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
Pro Bono Manager and Attorney Advisor
University of Michigan Law School
625 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
P: (734) 764-7787

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

The Office of Public Service (OPS) develops the vision for, and implements, the Pro Bono Program for the University of Michigan Law School community. OPS is dedicated to helping students and graduates integrate public service with their professional development and to guide those wishing to pursue careers in government or public interest. OPS supports pro bono work by: 1)initiating pro bono projects; 2) developing and implementing pro bono projects with the many active student groups; and 3)working with faculty on their pro bono projects.

Location of Programs

The University of Michigan Law School's Pro Bono Program is located within the Office of Public Service.


The Pro Bono Program is staffed by the Assistant Dean and the Administrator. Both positions are full time compensated positions.


The Pro Bono Program is funded primarily through the Office of Public Service. Student pro bono group projects are occasionally funded by law school grants to student groups and, in some cases, outside funding as well.

Faculty pro bono is either supported through OPS or the usual administrative and secretarial support; if additional funds are needed, they are funded on a case by case basis.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Wolverine Street Law -- This is a practical program of law-related education aimed at engaging high school students in a critical examination of their rights and responsibilities. Michigan Law students lead discussions related to practical legal problems, contemporary legal issues, and the ramifications of breaking the law. The underlying goal of the program is for high school students to understand how laws enhance society and how their actions affect society.

Washtenaw Workers' Rights Center: Students from the Labor Law Roundtable volunteer with the WWRC on a variety of issues related to workers' rights. Michigan Law students co-founded the WWRC.

Family Law Project ("FLP"): is a joint effort between Legal Services of South Central Michigan, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to indigent residents of its multi-county service area and the University of Michigan Law School. The mission of FLP is domestic violence prevention by providing safety to domestic violence survivors and their children through the law. FLP provides survivors with a full range of legal services, including protection orders, custody orders, and divorces as well as ancillary legal matters. After completing a training, first year students are assigned a protection order case and will interview the client, draft and file pleadings, assist with and attend any court hearings and otherwise monitor the case. Second and third year students who have previous experience at FLP may work on more complex cases, including divorce and custody matters.

The Food Stamp Advocacy Project is a law student organization working to reduce hunger by increasing participation in the food stamp program among eligible individuals in Washtenaw County. Working closely with Legal Services of South Central Michigan, student volunteers provide eligibility screenings to low-income individuals who may be eligible for food stamps, assist individuals in filling out food stamp applications, and provide individuals with information about their rights in the Food Stamp program.

Student Network for Asylum and Refugee Law (SNARL)- SNARL has an established relationship to provide pro bono assistance with Freedom House. Additionally, SNARL members have been involved in the creation of an asylum handbook for the Sixth Circuit and country conditions research and brief-writing for upcoming cases.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is not a formal faculty pro bono policy, but faculty are regularly engaged in pro bono projects that are as diverse as the faculty's interests. For example, law faculty work on pro bono cases involving human rights, the Voting Rights Act and death penalty representation. Several of the in-house projects are supervised by faculty or administrators. Finally, students may assist faculty members with their pro bono projects, which may take the form of research, amicus briefs or publication.


The Law School is currently examining whether to institute a pro bono award.

Community Service

Michigan Law School was the first law school in the nation to incorporate community service into its orientation. Each year, the orientation program includes an organized day of community service-Service Day-- for incoming students, staff and faculty. Service Day is followed by a barbecue dinner for all participants.

Community service doesn't begin and end with Service Day, however. In a community as vibrant as Michigan Law School, it's difficult to go a week without seeing posters encouraging law students, faculty and staff to participate in a 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

Alyson Robbins
Public Interest Director
University of Michigan Law School
701 S. State Street
1112 South Hall, Ann Arbor
MI 48109
P; (734) 763-4404

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

None listed

Public Interest Centers

The Office of Public Service serves as the focal point for activities related to public interest or government practice. Examples include:

  • The Public Interest/Public Service Faculty Fellows Program which brings in practitioners from government and public interest to teach students practical public service-centered courses and to provide career advice
  • Theoretical and clinical courses exploring social justice issues and their impact on disadvantaged communities
  • The Inspiring Paths speaker in residence series which allows students to interact with some of the best public interest and government lawyers in the country

Program in Refugee and Asylum Law -- Established in 1998 under the direction of ProfessorJames C. Hathaway, the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law brings together students, visiting scholars, and faculty with a commitment to reconciling international legal principles to the practical challenges posed by involuntary migration in all parts of the world.

Public Interest Clinics

Child Advocacy Law Clinic
Community and Economic Development Clinic
Criminal Appellate Practice
Entrepreneurship Clinic
Environmental Law Clinic
Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic
General Clinic
Human Trafficking Clinic
International Transactions Clinic
Juvenile Justice Clinic
Low Income Taxpayers Clinic
Mediation Clinic
Michigan Innocence Clinic
and Pediatric Advocacy Initiative


Externships offer an exciting opportunity to augment classroom study with real-world work experience. Students (under the guidance of both a faculty member and an attorney supervisor) may immerse themselves for an entire semester in legal work for government agencies or non-profits such as the U.S. State Department, Equal Justice Initiative, AIRE Center of London and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. There is also the annual South African externship program, which allows a limited number of students to perform externships in South Africa. During the 2006-2007 academic year, 25 students participated in this program.

