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University of Michigan Law School

University of Michigan Law School
701 S. State Street
Suite 1100
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Amy Sankaran
Director of Externship and Pro Bono Programs
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
701 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
[email protected]
(734) 764-7787


Category Type

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


Description of Programs

The University of Michigan Law School not only trains its students to be fine lawyers and advocates but also to be exemplary members of their communities.  The goal of the University of Michigan Law School Voluntary Pro Bono Pledge is to encourage students to use their professional training to benefit the community, particularly underserved populations.  The American Bar Association (ABA) Rule 6.1 states that "every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year." As such, the Pro Bono Pledge, which asks JD students to complete 50 hours of pro bono service during their time in law school (LLM students must complete 25 hours), is founded on the principle that attorneys have an ethical obligation to their communities, and with the knowledge that pro bono legal work provides students exposure to a range of important legal issues and invaluable experience that will shape their education.


Location of Programs

The University of Michigan’s Pro Bono Program is housed within our Experiential Learning Program.



The Pro Bono Program is staffed by a Director with administrative support..



The Pro Bono Program is funded by the Law School. Student pro bono projects can seek funding directly from the Pro Bono Program each year.


Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse (CRLC) The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is a website ( that collects information on civil rights cases in order to foster greater understanding of American civil rights litigation. Students choose a category to work on from within the site’s covered categories, and conduct research under the direction of Prof. Margo Schlanger. They find, read, and summarize historic and current civil rights cases.

Environmental Crimes Project A group of Michigan Law students will work with Professor David M. Uhlmann to conduct the first ever comprehensive empirical study of environmental criminal prosecutions in the United States. The students will collect information and develop a database about all federal environmental prosecutions from 2002 to today, which will facilitate research and analysis about criminal enforcement, including the discretionary factors that make environmental violations criminal and the geographical disparities in criminal enforcement under the environmental laws. Research results will be published and shared with Congress, the United States Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eviction Defense Team
The Eviction Defense Team works in partnership with the United Community Housing Coalition to prevent Detroit and Washtenaw residents from being evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers will have the opportunity to both work with clients and gain direct courtroom experience all in a virtual format. EDT includes phone intakes, where students will call potential clients to help them through the paperwork to become clients and docket staffing, where students will take notes on the court proceedings and help with anything the attorneys might need during Housing Court. We ask all volunteers to commit to a 2-hr shift every week, which is eligible for pro bono hours, and we will provide all training and supervision necessary.

Humanity for Prisoners - Sentence Commutation Project
Humanity for Prisoners (HFP) is a Michigan-based 501(c)3. We are an inclusive community and believe all prisoners and their loved ones deserve to be treated with humanity, care, and dignity without exception.

Founded in 2001, we provide personalized, problem-solving services for incarcerated persons in order to alleviate suffering beyond the just administration of their sentences. Those services include helping individuals with their applications for clemency (pardons or commutation) and preparation for dealing with the Parole Board.

Project participants will work directly with an incarcerated client to develop an effective application and follow up with the State of Michigan's Parole Board as necessary with hopeful outcomes of reaching the Governor's desk for review.

Legal Alternative Winter Breaks (LAWBreaks) offers service-learning experiences for Michigan Law students during the traditional Spring Break of the academic calendar. The trips are designed to provide a brief immersion into the human side of a pressing legal or social justice issue. Students meet and work together with actors on many sides of the relevant issues, contribute to important social justice work, and have a chance to bond with fellow students outside of Hutchins Hall.

Michigan Legal Help Program
LiveHelp is an online chat service on, a public legal information website that helps people who have to go to court without a lawyer. LiveHelp is open from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Monday - Friday. LiveHelp Agents help visitors to the website find legal information and answer simple questions that do not require legal advice. This is a great pro bono opportunity that lets you interact with ordinary people who have legal problems, and challenges you to issue-spot and provide plain language answers about legal issues. LiveHelp Agents can volunteer from any computer with internet access and sign up for available shifts at-1ill on Google Calendar. Agents are supervised by Michigan Legal Help staff during their shifts, and receive monthly feedback on their performance. Training materials will be provided.

