Drake University Law School

Drake University Law School
2507 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Jerry Foxhoven
Executive Director of the Neal & Bea Smith Legal Clinic
Professor of Law
P: (515) 271-2073

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 have been 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. Effective participation in a clinical program demonstrates to prospective employers that a student has capably handled a variety of cases and will "hit the ground running" when it comes to practicing law. Drake Law School ranks second in the nation as "Best in Practical Training" according to National Jurist magazine.

The Elder Law Clinic provides Drake Law students the opportunity to provide legal services for the senior population (over 60 years of age). Typical cases include powers of attorney, simple wills, guardianships, physical and/or financial abuse and select property issues. Students meet clients in a variety of settings from home visits to nursing homes. Students work in partnership with Aging Resources of Central Iowa and the Department of Elder Affairs.

Law students in the Joan and Lyle Middleton Center for Children's Rights Center's clinical program represent children and handle abuse, neglect and termination of parental rights cases under faculty supervision. The Center also includes a resource center and a training center that educates lawyers, judges, social workers and others in various aspects of children's rights law.

The Criminal Defense Clinic contracts with the State Public Defender's Office to represent indigent clients who have requested a public defender. A judge then appoints the Clinic to represent them. Cases may involve charges of OWI, assault, theft, drug possession, prostitution, public intoxication, and a variety of other violations. Student attorneys, under the guidance and supervision of a professor who is an attorney experienced in this field, represent clients in all court appearances (including trials), depositions, and negotiations.

The Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic offers students the opportunity to explore criminal defense in depth. Students represent clients charged with simple, serious and aggravated misdemeanors. Charges |typically handled by student attorney's fall into five general categories: Crimes against persons; Crimes against property; Motor Vehicle Offenses; Drug Offenses; and other offenses including Child Endangerment, Prostitution, Perjury and Carrying Weapons. Students may also serve as second chair in a limited number of felony cases.

The Drake Law Tax Clinic provides law students practical, hands-on experience assisting in the resolution of disputes between low-income taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service.

Law students are given the opportunity to handle all aspects of controversies with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including interviewing clients, preparing cases for appeals conferences, appearing at the conferences, preparing offers-in-compromise, filing petitions with the United States Tax Court, negotiating settlements with the IRS and occasionally appearing before the Tax Court. The Clinic also provides students with high quality training that is transferable to both large firm and solo practices. The Tax Clinic is independent and separate from the IRS and IDRF.

In fall 2013, the clinic will add a transactional clinic.

Location of Programs

Drake University Law School Neal & Bea Legal Clinic


Suzan Pritchett, Director of Clinics and Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Law.

Brent Pattison, Director of the Middleton Center for Children's Rights and Assistant Professor of Law, supervises/instructs second- and third-year law students handling child welfare cases before both trial and appellate courts.

Clinic Faculty

Gordon Allen, professor of law, supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling appellate law.

Sally Frank, professor of law, supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling civil cases before trial courts.

Patricia Houllihan, adjunct professor of law, supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling domestic violence immigration cases.

James Monroe, professor of law, supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling income tax law.

Robert Oberbillig, adjunct professor of law supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling elder law cases.

Robert R. Rigg, associate professor of law and director of the criminal defense program, supervises/instructs second and third year law students handling criminal cases before both trial and appellate courts.


In addition to a $1 million gift from Joan and Lyle Middleton, the Children's Rights Center receives funding from the Court Improvement Project. 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

For the last several years, the law school organized and partially-funded a New Orleans Spring Break Volunteer Trip, under the supervision of Erin Dallinger-Lain, Assistant Dean for Academic Services and a Drake Law graduate. This trip allows students to put into practice skills learned in the classroom through service. Student volunteered at the New Orleans Pro Bono Project which provides free, quality civil legal services to the poor. They were able to conduct client intakes, fill out and file divorce pleadings, create brochures for the public about elder abuse, fill out debt forms for bankruptcy, and create a national emergency contact directory. Many of the clients that the students were able to work with had been affected by Hurricane Katrina or the Gulf oil spill. There are plans to continue a volunteer trip each year over spring break, although the destination may change in the future.

