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American Bar Association
Directory of Law School Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs

University of Tennessee College of Law

University of Tennessee
University of Tennessee College of Law
1505 West Cumberland Avenue Suite 157
Knoxville, TN 37996
www.law.utk.edu

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

R Brad Morgan
Access to Justice and Mentoring Programs Coordinator
University of Tennessee College of Law
1505 W. Cumberland Avenue, Suite 157
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1810
Telephone (Office): (865) 974-2492
Facsimile: (865) 974-3068
rmorgan2@utk.edu
www.law.utk.edu

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Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by Administrative Support for Student Group Projects

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Description of Programs

The student pro bono program has several components. They are:

U.T. Pro Bono (started in 1993): This free-standing student-run organization promotes and coordinates pro bono service projects open to the entire student body. Its focus is on providing legal assistance to those who otherwise could not afford representation. The organization operates with assistance and oversight from the College's Access to Justice coordinator--a full-time staff person who is an active member of the bar and a former practicing lawyer—along with faculty advisors for individual projects, as well as input, guidance and support from the College's Pro Bono and Public Interest Committee, which reports to the Dean and consists of members of faculty and students. UT Pro Bono sponsors group projects in several subject areas. It publicizes opportunities through College email, Facebook, Twitter, the college's website, public meetings, workshops, trainings, electronic boards, notices in the weekly newsletter published by the College of Law, and by word of mouth. The Access to Justice Coordinator provides leadership with respect to evaluation and monitoring of each project and U.T. Pro Bono, and the student leaders of U.T. Pro Bono, along faculty project advisers, and the Pro Bono Committee evaluate progress periodically and at the end of each academic year.

Career Services Support: A designated staff member in Career Services devotes a significant amount of time to helping students with a strong interest in pro bono to find volunteer, clerkship and internship opportunities, and to find jobs that will allow for significant pro bono involvement. Career Services also coordinates programming such as speakers, presenters, interviews, and networking events to provide forums for students to learn more about pro bono and public interest work, as well as provide opportunities for students to network with practitioners and legal service providers.

Pro Bono Committee: This group of faculty advisers offers guidance and support for pro bono and public interest initiatives at the College, and facilities one-on-one career counseling for students with a special interest in pro bono or public interest law.

The Dean has given enthusiastic support for student pro bono work. He has built the subject into recruitment events for applicants, orientation events for new law students, and gatherings of alumni advisers.

Intensive short-term pro bono: Each spring the College provides opportunities for students to engage in significant pro bono service through Alternative Spring Break programming, and enables students to travel throughout Tennessee and the Southeast to provide legal services to underserved populations.

Equal Justice Works: The College is a member school of Equal Justice Works, and each fall provides an opportunity for interested students to attend the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair in Washington, D.C. Additionally, membership in Equal Justice Works allows students of the College to apply for summer funding through EJW AmeriCorps, which funding supports students engaged in otherwise uncompensated public interest internships. Through its membership in EJW, the College of Law has access to materials produced for and in conjunction with PSJG.org, which provide information related to debt and public interest funding, interview and resume preparation, as well as access to a database of fellowship opportunities.

Recognition: In 2012, the faculty adopted an official pro bono policy that provides for honors to be accorded graduating students that engage in significant pro bono participation during their tenure at the College. Qualifying students receive a Pro Bono Recognition Certificate, a pin, and/or a cord upon attaining the requisite number of pro bono service hours. For purposes of the Policy, pro bono is defined in the same manner as Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1

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Location of Programs

Stand-alone program involving several offices and groups. The primary contact for the U.T. Pro Bono program is:

R Brad Morgan
Access to Justice and Mentoring Programs Coordinator
University of Tennessee College of Law
1505 W. Cumberland Avenue, Suite 157
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1810
Telephone (Office): (865) 974-2492
Facsimile: (865) 974-3068
rmorgan2@utk.edu
www.law.utk.edu

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Staffing/Management/Oversight

Students run UT Pro Bono. The Access to Justice Coordinator, who is an active member of the bar and a former practicing lawyer, forges and solidifies relationships with community groups, legal service organizations, attorneys, and other external partners to expand the opportunities available to students. He devotes approximately 70% of his time to working with UT Pro Bono and counseling public-interest-minded students. This individual also provides support, guidance, and oversight of the plans and activities of UT Pro Bono. Additionally, the College's Pro Bono & Public Interest Committee, a committee appointed annually by the Dean that consists of both faculty and students, provides oversight of UT Pro Bono's efforts. Support for this position is provided by the College, which includes salary and all administrative support (travel, office space, technology, etc.)