OUTreach is a collaborative work of the Outlaws of the University of Michigan Law School, Legal Services of S. Central Michigan, and local volunteer attorneys. Our goals are to provide free, LGBT-centered legal support to individuals across the state of Michigan, and to engage in activism to shift local and state laws towards a more equitable society. We cover a variety of practice areas including custody, divorce, adoption, estate matters, name changes, gender marker corrections, public benefits, expungement, and more. Our remote work looks a little different -- we're still offering information and resources to people with legal questions, but we are not taking on clients. Our major project for the semester will be helping a community member start a non-profit to provide LGBTQ youth housing in Ypsilanti.

Project Access
Project Access complies and summarizes recent case law applicable to trial and appellate attorneys at the Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) in New Orleans, LA. Participants earn pro bono hours reading and summarizing cases that will be sent to OPD in the form of a newsletter. The lawyers at OPD use the newsletter as a quick reference for recent precedent when writing trial motions and appeals for clients. The project typically sends one newsletter per semester, and we will offer a second chance to participate next semester.

Property Tax Appeal Project
The Property Tax Appeal Project is a partnership between Michigan Law and the Coalition for Property Tax Justice in Detroit. Student advocates will help homeowners appeal their property tax assessments by conducting intake appointments, staffing the project's hotline, and helping homeowners write appeal letters. The project was created in response to the tax foreclosure crisis in Detroit. Between 2011 and 2015 25% of homes were foreclosed by the City of Detroit. Many of these foreclosures would not have happened if the City properly assessed the property taxes.

Public Benefits Advocacy Project (PBAP)
The Public Benefits Advocacy Project’s mission is to assist low-income members of our community in applying for public benefits such as food assistance, health insurance, heating assistance, and more. We also work with Legal Services of South Central Michigan to help these individuals navigate the all too complicated public benefits system to ensure they actually receive the amount of benefits they are entitled to by law. PBAP volunteers pre-pandemic would attend site visits at various locations including homeless shelters and food pantries and help individuals submit their benefits applications. Office Hours volunteers then follow up with these individuals to help them gather the necessary documents to complete the application process and file appeals anytime an individual is wrongfully denied benefits, assistance, and more. We strive to help these individuals navigate the overly complex public benefits system to ensure they actually receive the amount of benefits they are entitled to by law. Volunteers gain useful client counseling and case management skills while providing a critical service to some of the most vulnerable members of our local community.

Student Sexual Assault and Harassment Legal Advocacy Service (SAHLAS)
The Student Sexual Assault and Harassment Legal Advocacy Service (SAHLAS) is an independent, law-student led, pro bono project designed to assist university student survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, gender-motivated stalking, and sexual harassment in navigating the Title IX process in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We provide free and confidential advocacy and support for people who are undergraduates or graduate students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. We can provide information to survivors about the Title IX process, including how to file and pursue a complaint, as well as rights under Title IX and University of Michigan’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. We can also provide information and referrals for both internal and external supportive resources. If a survivor chooses to pursue a Title IX complaint, SAHLAS can also provide hands-on support by attending interviews and meetings with the survivor, editing statements and narratives, and assisting with the appeals process. SAHLAS is also taking on a major role in the policy sphere, helping educate students at the University of Michigan how to navigate the ever-changing Title IX policy. We also work very closely with the Office of Institutional Equity, SAPAC, and the Office of Student Conduct Resolution to keep track of how the changes to the Federal Title IX policy are being implemented here at Michigan.

Student Rights Project
The Student Rights Project (SRP) is a pro bono organization comprised of graduate students in Michigan’s Schools of Law, Social Work, and Education. SRP provides three services: direct student advocacy, school code revision, and a tutoring program. Teams of SRP members come together to advocate for K-12 students in Southeast Michigan who are facing suspension or expulsion. During the disciplinary process, we strive to empower students and families, and we follow up with them by connecting them with community support networks. Beyond direct student advocacy, SRP promotes the rights and dignity of students through the School Code Project. School Code Advocates read and evaluate codes of conduct from Michigan school districts to ensure compliance with Michigan law. SRP is also launching a tutoring program in an effort to provide more holistic services for children and families.

