December 27, 2018

University of Akron

University of Akron
C. Blake McDowell Law Center
150 University Avenue
Akron, OH 44325

Law School Pro Bono Programs|

Contact Information

Joann M. Sahl, Esq.
Director, Civil Litigation Clinic
(330) 972-7189

Alisa N. Benedict O'Brien
Director, Career Planning and Placement Office
(330) 972-8540

Category Type

Public Service Graduation Requirement Program

Description of Programs

Akron Law's program (the Program) has two components: community service and pro bono. Both components require specific hours devoted to providing assistance to persons of limited financial means. The Program is headed by the Director of Akron Law's Civil Litigation Clinic (the Program Coordinator), who coordinates the Program and assists in recruiting and placing students with appropriate community service / pro bono opportunities. The Director of Career Planning & Placement also works closely with the Program Coordinator and is primarily responsible for tracking the students' community service and pro bono hours.

The Program encourages and helps to coordinate events sponsored by many student organizations (such as the Student Bar Association and the Akron Public Interest Law Association) which include such community service / pro bono activities as part of their regular programming. Further, Akron Law sponsors multiple community service / pro bono events throughout the year, including the Akron Law Heart Walk, Wills for Heroes, multiple legal clinics, and Akron Law Cares, the law school's annual community service and outreach project. Akron Law also participates in National Pro Bono Week.

For further information, including the text of Akron Law's mandatory community service / pro bono graduation requirement, see The website also contains convenient links to: (1) the Certification of Supervisor form that students are required to submit; and (2) Reporting Instructions for students. Students are now required to submit all hours using Akron Law's Symplicity website. In order to receive credit for hours served, the Program requires that students complete and submit both the Certification of Supervisor form and an online submission via Symplicity by the established deadlines for each semester.

Location of Programs

The University of Akron School of Law Legal Clinic.


Joann M. Sahl, Esq., Director, Civil Litigation Clinic. Professor Sahl acts as Program Coordinator, along with Alisa N. Benedict O'Brien, Esq., Director, Career Planning & Placement.


The Director of Akron Law's Civil Litigation Clinic, as part of the position's duties, devotes a portion of her time to coordinating the Program. She facilitates the Program, obtains appropriate community service / pro bono opportunities, and recruits students to participate in these opportunities. The Program Coordinator communicates opportunities to students via the Akron Law Community Service blog and via other forms of social media. The Program Coordinator also visits law classes to promote the ideals and benefits of community and pro bono public service, as well as specific available opportunities.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

The Akron Public Interest Law Society devotes all of its efforts to various pro bono projects throughout the academic year. The Student Bar Association also organizes and promotes various community service events throughout the year.

Street Law is a joint endeavor between the Akron Bar Association, Akron Law, and local public schools to teach students law and citizenship. Street Law brings local attorneys and law students into area classrooms in partnership with high school and middle school teachers. Street Law has a summer component for elementary students (camp law school), middle school and high school students (the minority pipeline program).

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Akron Law faculty members participate in both community service and pro bono opportunities. For example, Akron Law regularly hosts faculty brown bag lunches, many of which focus on pro bono opportunities for the faculty. Faculty members share information about projects in which they are currently involved and are made aware of other opportunities in the community and beyond and are encouraged to volunteer for those activities. Further, upon the Dean's approval for the use of faculty time on pro bono projects, secretarial support is available for faculty in the preparation of amicus briefs, legislative support and proposals, bar association committee reports, and CLE materials.

Akron Law faculty and administrators also participate in the Akron Bar Association's community service and pro bono projects. Both the Akron Bar and Akron Law work closely with Community Legal Aid to support their programs and thus provides an avenue for faculty and administrators to provide pro bono service. Also, the Akron Bar Pro Bono committee, of which the Program Coordinator is a member, develops programs to provide legal assistance to clients of limited financial means. Akron Law students participate in many of these projects.

Faculty members serve as chairs and reporters for local, state, national and international bar and professional committees, and dedicate many hours of personal time to providing legal assistance to the poor at area shelters and clinics, and to assisting with other community service and pro bono projects.

