Directory

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
375 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
www.law.northwestern.edu

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Maureen Stratton
Pro Bono and Public Service Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
m-stratton@law.northwestern.edu
312-503-4558

 

Category Type

Formal Voluntary Program characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator

 

Description of Programs

Students are encouraged to serve at least 50 hours of public service work over the course of their time at Northwestern Law. Acknowledging that not all students will choose public interest law as a career, students may volunteer in a wide range of legal and non-legal community service projects. Our Pro Bono and Public Service Director assists students in finding placements, organizes opportunities, and keeps track of their efforts.

Through our public service program, students work with many organizations that approach us on an as-needed basis, but we also have established a few key partnerships that continue on a regular basis from year to year, including a partnership with Chicago Youth Programs to provide tutoring and mentoring, a partnership with WITS to provide weekly one-on-one reading assistance to third graders in our adopted public school, and the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program, to provide free tax assistance to low-income families. To assist in the expansion of legal representation of the poor, we also partner with several legal service organizations, including Legal Aid Chicago, Women’s Justice Institute, Equip for Equality, and Illinois Legal Aid Online. For more information, go to the public service website at  https://www.law.northwestern.edu/academics/public-interest/service/

 

Location of Programs

The Office of Student Affairs

 

Staffing/Management/Oversight

The Pro Bono and Public Service Director is a half-time position and is supported by a half-time administrative position.



Funding

The Pro Bono and Public Service Director has a budget that provides financial support for pro bono and public service projects.

 

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

There are numerous student run pro bono projects including Alternative Break options that include work at the Mississippi Center for Justice and Al Otro Lado, student chapters of the ACLU, Collaboration for Justice, Election Law Association, Gun Reform Interest Project, If/When/How, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), National Lawyers Guild, Street Law Association. For more information, go to the Student Organizations website at https://www.law.northwestern.edu/student-life/studentorganizations/

 

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Northwestern Law does not have a faculty pro bono policy, but all faculty are encouraged to report annually to the dean the pro bono work he or she has performed.

 

Awards/Recognition

Students who fulfill Northwestern Law’s public service hourly goal are honored at a luncheon during graduation week and receive special recognition at graduation. Their names are highlighted in the graduation bulletin, and they receive distinctive honor cords and tassels to wear at the graduation ceremony. There is special recognition for students who have committed significantly more time, including receiving a certificate of outstanding service and having their name placed on a permanent plaque at the law school.

 

Community Service

Orientation Day of Service  - every orientation, incoming students dedicate a day to community service. Each year, the projects vary but have included volunteering at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Animal Care and Control, Lake Michigan Federation, and YMCA.

Talcott Adopt-A-School Program  - throughout the year, students volunteer at our "adopted" school in a weekly reading program, pen pal program and provide other assistance as needed.

Chicago Youth Programs Tutoring and Mentoring Program  - each week, students volunteer to mentor and tutor children through the Chicago Youth Programs.

MLK Day Service Celebration  - our annual Martin Luther King celebration includes community service projects.

Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program  - each tax season, students assist low-income clients prepare tax returns.

Lawyers in the Classroom is a program coordinated by the Chicago Bar Association that partners law students and lawyers with elementary school classes to help students understand the U.S. Constitution and our legal system.

 

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Cindy Wilson
Director, Public Interest Center
Clinical Professor of Law
Director, Center for Externships
c-wilson1@law.northwestern.edu
312-503-2924

Maureen Stratton
Pro Bono and Public Service Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of Law
m-stratton@law.northwestern.edu
312-503-4558

Katie Shelton
Associate Director, Public Interest Center
kathryn.shelton@law.northwestern.edu
312-503-1669

Melissa Montemayor
Program Assistant
Melissa.montemayor@law.northwestern.edu
312-503-3266



Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Northwestern offers a unique Law and Social Policy concentration that provides students with an opportunity to study a wide range of law and social policy topics and recognizes students for these efforts. The concentration focuses on law as it consciously shapes society, as distinguished from its role in adjudicating disputes and making arrangements between private parties. This approach to the study of law is informed by the knowledge and techniques of the social sciences.

Because of its broad scope, this concentration has two "tracks" --policy analysis and public interest. The two-track approach reflects the fact that the interest leading students to this concentration as well as their career path may be quite diverse. Students may meet the requirements of either or both of these tracks, which will then be indicated accordingly on their transcript.

