University of Arizona

University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law
1201 E Speedway
Tucson, AZ 85721

Law School Pro Bono Programs 

Contact Information

Martha Fenn
Coordinator of Special Projects
P: (520) 621-1166

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

The University of Arizona has been partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP), a program of Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA), for more than fifteen years. The partnership, VLP Advocates, helps deliver legal services to Pima County residents in need of civil legal help. To date, more than 1,200 law students have volunteered with VLP. Students are supervised by an army of Southern Arizona volunteer lawyers. Through the program, Arizona Law students have helped more than 14,000 low-income people in need of civil legal services. Law students in the VLP Advocates program touch nearly 25% of all cases that VLP handles each year.

The students can get involved in a number of different projects and clinics. These include:

  • Self Service Center Clinic
  • Bankruptcy Court Reaffirmation Hearings
  • Domestic Relations Clinic
  • Minor Guardianship Court Project
  • Advice-Only Project

Prior to their participation, students are trained by VLP in a 2-3 hour substantive law meeting and through written materials. Students who participate must donate at least 12-15 hours each semester, though many choose to participate even more substantially.

Location of Programs

The main program is headquartered at the SALA VLP office at:

2343 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 200
Tucson, AZ 85719

Students who participate in the Domestic Relations Clinic and the Advice-Only Project will meet at the VLP headquarters.

The Self Service Center Clinic and Minor Guardianship Court Projects are held at the Pima County Superior Court:

110 W. Congress St.
Tucson, AZ 85701

The Bankruptcy Court Reaffirmation Hearings are held at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona:

38 S. Scott Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701


The VLP Advocates Program is coordinated by SALA VLP. The program coordinator is Melissa Spiller. Melissa typically has three current Arizona Law students who assist as coordinators.

Melissa Spiller
Attorney/Student Coordinator
Volunteer Lawyers Program Advocates Program
2343 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 200
Tucson, AZ 85719
P: (520) 623-9465


VLP is funded by numerous organizations and individuals throughout Arizona. 

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Wills for Heroes

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy. Faculty and administrators serve as advisors for six of the nine pro bono projects.


Each month, one student participating in VLP Advocates is selected as the Outstanding Law Student of the Month Award. A plaque with the student's picture is erected in the law school campus.

Each fall, VLP sponsors an annual recognition luncheon for its entire program. At the luncheon, a law student is honored as the Outstanding Law Student of the Year.

In the spring, VLP organizes a law student recognition event held at Arizona Law. The law school dean and a Superior Court judge typically speak at the luncheon, where VLP thanks each of the students for their participation.

Community Service

Our student/faculty Community Service Board promotes community service in a number of ways. (1) It coordinates monthly community service projects, which have included helping low-income families build homes through United Housing; volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House; organizing a team for AIDSWalk; helping Native Seed Search on their farm south of Tucson; and organizing activities for children at a local hospital. Activities are held on Saturday mornings, and faculty/staff/students participate. (2) It advises students and student organizations who want to get involved in community service work, by providing information, recommendations, and contacts. (3) It maintains paper and on-line resources about community service opportunities for law students. (4) It presents community service awards each spring. Law Students also participate in Lawyers for Literacy, in conjunction with the Pima County Young Lawyers Division. They tutor local elementary school children once per week during the school year.

Law School Public Interest Programs 

Contact Information

Ray Austin
Director, Tribal Courts Clinic
P: (520) 626-0236

Paul Bennett
Director, Child and Family Law Clinic
P: (520) 626-5245

Vanessa Buch
Director, Wrongful Conviction Clinic
P: (520) 621-2466

Virginia Clarke
Director, Judicial Clerkships
P: (520) 626-5011

Mary Guss
Director, Estate Planning Clinic: Will Drafting in Indian Country
P: (520) 626-0236

Robert Hershey
Director, Indigenous Peoples Law Clinic
P: (520) 621-5677

Seanna Howard
Co-Director, International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop
P: (520) 626-8223

Lisa Howell
Adjunct Professor, Judicial Clerking Program

Kristine Huskey
Director, Veterans' Advocacy Clinic
P: (520) 626-6095

Negar Katirai
Director, Community Law Group
P: (520) 626-2256

Gloria Klinicki
Administrative Associate, Clinical Programs
P: (520) 626-5232

Karen Kowalski
Assistant Dean, Career Development
P: (520) 626-6107

Lynn Marcus
Co-Director, Immigration Law Clinic
P: (520) 621-4647

Joanna Medrano
Director, Mortgage & Consumer Finance Law Group
P: (520) 626-4093

Nina Rabin
Co-Director, Immigration Law Clinic
P: (520) 621-9206

Andy Silverman
Director, Civil Rights Restoration Clinic
P: (520) 621-1975

Rob Williams
Co-Director, International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop
P: (520) 621-5622

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Although Arizona Law does not have a certificate designed specifically for public interest law, the following certificates and programs carry a strong, public interest focus:

  • Bacon Immigration Law & Policy Program
  • Environmental Law, Science & Policy Program Certificate
  • Health Law Certificate
  • Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program Certificate
  • Program in Criminal Law and Policy Certificate

Public Interest Centers

None listed

Public Interest Clinics

  • 9th Circuit Appellate Representation Clinic
  • Arizona Attorney General's Office Clinic
  • Child and Family Law Clinic
  • Civil Rights Restoration Clinic
  • Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Criminal Prosecution Clinic
  • Estate Planning Clinic: Will Drafting in Indian Country
  • Immigration Law Clinic
  • Indigenous Peoples Law Clinic
  • Intensive Workers' Rights Clinic – Farmworker Legal Assistance
  • International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop
  • Tribal Courts Clinic
  • Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic
  • Workers' Rights Clinic
  • Wrongful Conviction Clinic


