University of Oregon School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Jennifer Hubbard Geller
Public Law and Policy Program Managing Director
Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator.
Description of Programs
Oregon Law Pro Bono Program promotes a culture of pro bono by encouraging all students to participate in pro bono in a variety of ways. Oregon Law maintains relationships with nonprofit legal organizations that accept pro bono volunteers, communicates current opportunities to students, and actively supports student participation. In the fall, these efforts include a pro bono fair with local and regional nonprofits that work with student volunteers. Ongoing opportunities are publicized in a weekly e-newsletter to all students. Students are also encouraged to arrange their own pro bono work, either individually or through student organizations with interest in particular types of pro bono.
Additional community-wide efforts support the pro bono program. Periodically, Oregon Law professors initiate pro bono projects in their areas of expertise, providing students opportunities to participate in pro bono work. Oregon Law recognizes students with multiple awards for pro bono work at the end of each academic work, including Pro Bono Honors for any 3rd year student who has met Oregon pro bono hour goal for students.
Critical to the success of the pro bono program are the connections between the program and its relevant legal communities. The Managing Director serves as the liaison for pro bono efforts between the law school and the local and state bar association. The Managing Director also serves on the Oregon State Bar committee that plans the statewide, annual Pro Bono CLE and Celebration. During ABA Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Oregon Law publicizes its pro bono program, recognizes students, and serves as a remote host for the OSB’s Pro Bono CLE. Oregon Law also periodically partners with local organizations to provide CLEs relevant to high demand areas of pro bono.
Location of Programs
The Public Law and Policy Program Office
The Managing Director serves as the primary staff for the Pro Bono Program. A student worker provides occasional support, while a student group also assists with promotion and organization of events. Pro bono records are maintained on a secure database.
Oregon Law supports the Pro Bono Program through the allocation of a portion of the Managing Director’s FTE to management and oversight of the program. Additional financial resources are provided to fund pro bono events, recognition, and occasional support by a student worker.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
Oregon Law student groups run a variety of pro bono groups and projects. Below are examples of ongoing efforts that groups have been ongoing successful efforts.
- St. Vincent de Paul’s Second Chance Program : students coordinate student instructors who teach law-related classes in a series that is designed to help low-income individuals to become successful renters who understand their rights and responsibilities.
- Student led trips to assist asylum seekers: during the week before spring semester starts, students coordinate trips to the US-Mexico border to volunteer with legal nonprofits assisting asylum seekers.
- Community Action Public Service: student group that helps promote existing pro bono programs and cultivate new pro bono options for students. This group also organizes community service projects for students.
- Monthly Clinic with Sponsors: students work in cooperation with a local nonprofit to provide a legal clinic for individuals leaving Oregon correctional facilities. Students provide interviewing and intake support for volunteer attorneys.
- National Lawyers Guild: annually organizes educational programs including Know Your Rights trainings.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
Oregon Law faculty members lead or are involved in a variety of pro bono efforts. Recent examples of Oregon Law faculty efforts include leading a group of students volunteering with Wills for the Underserved; filing amicus briefs with the help of students in criminal cases; and advising environmental lawyers throughout the world. Oregon Law faculty also serve on local and statewide boards of organizations that raise funds for legal aid organizations.
In addition, Oregon Law houses the Oregon Law Commission, a legislatively funded office that works on the continuous improvement of Oregon’s statutes. Many faculty members devote many hours serving on or providing advice to Commission workgroups, sharing their expertise at no cost to the Commission.
Students who engage in pro bono are recognized multiple times during each academic year. During ABA Celebrate Pro Bono Week, all law students who have participated in pro bono the previous year are recognized, serving to thank the students and also to highlight the importance of this work. Oregon Law awards multiple awards for pro bono work at the end of each academic work, including Pro Bono Honors for any 3rd year student who has met the pro bono hour goal for students. This honor includes the option to wear a cord at graduation that denotes the earning of this honor. Other honors include recognizing a student from each class who has done the most pro bono in the past year. An annual recognition with a monetary award is also given to one or two 3Ls that recognizes outstanding pro bono service throughout law school.
Life at Oregon Law includes active student groups that initiates many service projects each year. The following are some illustrative examples.
Community Action Public Service (CAPS) is a student group dedicated to promotion and providing legal and non-legal service opportunities for law students. Recent efforts have included organizing work at a local area food bank and planting trees with an environmental nonprofit.
Oregon Law’s Women’s Law Forum runs an annual toiletry drive every fall for an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.