Syrian Accountability Project
The Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) is a cooperative effort between activists, NGOs, students, and other interested parties to document war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of the Syrian Crisis. The primary objective is to help secure justice for the Syrian people by aiding future prosecution efforts. The project aims to produce an impartial, high-quality analysis of open source materials and to catalogue that information relative to applicable bodies of law, including the Geneva Conventions, the Rome State, and Syrian Penal Law.  

Wolverine Street Law
Wolverine Street Law gives students a weekly opportunity to utilize their legal education to engage with the community in a way that is flexible with their schedule. We offer four locations off-campus (a men's prison, a women's prison, a juvenile detention center, and an after-school elementary program) where you get the chance to teach a site-tailored legal lesson. It is a great way to share your knowledge and connect with the Ann Arbor community. Lessons are provided but those who are interested in lesson planning are encouraged to do so!

Voting Rights Initiative
Prof. Katz's VRI project canvasses cases decided under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The data we compile is used by academics and lawyers to identify trends in the courts, quantify the impact of cases like Shelby County, and support litigation. Students are asked to read and categorizes a handful of cases a week, for as many or as few hours as you'd like to devote. The work is remote; beyond case coding, interested students have the opportunity to collaborate on academic articles and a soon-to-be-published report. All students, even those without any background in voting issues, are welcome to join!


Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Good as is online.



Each year, we award a Pro Bono Service Award to one or more outstanding 1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLMs. We also award an annual Outstanding Pro Bono Project Award.

Students who complete the Voluntary Pro Bono Pledge attend an annual banquet in their honor, a certificate signed by the dean, and recognition in our graduation program.


Community Service

While we do not have a community service requirement, it's difficult to go a week without seeing posters encouraging law students, faculty, and staff to participate in blood, food, used cell phone, toy, clothes or other fundraising drives for various community organizations.

The University also has community service projects organized through the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning (


Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Lara Finkbeiner
Public Interest Director
University of Michigan Law School Office of Career Planning
Jeffries Hall, Rm. 1100, 701 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091
(734) 763-4404,  [email protected]
Pronouns: she, her 


Certificate/Curriculum Programs



Public Interest Centers

The University of Michigan Law School has long been a leader in public interest law and is dedicated to assisting current students and graduates who are interested in pursuing public interest opportunities. 


Public Interest Clinics

Child Advocacy Law Clinic
Child Welfare Appellate Clinic
Civil Rights Litigation Initiative
Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic
Community Enterprise Clinic
Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic
Entrepreneurship Clinic
Environmental Law and Sustainability Clinic
Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic
Human Trafficking Clinic
International Transactions Clinic
Juvenile Justice Clinic
Low Income Taxpayer Clinic
Michigan Innocence Clinic
Pediatric Advocacy Initiative
Transactional Law Clinics Program
Veterans Legal Clinic
Workers’ Rights Clinic



We have both full-time and part-time externships, where students can propose to work anywhere in the world. Beyond that, we have three established externship programs in Geneva, South Africa, and India, where we have established relationships with legal placements. Externships offer an exciting opportunity to augment classroom study with real-world work experience. Under the guidance of Michigan faculty and a field placement supervisor, students immerse themselves in legal work with nonprofit organizations throughout the country and world. Externships enable students to pursue sophisticated work in a particular field beyond our curricular offerings.


Classes with a Public Service Component

Michigan Law regularly offers courses that have service components, but the courses vary from year to year. Additionally, courses designated as "practicum" or "practical simulation" usually offer some type of public service component.


Public Interest Journals

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform --

Michigan Journal of International Law --

Michigan Journal of Gender & Law --

Michigan Journal of Race & Law --

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law --


PI Career Support Center

Our Office of Career Planning’s role in the public interest community is multiple. We work with students 1:1 to ensure you are able to find your career path—but we also serve a broader role of tying the various parts of the community together so that you have the support you need as you begin this journey.

