chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Drake University Law School

Drake University Law School
Cartwright Hall
2507 University Ave
Des Moines, IA 50311

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Suzan Pritchett
Director of Clinics & Experiential Education
Professor of Law
[email protected]


Category Type

Formal Voluntary Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator


Description of Programs

The Drake Legal Clinic represents indigent clients, and thus pro bono service is central to its mission. Clinical opportunities are made available to every student so desiring, and approximately half of the Law School's graduates take a clinic course. The clinical experience unquestionably helps students understand the immense need for legal services and the ethical responsibility lawyers have to provide pro bono and other services in our communities.

Drake Law School's clinical programs allow students to build valuable professional experience by applying classroom knowledge to work-world situations. Working with real clients with real legal problems, students apply classroom theory to actual cases; sort through and analyze complex information; develop interviewing and other interpersonal communication skills; research possible solutions; develop advocacy strategies; negotiate and mediate; and act in the best interests of their clients. Working in a teaching law firm, students discover the benefits of assisting those who might not otherwise have access to legal assistance while becoming competent and self-confident professionals.

In the Children's Rights Clinic, students represent abused or neglected children as their guardian-ad litem and attorney in Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) proceedings as well as juveniles in delinquency proceedings.

The Criminal Defense Clinic allows students to experience criminal law work. The clinic contracts with the Iowa State Public Defender’s Office to represent indigent clients who have requested a public defender.

Under the guidance and supervision of an experienced criminal law professor, student attorneys represent clients in all court appearances, from the arraignment process to hearings, depositions, negotiations, and trials—including possible jury trials. Cases may involve charges of OWI, assault, theft, drug possession, prostitution, child endangerment and public intoxication, among others. In addition, students participate in weekly classes and case rounds.

Students enrolled in the Entrepreneurial/Transactional Clinic will provide legal assistance to business startups, entrepreneurs, and community nonprofit organizations to help them establish successful for profit and nonprofit enterprises. The clinic targets entrepreneurs and innovators located in underserved Des Moines neighborhoods who are not able to afford retained legal counsel.

In the General Civil Practice Clinic, students represent clients who could not otherwise afford legal assistance. Typical cases include landlord/tenant disputes, divorce and custody matters, domestic abuse, contempt proceedings, guardianships, and small claims. Students conduct intakes, interviews, and fact investigations; draft legal documents; handle negotiations; and represent clients in court hearings and trials, including jury trials. In addition, students participate in case selection and weekly classes.

The Refugee Clinic provides Drake Law students with the opportunity to engage in direct client representation on behalf of non-citizen applicants for asylum. Applications for asylum involve student representation before the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (i.e. the Omaha Immigration Court), the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the federal Courts of Appeal under relevant student practice rules.

The Drake Wrongful Convictions Clinic provides students with the opportunity to investigate and contribute to work on post-conviction litigation for Iowa inmates claiming factual innocence. The Clinic is led by the State Public Defender’s Wrongful Convictions Division. Division collaborates with The Midwest Innocence Project. Student attorneys in the clinic represent individuals convicted of serious felony crimes in Iowa in post-conviction proceedings to establish their actual innocence. Students in the Clinic assist in all aspects of assigned cases including reviewing trial transcripts and case files, visiting incarcerated clients, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, consulting subject matter experts, conducting legal research, drafting pleadings, and attending court hearings.

The Institute for Justice Reform & Innovation serves as a center for research and training on topics including implicit bias, sentencing reform, and improving trial procedures. The independent and nonpartisan institute is led by The Honorable Mark W. Bennett (Ret.).


Location of Programs

The 40,000-square-foot Neal and Bea Smith Law Center houses the Law School’s clinical programs and includes classrooms, conference rooms, offices, a library, courtroom, and atrium.

The legal clinic courtroom with state-of-the-art technology is used for a variety of educational purposes and is also available for Iowa district court hearings, which are typically open for student observation.



Suzan Pritchett
Director of Clinical and Experiential Programs; Professor of Law

Erica Nichols Cook
Director and Clinician in Residence, Drake Wrongful Convictions Clinic

Sally Frank
Professor of Law, supervises and instructs law students in the Civil Practice Clinic

Allison McCarthy
Clinical Teaching Fellow for the Refugee Clinic

Nickole Miller
Director of the Joan & Lyle Middleton Center for Children’s Rights, Assistant Professor of Law

Robert Rigg
Professor of Law; Director of the Criminal Defense Program

Nick Roby 
Director of the Entrepreneurial/Transactional Clinic; Clinician in Residence

Lauren Wheeler
Investigator, Drake Wrongful Convictions Clinic 



The Drake Legal Clinic is supported by a $4.5 million federally funded endowment that ensures continued service to students and the community.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

The Equal Justice Works/Public Interest Law Association student group coordinates students interested in public interest opportunities or public interest careers.