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Funding

In addition to the position of Access to Justice Coordinator, the College provides an annual budget to support pro bono programming as described below. Funds are also made available each year through direct donations made by both the student organizations as well as law firms in the greater Tennessee area. In addition to the fellowships described below, the College supports UT Pro Bono by: providing it with office space and technology, and supporting an annual UT Pro Bono recognition event. The majority of the organization's resources are the hours contributed by student officers, coordinators and volunteers, and by the faculty advisers and practitioners who work with UT Pro Bono.

The law school provides support of various kinds to other student pro bono efforts which includes assistance with student travel to pro bono conferences, such as Equal Justice Works, as well as travel for Alternative Spring Break projects. The school also has a system whereby all student organizations, including those focused on pro bono and public interest, can submit budgets and apply for a modest organizational stipend to cover expenses for food, supplies, etc.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

The University of Tennessee has an active and involved student body. By volunteering their time and expertise to student organizations, our students learn as much as they help. The students gain invaluable "hands-on" experience and individuals and groups obtain invaluable legal assistance. There are a variety of opportunities available at the College of Law for students who are interested in volunteering while in law school. Some of the organizations that provide legal service opportunities are listed below. Other groups such as the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and Law Women also regularly work in the local community to provide not only legal assistance, but community service as well. Student organizations and projects are subject to change depending on student interest and initiative.

Homeless Project - The goals of this project are to provide practical experiences for students and to assist the homeless with their administrative or legal problems. A law professor or a local practicing attorney supervises the students on-site. The students are allowed to assist in the legal representation of individuals who are temporarily or permanently displaced and provide education about the law on such topics as minor criminal offenses, food stamps, Social Security benefits, and subsidized housing. Volunteers must attend several training sessions.

Innocence Project - The Tennessee Innocence Project, sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is based at the University of Tennessee College of Law. Students review innocence applications from Tennessee prisoners, investigate cases, and provide research assistance to Tennessee Innocence Project/TACDL volunteer attorneys. An intensive student training program is held each semester.

Saturday Bar - This program provides student volunteer assistance to attorneys working with the various offices of Legal Aid of East Tennessee and Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, including offices in Knoxville, Oak Ridge, and Maryville. Students perform intake and assist with interviewing clients. Students generally may follow through on the cases with the assigned pro bono attorney.

Animal Law Project - The Animal Law Project's current missions are: (1) Compile a complete reference detailing the law relating to all animal laws in Tennessee, outlining some of the pertinent federal laws, and interpreting applicable acts of Congress such as the Animal Welfare Act; (2) Create appendices to increase utility of our reference to people not familiar with or literate in legal terminology including sentencing guidelines and definitions; (3) Discuss with the Tennessee Judiciary their interpretation of animal laws especially the applicable criminal statutes.

Immigrant Assistance Project - This project allows students to participate in the process of completing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and U-Visa applications. The project also helps inform the local Hispanic community about changes in certain aspects of immigration law. Another related project has been to provide income tax assistance to Spanish-speaking taxpayers in Tennessee.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) - VITA is a volunteer outreach program funded and managed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The VITA mission is to help disabled, elderly, and low-income taxpayers file their returns electronically. Electronic filing helps the IRS achieve the fastest possible turnaround time to get tax refund checks to those who need them as quickly as possible. The College of Law VITA site is run completely by student volunteers trained in basic tax law and mechanics, and in the use of tax preparation software at the beginning of each tax season.

Street Law - This project, which is sponsored by the Black Law Student Association, allows students the opportunity to prepare lessons to present to high schooled aged youth in urban schools. The focus of these presentations is to introduce students to legal topics of interest and acquaint the students with various aspects of the justice system that they may encounter in their lives.

Debt Clinic - This project is very similar to Saturday Bar in that students work with local Legal Aid organizations to assist with client intake and triage. The setting is General Sessions Court (small claims court) on days when debtor/creditor matters are heard. The students interview clients, direct them to Legal Aid attorneys, and under appropriate supervision provide materials and forms related consumer law and which are intended to assist self-represented litigants in such matters.

CASA's VOLunteers - This project was developed in partnership with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an entity that seeks to provide resources and guardian ad litem services for juveniles. Through this project student volunteers assist CASA in file management and oversight.

