Western New England University
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Samuel L. Charron
Assistant Director and Public Interest Coordinator
Office of Career Services
Pro Bono Graduation Requirement Program
Description of Programs
Western New England University School of Law has long been committed to principles of public service and professional education in preparation for the practice of law. The School of Law seeks to train students to enter into a profession in which pro bono service is highly valued, instilling the principle that members of the legal community and those aspiring to enter the legal profession have an obligation to assist in providing legal services to persons of limited means. In the spring of 2011, the faculty of the School of Law acknowledged the importance of this service by adopting a pro bono graduation requirement. In order to graduate, students must complete 20 hours of pro bono service.
Pro bono service is uncompensated. Pro bono service is defined as the provision of law-related services to:
- persons of limited means.
- charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.
- individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights.
- charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources.
- activities for improving access to the law, improving the legal system or improving the legal profession.
- educational activities for improving the public's understanding of the law, the legal system, or the legal profession.
Pro bono activities are identified by the Assistant Director of Career Services and publicized to students. In addition, a number of student organizations sponsor pro bono opportunities. Lastly, students may secure their own pro bono project or placement. However, all student secured projects and placements must receive prior approval. All students engaged in pro bono work must be supervised by a licensed attorney.
Location of Programs
The location of the pro bono program at Western New England University School of Law is located in the Career Services Office.
The Assistant Director of Career Services is the sole staff member charged with administering the Pro Bono Program under the supervision of the Director of Career Services.
The Pro Bono Program is funded through the School of Law’s operating budget. The budget is part of the overall budget for the Career Services Office and is not separately calculable. To the extent that pro bono activities are carried out by students groups, those activities are funded through the Student Bar Association which, in turn, is funded through student activity fees.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
ACLU Hotline. Student group operates intake hotline for the Western Regional Law Office of the ACLU of Massachusetts.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
Faculty are required to complete at least 20 hours of pro bono service, as defined above over a three year cycle. Faculty routinely exceed this requirement. Faculty report their pro bono activity to the Dean, who takes these efforts into account in faculty members’ annual reviews. The Faculty’s pro bono work covers a broad area substantively and is delivered in many forms. Examples of pro bono work in which the School of Law’s faculty members have recently engaged includes:
- Drafting amicus briefs regarding ongoing litigation.
- Drafting request for parole of an ICE detainee under the auspices of the ACLU of Western Massachusetts' Immigrant Protection Project.
- Serving as mediator with the Family Resolutions Specialty Court, and with On-site Meditation programs at the local Probate and Family Courts.
- Conducting educational discussions/lectures to community, student, and academic groups.
- Undertaking leadership roles in professional organizations, such as the Society of American Law Teachers.
- Serving on government or nonprofit boards.
- Advising nonprofit organizations in areas of expertise.
- Providing direct legal services to individuals of modest means.
As all students must satisfy a pro bono graduation requirement, the School of Law does not award other pro bono related awards at this time.
The Standing Pro Bono Committee of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has conferred the John Adams Pro bono Publico Award upon recent graduates of the School of Law, and we are honored to count a past recipient of the award as a current faculty member.
Family Law Association. Members of the Family Law Association participate in and organize various events during the school year, including holding the Family Halloween Party and the Teddy Bear Drive for National Adoption Day, as well as volunteering at Friends of the Homeless throughout the school year.
OUTlaw. In addition to its other activities, OUTLaw holds fundraisers for LGBTQ groups in the community.
Student Bar Association. The SBA’s Charities Committee engages in public service activities. Its main event, the Annual 5K Ambulance Chase, has raised funds for the Springfield Ronald McDonald House and Hurricane Maria Relief for Puerto Rico.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Associate Dean of Clinics, Clinical Professor of Law
Professor of Legal Research and Writing
Samuel L. Charron
Assistant Director and Public Interest Coordinator
Office of Career Services
The School of Law offers a curricular concentrations in Public Interest Law. For more information about the concentration, please visit https://www1.wne.edu/law/academics/jd-program/concentrations.cfm
Public Interest Centers
Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies. The Center serves as a focal point for work in a broad number of areas relating to gender and sexuality, ranging from civil rights issues affecting women and sexual minorities to feminist and queer theory. The Center works to engage with the legal community, with the University, and with members of the School of Law on core issues of gender and sexuality across a broad spectrum of law, including criminal law, immigration, employment, family law, health law, discrimination, prisoners’ rights, legislation, leadership and business, and international and comparative law. For more information about the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, please visit https://www1.wne.edu/law/centers/gender-and-sexuality-studies.cfm
Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs. Through participation in the Institute, students engage in the practical application of law by assisting public officials in drafting legislation, exploring the codification and progressive development of laws, and examining recently enacted bills. Students gain further exposure through the Institute's course offerings (including Legislation and Administrative law), independent studies, internships, and externships, which provide a thorough understanding in how to interpret and draft statutes as well as in the intricacies of the legislative process. Additional events offered at the Institute, such as seminars, workshops, and legislative hearings, are open to alumni and the general public. For more information about Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs, please visit https://www1.wne.edu/law/centers/institute-for-legislative-and-governmental-affairs.cfm
Public Interest Clinics
The School of Law offers its students a number of clinical opportunities which cover a range of practice areas. These clinics include:
- Criminal Prosecution Clinic. Students prosecute real cases for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office. Under the direction of an experienced Assistant District Attorney, students research, prepare, and litigate actual cases from the Hampden County Court System. This clinic gives students a firsthand look at each aspect of the trial process.