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Many faculty participate in pro bono work during the academic year; however, the hours are not tracked by the Law School. For instance, Professor James Albert established the James Arthur Albert Foundation that allows thousands of children in Belize to attend school. Professor David McCord is a Levitt Distinguished Community Service Award winner and an Iowa Governor's Public Service Award winner. Professor Ellen Yee is a recipient of the University’s Madelyn M. Levitt Distinguished Community Service Award. Professor Yee’s record of public service includes her work establishing Drake’s Next Course, part of the Food Recovery Network, which provides the excess food from Sodexo dining services to area shelters.



Jeffrey and Elizabeth Goodman Distinguished Advocate Award

This award was established in 2003 by Jeffrey and Elizabeth Goodman, both 1985 graduates of the Drake Law School. Its purpose is to recognize a Drake Law School student who demonstrates excellence and proficiency in client representation and advocacy. The recipient receives a cash award.

International Academy of Trial Lawyers

Each year the academy awards a certificate and cash award to the student who best demonstrates the qualities of a good trial practitioner based on his or her excellence in legal clinic courses.

Robert J. Kromminga Award

This award is given to an outstanding clinical student in client representation and advocacy in the Criminal Defense Program. This award is made possible by the Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and is accompanied by a cash gift and a commemorative plaque.

Ferguson Prize

The Ferguson Prize Gold and Silver Awards are presented to the students who best exemplify the commitment of Drake Law School and the legal profession to public service and who have rendered outstanding service, primarily legal assistance, to eligible individuals or groups in the Law School Clinic or to other public service projects integrated with the Law School. The Ferguson Prize was established by Edwin Earle Ferguson Sr., LW’34. The Gold and Silver Awards are accompanied by cash gifts and commemorative plaques.

Marsha Ternus Outstanding Child Advocate Award

This award recognizes the student in the Children’s Rights Clinic that best lives up to the ideals of Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, who said, "Iowans like to say that we put our children first; it’s now time to show that we mean it." This award is accompanied by a commemorative plaque.


Community Service

  • Baskets to Benefit is Drake Law Women's spring philanthropy event. Students and legal professionals participate in a silent auction. The proceeds from the event go to Children and Families of Iowa, a state-wide organization that provides services to domestic violence survivors, young mothers, and patients needing mental health services. Children and Families of Iowa gives presentations about their services at the event
  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) is sponsored by United Way and several community partners to help low-income workers prepare their tax filings. Drake Law alumni have volunteered for several years for this program. Current students also are welcome to volunteer for VITA.
  • Halloween Hoops is an annual public service event co-sponsored by the Student Bar Association (SBA) and the Des Moines National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The event includes a pizza party for the about 300 community minority youth who attend. In addition to monetary contributions by the SBA and contributions of candy by law students (as part of a Class Amnesty Day program), law students volunteer during the event.
  • Public Interest Law Association (PILA) members work with volunteer lawyers and faculty on various public service projects including participation in Meals from the Heartland, Reach Out to Dropouts, and Operation StandDown with the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as assisting with the annual Halloween Hoops event. PILA also organize and conducts the annual Court-2-Court 5K run. Proceeds from Court-2-Court fund internships with Iowa Legal Aid.
  • The Student Animal Legal Defense Fund organizes students to volunteer at local animal shelters.
  • Hispanic Latino Law Student Association members volunteer for the HOLA program, held at the Des Moines, Iowa Proteus location. The HOLA program brings together agencies once a month to provide free, confidential bilingual services for the community. Members of the Hispanic Latino Law Student Association help provide translation services and legal assistance.
  • Christian Legal Society coordinates the Winter Warmth Drive each fall. They collect clothing to help the community stay warm during the winter. They also participate in other service-oriented activities including Meals from the Heartland.
  • The Delta Theta Phi legal fraternity provides substantial person-power to Halloween Hoops and has public service programs of its own including semi-annual blood drives and the annual Eat-a-Thon event that raises funds for the Polk County Bar Association's Volunteer Lawyer Project.
  • The American Association for Justice participates in an annual food drive that raises money and food collection for the Bidwell Riverside Center food bank.