VOLS for Vets - This project allows students to participate in projects related to serving military service personnel and their families. Specifically this project sponsors a yearly Alternative Spring Break trip to Fort Campbell, KY to assist the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps with its mission, as well as providing information to veterans and their families about laws of interest to that community (e.g., Veterans' Benefits laws, Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act).

Gay Straight Alliance - This project allows students to participate in making presentations to Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) groups at high schools in the greater Knoxville area where topics related to public access rights, free speech, and bullying are addressed.

Voter Rights Restoration - This project allows students to work with individuals that are seeking to have their voting rights restored. Students work through client intake to identify eligible individuals, and then assist these individuals in completing the necessary paperwork.

Alternative Spring Break – Each Spring the College provides opportunities for students to engage in significant, substantial, and concentrated pro bono service during spring break. Opportunities range from visiting Fort Campbell's JAG Corps, to placements with Legal Aid societies, to Habitat for Humanity service projects, to working on immigration issues such as DACA or U-Visa applications.

Another project under the UT Pro Bono umbrella is the Tennessee Association for Public Interest Law (TAPIL). TAPIL promotes and supports lawyering in the public interest and helps law students find public interest career opportunities. It has presented educational programs about current issues in law and public policy, sponsored delegations to public interest career fairs and conferences, initiated pro bono projects for law students and raises money to fund public interest summer jobs for UT law students.

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Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy in existence at this time.

A faculty member serves as volunteer adviser for each UT Pro Bono project. Faculty members also volunteer to supervise and advise other groups and individuals on pro bono projects.

Faculty members are heavily involved in the Pro Bono and Public Interest Law Committee. This work counts towards the general institutional service obligation of faculty to the law school.

The Access to Justice Coordinator also works with faculty on specific projects and goals—both curricular and extra-curricular—to involve more faculty in the pro bono program, and integrate pro bono opportunities into the curriculum as appropriate (e.g., working with professors of "Interviewing and Counseling" to create opportunities for students to interview and counsel clients at Saturday Bar).

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Awards/Recognition

The faculty adopted a pro bono policy which provides that students that engage in significant pro bono work while students at the College of Law will receive at graduation accolades. More specifically, students that dedicate 25+ hours of pro bono service will receive certificates of recognition, students that engage in 50+ hours of pro bono service will receive pins in addition to the certificates, and students that engage in 75+ hours of pro bono service receive cords to wear at graduation in addition to the certificates and pins. Additionally, all student participants are recognized in the graduation program.

Prior to graduation a pro bono recognition banquet sponsored by the College is held that honors all students that participated in a significant manner during the academic year. This banquet is attended by faculty and staff as well as students, and generally features a speaker from the local bar association.

Students that engage in Alternative Spring Break also receive certificates of recognition for their service during this event.

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Community Service

Many non-law related community service events recur annually.

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Professor Paula Williams
Chair, University of Tennessee College of Law Pro Bono and Public Interest Committee
865-974-2331
pwillia8@utk.edu

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Certificate/Curriculum Programs

The Law School does not maintain a public interest curriculum. However, a number of courses and curricular activities are available for public interest-minded students, and the Pro Bono and Public Interest Law Committee consistently works to design better ways to help such students find courses and course sequences that will help them prepare for careers in the public interest.

Additionally, the first year legal research and writing curriculum has recently introduced a public interest capstone project that allows students to engage in researching, and addressing in a legal memorandum, legal issues of interest to legal service providers, which memoranda are then provided to the service providers for use in fulfilling their missions.

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Public Interest Centers

The Law School does not have a separate formal center for public law interest. However, the School has initiated a formal Law School committee on pro bono and public interest law, and has created a formal network of faculty advisers dedicated to pro bono and public interest law. They work with individual students and are also charged with designing better systemic support for public interest students through career services and across the institution.

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Public Interest Clinics

For more than sixty years, the University of Tennessee College of Law has been a national leader in clinical legal education. Through its clinical programs, UT has helped law students develop the lawyering skills and professional judgment needed after graduation. The College has also advanced the cause of justice over the years by serving thousands of indigent clients unable to afford a lawyer.

UT Legal Clinic - The cornerstone of clinical offerings at the College of Law is the UT Legal Clinic and its Advocacy Clinic course offering. The Legal Clinic is a functioning law firm -- a teaching law office. Under special rule of the Tennessee Supreme Court, third-year law students represent real clients under faculty supervision. In the process, students are exposed to all facets of managing a case -- interviewing, research, counseling, negotiations, and advocacy in court. Case areas include adult criminal matters, juvenile delinquency, eviction actions, and unemployment hearings, among others.

