University of North Carolina School of Law

University of North Carolina School of Law
Campus Box. 3380
160 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Allison Standard Constance
Director of Pro Bono Initiatives
P: (919) 962-7813

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

Established in the fall of 1997, the UNC School of Law student and staff-run Pro Bono Program is one of the most unique models in the country. It connects law students with pro bono attorneys in both public interest and private practice. Each year, our students log thousands of hours at non-profit organizations, private firms and government agencies; upon graduation, over 90 percent of our students have participated in projects offering high-quality free legal services to North Carolina residents in need.

The Pro Bono Program is administered by a 13-student Board and the Director of Pro Bono Initiatives. Together, they work throughout the year with community partners, legal aid offices, law school student groups, professors, alumni, private attorneys, and fellow students to facilitate individual pro bono projects, special clinics, and group trips for students. The program also coordinates special projects over fall, winter and spring breaks.

Students participate in pro bono work not only to make a difference in their community by serving those with unmet legal needs, but they also gain valuable, practical work experience and skills outside the classroom.

Location of Programs

Office of Student Development


The Pro Bono Program falls under the purview of the Office of Student Development, with close supervision from the Director of Pro Bono Initiatives.

Pro Bono Board positions are selected once per year following an application and interview process held each spring semester. All chosen student board members must serve for two consecutive academic semesters, with the exception of the 1L Class Coordinator. The Pro Bono Board’s Student Director manages the Board of Coordinators and oversees Program operations. The Pro Bono Board of Coordinators consists of:

Attorney Projects Coordinator: Establishes contact and maintains relationships with attorneys submitting projects to the Program, managing student participation and any potential difficulties that may arise.

Class Coordinators (one position for each class year): Responsible for recruiting students from their respective classes to participate in pro bono projects; Manage students and their hours as they complete respective projects.

Student Group Projects Coordinator: Liaison and coordinator for pro bono projects run through student organizations at UNC Law; Helps to develop, maintain, and manage student group pro bono projects.

Public Relations Coordinator: Manages communications for the Program across the university, local, and state communities, including maintenance of the Pro Bono Program website, calendar, social media, and material for the Annual Report.

Winter and Spring Break Projects Coordinator: Winter and spring break projects coordinator, responsible for attorney and student recruitment for project participation.

Special Trips Coordinators (two positions): Responsible for coordinating group pro bono project trips during academic breaks, assessing needs of individuals across the state of North Carolina, recruiting community partners with whom to work, recruiting students to participate in trips, fundraising for trips, and ultimately coordinating all trip logistics.

Alumni Outreach Coordinator: Works with other members of the Board in addressing needs for alumni contact and/or outreach and manages communication with Pro Bono alumni.

Special Projects Coordinators (two positions): manages special projects as identified by the Board, including coordinating with community and student group partners, recruiting student participants, coordinating trainings, and executing the project. The Coordinators will then evaluate the projects' sustainability and, if appropriate, transition it to a student group or student leader. The Special Projects Coordinators may also work to identify ideas for Pro Bono projects that can be developed throughout the year.


The UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program is funded by private donations, and annual fundraising efforts.

The Pro Bono Board also actively fundraises for special trips and programs during both fall and spring semesters. Below are examples of annual fundraising activities:

  • Merchandise Sales – items are sold in the law school rotunda as well as during UNC Law events.
  • Mailing Solicitation – students participating in special trips (fall, winter, and/or spring break) solicit donations from friends, family members, and local businesses via solicitation mailings.
  • Alumni Endowment Campaigns – in celebration of the program’s 20th year in 2017, a Pro Bono Endowment was created and continues to be supplemented by alumni donations and friends of the program

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

  • Asian American Law Students Association
  • Black Law Students Association
  • Carolina Health Law Organization
  • Carolina Intellectual Property Law Association
  • Carolina Teen Court Assistance Program
  • Child Action
  • Christian Legal Society
  • Community Legal Project (The Compass Center)
  • Death Penalty Project
  • Environmental Law Project
  • Hispanic/Latino Law Student Association
  • Immigration Law Association
  • Innocence Project
  • Lambda Law Students Association
  • Law Students Against Sexual and Domestic Violence 
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • Native American Law Students Association
  • Veterans Advocacy Legal Organization
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Faculty and staff members licensed to practice law are involved as group project supervisors or individual project supervisors under the auspices of UNC School of Law Clinical Programs as permitted by the North Carolina State Bar. 


