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Duke University School of Law

Duke University School of Law
Science Drive & Towerview Road
Box 90393
Durham, NC 27708

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Kimberly Ann Bart
Assistant Dean, Public Interest & Pro Bono
[email protected]

Laura Brockington
Coordinator of Public Interest and Pro Bono
[email protected]

Kim Burrucker
Director of Public Interest & Pro Bono
[email protected]
(919) 613-7008


Category Type

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


Description of Programs

Students must complete 30 hours of pro bono service before graduation. They may begin doing pro bono work during their first year of law school.


The ultimate goal of the Duke Law School Pro Bono Project, created in 1991, is to help shape law students into lawyers who are committed to public service - whether that commitment is made by working full-time in a non-profit or governmental organization or by devoting time in their careers to pro bono work and other important civic and community activities. The Project connects Duke law students with non-profit, governmental and educational institutions in the community that are in need of law student assistance on projects serving the public.

Students are asked to sign a Pro Bono Pledge to contribute at least 50 hours of law-related community service while a student. Opportunities are promoted and facilitated through individual counseling, the Project's website, an annual retreat, presentations at orientation, an open house, a listserv and the law school's e-newsletter, and the work of student leaders of pro bono group projects. Students can receive assistance designing their own project or may choose from a wide variety of issue areas.


Location of Programs

The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono is a center operating independently but collaboratively with many other departments at Duke Law School to provide pro bono service opportunities, public interest activities, counseling, career enhancement and leadership development to the student body.



The Pro Bono Project is overseen by two full time employees, the Associate Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono and a non-tenure track faculty member. Both have other responsibilities, including teaching. The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono has a half-time administrative assistant.

The Office is advised by a public interest advisory group made up of student leaders.



The Pro Bono Project is part of the budget of the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono.

Administrative support is provided to pro bono group projects.

Administrative support is provided for faculty pro bono projects.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Advocacy Project - Students work with the Durham Crisis Center, volunteer with domestic violence legal aid attorneys, and sponsor awareness programs on domestic violence and sexual assault.

Guardian ad Litem (GAL) - Students are trained by the GAL office and certified by the court to represent children who have allegedly been abused or neglected. (In 2005-2006, a related project started called the Guardian ad Litem Litigation Project.)

Innocence Project - This Project, begun in the fall of 1999, is a collaborative effort with the UNC School of Law. It has grown into a separate non-profit organization, the NC Center on Actual Innocence. The project remains primarily student-run, with faculty advisors from both law schools and a volunteer Executive Director. The students review, investigate and pursue innocence claims of prisoners incarcerated in North Carolina.

Refugee Asylum Support Project (RASP)- Students investigate the conditions in home countries of those seeking asylum in the United States and do other immigration-related projects for organizations serving low-income immigrants.

Street Law Project - Law students teach the Bill of Rights and the American Court System in the Social Studies classes of local high schools and middle schools, as well as other sites such as an alternative school for juvenile defendants and a literacy center.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) - The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is a student-run project which assists low-income individuals in completing their income tax forms and in claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. Volunteers are recruited, trained and tested, and provide services from January through April every year.


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

The policy is embedded in the annual personnel review questionnaire sent by the Dean to all tenure and tenure-track faculty each year. Two parts of the questionnaire address community service, and one addresses pro bono specifically:

III. Contribution to the Law School Community 1.) Note any extraordinary service you have performed or are performing in the course of these assignments for this academic year (i.e., beyond Law School committee assignments). 2.) Describe any other activities in which you have engaged that benefit the larger Law School community (e.g., service on a mentoring committee; advice to a student organization; participation in Dedicated to Durham; involvement in student-initiated conferences, panels, or special events; other contributions to the intellectual life of students;. Question IV.1. Professional Service -- Describe any service you have performed to the public and/or the legal profession (e.g., work with professional associations; service on boards of directors; service to public interest organizations; pro bono legal services).



The Dean and the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono hold a year-end Public Interest Recognition Banquet at which students receive awards for pro bono contributions and for public interest leadership. The awards differ slightly each year based on what activity has taken place. Typical are: an award to all graduating students who took and met the Pro Bono Pledge; an award to all third-year students who participated in pro bono in each of their three years of law school; awards for outstanding leadership in public interest and pro bono; the Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award for over 100 hours in that year; the Substantial Pro Bono Service Award for between 50 and 100 hours that year; and the Significant Pro Bono Service Award for between 25 and 50 hours that year.

A special awards ceremony is held just before the graduation ceremony for the Faculty Awards. Three of the awards relate to public interest. The awards and descriptions follow:

Pro Bono Service Award: This award is presented to the graduating student who has most distinguished himself or herself by employing the education gained at DLS to provide free legal services, thereby carrying forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession. In evaluating candidates, the selection committee may consider clinical course work and summer activities.