Outlaws, Oregon Law’s LGTBQ affinity group, provides Know Your Rights training for visiting high school students. The group also fundraises for scholarships.
Land Air Water organizes student participation each year in the Great Willamette Cleanup in the fall. In the spring, members volunteer to plant trees and native shrubs throughout local neighborhoods and natural areas.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Jennifer Hubbard Geller
Public Law and Policy Program Managing Director
Law students may earn a Public Interest Law Concentration. To earn this Concentration, students must complete a cluster of relevant coursework, participate in a clinic or externship with a public interest focus, and complete a research paper related to the practice of public interest law. Oregon Law also offers a number of other concentrations that are relevant for students who wish to pursue particular types of public interest law. These concentrations include Child Advocacy Law, Dispute Resolution, Environmental & Natural Resources Law, Law & Public Policy, and Ocean & Coastal Law.
Public Interest Centers
Public Law & Policy Program – This program serves as an umbrella for a range of Oregon Law’s public interest, public service, and public policy programs. Led by a faculty director and a managing director, this program brings together multiple public interest fellowship programs, the pro bono program, the loan repayment assistance program, and a range of signature events related to public interest and public sector practice.
Oregon Law Commission - Funded by the Oregon Legislature, this independent Commission is housed in the Oregon School of Law building. The Commission is dedicated to the continuous improvement of Oregon statutes. The Commission brings together experts in the field to study critical issues and suggest revisions to Oregon laws.
Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center – Oregon Law’s ADR Center provides student opportunities to learn how to navigate the field of appropriate dispute resolution and manage complex interactions outside the traditional litigation setting. Partnered with the ADR Center, the Conflict and Dispute Resolution (CRES) Program offers law students an opportunity to earn a master’s degree and a J.D. in 4 years. The ADR Center also hosts the Oregon Office for Community Dispute Resolution, a state office supporting 16 community dispute resolution centers in 25 Oregon counties.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Center- The ENR Center launches research projects and prepares students for leadership in the rapidly changing area of environmental policy. Key programming includes the Environmental Law Clinic, externships, the Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation, and Western Environmental Law Update. The annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference brings together activists, attorneys, students, scientists and concerned citizens from across the globe to share their experience and expertise.
Oregon Child Advocacy Project: Participants in this project work pursuing justice for children. Faculty and students associated with OCAP work on legislative proposals and provide research assistance and consultation to attorneys in cases that advance the project’s goals. In addition, this project organizes a range of dynamic programs and lectures on cutting edge legal and policy issues that impact children’s rights and their health and wellness.
The Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics – This independent center housed at Oregon Law organizes programming that brings together students, scholars, activists, policymakers, and communities together to discuss issues affecting Oregon, our nation, and the world. The Center's Advisory Board selects themes of inquiry every two years, and sponsors a range of scholarly activities, classes, and community events that relate to these themes. Each year, the Wayne Morse Center awards fellowships to selected Oregon Law students for summer positions in Oregon’s state capital and Washington, D.C.
Public Interest Clinics
Civil Practice Clinic and Advanced Civil Practice Clinic – Students participate in negotiation and litigation assisting low income clients with a variety of legal needs. The Clinic is housed at Lane County Legal Aid.
Criminal Defense Clinic and Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic - Students work with the Public Defender of Lane County. Work includes conducting client and witness interviews, investigations, and help with defense of clients in circuit court.
Domestic Violence Protective Order Clinic and Advanced Domestic Violence Protective Order Clinic - Students enrolled in the Protective Order Clinic represent survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other forms of intimate partner violence in protective order litigation, including restraining and stalking orders.
Domestic Violence Clinic and Advanced Domestic Violence Clinic - Students enrolled in this clinic represent survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other forms of intimate partner violence in civil legal matters, including family law, housing, and employment issues.
Environmental Law Clinic - Students work with attorneys with the Western Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm with offices in Eugene, Taos, Seattle and Helena. Students work with attorneys on active and developing litigation.
Nonprofit Clinic – In this interdisciplinary clinic, students conduct organizational assessments of nonprofit organizations and facilitate a dialogue between nonprofit organizations’ Executive Directors and Board of Directors regarding recommendations.
Opportunities for externships include a wide range of public interest field placement options for academic credit. Students frequently have externships with nonprofits such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Oregon Law Center, and Environmental Law Alliance. Public sector opportunities include work with government at all levels.
Classes with a Public Service Component
Courses with a public service component include our periodically offered Legislative Issues Workshop. This workshop includes work with legislators during Oregon’s bi-annual legislative session.