Michigan Law grads work on behalf of immigrants, indigent criminal defendants, tenants, survivors of gender-based violence, consumers, children, parents, workers, LGBTQ+ individuals, survivors of human rights violations, the environment, state entities, the United States, and more.


Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The Debt Management Programs at the Law School provide graduates with maximum flexibility to choose jobs from any law-related area (excluding judicial clerkships and U-M funded fellowships), including modest-paying public interest positions, while still maintaining a reasonable lifestyle and remaining current on outstanding loan obligations. Michigan Law has one of the most generous LRAP programs in the country.   

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

Michigan Law has several postgraduate fellowships specifically for Michigan Law graduates:

  • Robert B. Fiske, Jr. Fellowship Program for Government Service
  • Michigan Law Fiza Quraishi Youth Law Fellowship
  • Clara Belfield & Henry Bates Overseas Fellowships
  • Michigan Legal Practitioner Fellowship


Graduate Student Funded:



Other Funding Sources:

Michigan Law graduates regularly receive post-graduate fellowships such as Fulbrights, Skadden Fellowships, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Soros Justice Fellowships, Justice Catalyst Fellowships, ACLU of DC Dunn Fellowships, Immigration Justice Corps Fellowships, and more.


Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:



Graduate Student Funded



Other Funding Sources:



Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Michigan Law guarantees funding for 1L and 2L public service summers. In addition, competitive internal fellowships include:

  • Bergstrom Child Welfare Summer Fellowship
  • Bobbe and Jonathan Bridge Child Welfare Summer Fellowship
  • Cohn Summer Fellowship
  • Dean's Public Service Fellows Program
  • Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship
  • The Outlaws Public Service Fellowship in Memory of Kevin E. Kennedy


Graduate Student Funded:

Student-funded fellowships are a proud Michigan Law tradition dating back to 1977. This student-run program provides guaranteed summer funding to all first-year law students by


Awarding competitive grants in the amount of $6,000 to 1Ls focused on careers in public service. In 2018, SFF provided 24 of these grants.

Providing interest-free loans in the amount of $4000 to all 1Ls (except those who receive an SFF grant or other Michigan Law funding for the summer).


Other Funding Sources:



Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The Office of Career Planning offers a variety of programs, series, and support designed to educate students about public interest and government careers and to encourage students to integrate public service with their professional development. We have, for example:

  • Programs with alumni practitioners in the field and social events with students and faculty;
  • Opportunities for hands on work such as clinics, pro bono projects, and externships;
  • On-campus interviews and support for career fairs;
  • One-on-one advising with public interest career counselors;
  • A fantastic cohort of peers who are dedicated to using their smarts to fight for justice!


Student Public Interest Groups

ACLU - Michigan Law Chapter American Constitution Society (ACS)
Compost Michigan
Consumer Advocacy and Financial Regulation (CAFRO)
Criminal Law Society
Cultural Heritage Law Society (CHLS)
Disability Rights Organization (DRO)
Education Law and Policy Society
Environmental Law Society (ELS)
Gender Violence Project (GVP)
Human Rights Advocates (HRA)
International Law Society
International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY)
Legal Alternative Winter Breaks
M for the People
Michigan Health Law Organization
Michigan Immigration and Labor Law Association (MILLA)
Michigan Law Veterans Society (MILVETS)
Michigan Parity Project (MPP)
Michigan Voting Project (MVP)
National Lawyers Guild
Organization of Public Interest Students (OPIS)
Poverty Law Society
Prisoners' Rights Organization of Students
Public Benefits Advocacy Project (PBAP)
Racial Justice Coalition (RJC)
Reproductive Rights and Justice at Michigan Law (RRJ)
Res Sista Loquitur: Women of Color Coalition
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Student Funded Fellowships (SFF)
Students Rights Project
Wolverine Street Law