Public Service Award: This award is presented to the graduating student who has most distinguished himself or herself in activities involving service to the broader community outside the Law School, demonstrating that a life in the law can be a life of public service. This award is based upon public interest activities other than pro bono legal services. In evaluating candidates, the selection committee may consider course work in public law and summer activities.

Law School Community Award: This award is presented to the graduating student who has most distinguished himself or herself in serving and strengthening the law school community, contributing to the tradition of collegiality that is a hallmark of Duke Law School.

Students are honored for their pro bono accomplishments by publicity given to them in school publications and through panel presentations.

"Blue Print awards" that include an announcement and a cash prize


Community Service

The Duke Bar Association Community Service Board provides numerous service opportunities for students at Duke Law School. Through facilitation of individual service projects and planning of group community service events, the Service Board encourages students to give back to the local community in Durham, N.C.

One of its main activities is Dedicated to Durham – This bi-annual project mobilizes students and faculty to do community service projects in the local community during special days arranged during fall orientation and in the spring. Other activities include Faculty Fridays, in which students volunteer with a designated faculty member each week, and Red Cross Blood Drives at the Law School.


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Laura Brockington
Coordinator of Public Interest and Pro Bono
[email protected]

Bruce Elvin
Associate Dean for Career & Professional Development
[email protected]
Career & Professional Development Center

Camesha McAllister
Director of Recruiting
[email protected]
Career & Professional Development Center

Stella Boswell
Career Counselor
Career & Professional Development Center

Tia Barnes
Director of Public Interest & JD Advising
[email protected]
Career & Professional Development Center


Certificate/Curriculum Programs

In addition to curricular counseling through the Associate Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono, Duke offers online advice to students interested in specializing in public interest law at


Public Interest Centers

The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono - The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono, along with an over 40-member student board, sponsors numerous programs to encourage public service values and involve students in public interest work. These include the Pro Bono Project; an overnight retreat; recognition events for pro bono and public interest leadership; summer public interest employment; a Faculty Lives in Public Service speaker series; an overnight Public Interest Retreat; and many other initiatives.

Center for the Study of the Public Domain -

Program in Public Law - - The Program in Public Law is dedicated to expanding our understanding of the laws that govern American governments and their officials. Brown bag lunch programs for the law school community are held throughout the year.(Note: The survey only allows for one choice of credit, pay or pro bono. All the Centers listed typically provide all three opportunities.)


Public Interest Clinics

AIDS Legal Assistance Project

Children's Education Law Project


Clinic for the Special Court for Sierra Leone

Community Enterprise Clinic

Death Penalty Clinic



In 2004-2005, externships were offered two ways (a third type of field placement opportunity was added in 2005-2006 -- domestic externships).

  1. Students in the Poverty Law seminar could receive a third credit for field work related to the course. This seminar is a broad study of poverty, poverty programs, and the United States civil justice system. Class topics include the history of access to justice, the demographics of poverty, a skills workshop on client-centered interviewing, and substantive topics such as food and income programs, health law, economic development, family law, employment, and housing.


  2. Second and third-year students, particularly those enrolled in the JD/LLM program, have the opportunity to participate for one semester in a legal job at a non-profit institution conducting international work. The externship also includes a research tutorial and a research paper under the supervision of a Law School faculty member. Students may earn a total of 14 semester-hours of credit for the entire semester.



Classes with a Public Service Component

Poverty Law

Wrongful Convictions: Causes and Remedies - See


Public Interest Journals

All the journals regularly feature public interest articles. Sample public interest articles for 2004-2005 can be found at


PI Career Support Center

Duke Law School has a rich array of services for students interested in pursuing careers in the non-profit and government sectors. The services are provided by the Career and Professional Development Center, and also by the Office of Public Interest & Pro Bono. Services include:

  • individual counseling based on the student's geographic preferences, issue area of interest, and preference for litigation, policy or legislation, among other criteria


  • programming to address the more common areas of public interest and government employment


  • peer-to-peer counseling from their fellow students who have already had summer work experience, most notably during "Table Talk" on Public Interest Summer Employment Recognition day, and other lunch and breakfast events


  • presentations by public interest alumni, including at the overnight Public Interest Retreat and also at lunch programs


  • recognition of the services of those students doing summer public sector work, including being honored at a breakfast and having their names and places of employment publicized that day


  • books and other resources located in the two departments, and guidance on how to use them


  • web-based resources and training on how to use them


  • summer grant money so that students can work in public sector jobs that cannot afford to pay them


  • a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to assist students in being able to afford public sector jobs


  • a reception at the Equal Justice Works job fair for attending students and DC alumni, and a law school program in advance of the job fair explaining why students should attend


  • general orientation programs on public interest employment and programs on summer fellowships and post-graduate fellowships


  • guidance in selection of their pro bono work and courses such that it will contribute to the public interest job search


  • listservs for those students who want fast and unabridged information on jobs, conferences, scholarships



Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)



Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:


Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:


Graduate Student Funded


Other Funding Sources:


Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Burdman/Steckley/Weitzel fellowships, which are funded through endowments of over $200,000 from the three donors named. The number and amount of the fellowships vary each year based on the amount on endowment interest available. In 2002, three fellowships of $3500 were awarded.