Pro Bono Publico Awards
Each April, the Pro Bono Program hosts its Pro Bono Publico Reception. The reception honors students' pro bono efforts throughout the year. The ceremony recognizes 3L students that completed over 75 hours of pro bono service while in law school and yearly award winners for the Pro Bono Publico Awards (recognizing an alumnus, faculty member, student group, 1L, 2L, 3L, and graduating student for their pro bono contributions throughout the year). The ceremony is attended by students, faculty, staff, and attorney partners.

North Carolina State Bar
Each year, the North Carolina State Bar recognizes one graduating UNC Law student for his or her pro bono work.

Recognition at Graduation & Transcript Notations
Students who complete one hundred or more hours of pro bono service are recognized individually at the May commencement ceremony. Students documenting 50+, 75+, or 100+ hours of pro bono service receive notations on their UNC Law transcripts.

Invitation and Participation in Special Events
Since 2016, the Program has hosted an invitation-only networking event with alumni and attorney partners early in the Spring semester for graduating students with 75 or more hours of pro bono service. The goal of the event is to help students transition their passion for pro bono into practice.

Community Service

Community service work is regularly organized by the Student Bar Association and other student organizations.  There is not a formal community service program at UNC School of Law.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

April Giancola
Director of Public Interest Advising
Career Development Office
P: (919) 843-9918

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Public Interest Centers

UNC Center for Civil Rights - The UNC Center for Civil Rights focuses on research related to education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development and voting rights.

N.C. Poverty Research Fund - The purpose of the Fund is to explore, document, research, and publish about the immense challenges of economic hardship in North Carolina

Center for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Economics: The UNC School of Law Center for Climate, Energy, Environment and Economics (CE3) exists to provide advanced student education and policy and legal examination of issues surrounding the law of climate, energy, environment, and economic development, with particular attention to the intersection of these issues.

Institute for Innovation:  The Institute for Innovation serves business and social enterprise entrepreneurs on the campuses of UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, in partnership with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and NC State University’s Poole College of Management, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructures on both campuses. The Institute also aims to support economic development of under-resourced communities, with an emphasis on rural North Carolina.

UNC Center for Media Law and Policy: The UNC Center for Media Law and Policy is an interdisciplinary research center run jointly out of the UNC School of Law and UNC School of Media and Journalism. The center serves as a forum for study and debate about the broad array of media law and policy issues facing North Carolina, the nation, and the world. The center’s work ranges from the legal and policy issues affecting traditional media organizations to the challenges posed by new communication technologies, including social media, the Internet, and mobile technology, and the impact they are having on governments, on the economy, and on cultural and social values throughout the world.

Director Diversity Initiative:  The objective of the Director Diversity Initiative is to encourage boards of directors of public companies to increase their gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. The DDI has sponsored annual “Broadening Corporate Board Diversity: Earning a Board Seat” programs since 2006. 

Intellectual Property Initiative:  The Intellectual Property Initiative’s mission is to train outstanding intellectual property lawyers, create a forum for exploring hot topics in intellectual property law, and to build bridges with the IP community by creating opportunities for students to use their intellectual property skills to serve the public interest.

Medical Child Abuse Initiative:  The Medical Child Abuse (MCA) Initiative seeks to safeguard parents’ constitutional rights to make health care decisions for their children. The MCA Initiative responds to the growing number of U.S. parents charged with child abuse under the new theory of “medical child abuse.”

Public Interest Clinics

Civil Legal Assistance Clinic - The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic is a two-semester clinic in which third-year students represent clients in various civil matters related to employment, housing, consumer issues, and other areas of civil rights and poverty law.

Community Development Law Clinic - The Community Development Law Clinic is a two-semester clinic in which third-year students provide corporate and transactional counsel to North Carolina nonprofit community development organizations. The CDL Clinic helps students develop skills in corporate and transactional law and at the same time serve the legal needs of under-resourced communities in North Carolina.

Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic - The Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic allows third-year students to represent clients in civil matters related to consumer debt, credit, personal property, and homeownership under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. CFT students have represented clients in matters of abusive and unfair sales practices, auto loans and repossessions, mortgage foreclosure, and abusive debt collection.

Critical Race Lawyering Civil Rights Clinic- Students in the Critical Race Lawyering Civil Rights Clinic learn to merge the tenets of critical race theory, with the practice of civil rights law. Students will engage in direct representation of individual and organizational clients in areas where discrimination and inequality are pervasive.

Domestic and Sexual Violence Clinic - The Domestic Violence Clinic is a one-semester experiential course taught in both the fall and spring semesters in which third-year law students represent low-income clients in civil matters aimed at assisting clients in safely leaving abusive relationships.

