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New York Law School

New York Law School
57 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Helena Prigal
Assistant Dean for Student Services
P: (212) 431-2851

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

The Law School's Public Service Certificate program recognizes students who have committed substantial time to working in the public interest, and students who earn the Public Service Certificate receive a notation on their transcript. Pro bono opportunities are promoted and facilitated via internal communication systems, including email, a public interest listserve, Center newsletters, a Career Services searchable database, and the school's website.

Location of Programs

The Public Service Certificate Program is housed in the Office of Public Interest and Community Service, within the Office of Professional Development.


The Public Service Certificate Program is administered by the Assistant Dean for Student Services.


The Office for Public Interest and Community Service is funded from the school's general operating budget. Pro bono group projects, especially those directed by a faculty member, are provided administrative support.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Domestic Violence Project - Through the Domestic Violence Project, students organize and provide training for participation in the Courtroom Advocates Program. The program gives students the opportunity to provide direct advocacy, education and services to domestic violence victims in New York City's Family Courts.

Unemployment Action Center - The UAC provides free representation to people in New York who are trying to claim their unemployment benefits. Students help claimants by presenting their cases in front of administrative law judges at the Department of Labor. This assistance includes researching unemployment insurance law and conducting direct and cross-examination. Students also appeal adverse decisions.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) - In the VITA program, trained students assist low-income members of the community in preparing income tax returns.

LIFT- Legal Information for Families Today –LIFT provides information to needy families in NYC's family courts. Life helps give low-income families the opportunity to advocate for their rights and navigate the family court system with greater confidence. Students volunteer for LIFT through the Law School's Justice Action Center.

Street Law – Teaching Law to High School Students– Students in the Law School's Justice Action Center's Street Law Program team with Groundwork, Inc. and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, and Jacobson LLP to teach middle and high school students about the law and their legal rights.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy. Some pro bono group projects are supervised by faculty members and/or law school administrators.


There are several award given for public interest work or pro bono service:

  • The Alexander D. Forger Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession (given to a student for demonstrated commitment to the public interest)
  • The Lung-chu Chen Award for Excellence in the field of Human Rights
  • The Justice Rose E. Bird Award for Motivation in Pursuing Public Interest Law
  • The New York State Bar Association Student Award (given to a student for demonstrated commitment to the public interest)

All students who have earned a public service certificate are recognized in the graduation program & receive a notation on their transcript.

Community Service

Annual participation in New York Cares Day,sponsored by the Student Bar Association and the Campus Advocates.

Black Law Students Association Outreach program for students in New York City high schools.

Assorted public interest activities sponsored by the Public Interest Coalition, Black Law Students Association, Civil Liberties Union, Domestic Violence Project, Jewish Law Students Association, Immigration Law Students Association, Legal Association for Women, the Republican Law Student Association, Phi Alpha Delta, Media, Entertainment and Sports Law Association, Asian American Law Students Association, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, Stonewall Law Students Association, Law Students for Children and Families, Italian Law Students Association, Unemployment Action Center, Campus Advocates, and the Student Bar Association.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Office of Career Services

Jessica Hedrick
Associate Director and Public Interest Advisor
P: (212) 431-2857

Wanda James
Public Interest Coordinator
P: (212) 431-2192

Office of Student Life

Helena Prigal
Assistant Dean for Student Services
P: (212) 431-2851

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

The Law School has ten academic centers, six of which offer the opportunity to specialize in various aspects of public interest law :

Justice Action Center

Institute for Information Law and Policy

International Law Center

Center for Professional Values and Practice

Center for New York City Law,

Diane Abbey Center for Children and Families

Public Interest Centers

Office of Public Interest and Community Service (OPICS) sponsors community-wide public service opportunities, administers the Public Service Certificate Program, and serves as an information hub for the public service activities of the Justice Action Center, The Diane Abbey Center for Children and Families, the Lawyering Skills Center, the Office of Career Services, the Office of Student Life and student organizations, as well as public service activities sponsored by other academic centers and organizations at the Law School. Housed in the Office of Professional Development, OPICS is the central source for information about public interest curricular offerings and center affiliations, pro bono and volunteer activities, and public interest career development.