  • Arizona State Legislature Externship
  • Bacon Immigration Law & Policy Program Internships
  • Center for Creative Photography Externship
  • Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement Externship
  • Federal Public Defender Externship
  • Judicial Externships
  • Pasqua Yaqui Court of Appeals Externship
  • Udall Family Fellowship/Arizona Prosecution Attorneys' Advisory Council Externship
  • United States Attorney's Office Externship
  • University Medical Center General Counsel Externship

Classes with a Public Service Component

In addition to the courses that are taken in concert with the clinics, journals, or externships listed above, the following classes have mandatory public service components:

  • Associated Students of the University of Arizona Legal Service Interviewing
  • Case Studies in Public Interest
  • Disability Law
  • Juvenile Detention Teaching Program

Public Interest Journals

All of the journals at Arizona Law accept submissions of articles in the public interest.

Public Interest Career Support Center

Arizona Law's Career Development Office provides numerous services to students who are interested in pursuing careers in the public interest and government sectors. These services include individualized counseling, lunchtime networking programs that involve government and public sector leaders throughout Arizona, publications designed to help with public sector and government job searches and in crafting application materials, and more.

Additionally, the Career Development Office hosts the annual Sonoran Desert Public Sector Interview Program, where students and alumni can interview with over fifty employers and can visit information tables for another ten or so. This program is limited to public interest and government employers only. We also welcome government and public interest employers at our regional Interviewing Programs in Las Vegas, Denver, Albuquerque, and Tucson.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Many of our students received loan repayment assistance through the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education Loan Repayment Program. The program was created in 1990 to establish a statewide loan assistance program for law school graduates employed in programs dedicated to serving the civil legal needs of the poor. Applicants must be members of the State Bar of Arizona (this requirement can be waived for up to 24 months), employed full-time with an approved non-profit legal organization and earning an income not to exceed $45,000. 

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

  • Community Law Group
  • Mortgage & Consumer Finance Law Group

Graduate Student Funded:

S. Thomas Chandler Public Service Award - The S. Thomas Chandler Public Service Award was established to assist graduating law students who will be entering public sector or public interest work upon graduation. The idea for an award was initially conceived by the Student Bar Association in 1999, and funded with donations from students, alumni and friends of Thomas Chandler.

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

Perry Rogers Scholarship - Full tuition 3-year scholarship, awarded each year up to 8 incoming students. In 2004-05, 3 students with strong public interest backgrounds received scholarships.

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

Using funds donated by one of our previous graduating classes, one student was funded for a public interest position in Summer 2005.

Other Funding Sources:

Students raised funds at an event coordinated by the Public Interest Law Organization. Students, faculty and administrators donated money to fund a position, then cast their vote for the person they most wanted to support, based on anonymous job descriptions submitted by students requesting funding.

Our Summer federal work study program provides paid employment for between 60 and 70 students (primarily first years). Students interview for the positions at our Sonoran Desert Public Sector Career Fair, held each February, and most have received job offers by early March. 2005 work study employers included the Arizona Governor's General Counsel; Arizona Attorney General (capital litigation, agriculture, transportation, employment, natural resources, and more); Arizona Secretary of State; county prosecutors and public defenders from throughout Arizona and beyond; Municipality of Anchorage; city attorneys throughout Arizona (criminal and civil divisions); Tucson City Court; Southern Arizona Legal Aid; White Mountain Legal Aid; Catholic Social Services Asylum Program; DNA Legal Services (the largest legal aid organization in the U.S. for Native Americans); the Gila River Indian Community; DC Employment Justice Center; Arizona Center for Disability Law; and National Center for Interamerican Free Trade.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Homecoming CLE Celebration for Students and Alumni – Free CLE for alumni and students. In 2004-05, the program was "Inherit the Wind -Celebrating Academic Freedom and the 75th Anniversary of the Scopes Trial," followed by a Courtyard BBQ and mariachi band.

Annual Marks Lecture – The 2004-05 lecturer was The Honorable Guido Calabresi, U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the Second Circuit, on "Equality in the American Constitution"

Annual McCormick Lecture – The 2004-05 lecturer was Pulitzer Prize winning author and scholar, Samantha Power, on "Can American Foreign Policy be Fixed?"

Annual Supreme Court Highlights CLE – Cosponsored by the American Constitution Society Student Organization, this annual event always includes numerous public interest issues, with specifics depending on the Court's docket. In 2004-05, topics included Guantanamo Cases, U.S. v Blakely, U.S. v Cheney, Ashcroft v. ACLU, City of Littleton, Locke v. Davey. A reception followed in the Courtyard.

Border Tour of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico – Each year, the Immigration Law class takes a border tour to Nogales through BorderLinks, a border educational organization. In 2004-05, following the tour, the class assisting BorderLinks in its annual holiday toy drive.

Distinguished Visiting Scholar Series – Jointly sponsored by the law school's Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program and Udall Center's Native Nations Institute, 2004-05 topics included "Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations," a talk and book signing by Charles Wilkinson, Distinguished University Professor, Moses Lasky Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law.

Student Public Interest Groups

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Constitution Society
  • Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
  • Black Law Students Association
  • Christian Legal Society
  • Environmental Law Society
  • Family and Juvenile Law Association
  • Federalist Society
  • Immigration Law Student Association
  • International Law Society
  • Jewish Law Students Association
  • J. Reuben Clark Law Society
  • Latino Law Student Association
  • Law Students for Reproductive Justice
  • Law Women's Association
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • Native American Law Student's Association
  • Pride Law
  • Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • Students of Arizona Health Law

Updated: August 6, 2018