Business Law Clinic - The Law School's Center for Entrepreneurial Law requires those enrolled to follow a special curriculum, grants them a special certificate at completion, and aims to prepare them for a transactional practice. The experience involves third-year law students, working in conjunction with full-time and adjunct faculty, providing business-related legal services to individuals and enterprises that would not otherwise be able to afford the range and depth of legal services that they need.

Domestic Violence Clinic –Law students working in the Domestic Violence Clinic represent real clients in contested hearings and trials through Knox County's Fourth Circuit Court. Students represent victims of domestic violence in gaining orders of protection and related matters.

Environmental Practicum –The Environmental Practicum offers students the opportunity to affect environmental law and policy in Tennessee. Students develop the skills required to successfully respond to specific environmental challenges in practice. Students help local governments, state agencies, landowners and non-profit organizations develop quality land use and growth management policies and practices.

Mediation Clinic - For many years, the College of Law has offered a Mediation Clinic in which students receive training in how to mediate disputes and then actually serve as mediators in cases before local courts of limited jurisdiction.

Non-profit Enterprises Clinic - This seminar examines federal and state laws that govern nonprofit corporations and offer practical clinical experience representing local corporations. Under the supervision of an experienced practitioner, teams of students conduct "legal audits" of local nonprofit corporations, make presentations to administrators and directors, draft corporate documents and help clients resolve specific legal problems

Immigration Clinic - Over the past ten years, East Tennessee has become the home of numerous immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Tennessee alone has experienced a 200% increase in its foreign-born population since 2000. In response to the growth, there has been an increasing need for legal representation for low-income immigrants. Accordingly, the University of Tennessee Legal Clinic created the immigration clinic. The clinic is directed by UT Professor Karla McKanders. The clinic offers free legal assistance in immigration matters for clients who meet income eligibility requirements.

Homer A. Jones, Jr. Wills Clinic - The Homer A. Jones, Jr. Wills Clinic gives law students real-world experience in trust and estate matters through their work with economically disadvantaged clients. Student attorneys interview clients, draft documents including wills, living wills and trusts, and may handle probate matters.

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Externships/Internships

The Prosecutorial Externship - Participating students are placed in the Office of the Knox County District Attorney General or United States Attorneys' Office. Working under the supervision of experienced assistant attorneys general or assistant U.S. attorneys, students prosecute real cases on behalf of the state or the local U.S. Attorney's office handling all phases of the criminal process, including case development and investigation, preliminary hearings, plea negotiations, and trial

The Public Defender Externship - Students are placed in the Knox County Public Defender's Office or Federal Defenders' Office. They work under experienced public defenders, regularly appearing in court and representing clients in all aspects of their cases, including trials.

The Judicial Externship - Law students are assigned to work in selected state and federal trial and appellate courts. As judicial clerks, the students assist the judges by briefing upcoming cases and researching and drafting memoranda, opinions and orders.

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Classes with a Public Service Component

  • Children and the Law
  • Community Development
  • Community Legal Education
  • Not-for-profit Corporations
  • Ownership & Justice
  • Public Interest Law
  • Poverty, Race, Gender & The Law
  • Summer Public Interest Seminar
  • Public Interest Practicum
  • Education Practicum

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Public Interest Journals

The College of Law maintains multiple webpages dedicated to pro bono and public interest topics, which can be accessed at the following URLs: http://law.utk.edu/pro-bono/, http://law.utk.edu/pro-bono/hot-topics-in-public-interest/, and http://law.utk.edu/pro-bono/public-interest-funding/

Additionally, the College of Law sponsors The Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender & Social Justice. The Journal provides an interdisciplinary academic platform that focuses on legal issues affecting people of different races, genders and other societal forces. The website for this Journal can be accessed at http://law.utk.edu/publications/the-tennessee-journal-of-race-gender-social-justice/

The College of Law also sponsors the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy. The Journal analyzes the latest developments in law and public decision-making. It explores areas touching on a number of disciplines and attracts readers from a variety of professional interests. By publishing essays and commentaries, in addition to traditional scholarly articles, the Journal offers a unique addition to the scholastic environment of the University. The website for this Journal can be accessed at: http://law.utk.edu/publications/tennessee-journal-of-law-and-policy/

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Public Interest Career Support Center

Staff of the Bettye B. Lewis Career Center provide individualized student counseling, as do law school faculty and alumni. The Career Center hosts workshops in the fall and spring semesters to notify students of upcoming public interest conferences and career fairs, and to encourage them to consider post-graduate public interest fellowships. The Center's career development curriculum includes several seminars that focus on how to find jobs with public interest employers, and local practitioners are invited to speak on panels to discuss their career paths.

