clinics, students go beyond the legal theory and case analysis learned in the classroom to experience the practice of law in real-world contexts. Supervised by an exceptional clinical faculty of seasoned educators and practitioners, students hone their lawyering skills and professionalism while representing clients. They conduct interviews, counsel clients, investigate facts, research law, plan case strategy, draft pleadings, appear in court and other forums, and negotiate settlements.


The Externship Program at St. John's School of Law places students with a variety of pre-approved employers where they work directly with an assigned mentor-attorney on real legal matters. Externship placements provide students with actual litigation and transactional experience and, in some cases, students are exposed to case management and policy issues. All placements give the students a real life practical experience and prepare students for the practice of law in specific areas. Students choose placements based upon their interest in a substantive area of law or their desire to learn or sharpen particular lawyering skills


Students work in placements that span across the legal spectrum and include placements in public interest organizations and governmental agencies. Recent placements include:

  • United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
  • United States Postal Service - Law Department
  • Mental Hygiene Legal Services
  • New York City Law Department
  • The Legal Aid Society (civil, criminal and juvenile rights)
  • Brooklyn Defenders Services
  • Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Richmond County District Attorney's Offices
  • United States Attorney's Office (Eastern and Southern District)
  • Judicial Chambers (Federal, State, Surrogate's, County and City courts)

Students augment the hands-on experience they gain from their externship placement by taking a concurrent seminar. With the first externship placement, students take a practical externship seminar that focuses on learning everyday lawyering skills needed in any legal setting, such as client counseling, negotiations and interviewing techniques, fact and source investigation and ethics in the workplace. When students enroll in subsequent externships, they take an advanced seminar that further hones their lawyering skills focusing on various additional practical topics.

Classes with a Public Service Component

None listed

Public Interest Journals

Established in 2010, the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John's Law School - and building on the rich history of our predecessor the Journal of Legal Commentary - we are committed to publishing high-quality scholarship and hosting innovative symposia on issues of social, racial and economic justice.

The Journal publishes four issues each year, culling submissions from scholars and students on a range of racial, social and economic justice topics, including:

  • Child advocacy
  • Foster care
  • Criminal justice
  • National security

PI Career Support Center

Counselors in the law school's Career Development Office meet with students interested in pursuing a public interest career and provide many resources, guides and programs designed to help students with public interest career planning.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

St. John's Law School's Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) provides financial assistance to qualified Law School graduates working in public interest positions by paying a portion of their law school educational loan debt. Qualifying employment consists of full-time employment with a non-profit organization. In keeping with the St. John's Vincentian mission of service to others, the Program seeks to enable graduates to select their employment without being precluded from public interest and government options because of financial hardship. It also aims to encourage St. John's law graduates to choose public interest and public service careers. The Law School recognizes that the legal community has a responsibility to provide services to people who cannot otherwise afford representation.

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Public Service Fellowship Program is designed to provide graduates with meaningful experience working with a public interest organization, a government agency, a judge, a policy-making organization, or in a public service law-related position.

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:

Through the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program, the Law School encourages students to participate in the delivery of legal services to the underserved. The Public Interest Fellowship Selection Committee awards fellowships to qualified students for summer positions with non-profit organizations and governmental agencies representing traditionally underrepresented clients, groups or interests. The Committee awards fellowships to students working in areas such as domestic violence, mental health, community development and child advocacy.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The Public Interest Law Students Association (PILSA) and the Public Interest Center coordinates a Spring Break Service Trip to engage in pro bono work during spring breaks as well as local assistance including pro bono in the aftermath or hurricane sandy. Additionally, student groups participate in community outreach and education, including Street Law Programs and Financial Literacy seminars in local public schools. The Law School also hosts speakers, panel and presentation on public interest issues.

Student Public Interest Groups

  • Public Interest Law Students Association (PILSA)
  • Courtroom Advocates Project

August 7, 2018