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Carole Tillotson
Associate Director of Career Development
[email protected]
(515) 271-4974

Erin Lee Schneider
Assistant Dean for Student Services
[email protected]


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Drake Law School offers a Public Service Certificate to students who perform 60 hours of legal or non-legal services without compensation or the award of academic credit.

Drake Law School awards up to two full-tuition Justice Chester Cole Public Service Scholarships each year to entering first-year law students. In addition, at the conclusion of the 1L year, up to two additional Drake Law students will be awarded a Justice Chester Cole Public Service Scholarship award equal to three-quarters tuition (renewable for the third year).

Public Service Scholars will be included in a program of activities designed to encourage them to explore the wide variety of public service career opportunities and to prepare them for a career of public service.


Public Interest Centers

Agricultural Law Center
Constitutional Law Center
Institute for Justice Reform & Innovation
Legislative Practice Center
Middleton Center for Children’s Rights

Public Interest Clinics

Criminal Defense Clinic
Children’s Rights Clinic
Civil Practice Clinic
Entrepreneurial/Transactional Clinic
Refugee Clinic
Wrongful Convictions Clinic


As the only law school in the capital city of Des Moines, Drake Law students have a competitive advantage in obtaining internships. Internships are essential for gaining hands-on, practical experience and preparing for the real world after graduation. Drake Law School helps connect students with various internship opportunities to build their resume and apply classroom knowledge to real experiences. Opportunities include:

  • Advanced Polk County Prosecutor Internship
  • Children’s Rights Center Internship
  • Consumer Law Center Internship
  • Ethics Internship
  • Iowa Attorney General’s Office Internship
  • Iowa Civil Rights Commission Internship
  • Iowa Legal Aid Internship
  • Iowa Public Information Board Internship (IPIB)
  • Iowa Secretary of State Internship
  • Iowa Supreme Court Scholar Research Opportunity
  • Iowa Workers' Compensation Internship
  • Judicial Internship
  • Juvenile Court Internship
  • Juvenile Law Appellate Internship
  • Juvenile Law Internship
  • Kids First Internship
  • Learning from Practice: The Internship Seminar
  • Legislative Internship
  • United States Attorney’s Office Internship
  • USDA Internship


Classes with a Public Service Component

  • Applied Immigration Law and Policy
  • Children and the Law
  • Consumer Protection
  • Disability Rights Iowa
  • Domestic Violence
  • Education Law
  • Election Law
  • Employment Law
  • Family Law
  • First-Year Trial Practicum
  • Health Care Law & Ethics
  • Immigration Law
  • Justice Reform and Innovation
  • Women and the Law
  • Workers' Compensation


Public Interest Journals

Drake Journal of Agricultural Law

As the only legal journal from an accredited law school focusing on agricultural law issues, the  Drake Journal of Agricultural Law   is dedicated to the review of legal issues affecting the agriculture industry. It seeks to provide a forum to explore contemporary issues in international and domestic agriculture law and bring these issues to the attention of the entire community.

The journal publishes articles written by professors, judges, attorneys, practitioners, students, and others on a national and international level.

Drake Law Review

The  Drake Law Review   publishes exemplary articles, notes, and lectures that are academically and practically relevant to professors, judges, practitioners, and law students. It has been ranked as one of the topmost court-cited legal periodicals in the nation, including being cited by the United States Supreme Court in 2003.

The  Drake Law Review   also publishes  Discourse , an online component established in 2012.  Discourse  features short legal articles, essays, and case commentaries on current topics in the legal community.


PI Career Support Center

Each spring, Drake Law School hosts a Public Interest Career Fair comprised of more than 25 city, county, state, and federal employers and nonprofit organizations who may hire students for summer internships or post graduate positions. Drake Law School’s Career Development Office also offers counseling and career planning, resources on resumes and cover letters, interviewing strategies, conducting a job search, introduction to law firm life, on-campus interviews, formal and informal mentor programs, structured networking events, expansive alumni network, and access to a job database with hundreds of job postings


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Workshops are held twice a year for third-year law students to discuss the mechanics of two programs contained in the College Cost and Reduction Access Act of 2007.


Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Law School is committed to 6 full-tuition Public Service scholarships each year (2 for students in each class, 1L, 2L, and 3L) and to 4 three-quarter tuition Public Service scholarship each year (2 for students in each of the 2L and 3L classes).


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

Iowa State Public Defender Gideon Fellowship Program

The Gideon Fellowship Program is the Office of the State Public Defender's primary means of hiring entry-level attorneys. Each year, two Gideon Fellows are selected to serve a two-year term appointment in one of the public defender offices. The fellowship begins in September after the fellows receives notification, they passed the Iowa bar exam.

Fellows serve alongside career public defenders representing clients, trying cases, and participating in training and mentoring through the State Public Defender's New Attorney Development Program. Fellows are eligible to apply for permanent public defender positions during the term of their fellowship, and successful fellows may continue their careers long-term in the Office of the State Public Defender.


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Justice Chester Cole Public Service Scholarship Program

Drake Law School awards up to two full-tuition Justice Chester Cole Public Service Scholarships each year to entering first-year law students. In addition, at the conclusion of the 1L year, up to two additional Drake Law students will be awarded a Justice Chester Cole Public Service Scholarship award equal to three-quarters tuition (renewable for the third year). Public Service Scholars will be included in a program of activities designed to encourage them to explore the wide variety of public service career opportunities and to prepare them for a career of public service.


Graduate Student Funded


Other Funding Sources:

Since 1997, the law school has secured grant funding to support a Summer Poverty Law internship. This grant provides paid internship opportunities for Drake law students with Legal Services Corporation offices in Iowa and with local and state agencies representing children in need of assistance. Interns had full-time work (400 hr.) at $15 per hour. The internship qualifies under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule as law school-supervised academic experiences because of faculty supervision; however, because students are paid through grant funds, the students do not receive academic credit. In addition, for more than ten years, the Law School has committed scholarship funds to support summer public interest internships. The law school authorized scholarship funding to support externships and Legal Clinic Howard Fellows internships. The externships permit work in a range of public interest programs anywhere in U.S.


Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

The Iowa Children’s Justice Summer Fellowship is designed to financially support law students who obtain a summer volunteer position in the area of juvenile law. Examples of eligible juvenile law positions include the Public Defender's Office doing parent representation or GAL/attorney for child work, Youth Law Center in Des Moines, private law firms that provide representation for clients in juvenile court, clerking for juvenile court and appellate judges, and research projects in the area of juvenile law.

The Law School funds the Charles & Joseph Howard Fellowships in the Drake Legal Clinic through the earnings from the students’ work in providing representation under the Legal Clinic’s grant with the Iowa State Public Defender’s Office.

Typically, these earnings have been sufficient to award two to four fellowships. Fellowship awards are made by the director of clinical programs in consultation with the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic. The fellowship also provides a scholarship that covers two to four credit hours of summer tuition, approximately $2,000-4,000.


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

  • The Agricultural Law Center has secured grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, some of which has been allocated to support 10 summer internships. Students have received a stipend of $2,500, with a minimum time commitment of 240 hours. Students receive no academic credit.
  • The Iowa Children's Justice Summer Fellowship is designed to financially support law students who obtain a summer volunteer position in the area of juvenile law. There are 10 grants available in the amount of $2,000 each. All applicants must locate their own volunteer position. Applicants must be either a 1L or 2L in good standing. Examples of eligible juvenile law positions include Public Defender Offices doing parent representation or GAL/attorney for child work, Youth Law Center in Des Moines, private law firms that provide representation for clients in juvenile court, clerking for Juvenile Court and Appellate Judges, and research projects in the area of juvenile law. The expectation is that fellows will work full-time for eight weeks.


Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Public Service Scholarship Program speakers

Constitutional Law Symposium

Agricultural Law Symposium


Student Public Interest Groups

American Association for Justice, Drake Law Chapter
American Constitution Society, Drake Law Chapter
Black Law Student Association
Christian Legal Society
Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity
Drake Agricultural and Environmental Law Association
Drake Association for Child Advocacy
Drake Law Democrats
Drake Law Women
Drake Law Review
Federalist Society
Hispanic Latino Law Student Association
Intellectual Property Law Society
International Law Society
Moot Court Board
Older Wiser Law Students (OWLS)
Drake Outlaws (LGBTQIA+ Student Organization)
National Lawyers Guild
Public Interest Law Association
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Student Bar Association