Public Interest Journals
Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation
PI Career Support Center
Oregon Law’s Center for Career Planning and Professional Development (Center) tailors its services to individuals’ interests. They offer a wide range of support services and resources related to public interest legal careers. Students’ professional development and exploration includes a 1L course that introduces the full range of legal careers and supports students’ interests.
Oregon Law is a member of the Northwest Consortium of Law Schools that annually co-sponsors the Northwest Public Service Career Fair, bringing in a large number of public service employers for table talk and interviews. The Fair is held in February in both Portland and Seattle.
Connections with several organizations enhance students’ ability to pursue public interest careers. The Center staff and the Public Law and Policy Program Manager are active members of the National Association of Law Placement and participate in relevant sections related to public sector and public interest practice. In addition, Oregon Law is a member of Equal Justice Works. A partnership with AccessLex provides students with financial counseling and education while pursuing their selected career paths.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
Oregon Law offers LRAP assistance to recent graduates who meet income thresholds and are employed in public interest positions as part of its ongoing commitment to support graduates who public interest careers.
Law School Funded:
Oregon Law’s ENR Center provides $5000 project stipends. Post-graduate fellows execute discrete research projects under the direction of a faculty supervisor.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
Law School Funded: Oregon Law has a broad range of funded fellowships that support students’ pursuit of public interest law. Focus areas for fellowships include appropriate dispute resolution, civil rights (Minoru Yasui Fellowship), empirical legal studies, environmental & natural resources law, family & child law, international law, leadership in the law, multi-jurisdictional issues (Hans Linde Fellowship), and public law & policy. Oregon Law also offers a variety of scholarships with criteria that recognizes public interest experience and commitment.
Graduate Student Funded
Other Funding Sources:
The Multnomah Bar Association (MBA), in partnership with the University of Oregon School of Law, has a fellowship program that includes funding for tuition and a summer fellowship. In addition, the Oregon Law Commission, housed in the Knight Law Center, hires student fellows to assist with its work related to ongoing improvement of Oregon’s laws.
Law School Funded:
Oregon Law’s Environmental & Natural Resource Center offers summer stipends for public interest work at environmental nonprofits to some of its fellows
Graduate Student Funded:
The Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund, a student organization, raises funds and provides stipends for students with summer public interest positions with nonprofits. Student group Land Air Water also provides stipends each summer for public interest work with environmental nonprofits.
Other Funding Sources:
The Wayne Morse Center, an independent center housed in Oregon Law building offers funded summer fellowships to law students with demonstrated commitment to public service. Wayne Morse Center Fellows provides paid summer fellowships in Washington, D.C. and Salem, Oregon. In addition, the Oregon State Bar offers several summer fellowships each year for public interest work.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Center for Career Planning and Professional Development: Throughout the year, the Center holds numerous programs introducing students to a vast array of legal practice opportunities including the range of public interest and public service opportunities available to law students and lawyers.
Derrick Bell Lecture: Annual lecture in honor of Oregon Law’s first African American Dean.
Lorwin Lecture: Annual lecture that hosts scholars and experts to promote the greater appreciation of the importance of civil rights.
Lunch with Leaders: Public Law and Policy Program that brings in local and state policy leaders for smaller group lunches and conversation with law students.
O’Connell Conference: Annual conference that explores a legal or policy issue of interest to judges and the legal community.
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference: Annual conference that brings together over 400 international advocates, lawyers, activists and students.
The Frohnmayer Leadership Program: This program provides students with ongoing opportunities to participate in activities that develop leadership skills. The program offers the opportunity to earn a Leadership in Practice Certificate of Completion
Rennard Strickland Lecture: Annual lecture in honor of Oregon Law Dean and his legacy of contributions to the field of Indian law and to Environmental and Natural Resources and Indian law programs at Oregon Law.
Minoru Yasui Day: Annual event held in conjunction with stakeholders to honor Minoru Yasui and his lifelong fight for civil rights. Oregon Law holds other programming events highlighting Minoru Yasui’s legacy at other times of the year as well.
Student Public Interest Groups
Oregon Law student life includes a wealth of active student groups. From time to time, students form new groups around emerging interests. Long-time public interest groups include the following:
American Constitution Society
Child and Family Law Association
Community Action Public Service
Good Food Group
Green Business Initiative Student Association
Land Air Water
National Lawyers Guild
Oregon Criminal Defense Law Students Association
Oregon Law Students’ Public Interest Fund
Phi Alpha Delta
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund