William Mitchell College of Law

William Mitchell College of Law
875 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Rinal Ray
MJF Staff Attorney
P: (651) 290-8658

Category Type

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

Description of Programs

William Mitchell's Pubic Service Program directed by Professor Peter Knapp operates in conjunction with the Minnesota Justice Foundation. Working hand-in-hand with MJF, our Clinical and Externship programs, Mitchell's Public Service Program provides opportunities for students to volunteer their time doing pro bono work. Mitchell students develop a commitment to public service, ethical understanding, and insight into the legal process and most importantly, they make a difference in the community. William Mitchell is ranked 12th among the nation's best public interest law schools by The National Jurist magazine (November 2008).

MJF launched its Law School Public Service Program, in 1999, a collaborative effort that now includes the four Minnesota law schools (Hamline University School of Law, University of Minnesota Law School, University of St. Thomas School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law), the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA), and over 150 agencies. Every year, more than 50 percent of Mitchell students participate voluntarily in pro bono work through MJF, providing over 15,000 hours each year. In addition, the MJF coordinates a Summer Clerkship Program, providing paid clerkships at public interest law offices in Minnesota.

The Law School Public Service Program is designed to promote an ethic of public service in Minnesota law students and to increase the availability of legal services to Minnesota's low-income and disadvantaged populations. Through the Pro Bono Component each Minnesota law school asks its students to perform 50 hours of law-related public service and makes the commitment to have placements available. MJF coordinates the volunteer placements. Lists of opportunities are made available to students in hard copy and on the web. MJF oversees placements and receives feedback from both students and supervising attorneys concerning the placements. MJF has a Newsletter which is widely distributed three times a year. MJF has sponsored intensive Street Law placement opportunities for students during the spring semester.

Location of Programs

Stand-alone program, run by the Minnesota Justice Foundation, an independent non-profit which coordinates the Law School Public Service Program for the law schools in Minnesota. The staff attorney for the program has an office and student space in our Legal Practice Center on campus.



MJF has a full-time staff of 6 attorneys, one administrator and a part-time law student. The Board of Directors is made up of law students, private attorneys, legal services attorneys and client-eligible community members. Three students from each school sit on MJF's Board of Directors. Drawn from the membership of MJF's student chapters, these students help steer the agency and its programs - including its law school pro bono program. Each School also appoints several of its own law students to its own Public Service Committee. MJF also serves on the Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association, as well as the MSBA Law School Initiatives Subcommittee, where the law school public service program collaboration partners monitor and support the program.


William Mitchell provides office space, in-kind support, and line item budget funding to MJF for administration of the public service program. Last year, the College provided $60,000 of funding for the program. The College absorbs pro bono litigation costs, provides malpractice insurance for all faculty, and covers all bar licensing and renewal fees. Faculty administrative assistants, paid out of College funds, often assist faculty with pro bono work.

Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

MJF Street Law Project- MJF staff, legal services attorneys and alternative learning center teachers train law students to teach low-income, at-risk high school students their basic legal rights, responsibilities and resources.

A Pro Bono Clinic was recently created by the William Mitchell Chapter of MJF and Alumni Association to meet the needs of pro se litigants in family law and criminal records expungement matters.

The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project - Named after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan, the Marshall-Brennan Project sends law school students into high schools to teach constitutional rights, seeking to empower high school students to be responsible citizens and lifelong participants in the democratic process. Beginning in the spring 2010 semester, eight William Mitchell students will teach 12th grade government classes at Central Senior High School, Como Park Senior High School, and Avalon School in St. Paul.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

One full-time faculty member is charged with responsibility for working with MJF and overseeing the public service program. The faculty are actively encouraged to pursue pro bono projects and are asked to report significant pro bono activities as part of the annual review. Pro bono activities undertaken are rewarded as part of the merit salary system.


Graduation Recognition of 50 Hours of Service - William Mitchell graduates who have completed 50 hours of public service work, either through volunteer placements or through public interest client representation clinics, receive a transcript notation and recognition at our graduation ceremony. An asterisk is placed by the student's name in the graduation program, which indicates public service. During the graduation ceremony, the President asks these students to stand for public acknowledgement.

Recognition Reception - The law schools, bar association, and MJF host a reception at the Judicial Center each year for all students who have completed 50 hours of volunteer service. Faculty and student pro bono service activities are recognized in our internal and external publications.