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 assists refugees in Belize. Professor David McCord is a Levitt Distinguished Community Service Award winner and an Iowa Governor's Public Service Award winner. Russell Lovell has the following public service and pro bono honors: Excellence in Service Award, Iowa Legal Aid, Foot Soldiers in the Sand Award, National NAACP Convention, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trailblazer Award, NAACP 10-State West Central U.S. Region IV, 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas, President's Award for Individual Community Service, Des Moines NAACP, "Rose" from DES MOINES REGISTER editorial board, for public service contributions; counsel of record, 14 reported civil rights cases, including desegregation of Indiana State Police and Des Moines Fire departments; set U.S. Supreme Court precedent in the Kansas City school desegregation that will encourage private attorneys to provide representation in civil rights cases to individuals who otherwise cannot afford an attorney; Madelyn Levitt Distinguished Community Service Award, Drake University


Supreme Court Day Celebration - The Ferguson Prize Gold ($1000) and Silver($500) are presented to the students who best exemplify the commitment of Drake Law School and the legal profession to public service, and who has rendered outstanding, primarily legal assistance to eligible individuals or groups in the Law School Clinic or to the other public service projects integrated with the Law School.

The William and Ellen Cooney Hoye Award ($500) is presented to the graduating student who in the opinion of the faculty demonstrates the greatest promise as an advocate.

Drake encourages public service and will award a certificate to any student who completes 60 hours of public service during his/her law school career. The students' names are included in the graduation program as having received the certificate.

Community Service

The Christian Legal Society sponsors various community service activities, including a mitten tree in December and serving meals at a local homeless shelter.

The Public Service Scholars, SBA, and the NAACPannually host the Halloween Hoops Shoot Out Party for between 200 - 275 inner city children.

Reggie's Sleepout raises homelessness awareness and money in support of Iowa Homeless Youth Centers.

Animal Legal Defense Fund raises funds to support animal defense causes.

SBA and the Public Interest Law Association host an annual fundraiser to support summer scholarships for students working in public service positions.

Public Interest Law Association holds Court to Court 5K fundraiser for Iowa Legal Aid.

International Law Society raised funds for the Kigali Public Library, the first public library in Rwanda. They also raise funds for the James Albert Foundation, benefitting refugees in Belize.

Drake Law Women holds Raffle for a Reason to raise money for Children and Families of Iowa.

Law School Public Interest Programs>

Contact Information

Carole Tillotson
Associate Director of Career Development
P: (515) 271-4974

Russell Lovell II
Professor of Law
P: (515) 271-1806

Jennifer Zwagerman
Director of Career Development
P: (515) 271-4119

Certificate/Curriculum Programs


The Law School provides education about, opportunities for and recognition of student participation in pro bono activities through a variety of programs, including the Public Service Scholarship Program, Summer Public Service Internships, IOLTA Summer Poverty Law Internships, Public Service Speakers, Public Service Volunteer Opportunities, the Public Service Certificate, the Spring Break Volunteer Trip, and the Drake Legal Clinic. In addition, student organizations at the Law School, sometimes with faculty assistance, provide students with additional opportunities to engage in public service activities, both law and non-law related.

Public Service Scholarship Program

Since 1995, the Law School's Public Service Scholarship Program has been a very successful program under the leadership of former Associate Dean and Professor Russell Lovell. The November 2008 issue of THE NATIONAL JURIST ranked Drake University Law School forty-sixth of Best Law Schools for Public Interest Law. Throughout most of the fifteen years, and every year since 2004, the Law School has annually allocated six full-tuition and four three-quarter tuition scholarships to students with strong academic credentials and a demonstrable public service background and commitment. Two full-tuition awards are made to entering students (for all three years of law school) and three-quarter tuition awards are made to two students upon completion of the 1L year (for the final two years of law school).

Each of the Public Service Scholars (and numerous other law students interested in public service and summer internship opportunities) are mentored by Professor Lovell and assisted in their search for employment.

Public Service Certificate

Drake University Law School recognizes the volunteerism of its students as a precursor to the pro bono obligations the profession expects lawyers to fulfill and for the inherent value of those services to the providers and the recipients. To promote public service volunteerism, the Law School has compiled a non-exclusive list of public service opportunities in which students can engage. The Law School recognizes, with a certificate, any student who completes sixty hours of public service during the student's law school career. Any student desiring recognition must submit his or her application to the Assistant Dean specifying the particulars of the public service for which recognition is sought with documentation sufficient to demonstrate the time commitment has been met.