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Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The College of Law is in the process of instituting such a program.

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Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

None

Graduate Student Funded:

None

Other Funding Sources:

As a member of Equal Justice Works, the College actively works with students that are interested in applying for Equal Justice Works Fellowships. Additionally, students are encouraged to apply for fellowships such as Skadden, Soros, etc. Information sessions and application assistance are provided through the Career Services Office.

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Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Kolwyck Equal Access to Justice Term-time Fellowships

In recent years income from the Kolwyck Fund has been sufficient to provide term-time fellowships for up to two law students each Fall and Spring semester dependent upon demand and availability, one assigned to Legal Aid of East Tennessee in Knoxville and one assigned to Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands in nearby Oak Ridge. These fellowships have helped the law school deepen its relationships with these programs, both important service providers for low-income people in the community and important sources of employment for graduates of the College who want to practice poverty law in Tennessee.

Graduate Student Funded:

None

Other Funding Sources:

None

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Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Kolwyck Equal Acess to Justice Summer Fellowships - These fellowships are awarded to deserving students at the College of Law who secure pro bono or public interest summer employment with an agency or non-profit organization or with a law firm which will assign the student exclusively to matters in which the firm is providing pro bono. The criteria for the award are professional promise, financial need, prior pro bono or public interest activities, likelihood of long-term commitment to the provision of legal services to persons of limited means, and the extent to which the student's proposed employment will further the goals for which this scholarship has been established. Although prior pro bono or public interest activity and the likelihood of long-term commitment to the provision of legal services to persons of limited means are important criteria, they do not preclude the award of a scholarship to students who have not previously engaged in such activity or are uncertain about the extent to which they will serve persons of limited means after their admission to the bar. The amount and the timing for disbursement of the scholarship stipend are determined by the Committee after an evaluation of the financial need of the recipient and any payments the student will receive from the agency, organization, or law firm which the student will be working.

Graduate Student Funded:

Tennessee Association for Public Interest Law TAPIL is an organization that conducts annual fundraising activities to raise money for summer public interest law fellowships. Applications are accepted each spring and money from the previous year's donations are allocated by a committee on the basis of the quality of the proposal and the student's need as reflected in a budget submitted as part of the application. TAPIL typically provides partial support for the student's activity, with the applicant supplementing the TAPIL award with other funds earned or raised. TAPIL recipients have worked in a variety of settings, both in and out of state, assigned to non profit law firms, legal services offices, public defender programs, and advocacy organizations.

Other Funding Sources:

An additional funding source is the IOLTA program of the Tennessee Bar Foundation.

For the past two years, the University has recognized the value of the programming and has provided limited financial support in addition to the support provided by the College.

Also, as a member of Equal Justice Works, the College actively promotes and works with students to apply to the Equal Justice Works SummerCorps progam.

Tennessee Students have participated in mock trial programs with local practitioners and high school students at a range of area high schools, and they engage in extra-curricular projects aimed at providing legal services or lay legal education for under-represented groups.

A number of groups at the College of Law sponsor speakers and programs that relate in various ways to public interest law. For instance, the Black Law Student Association has for many years organized speakers and other public programs on themes of racial justice. The International Law Society has sponsored human rights speakers from Mexico and Guatemala, and the Environmental Law Society has often planned programs and speakers on issues of environmental concern. The Criminal Law Society has visited Brushy Mountain penitentiary, and the Innocence Project has screened films about a prisoner currently on Tennessee's death row. The Child Law Society has hosted speakers who have provided information about adoption law, and a UT Legal Clinic professor took a group of students to work in the Katrina relief effort.

In addition, UT Pro Bono, beyond its primary work of organizing direct service projects, sponsors training and other programs that clearly overlap with public interest concerns. For instance, the organization helped to create the Tennessee Innocence Project focused on identifying and overturning wrongful convictions and dramatizing problems in with wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system.

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Student Public Interest Groups

The following student organizations have participated in various public interest initiatives: TAPIL (Tennessee Association for Public Interest Law); Criminal Law Society; Child Law Society; UT Pro Bono; Law Women; Black Law Student Association; Environmental Law Organization.

Updated: 9/13/2013

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