Michigan's externship program is designed to provide individual students with advanced training and research opportunities in areas of particular interest to them that go beyond what is traditionally offered in a classroom setting. A student may develop a proposal that builds on work the student has done in school or provides background for work the student plans to do upon return. The proposal must demonstrate that external study provides an educational opportunity not available in the regular curriculum. Although skills training may be a component of an external studies program, the object of the program must be to further the student's legal education in the sense of deepening his or her understanding of the nature of law and the legal system; skills training alone is not an adequate justification for engaging in study outside the Law School. Because the production of significant scholarly work is a vital part of the program, any proposal for external studies must include a research project (written under the supervision of a member of the University of Michigan Law School faculty) equivalent to a 3- hour seminar paper in a subject related to the work of the externship agency.

In recent years, students have pursued externships with such organizations as the Office of the Legal Advisor of the U.S. State Department, the National Wildlife Federation, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Screen Actors Guild, the US Army Judge Advocate General, and the International Labor Rights Fund. For further information, please contact Christine Gregory, Director, Office of Student Affairs at 734/615-4517 or E-mail.

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 --

PI Career Support Center

OPS is dedicated to helping students and graduates integrate public service with their professional development and to guide those wishing to pursue careers in government or public interest. The OPS professionals work intensively with students pursuing careers in public service to help those students use their years at Michigan Law to position themselves for public service careers. OPS doesn't limit itself to just helping students find public interest or government summer internships; we work with students on course selection, identifying recommenders, fellowships, funding and everything that goes into making a Michigan Law student the best public service attorney. With the aid of Michigan Law's extensive network of alumni as well as job search resources such as Michigan Law's Jobnet, the Making a Difference Public Interest Guide, NALP's PSLawNet, and a host of other web-based resources, OPS provides Michigan Law students with the information they need to shape a career in public service. Finally, OPS works with the many active student groups to present topical workshops and to develop and implement pro bono projects.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

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
  • Clara Belfield & Henry Bates Overseas Fellowships
  • MLS Postgraduate Fellowship Program

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

Michigan Law graduates regularly receive post-graduate fellowships such as Fulbrights, Skadden Fellowships, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Supreme Court Assistance Fellowship at Public Citizen, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc.

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

  • Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Summer Fellowship (1Ls/2Ls)
  • Center for International & Comparative Law
  • Clara Belfield & Henry Bates Overseas Fellowships (2Ls/3Ls)
  • Cohn Summer Fellowship (1Ls/2Ls)
  • Dean's Public Service Fellows Program (2Ls)
  • Michigan Fellows in Refugee and Asylum Law (2Ls/3Ls)
  • Perry Watkins Fellowship (1Ls)
  • Program for Cambodian Law & Development Summer Internship Program (1Ls/2Ls)
  • Public Service Guarantee (2Ls)
  • Student Funded Fellowships (1Ls)

Graduate Student Funded:

Student Funded Fellowship (SFF) is a student organization that raises money and provides grants to Michigan Law students who take unpaid or very low-paying summer jobs in the public interest. SFF defines "public interest" jobs as "jobs that provide direct legal services to economically or socially disadvantaged people or interests." This broad concept includes positions with non-profit organizations, public sector agencies and government organizations in the U.S. and overseas.

SFF is nearing its 30th year and is a leader among similar fellowship programs at law schools throughout the country. Since its founding in 1978, SFF has funded over 1,000 students at more than 300 organizations across the United States and abroad. The SFF grant application process occurs each spring.

SFF raises funds for the grants each year through a variety of sources and activities. In addition to the traditional Pledge Drive and Phone-a-thon, SFF organizes an annual spring auction, which has earned record amounts each year since 1997. In 1997, SFF introduced a Hotel Voucher Program through which law firms interviewing Michigan students can contribute $150 for each student who chooses to stay with friends or relatives, rather than in a hotel, during a callback visit. SFF has also negotiated an agreement with a local bookstore to receive a percentage of law school book sales.

Other Funding Sources:

Sonnenschein Scholars Program: This award is annually provided to 2 Michigan Law students for a summer internship in public interest after her/his 1L year.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The Office of Public Service offers a variety of programs and the Inspiring Paths speaker in residence series designed to educate students about public interest and government careers and to encourage students to integrate public service with their professional development. For a representative sample of such programs, please see

Student Public Interest Groups

American Civil Liberties Union
American Constitution Society
Asia Law Society
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Bankruptcy Law Society
Black Law Students Alliance
Campbell Competition Board
Catholic Law Students Association
Christian Legal Society
Criminal Law Society
Education Law and Policy Society
Entrepreneurial Law Association
Environmental Law Society
Family Law Project
Federalist Society
Food Futures
Frank Murphy Society
Future Advocates In Training
Human Rights Advocates
Intellectual Property Students Association
International Law Society
J. Reuben Clark Law Society
JDs in the D
Jessup International Moot Court
Jewish Law Students Association
Latino Law Students Association
Law School Democrats
Law School Student Senate
Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Legal Advocates for Children and Youth
Legal Alternative Winter Breaks
Michigan Election Law Project
Michigan Energy Law Association
Michigan Health Law Organization
Michigan Immigration and Labor Law Association
Middle Eastern Law Students Association
Muslim Law Students Association
National Lawyers Guild
National Security Law Society
Native American Law Students Association
Older Wiser Law Students
Organization of Public Interest Students
Poverty Law Society
Prisoners' Rights Organization of Students
Public Benefits Advocacy Project
South Asian Law Students Association
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Student Funded Fellowships
Wolverine Street Law Organization
Women Law Students Association

August 6, 2018