The policy analysis track is designed for students with a strong intellectual and practical interest in policy analysis. Students may be interested in working in policy-related positions in government, think tanks, other non-profit policy-related organizations, or academic research positions. The public interest track is designed for students with strong intellectual and practical interests in public interest law. Students may be interested in working in government enforcement agencies, non-profit advocacy or service organizations, or clinical academic positions.

 

Public Interest Centers

The Public Interest Center provides strategic leadership of key public interest activities on campus and promotes a strong public interest culture – one that encourages all students to develop a public service ethic. Among the Center’s features are financial support for students doing public interest work during and after law school; career programming and counseling; a wide range of pro bono and public service opportunities; and passionate student organization participation and leadership. The Center staff also works closely with faculty involved in the law school’s many public interest course offerings, including those in the Bluhm Legal Clinic, the Center for Externships, and the Law and Social Policy concentration. This collaboration helps ensure that students learn a public interest ethic both inside and outside the classroom. For more information, go to the Public Interest Center webpage at https://www.law.northwestern.edu/academics/public-interest/ .

 

Public Interest Clinics

Housing more than 20 clinics within 13 centers, the Bluhm Legal Clinic is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective clinical programs in the country.

The Children and Family Justice Center is a comprehensive children's law center where law students, under the supervision of attorneys and clinical professors, represent young people on matters of delinquency and crime, family violence, school discipline, health and disability, and immigration and asylum. CFJC collaborates with communities and child welfare, educational, mental health and juvenile justice systems to develop fair and effective policies and solutions for reform.

The Center for International Human Rights focuses on researching and addressing emerging human right norms and related issues as well as providing valuable clinical experiences for students interested in the protection of human rights on a global scale. 

The Center on Wrongful Convictions is dedicated to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice. Center faculty, staff, cooperating outside attorneys, and students investigate possible wrongful convictions and represent imprisoned clients with claims of actual innocence. 

The Investor Protection Center provides assistance to investors with limited income or small dollar claims who are unable to obtain legal representation. Law students, under the supervision of faculty attorneys, represent customers in handling their disputes with broker-dealers.

The MacArthur Justice Center litigates issues of significance for the criminal justice system, including prisoner rights, the death penalty, and gun control. The Center has been deeply involved in litigation surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Other clinical offerings include:

Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth

Civil Litigation Center

Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center

Environmental Advocacy Center

For more information, go to the Bluhm Legal Clinic webpage at https://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/



Externships/Internships

Combined with classroom work, externships give second- and third-year law students the opportunity to gain on-the-job training while earning class credit. They work 10 to 15 hours per week under the close supervision of lawyers, judges, government officials, and public interest professionals and also attend a seminar class once a week where they complete readings about their field, keep a journal, and write a paper or give a presentation linking their practice experience to theoretical questions.

Students bring back to the classroom valuable firsthand experience and a heightened level of confidence about appearing before judges, writing briefs or opinions, preparing cases, and working with clients.

Domestic externships are available in the following areas:

  • Judicial - Students placed as law clerks with a United States district court judge or magistrate work on the preparing of research memoranda and drafting of opinions.
  • Public Interest - Students working at a public interest legal organization represent clients in civil matters. Placements include, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Equip for Equality, Lawyers for the Creative Arts and Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, among others.
  • Criminal Law - Students work with either prosecution or defense lawyers in the federal or state criminal justice system, including the U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Defender's Office, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, and Cook County Public Defender's Office.
  • Civil Government – Students work at federal, state, or local government agencies involved in civil law, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, among others.
  • Mediation - Students can become certified mediators and conduct mediations under faculty supervision after completing mediation skills training from the Center for Conflict Resolution.

    All domestic externships that are completed during the fall or spring semesters are located in Chicago or the surrounding area. During the summer term, students may work in placements outside Chicago and participate in a practicum for externships outside Chicago.

Northwestern Law also offers a number of international externships for credit. Placements are available in the following locations:

  • the International Criminal Court (The Hague, The Netherlands),
  • the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (The Hague, The Netherlands)
  • the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Arusha, Tanzania),
  • the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Freetown, Sierra Leone, and The Hague, The Netherlands),
  • the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Cambodia),
  • the War Crimes and Organized Crimes Chambers of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina),
  • the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (Geneva, Switzerland),
  • the Supreme Court of Israel (Jerusalem, Israel), and
  • the Supreme Court of India (New Delhi, India).



Classes with a Public Service Component

Creating Change as a Lawyer explores the role lawyers and other individuals play as advocates for social, political, and civic change. Students in this class volunteer with a community organization during the course term.