Immigration Clinic - This two-semester clinic provides students with an opportunity to represent clients in immigration cases. Students prepare claims and advocate on behalf of immigrant clients, including refugees applying for asylum, battered immigrants applying for relief through the Violence Against Women Act and immigrants eligible for U-visas for crime victims.

Intellectual Property Clinic- The Intellectual Property Clinic trains students to be creative and effective advocates on behalf of clients who need to protect the words, symbols, names, images or designs that allow consumers to easily identify and authenticate the source of a service or product. Much of the clinic’s work involves representing independent non-profits, educational institutions, and small businesses before the USPTO.

Military and Veterans Law Clinic- This clinic offers legal assistance to low-income veterans, with a special focus on veterans who are currently excluded from VA health and disability benefits because of their discharge status. Students represent veterans in discharge upgrade applications and in claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Startup NC Law Clinic- Students in the Startup NC Law Clinic represent startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses from across the broad spectrum of North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, ranging from hi-tech to textiles, from microbreweries to the arts. Startup NC introduces students to the practice of business law in the context of counseling actual clients; students take the lead in the representations and are the point persons in all client communications and interactions.

Youth Justice Clinic - The Youth Justice Clinic is a one or two-semester clinic in which third-year law students represent children accused of crimes. Our cases principally involve the defense of youths in delinquency and undisciplined proceedings in Durham and Orange counties.


Externships: The Externship Program is designed to enhance traditional classroom instruction by engaging students in real life lawyering experiences with practicing lawyers and judges in the community. Students receive three units of pass/fail academic credit for working at an approved externship placement for approximately twelve hours a week during the semester, and thirty-two hours per week during the summer. Judges and lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices serve as mentors and on-site supervisors for the students. The Externship directors serve as the student's faculty supervisors. The faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the student's exploration of their externship experience through tutorials, journal writing and group discussion.

The Summer Program: The summer program offers 50 placements, both at judicial and non-judicial sites. First- and second-year students interested in summer placement earn 5 pass/fail credit hours during the 7 week session and are on-site 32 hours per week. Externs attend class on Friday mornings during the summer session.

The Semester in Practice Program: The Semester in Practice program offers full time, semester long externships with our partner government agencies and public interest organizations in Washington DC, New York City, Atlanta and North Carolina. The program is designed as a capstone experience for students interested in a particular area of practice or skills set who are willing to spend the full semester off campus and externing full time with the host organization. Students are trained and mentored by on-site supervisors at the host organization. In addition, the Externship Program's faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the student's exploration of their experience through virtual classroom discussion, journal writing and individual conferences.

Internships: The Career Development Office provides resources and counseling for students' public interest internship search, including evaluations from students concerning their summer employment experiences with public interest employers. The Director Public Interest Advising is the full-time counselor for students interested in public interest (including government) positions and careers.

Symplicity: The CDO uses the online software Symplicity to manage job listings (internship, summer, and permanent), on-campus interviewing, off-campus interview programs, and other recruiting events. Access to Symplicity is available online to current students and Carolina Law alumni 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On Campus Interviews: On-campus interviews are typically held in the fall semester during August and September and in the spring semester from late January through February. Students bid (apply) for on-campus interview opportunities through the Symplicity system.

Off-Campus Interview Programs: Students at Carolina Law are invited to participate in more than 30 off-campus interview programs each year, giving them access to employers who do not ordinarily participate in on-campus interviews or who are seeking students with specialized credentials or characteristics.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Several transition-to-practice courses give students the unique opportunity to explore public service more deeply and apply what they have learned to real-world problems. In these classes, students will hone practical skills, working closely with faculty on projects and learning from practitioners on a broad range of legal topics.

  • Criminal Justice Policy
  • Criminal Procedure Litigation Skills
  • Domestic Violence Law
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Law Practice and Policy
  • Forced Migration: Law and Practice
  • Gender Violence and the Law: A Transition to Practice Course
  • Human Rights Policy Lab
  • Political and Civil Rights
  • Poverty and Public Policy in North Carolina
  • Public Health Law
  • Race and Poverty
  • Reproductive Rights and Justice
  • Sex Offenders and the Law
  • Sexual Violence and the Law
  • The Lawyer as Public Citizen: Access to Justice
  • Women and Health Law
  • Wrongful Convictions

Public Interest Journals

None listed

PI Career Support Center

The Career Development Office prepares students for a successful job search. From help with interviewing and resume preparation, to developing a job search strategy, our staff members are a valuable resource for students and alumni. The office also plans a series of networking events to connect employers with potential applicants. In addition, the Career Development Office administers several programs specific to public interest students. The Director Public Interest Advising is the full-time counselor for students interested in public interest (including government) positions and careers.

Public Interest Peer Mentor Program - The Public Interest Peer Mentor Program pairs incoming 1Ls who are interested in public interest law with upper-class students who are pursuing a public interest career. The program schedules a variety of group social activities each year, including the Annual Chili Dinner, brown bag lunches, a spring picnic and other events.

Public Interest Retreat - Conducted annually, the retreat brings together students, faculty, administrators and practitioners to discuss careers in public interest law and timely issues in the public interest field, ranging from legal issues in a particular practice area to loan repayment assistance and debt management.

Public Interest Job Search Group (3L) - Each year, the UNC Law CDO organizes a job search group for 3L students pursuing full-time employment in the public interest and/or government sector. Participants benefit from peer-to-peer support, direct career counselor contact, and methods for taking an active and structured approach to the job search process.

Public Interest Job Search Tips – The CDO has compiled a few specific insights and suggestions for students regarding the Public Interest job and internship search. For more information see

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The goals of the UNC School of Law's Loan Repayment Assistance Program are:

  • To encourage students to enter permanent public service employment without regard to debt burden; and
  • To assist graduates entering public service with law school loan debt.

The program aims to supplement other available sources of loan repayment assistance so as to permit graduates to perform public service in North Carolina, the nation and the world, without being restricted or discouraged by law school debt.

LRAP recipients receive a short-term loan from UNC School of Law and use those funds toward the payment of law school education loans. Eligibility is determined through the application and is reconfirmed after a year. If the recipient is still LRAP-eligible after a year, the short-term loan is forgiven. If a recipient becomes ineligible at any point during the year, the ineligible funds must be repaid.

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

UNC School of Law operates a bridge-to-practice fellowship program, which provides recent graduates with a modest stipend for volunteer work with a public interest employer for the three-month period after the July bar exam.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

The Trey Cheek Public Interest Memorial Scholarship Fund is available to either a 2L or 3L based on financial need and a commitment to public interest law.

The Peter K. Daniel Memorial Scholarship Fund is available for a second-year student. This scholarship will be awarded based on a demonstration of an exceptional commitment to community service (to be distinguished from public interest law), entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic and strength of character.

The William Henry Holderness and William Edward Elmore, Jr., Scholarship Fund is available to one 2L and one 3L to reward academic achievement, financial need, and a commitment to public interest law and community involvement.

The Whichard Scholarship is available to students who entered law school from careers in education, or those considering careers in public service.

The Kirby Service Scholarship is available to a student from eastern North Carolina who intends to pursue a career of public service in government, politics or education.

The J. Russell Kirby Public Service Scholarship is intended to foster, recognize and reward service as epitomized by Sen. Kirby. This award is given to a student who has been selected as a Chancellors Scholar at the UNC School of Law. Preference is given to students from eastern North Carolina who intend to pursue a career of public service in government, politics or education.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Each year summer grants are awarded to students who are taking unpaid or low-paying summer public interest and public sector jobs. Funding for these grants comes from several sources, including student organizations and private funds. Examples include:

  • Steven Whitesell Memorial Fund Grant (preference given to a student in the City and Regional Planning program)
  • Sandra Johnson Public Interest Summer Grant
  • Class of 2001 Public Interest Summer Grant
  • Gene R. Nichol Public Interest Law Fund
  • William E. Underwood, Jr., Public Interest Fellowship (preference given to a student working with the Council for Children's Rights in Charlotte, NC)
  • Gibson Desaulniers Smith Public Interest Award

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

Various student organizations also award partial grants. In 2017, the following student organizations awarded grants to students:

  • Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (C-PILO)
  • Environmental Law Project
  • Media Law Project

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

None listed

Student Public Interest Groups

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – Carolina Law Chapter
American Constitution Society
Carolina Health Law Organization
Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (C-PILO)
Carolina Teen Court Assistance Program
Child Action
Community Legal Project
Conference on Race, Class, Gender and Ethnicity (CRCGE)
Death Penalty Project
Education Law and Policy Society
Environmental Law Project
Immigration Law Association
Innocence Project
Lambda Law Students Association
Law Students Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (LSASDV)
National Lawyers Guild
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Veterans Military Advocacy Student Organization
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

March 10, 2020