Public Interest Centers

Middleton Center for Children's Rights
Agricultural Law Center
Constitutional Law Center
National Training Center for Public Service Attorneys - Hosts NITA conference for public service attorneys annually
Health Law and Policy Center
American Judicature Society
Legislative Practice Center

Public Interest Clinics

Neal and Bea Smith Legal Clinic
Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic-Trial
Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic-Appellate
Children's Rights Clinic
Criminal Law Clinic
Elder Law Clinic
General Civil Practice Clinic
First Year Trial Practicum


Drake University Law School offers numerous externship/internship opportunities including: Prosecutor, Environmental Law, Federal Public Defender, Ethics, Insurance, Independent, Probate, Securities, U.S. Attorney's Office, Administrative Law and Judicial Clerkships, Iowa Civil Rights, Iowa Workers Compensation and Iowa Legal Aid.

Classes with a Public Service Component

First Year Trial Practicum
Environmental Law
Animal Law
Children's Law
Civil Rights (Includes immigrant rights, indigenous peoples' rights)
Community Economic Development
Advanced Constitutional Law (Includes First Amendment)
Consumer Rights
Advanced Criminal Law (Includes Juvenile Justice, Death Penalty)
Disability Law
Domestic Violence Law
Elder Law
Election Law (Voting Rights)
Government (General public policy and legislation)
Health Law (Includes public health issues, patients'' rights, AIDS law
Human Rights
Immigration and Asylum Law
International Policy & Development
Low Income Taxpayer
National Security; Community safety
Poverty Law
Racial Justice/Race Theory
Sexual Orientation and the Law
Women's Rights/Gender and the Law
Worker's Rights; corporate responsibility

Public Interest Journals

Constitutional Law Symposium

Drake Journal of Agricultural Law

PI Career Support Center

Students receive individual counseling, public interest employer panels, and group meetings regarding funding opportunities for summer including Loan Repayment Assistant Programs, Federal Work Study and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. In addition, students have access to a full resource library of public interest opportunities. Students also attend on and off-campus public interest job fairs. Drake Law School provides an on-campus interview program that includes public interest employers and an experienced public interest career counselor. Drake Law School devotes an entire week to public interest issues and includes a one-day career fair for public interest organizations.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

None listed

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:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Drake 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:

None listed

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:

  • 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 Iowa Legal Aid offices in Iowa. The internship qualifies under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule as law school-supervised academic experiences because of faculty supervision.
  • The Student Bar Association and the Public Interest Law Association have raised funds to allow additional students to intern with Iowa Legal Aid offices.
  • The Law School's Career Development Office (CDO) has developed a list of public service employers who are certified as eligible to participate in the Federal Work Study summer internship program. In addition to Iowa Legal Aid and Story County Legal Aid discussed above, a number of public service agencies have been approved for participation, ranging from Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault to the Iowa Attorney General's Office.
  • For more than a decade the Law School has funded Charles & Joseph Howard Fellowships in the Drake Legal Clinic through the earnings from the student's 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. Students must have a 2.00 law school cumulative grade point average. Howard Fellows are certified under the Iowa Supreme Court Student Practice Rule. Fellows must commit to a minimum of ten weeks and 200 hours of client representation. The Fellowship provides a scholarship that covers 2 - 4 hours of Summer Tuition, approximately $2,000-$4,000.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

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

Dwight D. Opperman Lecture Series

Public Service Scholarship Program speakers

Constitutional Law Symposium

Agricultural Law Symposium

Student Public Interest Groups

Agricultural Law Association

Alternative Dispute Resolution Society

American Bar Association - Drake University Law School Division

American Constitution Society - Drake Law Chapter

Asian Pacific American Law Student Association

Black Law Student Association

Business Law Society

Christian Legal Society

Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity

Drake Association for Child Advocacy

Drake Law Democrats

Drake Law LGBT Student Association

Drake Law Republicans

Drake Law School Chapter of the National Association for Consumer Advocacy

Drake Law Women

Environmental Law Society

The Federalist Society

Health Law Student Association

Hispanic Latino Law Student Society

Intellectual Property Law Society

International Law Society

Military Law Student Association

Moot Court Board

Public Interest Law Association

Student Animal Legal Defense Fund

Student Bar Association

August 6, 2018