The Justice Action Center – Contact: Professor Richard Marsico, 212-431-2180, E-mail – The Center is currently involved in a number of projects, including:

  • Safe Passage – Immigration Status for Youth –The Safe Passage Immigration Project is a clearinghouse that matches unaccompanied minors eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with pro bono attorneys, who are assisted by law students. Safe Passage conducts immigration screenings at NYLS and in conjunction with nonprofit and foster care agencies throughout NYC. Students participate in Safe Passage through the Law School's Justice Action Center.
  • The Economic Justice Project – The Economic Justice Project (EJP) is dedicated to promoting economic development in traditionally underserved communities, primarily through bank lending, investment, and services. The EJP uses the Community Reinvestment Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to hold banks and other lenders accountable to meet the credit, investment, and service needs of traditionally underserved neighborhoods.
  • The International Mental Disability Law Reform Project –The International Mental Disability Law Reform Project promotes a wide range of advocacy initiatives in Europe, South American, Asia and Africa. It is involved in legislative reform, lawyer and law student training, pro bono legal assistance, and the full range of law reform projects that relate to the practice of mental disability law in other nations.
  • The Racial Justice Project– The Racial Justice Project is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of people who have been denied those rights on the basis of race and to increase public awareness of racism and racial injustice in the areas of education, employment, political participation, and criminal justice. The Racial Justice Project's advocacy includes litigation, training, and public education.

The Diane Abbey Center for Children and Families – Contact: Professor Carlin Meyer, 212-431-2194, E-mail

The Center for New York City Law

International Law Center

Institute for Information Law & Policy

The Center for Professional Values and Practice

Public Interest Clinics

Criminal Law Clinic

Elder Law Clinic

Mediation Clinic

Poverty Law Clinic

Securities Arbitration Clinic


About 40% of our externship placements are in public interest positions, in the fields of criminal justice, international human rights, immigration law, and New York City law. Students work between 12-15 hours per week at their placement and keep a journal of their experiences and what they learned from it.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Center for Professional Values and Practice Capstone – the CPVP Capstone is a required course for CPVP Harlan Scholars and may be completed with a public service opportunity accompanied by a report on the student's experience.

Justice Action Center Capstone – the JAC Capstone is a required course for JAC Harlan Scholars. JAC students participate in projects with practicing attorneys in their area of concentration.

Public Interest Journals

Justice Action Center Student Capstone Journal


Lawyers Without Borders Global Human Rights Bulletin

PI Career Support Center

New York Law School's Office of Career Services offers a wide variety of activities, events, and programs to provide support to students intending to pursue careers in public interest law. Regularly offered programs include such titles as: Financing a public interest career; How to navigate the Equal Justice Works Career Fair; Government and public interest practice options; Government honors programs; Interviewing at the District Attorney's office; Maximizing your chances at the Public Interest Legal Career Fair; Post-graduate public interest fellowships; and Clerkships. Training sessions are held for PS LawNet/Public Interest job searching, and Lexis searching for opportunities with government agencies and public interest organizations. We are pleased to be among the schools recognized as a Sponsor level member of Equal Justice Works, which gives our students access to student registrations for the EJW annual conference and career fair and the EJW Awards Luncheon.

The Spring Recruitment program conducted by the Office of Career Services is heavily focused on the public sector, where more than 2/3 of the participating employers are government and non-profit employers.

The Office of Career Services also has a designated Public Interest Advisor, an alumni mentoring program that includes alumni participants currently practicing within the public sector, and networking luncheons highlighting alumni who work in various segments of the public sector. The Office of Career Services also has a Resource Center that contains public interest career and informational resources.