The MJF 2009 Outstanding Service Awards were awarded to Andrew Birkeland (Law Student Award), Resident Adjunct Professor Diane Marie Dube (Law Professor Award) and Alumni Jean Lastine (Distinguished Service). The Outstanding Service Awards honor those who have made significant contributions to poverty law and public interest work and to ensuring equal justice for all Minnesotans. A number of William Mitchell law students and alumni have also received these awards in prior years.

Community Service

William Mitchell College of Law's Office of Multicultural Affairs coordinates the following programs:

  • Future in Learning Law (FILL) Summer High School Program and Law School Admissions Council Legal Education Awareness (LEAP) Program for junior high and high school students.
  • Student Volunteer Opportunity with the Jeremiah House through the Minnesota Campus Compact Martin Luther King Day of Service Challenge Grant.
  • Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, NAPABA-MN Chapter, Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (MAIBA) - Representative for William Mitchell College of Law.
  • Civic Education Outreach with law students in the schools in conjunction with the Minnesota State Bar Association Civic Education Committee.
  • Participation in the St. Paul Hispanic and Hmong Resource Fair

The Community Development Clinic initiates and engages non-clinic law students in a variety of community service projects such as Project Homeless Connect and the Central Corridor Community Summit.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Peter Knapp
P: (651) 290-6423

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Although the School does not grant a public interest certificate or have a formal curricular program, the School has a recommended track of classes for students interested in public interest.

Public Interest Centers

Minnesota Justice Foundation -

Public Interest Clinics

Apprenticeship Program

Business Law

Civil Advocacy

Community Development

Criminal Appeals

Criminal Justice

Immigration Law

Intellectual Property Clinic

Law & Psychiatry

Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP)

Legal Planning For Tax-Exempt Organizations and Low Income Clients


Reentry Clinic for Women

Note: Many students use the Independent Clinic option to create their own public interest clinic opportunity. Students may earn credit by participating in lawyering experiences outside the formal clinical courses offered. The plan must contain educational objectives, a description of the fieldwork, and a proposed method of evaluation.


The School offers the following externships:

  • Administrative Law Clinic
  • Apprenticeship Program
  • Court of Appeals Clinic
  • District Court Clinic
  • Work of the Lawyer

Classes with a Public Service Component

The Center for Negotiation and Justice incorporates a public service component in its work. For example, students in Advanced ADR created a family mediation program for American Indian families to find options that would help the families avoid child protection action from the county.

Elder Law Workshop: Advising the Elderly Client - Students have the opportunity to work with elder law specialists and advocates for the elderly community in the Twin Cities.

Elder Justice and Policy - Combines an external placement in an elder justice organization with a seminar on a variety of elder law issues and topics. Projects typically entail drafting legislation and working towards its passage in the state legislature or at the national level, developing self-help resources for seniors on specific areas of interest, or conducting empirical research on elder justice issues.

Legal Scholarship for Equal Justice –A seminar open to students enrolled in the four Twin Cities law schools, during which students work singly or in small groups to produce research papers that advance equal justice.

Poverty Law – A public service component is offered in conjunction with the Poverty Law class.

Policy Analysis – This introductory course focuses on the skill of problem solving and policy analysis, using the exploration of a current problem such as poverty or gentrification. The students' work is then made available to interested stakeholders.

Public Interest Career Support Center

The School participates in national public interest career fairs and offers programming focusing on public interest career options throughout the year. The School also cooperates with the other Twin Cities law schools to host the annual public interest career forum and the interviews for the MJF summer clerkships. The Career Office also hosts a number of programs, career panels and events that focus on various aspects of a professional life connected to public interest and government work.

For additional information, contact Assistant Dean Bridgid Dowdal.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota (LRAP-MN). Contact Heather Rastorfer Vlieger, 612-278-6315, or visit the website:. 

The deans and faculty also created an LRAP fund to support LRAP-MN ; $52,000 for FY09 contributions.

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:

Mitchell manages a portion of its federal work-study allocation to include off-campus jobs with non-profit organizations and governmental agencies. The Public Health Law Center located at William Mitchell also employs law students as research assistants.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed.

Other Funding Sources:

Dayton-Hanson Elder law Scholarship – students enrolled at William Mitchell who demonstrate a commitment to elder law as shown through elder law and policy courses, public service, and scholarly research relating to elder law. Preference is given to 3rd and 4th year students.