The Law School also contributes $10,000 to the student fund-raising effort.


Graduate Student Funded:

The Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) raises funds. For the summer of 2001, approximately $40,000 was raised, and $50,000 was distributed (including the Law School supplement of $10,000.)


Other Funding Sources:

The student group Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) raises funds through an auction, gear sales and other means. The Law School contributes $10,000 to the student fund-raising effort.

The sources of funds from individuals, firms or corporations in 2004-2005 are: three fellowship endowments of over $100,000 each jointly called the Burdman/Steckley-Weitzel/Carroll-Simon Fellowships. The number and amount of the fellowships vary each year based on the amount on endowment interest available. The Howrey law firm, based in Houston, Texas sponsors a $5,000 fellowship. Two members of the Class of 2004 gave funds to support fellowships in developing countries, and it is called the International Development Fellowship.

IOLTA (through the NC State Bar) provided three fellowships of $3000 each for the summer of 2005. These fellowships are for work at designated agencies or organizations in North Carolina. (Most years, five are provided.) The Stanback Fellowship (provided through the Nicholas School for the Environment) provides 40 or more fellowships of $4,000 to Duke Law students (as well as to students in other departments) who are placed with designated environmental organizations. Six students received these in the summer of 2005.


Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Leadership Retreat - Over 40 Duke Law students are selected to attend the Community Roundtable Leadership Retreat each year, which was sponsored last year by the law firm of White & Case LLC.

Women Judges Forum - This event is held each year in the spring semester to encourage students to consider the judiciary as part of their career path. Typically, several female judges on the NC Court of Appeals join female judges of other state courts and share personal reflections on their career choice, the barriers they faced, and the rewards of the job.

Faculty Lives in Public Service - Like our students whose extracurricular activities enrich the intellectual life of the Law School for other students and provide pro bono service for under-served client populations, the faculty who respond to requests for their special expertise from congressional committees, the media and other groups and organizations perform an important public service. That lawyers have a duty to educate and serve is one of the lessons Duke Law School tries to teach its students, and providing good models for this role is an important part of its teaching function. Beyond this function, it is simply the case that law professors, like all lawyers, share responsibility for transmitting to the broader society knowledge and understanding of the law and an appreciation of the values advanced by the rule of law.

The Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono provides an opportunity for faculty to share their leadership in public service. The Faculty Lives in Public Service speaker series provides an opportunity for students to meet with Duke Law School faculty who have held positions in government or non-profit organizations, have participated in pro bono opportunities, or have used their scholarship for public service. Faculty members talk about their work and discuss it with students during informal brown bag lunches.

Public Interest Retreat - The Public Interest Retreat, started in 1998, is an annual overnight weekend retreat for students and faculty interested in and committed to public service. The Retreat is held early in the Spring semester on Friday and Saturday, at The Summit Conference Center, Brown Summit, NC. The Retreat is an opportunity for students, faculty and administrators to spend a weekend reflecting on their public service aspirations and possibilities. Distinguished speakers, including alumni, working in public interest are invited each year to address the participants as well as to participate in small group activities and workshops. Time is also set aside for informal socializing and recreational activities. Students participate in a letter writing activity in which they write a letter to their future self about where they would like to be one year after graduation, and it is mailed to them at that time.

The Retreat is planned by a committee made up of Duke Law students and the faculty/administrators in the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono.

Southern Justice Spring Break Mission Trip - Students spend their spring break doing service work in high-profile organizations throughout the South. In 2006, twenty-one students went to New Orleans to do hurricane-relief work; to Fort Worth to work with hurricane evacuees; to Honolulu to work in the Public Defenders Office; to Appalachian Kentucky to work with legal aid and on miners' health and safety issues; and to Atlanta to work with the Southern Center on Human Rights.


Student Public Interest Groups

Women Law Students Association

American Constitution Society

Black Law Students Association

Board of the Office of Public Interest & Pro Bono

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Support Project

Duke Bar Association Community Service Board

Duke Environmental & Policy Forum

Duke Law Democrats

Duke Law Journal

Duke Law Republicans

Environmental Law Society

Federalist Society

Health Law Society

Hispanic/Latino Law Students Association

Innocence Project

International Law Society

Jewish Law Students Association

Public Interest Law Foundation