One of the most significant benefits is the School's robust summer funding program, where students are awarded 8-10 week stipends to work in unpaid government and non-profit positions. For the Summer of 2009, the School funded more than 190 first- and second-year students working in these fields.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The New York Law School Public Service Career Recognition Program honors the commitment made by graduates to pursue careers in public service. New York Law School recognizes the importance of community-based legal services, encourages its students to participate in public service activities, and promotes the pursuit of public service legal careers. We are mindful of the financial sacrifice made by many graduates to pursue these careers, and this program is designed both to recognize this choice and to relieve a portion of the student loan debt carried by graduates who have chosen this route.

In order to assist graduates who have chosen public service careers, loan repayment assistance loans are provided by the Law School to refinance part of existing education debt. The loans are fully forgiven immediately after the end of the calendar year in which they are made, providing the recipient is still employed in qualifying employment. Recipients may renew the loans for up to three years as long as they remain in qualifying employment.

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Law School's Center for New York City Law offers a City Law Fellowship for graduates committed to city government. The fellowship is a one year post-graduate opportunity. Information about the Center and the Fellowship can be found at


Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

In recent years New York Law School graduates have been awarded post-graduate fellowships: Equal Justice Works Fellowship, the Soros Fellowship, and the Georgetown University Teaching Fellowship

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Justice Action Center Carbonell Fellowship in Law and Policy: The Carbonell Fellowships rewards outstanding students for their commitment to social justice and gives them an opportunity to contribute to their field of interest. Carbonell Fellows play a central role in managing and shaping the Center, help manage the Center's relationship with alumni and other leaders in social justice law, organize events, and work closely with the Center's faculty and staff.

John Marshall Harlan Scholars Program: the Harlan Scholars program is a rigorous academic honors program designed for students who have performed at the top of their law school class. Harlan Scholars receive a scholarship award and are invited to affiliate with one of the Law Schools academic centers, five of which provide the opportunity to focus on public interest issues.

Barbara Levine Memorial Scholarship- This donor scholarship us awarded to a second- or third-year student of proven academic merit and demonstrated commitment to public service.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

Barbara Levine Memorial Scholarship- This donor scholarship us awarded to a second- or third-year student of proven academic merit and demonstrated commitment to public service.

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

The Law School provides approximately 200 summer awards (fellowships and summer stipend awards) to students working in otherwise unpaid public interest positions. The funding comes from the law school's operating funds, money raised through student efforts, and the federal work-study program. Student raised funds come from the annual Public Interest Coalition Goods and Services auction.

Graduate Student Funded:


Other Funding Sources:

Media Law Fellowships

Arthur and Diane Abbey U.S. Attorney's Office Fellowships

Diane Abbey Poverty Law Fellowship

Joseph Solomon Public Service Fellowships

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Sidney Shainwald Public Interest Lecture Series – The Sidney Shainwald Public Interest Lecture Series, established in 2004, has attracted notable and distinguished speakers, such as: Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Center for New York City Law Breakfasts - The Center for New York City Law invites government, business, legal, and judicial leaders from the United States and abroad to speak at the Law School.

Tony Coelho Lecture in Disability Employment Law & Policy – Each year the Justice Action Center, in cooperation with Congressman Coelho, presents the Tony Coelho Lecture in Disability Employment Law & Policy. Lectures have included national leaders in politics, government, and policy.

Justice Speaks Lunches – Each semester, the Justice Action Center presents three installments in its Justice Speaks Lunch Series. Justice Speaks brings local and national figures to the Law school to engage students to consider the law's role as a force and tool in society. These lunches give students the opportunity to interact with and learn from attorneys, advocates, and leaders in the public interest community.

Public Interest Coalition Annual Goods and Services Auction

Stonewall Law Students Association Annual Charity Raffle and Dinner

Student Public Interest Groups

Public Interest Coalition

Domestic Violence Project

Unemployment Action Center

August 6, 2018