The Faculty Evaluation Criteria and Procedures specifically recognize the importance of service to both the profession and community in reappointment, tenure, promotion, salary decisions and incorporate the AALS Statement of Good Practices for law professors, encouraging pro bono service.

Faculty members serve as advisors to student groups, including those devoted to pro bono causes.


The Program Coordinator, with the assistance of the Director of Career Planning & Placement, tracks the total number of student community and pro bono service hours using a two-pronged methodology. First, students must complete a Certification of Supervisor form detailing, among other things, the hours worked, and the name and type of service project. This form must be signed by an authorized representative of the organization.  Second, students must submit all hours in a web-based reporting application via Symplicity and upload their signed Certification of Supervisor form. To receive credit toward the graduation requirement students must complete both prongs of the reporting procedure by an established deadline for each semester. The Director of Career Planning verifies and approves all hours submitted.

The student(s) (one full-time and one part-time) with the highest total number of pro bono hours at graduation, as determined by compiling the data received from the reporting procedure, are recognized at Commencement and given a monetary award funded by a local law firm. Additionally, all graduating students who complete over 300 hours of pro bono and community service hours receive a certificate and gold cords to be worn at Commencement, and are recognized in the Commencement program.

The Aileen McMurray Trusler Professorship is awarded to a tenured full professor in recognition for her or his community service and pro bono efforts. The current holder of the professorship focuses on women's legal history, family law, feminist legal history, and equitable remedies.

Community Service

Akron Law student groups often work with faculty advisors and administrators to organize community service activities. Faculty, students, and administrators participate in projects such as Habitat for Humanity, animal shelters, tutoring, and food, clothing, and toy drives. Further, Akron Law sponsors multiple community service / pro bono events throughout the year, including the Akron Law Heart Walk, Wills for Heroes, and Akron Law Cares, the law school's annual community service and outreach project. Akron Law students also assist with multiple free legal clinics and other projects sponsored by Akron Law legal clinics and the local Community Legal Aid office.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Joann M. Sahl, Esq.
Director, Civil Litigation Clinic
(330) 972-7189

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

None listed

Public Interest Centers

None listed

Public Interest Clinics

The Legal Clinic provides assistance to low income clients in the following specialty clinics:

Appellate Review Office: provides clients with legal representation on appeals in state and federal criminal and civil rights cases.

Trial Litigation Clinic: provides clients with misdemeanor criminal defense.

Small Entrepreneur and Economic Development (SEED) Legal Clinic: provides low-cost legal and business assistance to small and emerging businesses in the local community. This assistance includes business planning, employment, contract/lease, tax, and entity formation information.

Civil Litigation Clinic: provides low-income clients with legal representation in housing matters, including landlord/tenant and foreclosure actions.

The Clemency Project: provides legal assistance to low-income clients in their efforts to obtain a pardon of their convictions from the Governor of Ohio.

The Expungement Clinic: provides legal assistance to low-income clients in their efforts to have their criminal records expunged.

The CQE Clinic: provides legal assistance to persons convicted of or who have pled guilty to a misdemeanor or felony in Ohio to obtain a Certificate of Qualification for Employment ("CQE") to assist with obtaining employment or an occupational license.

Prisoner Legal Assistance Clinic: provides general legal information on criminal and civil issues.

Jail Inmate Assistance Program: travels to local county jails, interviews inmates and provides general legal information on criminal and civil issues.


Through its Public External Placement Clinic, Akron Law places students for credit in public interest settings under the direct supervision of an attorney. Placements are coordinated by the Director of the SEED Legal Clinic. Students earn academic credit for working 90 to 120 hours per semester at a public interest placement. Placements include a classroom component. Students may participate in the Public External Placement Clinic twice during their law school career.