- Criminal Defense Practicum. Students work as student defense attorneys at the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), representing indigent clients within the Hampden County District Courts, which includes a mix of both misdemeanors and felonies.
- Elder Law Clinic. Students represent elders in a range of matters, including planning for incapacity with powers of attorney and heathcare proxies, planning for the disposition of property at death via joint ownership, beneficiary designation, and simple wills, and planning for eligibility for public benefits for long-term care.
- Family Mediation Clinic. Students mediate family law cases at the Hampden Probate and Family Court. The clinic includes observing and learning the court process, and involvement in the screening process in conjunction with the mediation and training.
- Immigration Clinic. Students work at the office of the Central West Justice Center, a subsidiary of Community Legal Aid. Students work on humanitarian immigration cases, including applications for asylum for individuals fleeing persecution, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for abused, neglected, and abandoned children, relief under the Violence Against Women Act for survivors of domestic violence, and U visas for crime victims.
- International Human Rights Clinic. Students work collaboratively with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, grass-roots organizations, solidarity networks, attorneys, stakeholders, and other institutions engaging in human rights work to advance political, economic, social, and cultural human rights across borders.
- Legal Services Clinic. The clinic is run by Community Legal Aid (CLA), a private, nonprofit organization that provides civil legal assistance to low income residents in western Massachusetts. Students learn about the practice of law, and engage in community service by providing essential legal services to those in need. Students may choose to participate in the Housing Unit (Landlord-Tenant Law) or Legal Services Unit (Disability, Employment, Public Benefits, Family, and Immigration Law).
- Small Business Clinic. Students provide legal services to local small businesses. Law students work on start-up transactional legal matters, including choice-of-entity, employment policies, contract drafting, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property issues. The clinic acts as a catalyst for economic development in western Massachusetts.
More information about clinics at the School of Law may be found at https://www1.wne.edu/law/experiential/clinics.cfm.
Western New England offers the opportunity to gain real-world experience from an in a wide variety of legal fields. The Externship Program provides learning opportunities for students placed with judges and lawyers who have agreed to provide a mentored learning environment away from the law school. All externs are supervised by a law faculty member.
Externships fall into two broad categories Judicial and Law Practice, which are described in greater detail below.
Judicial. Students work in judicial chambers on legal research memoranda and judicial opinions under the supervision of judges and their postgraduate or permanent law clerks. Externs also have the opportunity to observe court proceedings.
Law Practice. Students work in a nonprofit organization, governmental agency, or private sector law firm engaging in a variety of lawyering tasks under the supervision of an attorney. The emphasis of the placement is for students to acquire a range of lawyering skills with a particular focus on professionalism, ethics, and public interest lawyering. Public Interest placements offered as part of the Externship Program include:
American Civil Liberties Union
Committee for Public Counsel Services
Connecticut Attorney General’s Office
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
Connecticut Department of Children and Families
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Connecticut Fair Housing
Connecticut Office of the Public Defender Services
Connecticut Statewide Legal Services
Hampden County Court Service Center
Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
Massachusetts Fair Housing Center
New York Office of the Conflict Defender
University of Massachusetts Student Legal Services
Please visit https://www1.wne.edu/law/experiential/externships.cfm for more information on externship offerings at the School of Law.
Classes with a Public Service Component
In the spring of 2018, in conjunction with the University’s College of Business, the School of Law offered a course in tax preparation. As a component of the course, students prepared returns for taxpayers of modest means through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program hosted by the University.
Public Interest Journals
The School of Law does not have a public interest journal.
PI Career Support Center
The Career Services Office provides the primary support for students who wish to pursue a career in the public interest. The Assistant Director of Career Services is tasked with maintaining familiarity with all aspects of the public interest sector in order to provide high quality, individualized assistance to students in the following areas: career strategies, job search, cover letters, resumes, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation. The Assistant Director develops programing to educate students about different career paths in the public interest sector and directs students to public interest career on-line resources. In addition, the Assistant Director publicizes and encourages student attendance at public interest job fairs including and publicizes fellowships to students and follow-up with application assistance.
The Career Services Office also provides administrative and other necessary support to public interest minded student groups such as the Public Interest Law Association and the Alternative Spring Break Club.
Our faculty, with its rich background in wide range of public interest subjects and causes, provides guidance and support to the public interest community at the School of Law.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
The School of Law does not have a Loan Repayment Assistance Program.
Law School Funded:
The School of Law does not offer post-graduate fellowships or awards.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
The School of Law counsels students regarding fellowship opportunities and offers resources to help students identify post-graduate fellowships and awards.
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
The School of Law does not offer public interest related term time fellowships or scholarships.
Graduate Student Funded
Other Funding Sources:
Law Faculty and Staff Public Interest Scholarship - A scholarship is available for a returning law student based on financial need and merit. There is a preference for a student who has exhibited a commitment toward public interest law through employment or volunteer work. This scholarship was generously created from contributions donated by the faculty and staff of the School of Law.
Norman Peacor Endowed Memorial Scholarship- A financial need scholarship is available to a returning law student from the Springfield area who in his/her life has demonstrated civic and/or community involvement, and academically has achieved a B average. This scholarship is renewable provided the recipient maintains a B average and continues to be involved in civic and/or community activities.
Law School Funded:
Summer Federal Work-Study Program offers federal work-study grants to students for summer work for eligible government agencies, public interest organizations and nonprofit organizations throughout the country. Work-study awards are based on financial need and are administered through the Financial Aid Office, the Controller’s Office and Career Services. The federal government pays approximately 60% of the salary of work-study recipients, the remaining 40% is paid by the School of Law.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Public Interest Law Association. The Public Interest Law Association (PILA) is a student group dedicated to providing summer stipends to students who have unpaid legal internships at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. PILA raises funds through an annual auction that it holds at the School of Law. In order to qualify to apply for the stipends, students must volunteer 10 hours toward the organization of the auction.
Students have also received funding through the Massachusetts Bar Foundation Legal Intern Program.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
The School of Law offers a variety of public interest related extracurricular and co-curricular programing. These include lunch and learn brown bag lunches hosted by the Office of Career Services as well as a variety of speakers hosted by the Clason and Color of Law speaker series. In addition, the Center for Gender and Sexuality and the Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs both sponsor speakers, symposia and other programing throughout the year. Recent programs include:
- Professor Muneer Ahmad of Yale Law School. "From the Muslim Ban to DACA Termination: Protecting Immigrant Rights in the Trump Era"
- Professor Frank Rudy Cooper of Suffolk University Law School. "Trumped Up Racial Profiling?: Enforcing Civil Rights and the Policing of Black Men in the Era of Black Lives Matters."
- Center on Gender and Sexuality Studies. Gender and Incarceration Symposium.
The School of Law presents "Public Interest Week" annually in October. Activities include student led panel discussions regarding summer public interest internships, outside speakers and pro bono activities.
Student Public Interest Groups
Alternative Spring Break Club. The Alternative Spring Break Club gives you the opportunity to provide public service while gaining valuable legal experience and fostering relationships with public interest legal organizations and government agencies across the nation.
Black Law Students Association. The mission and purpose of this organization is to articulate and promote the educational, professional, political, and social needs and goals of Black law students; to foster and encourage professional competence; improve the relationship between Black law students, Black attorneys, and the American legal structure; instill in the Black attorney and law student a greater awareness and commitment to the needs of the Black community; influence the legal community by bringing about meaningful legal and political change that addresses the needs and concerns of the Black community; and impact the culture of the School of Law.
Christian Legal Society. The Western New England chapter of the Christian Legal Society exists to inspire, encourage, and equip lawyers and law students, both individually and in community, to proclaim, love and serve Jesus Christ through the study and practice of law, the defense of religious freedom, and the provision of legal assistance to the poor.
Environmental Law Coalition. The Environmental Law Coalition's purpose is to spread environmental awareness throughout the School of Law and provide a forum for students to participate in projects regarding environmental issues.
Family Law Association. The Family Law Association provides opportunities for you to explore the field of family law and its application in our communities. The organization seeks to promote awareness about the issues that concern the practice of family law to the Western New England University School of Law community. You will participate in and organize various events during the school year, including holding the Family Halloween Party and the Teddy Bear Drive for National Adoption Day, as well as volunteering at Friends of the Homeless throughout the school year.
Latino/a Law Student Association. The Latino/a Law Student Association (LLSA) is a community of students and faculty focused on the advancement of Latino/a academic success and commitment to community service, as well as a social support network to help students adjust to the demands of law school.
National Lawyers Guild. The Western New England Guild is a student chapter of the National Chapter; it is a community of students and faculty working in solidarity dedicated to social justice lawyering. Since the 1930s, the National Lawyers Guild has worked to advance human and civil rights, working under the motto "human rights over property rights."
OUTlaw. Western New England University School of Law OUTlaw is a student group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students as well as student allies.
Public Interest Law Association. The Public Interest Law Association (PILA) is a student group dedicated to providing summer stipends to students who have unpaid legal internships at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. PILA raises funds through an annual auction that it holds at the School of Law.
Women’s Law Association. The Women’s Law Association (WLA) supports and empowers women in the legal profession as well as in the community by focusing on on legal, social, and cultural issues facing women in society.
To learn more about student organizations at the School of Law please visit https://www1.wne.edu/law/student-life/organizations.cfm