Pro Bono Programs
Why you should do pro bono?
For some students, the fact that they are providing desperately needed legal services to people who cannot afford them is sufficient reason. Doing pro bono work enables law students to touch and change the lives of others. Many students came to law school with the goal of helping people; doing pro bono work can help them reconnect to the motivation that brought them here.
Pro bono legal work can also advance your professional development and career planning goals. For example, performing pro bono legal work can help you better understand the substantive issues you are studying in your courses. Trying to use the law to help clients achieve their goals, pro bono volunteers learn about the power--and the limits--of the law and the lawyer's role in resolving complex problems associate with poverty and powerlessness.
In addition, pro bono legal work can enhance marketable skills that you will need as practicing lawyers. For instance, pro bono programs offer great "hands on" experiences - such as interviewing and counseling clients, drafting pleadings, negotiating deals, or appearing in court - that are very attractive to prospective employers. Pro bono legal work can also help you identify areas of practice you may (or may not) wish to pursue when you graduate. Finally, pro bono legal volunteers meet practicing lawyers who may be helpful to them as they consider and search for employment opportunities.
Villanova Pro Bono Programs
Villanova Law hosts a number of exciting Pro Bono programs. These and other programs offer tremendous opportunities to serve those in need, while developing your own lawyering skills.
Lawyering Together" Program
Approximately 20% of the student body is participating in the "Lawyering Together" program, in which law students are matched with volunteer attorneys, who then represent indigent clients referred from several Philadelphia pro bono organizations. The referring organizations include Senior Law Center, Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP) and the Support Center for Child Advocates. The cases cover a broad spectrum of civil matters, including domestic relations (including custody, adoption, and domestic violence), immigration, wills and other personal planning documents, consumer rights and personal injury litigation defense.
To ensure program quality and continuity, the Director of Public Service Careers & Pro Bono Programs administers a rich array of pro bono programs that are now established components of Villanova Law School’s institutional commitment to pro bono service to the disadvantaged.
Homeless Advocacy Project “Adopt-A-Shelter”
In Fall 2002, Villanova “adopted” the HELP Homeless Shelter through the Homeless Advocacy Project Adopt-A-Shelter Program. By adopting the shelter, Villanova agrees to staff a legal clinic every month on the first Wednesday of the month. Villanova students perform intake interviews and then assist clients with legal problems, supervised by the HAP staff attorney.
In Spring 2003, Villanova, in collaboration with area law schools, created a new pro bono project assisting immigrant detainees with habeas petitions. Students are trained by the staff of the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center to prepare the petitions. Students meet with clients and prepare petitions weekly, traveling to the York County Detention Facility.
Chester County “Street Law” Legal Education
In conjunction with the Chester County Bar Association and the Pro Bono Society, Villanova students prepare curriculum and present workshops to students in kindergarten through 12th grade about various areas of the law. Some examples of the workshops include “Going to Court,” and “Sexual Harassment.”
Villanova operates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, assisting low-income taxpayers in the Philadelphia area to prepare their returns. Additionally, Tax Law Society students offer “Know Your Rights” presentations to indigent taxpayers.
Federal Defender's Capital Case Project
The Federal Defender's Capital Case Project started in Fall 2003, places two students per semester, who are selected through a competitive application process, to devote 5 hours per week working on capital cases supervised by the Federal Defender's Office. Students selected receive extensive training and mentoring as part of this project.
In addition, other pro bono programs are offered through student organizations at the law school, including the Pro Bono Society, the Tax Law Society and other student groups. The Pro Bono Society, for example, offers law students short-term and long-term pro bono and community services opportunities. Through the Pro Bono Society and other student groups, students have given "Know Your Rights" presentations to audiences ranging from immigrant detainees, migrant workers, people on the verge of homelessness. In addition, through the Tax Law Society, students have volunteered at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites at which they assist low-income taxpayers.
Finding the Time to Do Pro Bono Legal Work
How do busy students find the time to do pro bono? For most law students, there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done-much less to do things we'd like to do. Indeed, once you graduate and become practicing lawyers, the demands on your time can seem even more overwhelming. The "Lawyering Together" program lets students see how and why busy practicing lawyers choose to integrate pro bono into their schedules and still find time to fulfill their other professional and personal commitments.
Summer is a good time to begin developing a time-management plan that can include pro bono legal service into your schedule for the upcoming year. In addition, in the summer you may also find opportunities to volunteer for pro bono projects through your employer or other avenues. Even the most modest commitment can make a difference to a client in need.
How can you get involved in Villanova pro bono programs?
Stop in to speak with or e-mail the Law School's Director of Public Service Careers & Pro Bono Programs. The Director can also give you information about pro bono opportunities, as well as information about public interest organizations that are eager to recruit volunteer law students. The Director would also be willing to work with you to create a new program, if the community need and student interest is there.