The Public Interest Fellowship Program ("PIFP") is designed to support the public interest endeavors of students in terms of related work experiences. The PIFP presents students with the opportunity to gain relevant public interest experiences and legal skills while earning a modest stipend. The PIFP is offered three times per year (fall, spring and summer semesters). Upon their application, Akron Law students are considered by a committee of Akron Law faculty and administrators, and if selected, receive a monetary award based upon the anticipated hours worked and available funding.

The PFIP stipends are funded by the Samuel Reece Willis Foundation, the Student Bar Association Auction and the Malkin - Koosed Public Interest Fellowship. These sources together historically generate in excess of $30,000 per year for the PIFP stipends.

Classes with a Public Service Component

Public External Placement Clinical Seminars: Students receive academic credit for their work in public interest placements under the supervision of an attorney, as discussed above.

Property Law: Students assist with deed search project.

Public Interest Journals

None listed

Public Interest Career Support Center

Akron Law offers the following services:

  • Career consultations relative to public interest areas and programs inclusive of the Public Interest Fellowship Program.
  • Clinical Seminars which take place exclusively in governmental, public sector or not-for-profit entities.
  • The Bliss Institute of The University of Akron which assists in the placement of students in government, interest group and lobbying organizations.

Akron Law's Career Planning & Placement Office provides the following services:

  • Posts, through a variety of sources, including the Symplicity job database and multiple forms of social media, public interest job opportunities as they are received.
  • Career counseling regarding how to identify and obtain public interest careers, including opportunities for attorneys, law clerks, and fellowships.
  • Coordinates and hosts an annual Government and Public Interest Law Information Fair in March.
  • Hosts panels and speakers on public interest practice areas.
  • A library containing a multitude of print and electronic media concerning public interest careers and career opportunities.
  • Coordinates registration for Akron Law students who wish to attend and participate in the Annual Equal Justice Works Conference and Job Fair and the Midwest Public Interest Career Fair.
  • Coordinates and announces through a variety of sources, various public interest career fairs.
  • Provides PSJD to students and alumni.
  • Provides students with resources and counseling regarding Akron Law's clinical opportunities and the externship program.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

None listed

Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

None listed

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

None listed

Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Semester long Public Interest Fellowships

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

  • Student Bar Association (SBA) Auction
  • Samuel Willis Reece Foundation
  • Malkin-Koosed Public Interest Fellowship

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Summer Long Public Interest Fellowships

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed

Other Funding Sources:

  • Student Bar Association (SBA) Auction
  • Samuel Willis Reece Foundation
  • Malkin-Koosed Public Interest Fellowship
  • Akron Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellowships

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Each academic year, students are provided with opportunities to attend or participate in various public interest programs and conferences including: Equal Works Public Interest Conference and Career Fair and Community Legal Aid and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland clinics.

Student Public Interest Groups

Akron Public Interest Law Society (APILS): APILS is highly involved in public interest endeavors. Activities include inviting public interest related groups to speak at Akron Law. APILS members have volunteered at the CASA Guardian Ad Litem Program of Summit County as well as Community Legal Aid. APILS members have been involved in pro bono research projects, mediation at the Akron Municipal Court and have served food at a local homeless shelter. Members of APILS have attended the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair and many other public interest conferences.

The Student Bar Association (SBA): The SBA is actively involved with public interest issues. The SBA Auction represents a portion of the monies used to fund the PIFP fellowships. The SBA fosters a cooperative working relationship with Habitat for Humanity.

Other Student Group community service and pro bono activities include:

Asian-Latino Students Association / Black Law Students Association: Students tutor school children in the local area and are actively involved with the local Akron community.

Law Association for Women (LAW): LAW regularly and historically coordinates Red Cross blood drives, as well as food, clothing and gift drives for area shelters and agencies.

Phi Alpha Delta: Phi Alpha Delta regularly and historically conducts canned goods drives.

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL): NACDL regularly and historically coordinates public interest speakers at brown bag lunches and/or dinners.

Street Law: Students volunteer with local attorneys and high school teachers to teach academic courses in local public schools on the issues of law and public citizenship.

Updated: August 6, 2018