Pro Bono in Large Law Firms explores ethical, practical, and structural issues surrounding pro bono work and students work on pro bono cases during the course term.

 

Public Interest Journals

Students at Northwestern Law publish six journals covering a wide range of subjects. The journals publish the works of the leading researchers in the United States and throughout the world. Public interest-focused journals include the  Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology , the  Journal of Human Rights , and the  Journal of Law and Social Policy .   

PI Career Support Center

The law school’s Public Interest Center has an experienced public interest advisor who works with students in all aspects of their public interest job searches. The Associate Director of the Public Interest Center spent many years practicing as a public interest lawyer prior to joining the law school. In addition to individual counseling and assistance, the Associate Director offers a wide variety of presentations on public interest law throughout the year. Topics include the public interest job search, post-graduate public interest fellowships, opportunities in federal and local government, lawyering in our criminal justice system, and working in legal aid and policy advocacy organizations. The Associate Director also prepares written and video resources for public interest students, including public interest handbooks, presentations on public interest job searches, and information on financing a summer public interest job.

The Career Center is one of the co-sponsors of Public Interest Law Week, a week during the spring semester devoted to public interest programming. The Associate Director participates in the planning of Public Interest Week with the Public Interest Law Group, a student group devoted to public interest issues. The Career Center maintains a database of available public interest jobs, extensive files on public interest employers across the country, files on post-graduate and summer fellowship opportunities, and a wide variety of other sources on public interest employers.

The law school hosts the annual Midwest Public Interest Career Conference, a job fair attended by public sector employers from around the country offering summer and post-graduate opportunities for hundreds of students at law schools across the Midwest.

 

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Northwestern Law was one of the first law schools in the country to provide a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to graduates who enter public interest and government jobs. The program has been revised over the years to respond to changes in salaries and student debt. 

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's current LRAP aligns with provisions of the federal College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. While LRAP is entirely separate from the federal programs, it does align with them. The LRAP formula is based on the federal Income Based Repayment program and also includes an amount for unpaid interest. LRAP provides funding for qualified graduates for up to ten years. Qualification for Northwestern’s LRAP does not ensure qualification for the federal programs.

Any graduate whose first job after graduation or after a clerkship following graduation qualifying job for a government or non-profit agency is eligible to apply for LRAP. A qualifying job is a position that requires passage of the bar exam or that falls within the ABA's definition of a "JD Advantage" job. Awards are issued in the form of one-year forgivable loans. Participants must spend the entire award amount on repayment of federal or private educational loans and must provide documentation of such payment.  If the graduate remains in a qualifying job for one year, the LRAP loan for that year is forgiven in its entirety. Graduates are eligible to apply for LRAP for up to ten years after graduation, providing that they remain in a qualifying job and comply with the terms of LRAP.

LRAP awards are calculated using both income and debt amounts. Graduates with the lowest income and highest debt receive the highest awards. The Northwestern Adjusted Gross Income (NU AGI) is equal to the graduate's gross salary less: (a) $5,000 deduction for each child, (b) $5,000 deduction for a spouse or life partner, and (c) annual payments for undergraduate educational loans. Married applicants are treated as having the higher of either (a) his or her individual income or (b) half of the joint income. There is no cap on annual income or on the LRAP award.

Website: https://www.law.northwestern.edu/admissions/tuitionaid/lrap/        

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Law School recognizes that although the need for public interest lawyers is strong, many organizations lack the funding to offer entry-level opportunities. The post-graduate fellowships (pdf) launch the public interest careers of dedicated graduates by providing a $50,000 salary and health care benefits to work for one year as a lawyer at a domestic nonprofit or government agency of the graduate’s choice. After a year as a fellow, recipients gain the experience needed to be hired for competitive public interest positions. Up to five graduating students are awarded the fellowship through a competitive process. To date 48 graduates have received the fellowship and are employed in public interest agencies across the country. 

 

Graduate Student Funded:

The Len Rubinowitz Public Interest Fellowships are awarded both to students working in public interest positions during the summer and to graduating students entering public interest to assist with bar expenses and summer living expenses. Full grants are generally $4,500, and partial grants may also be awarded. The number of fellowships varies from year to year. The fellowships are funded by a combination of donations from students, faculty, administrators, and alumni, law school funds, and a number of fundraising events.

 

Other Funding Sources:

The Zenner Grants are awarded each year to graduating students who plan to work in a public interest position. The grants are intended to assist students with payment of fees for bar review courses, bar applications, and other expenses in the summer after graduation. The number of awards and amounts vary from year to year. The grants are funded by alumna Teri Zenner, founder of Zenner Consulting Group.

 

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Each year the law school awards one scholarship for full tuition plus a living allowance to a student who demonstrates a strong commitment to public interest. The scholarship is in honor of our late graduate and faculty member Dawn Clark Netsch and is funded by a generous gift from her estate. 

 

Graduate Student Funded

 

Other Funding Sources:

Public Interest Law Initiative, Equal Justice America

The Public Interest Law Initiative, a nonprofit agency in Chicago that awards funding to students working in public interest positions in Chicago, offers a number of term-time stipends to students from the law schools located in Chicago. Students at Northwestern have received these stipends on various occasions. The amount of the stipend is $2,250.

Equal Justice America, a national nonprofit organization that provides funding for law students working in public interest positions, has funded a number of Northwestern students for term-time positions. The number and amounts vary from year to year.

 

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

The Law School provides guaranteed summer funding, in the amount of $8000, to JD students who work full-time in public interest jobs in the U.S. during their summers. The funding is available for students doing legal work for non-profit or government agencies. Students perform 20 hours of community service during the school year in order to qualify for guaranteed summer funding. The Global Public Interest Fellows program provides $9500 in funding for up to six JD students per year to work abroad during the summer for an approved governmental or nongovernmental organization active on legal issues. Thanks to the generosity of alumni, the school also offers multiple named fellowships for students dedicated to public interest work.   

 

Graduate Student Funded:

The Student Funded Public Interest Fellowship (SFPIF) awards the Len Rubinowitz Public Interest Fellowships to students working at public interest organizations during the summer. Full grants are generally $4,500 and partial grants may also be awarded. The number of fellowships varies from year to year. The fellowships are funded by a combination of donations from students, faculty, administrators, alumni, law school funds, and a number of fundraising events.

 

Other Funding Sources:

The Stevens Fellowships are awarded to Northwestern Law students for summer work at the public interest employer of their choice. The fellowships are funded by former law clerks of Justice Stevens to honor his devotion to public service and to encourage students to obtain public interest jobs. Generally, two to four awards are given, in the amount of $5,000 each.

Each year, the school selects two Mansfield Fellows to work at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Mansfield Fellows receive $6,500 for a ten-week period. These fellowships are funded by the Mansfield Foundation, the Legal Assistance Foundation, and the law school.

The Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association provides funding for two Lefkow Fellowships for Northwestern Law students to work in public interest jobs in the summer. The fellowships are in honor of the life and work of Michael Lefkow, who worked as a public interest lawyer for many years in Chicago. The fellowships provide funding of $5,000 for the summer.

The law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal through its Sonnenschein Scholars Program sponsors students to work at the public interest organization of their choosing, including two students from Northwestern Law. Students are paid $4,000 for the summer.

The law firm of Howrey LLP through its Howrey HELPS program selects first year students from a number of law schools, including Northwestern, to work in a public interest organization in the city in which they attend law school. The compensation is $5,000 for the summer.

 

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

There are numerous student run pro bono projects including Alternative Break options that include work at the Mississippi Center for Justice and Al Otro Lado, student chapters of the ACLU, Collaboration for Justice, Election Law Association, Gun Reform Interest Project, If/When/How, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), National Lawyers Guild, Street Law Association.

Other extracurricular programs include:

Orientation Day of Service  - every orientation, incoming students dedicate a day to community service. Each year, the projects vary but have included volunteering at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Animal Care and Control, Lake Michigan Federation, and YMCA.

Talcott Adopt-A-School Program  - throughout the year, students volunteer at our "adopted" school in a weekly reading program, pen pal program and provide other assistance as needed.

Chicago Youth Programs Tutoring and Mentoring Program  - each week, students volunteer to mentor and tutor children through the Chicago Youth Programs.

MLK Day Service Celebration  - our annual Martin Luther King celebration includes community service projects.

Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program  - each tax season, students assist low-income clients prepare tax returns.

Lawyers in the Classroom is a program coordinated by the Chicago Bar Association that partners law students and lawyers with elementary school classes to help students understand the U.S. Constitution and our legal system.



Student Public Interest Groups

Student organizations, including the Public Interest Law Group, the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships Program, and the Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteering, sponsor events and programs throughout the year. Through these groups, along with more than a dozen others, students participate in an active and civically engaged Law School community.

 6/17/2021