James R. and Mary W. Frey Scholarship- first-year William Mitchell students who have a physical disability and demonstrate financial need, with preference going to students who have a future interest in public service. The donors request that preference be given to students with mobility impairments.

Professor Melvin Goldberg Scholarship- student who has completed the first or second year of law school in good academic standing and with an interest in a career in public interest law; preference is given to a student with an interest and experience in working to preserve the rights of underrepresented people. Dean of students in consultation with Paula Goldberg or her designees determined the recipient.

Ronald E. and Alverna L. Hachey Scholarship – second-year student with financial need, showing academic promise and an interest in a public service career. Other considerations being equal, with a preference for a qualified minority student.

Chief Justice Peter S. Popovich Scholarship - two students, who are residing in Minnesota, working full-time, attending law school in the part-time program, needing financial aid, and evidencing a strong commitment to community and public service.

David J. Prince Public Service Scholarship - all 3rd and 4th year students enrolled at William Mitchell. Students must be in good standing and show a commitment to pursuing public service following their graduation. This commitment will include demonstrated previous experience in public, either before or during law school, and a commitment to work in underserved communities. The scholarship may be renewed in subsequent years and may be combined with other scholarship awards.

Nicholas V. Schaps, Jr. Memorial Scholarship - third or fourth year student who demonstrates a commitment to volunteerism and community service; with a minimum grade point average of 2.8 and with preference given to a student with demonstrated financial need.

Deborah A. Schmedemann Scholarship - all students admitted to or enrolled at WMCL who are in good academic standing. The scholarship may be renewed for the student(s) in subsequent years and may be combined with other scholarship awards.

Susanne C. Sedgwick Scholarship– female part-time student with dependent children who has completed one year of law school and has an interest in public service; recipient must be in good academic standing and have financial need.

Michael J. Steenson Scholarship - preference is given to returning students in good academic standing who have financial need and demonstrate an interest in public service after law school. Additional preference is given to part-time students who are working. Scholarship may be renewed in subsequent years.

Jonathon Weitzman Leadership Award - returning students who demonstrate leadership and community involvement with preference given to those applying their legal education to serve underrepresented communities.

Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

None listed.

Graduate Student Funded:

None listed.

Other Funding Sources:

William Mitchell allocates work-study funds for off-campus public interest work by students during the summer. In addition, Mitchell students raise moneys each year to fund public interest clerkships during the summer.

The Albert H. Mansfield Foundationprovides a $10,000 grant to fund two summer clerkships at two local public interest organizations, SMRLS and Legal Aid. William Mitchell and the two agencies also provided funds for these clerkships. Each student receives $5000 from the grant and $500 from the hiring agency and $1000 from William Mitchell College of Law for a total stipend of $6500.

Each year, the Student Chapter of MJF raises money to fund several public interest legal fellowships through the Public Interest Legal Fellowship Program. The number of fellowships awarded is based on the amount of money raised; each Fellowship carries a stipend of up to $4,000. Additionally, the Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) raises funds for approximately 20 Summer Clerkships, each with a stipend of up of $4,300.

Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Visiting Wasserstein Fellows - OPIA manages a specially endowed account that funds lawyers who compete to come to campus for one or two days each. The Visiting Wasserstein Fellows advise students and speak to groups of students. There are typically 8-10 Fellows per year.

Student Public Interest Groups

American Constitutional Society - invite and promote public interest speakers on campus

National Lawyer's Guild

Elder Law and Estate Planning Society and the Center for Elder Justice and Policy– sponsors National Healthcare Decisions Day, where law students and alumni provide free assistance to anyone who wishes to complete an advance health care directive.

Minnesota Justice Foundation Student Chapter - sponsors or facilitates mentor activities, raises money for summer Public Interest Legal Fellowships, sponsors the Pro Se Clinic, and organizes several educational programs on public interest topics such as access to justice and living in poverty.

Law Students for Legal Disaster Relief –was created to sustain the work of law students who volunteered with legal organizations in the Gulf Coast region following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The organization is committed to providing assistance to the lingering legal effects of disaster, not only in the Gulf Coast region but elsewhere in the country.

PLP Program (Perspectives on the Legal Profession) - a wide variety of student organizations present speakers on public interest topics such as community development, election protection, and homelessness.