With American courts flooded by unrepresented litigants, civil legal services programs facing sharp cuts in funding, and law schools facing criticism for failing to offer sufficient “experiential learning” opportunities through which students can gain practical skills, the National Center for Access to Justice is helping to advance a national conversation about how to increase the impact of “law student pro bono” – the hands-on activities that law students carry out as volunteers, without pay or academic credit.
The Center, which is writing a report on law student pro bono and access to justice for release this fall, will host a session on October 26, 2012 at the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair, titled, Strengthening Law Student Pro Bono to Increase Access to Justice. David Udell, Executive Director of the Center, will be joined by Jane Aiken, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, Community Service & Public Interest, Georgetown Law School; Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Assistant Dean & Executive Director, Toll Public Interest Center, Penn Law School; Karen A. Lash, Senior Counsel, Access to Justice Initiative, U.S. Department of Justice; and, James J. Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation.
The panelists will present ideas for strengthening the infrastructure of law student pro bono. For example, one proposal would be to seek to replicate in other states the recently established rule that conditions admission to the New York Bar on completion of 50 hours of pro bono. Among the goals of the session is to jumpstart a dialogue about which of the ideas to prioritize, as a first step toward the additional work that would be needed to make them a reality. In connection with the event, the Center has circulated to conference registrants a list of reform goals, and of model projects and structures. The materials are also available on the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair web site. The Center invites feedback from interested persons, at firstname.lastname@example.org.