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

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

University of Denver
Sturm College of Law
2255 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
www.law.du.edu

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Alexi Freeman
Director, Public Interest & Lecturer/Legal Externships University of Denver Sturm College of Law
2255 E. Evans Ave., Room 365M
Denver, CO 80208
Phone: 303.871.6788
afreeman@law.du.edu

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Category Type

Public Service Graduation Requirement Program

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Description of Programs

Every Juris Doctor student is required to perform a minimum of 50 hours of supervised, uncompensated, law-related public service work during his or her law school career as a prerequisite to graduation. The Public Service Requirement, together with all the other public service components of the College of Law environment, will ensure that DU remains in the forefront of legal public service in the Rocky Mountain region. The goals of the Public Service Requirement are threefold: 1) Educate students about their professional responsibilities, particularly their obligation to perform pro bono work as practicing attorneys, and to encourage a lifelong commitment to public service; 2) help students develop practical lawyering skills by supervising students in real world situations, teaching them to integrate the theory of law with the practice of law; and (3) raise awareness among students of meaningful career and pro bono opportunities.

Students may satisfy their 50-hour Public Service Requirement through participation in the Student Law Office (clinic), a public interest externship for credit (at a nonprofit, government agency, law firm doing solely pro bono, or judicial chambers), various pre-approved experiential classes, or by doing a Public Interest Practicum under appropriate supervision. Students enrolled in the Practicum may do so either for no credit or one credit. If they choose one credit, they are enrolled in a concurrent Public Interest Seminar.

The Public Interest Practicum can be completed in two ways:
  • Students find a nonprofit or government agency to work with from our database and/or propose a new placement for approval; OR
  • Students participate in the newly established Pro Bono Research Project. This project brings together private sector lawyers via a few established groups (such as Metro Volunteer Lawyers and the Colorado Lawyers Committee) as well as individual firms/practitioners. The Denver Bar Association helps to recruit participants. The Pro Bono Research Project in particular will allow students to understand the role of pro bono from the for-profit lawyer's perspective. It also may allow students to be more likely to work remotely; this flexibility is particularly helpful for our evening students who often have difficulty finding placements.

Overall, for our Public Service Requirement, the goal is to be as inclusive as possible, allowing students to explore and expand upon their personal interests.

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Location of Programs

The Public Interest Office located within the Legal Externship Program office.

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Staffing/Management/Oversight

Program oversight and management occurs through the full-time Director of Public Interest. Some administrative support is provided by the part-time Public Interest Coordinator. Both positions are located within the Legal Externship Program.

Students enrolled in the Student Law Office or externships receive direct supervision from clinical faculty, externship supervisors, and externship staff. Students participating in a Public Interest Practicum receive direct supervision from their Practicum supervisor.

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Funding

The Director of Public Interest is a non-tenured track (but long-term contract) faculty position. The Public Interest Coordinator is a salaried part-time position.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

The law school has over 50 student organizations; each year, the organization's activity level is subject to change. Applicable groups include:

  1. Public Interest Law Group (PILG) aims to encourage law students to devote their careers to the struggle for social justice, expose students to the broad range of work being done to advance progressive legal goals, provide a forum for discussion and an information base, and inspire students to follow their hearts. PILG encourages involvement in the community through its tutoring program, educates and provides a forum for discussion by bringing in and co-sponsoring speaker panels, raises its own funds via the Annual Auction to allow students to work for non-profit organizations during the summer through the clerkship program. PILG attempts to encourage law students (and the legal community) to devote time, energy, and intellect to helping disadvantaged individuals obtain access to our legal system. Public interest law addresses the political, social, and economic welfare of communities, with an emphasis on society's underrepresented issues and groups. PILG is dedicated to issues within, but not limited to, the substantive areas of constitutional law, criminal law, civil rights law, gay and lesbian law, elder law, environmental law, family law, immigration law, labor law, urban law, poverty law, Native American law, and legal ethics.
  2. Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is a program that gives law students the opportunity to participate in meaningful legal service. Student participants will spend their spring break working in public interest-based legal settings, and the program is an excellent way for law students to serve underprivileged communities. Currently, students travel to Texas and New Mexico.
  3. The Tribal Wills Project is organized by Prof. Lucy Marsh. During spring break, students write wills for Native American tribes. Students attend training sessions prior to the trip and work with members of the Ute Mountain and Southern Ute tribes.
  4. The Ralph Timothy Potter Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Membership is open to all in the University of Denver law school community who support our mission of promoting and protecting civil rights. Activities include intake, case investigation, and research at the Colorado Affiliate Office, presentations on civil liberties issues, publication of a civil liberties newsletter and internet update, participation on ACLU legal panel and board, and promotion of civil liberties on campus and in the community.
  5. The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a group of students concerned about American law and politics. They believe deeply in the importance of law as the mechanism that governs the relationships between and among the individuals and institutions that form our society, and recognize the direct relationship between legal theory and the broader political debate about the kind of society in which we live.
  6. Amnesty International is an international human rights organization that works impartially for the release of all prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, and the end to torture, and executions. The Chapter at the College of Law presents several speakers on these and related topics throughout the year. It also initiates campaigns by writing letters to government officials and prisoners, and participates in Legal Support Network, a program recently initiated for lawyers and law students.
  7. Children's Legal Advocacy Group (CLAG) is a student organization focused on legal issues involving children and families. CLAG goals include increasing student awareness of legal issues involving children and families, and having an active influence in the community.

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Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

The College of Law's Personnel Policies and Procedures, which govern the granting of tenure and promotion, require assessment of faculty members' contributions to public service. Faculty members' performance is measured, in part, by their contributions to such activity, including pro bono legal representation.

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Awards/Recognition

The College of Law is in the process of developing awards for students who complete a significant number of pro bono/public service hours via volunteer work, participation in the Student Law Office, and participation in specific externships. Currently, awards do exist for best Student Law Office student per clinic.

The Dean often sends out email acknowledgments to the students and faculty when both students and faculty are involved in significant pro bono accomplishments.

Students have also been nominated for, and won, outside awards such as the Martindale-Hubbell Exemplary Public Service Award and the Skadden Fellowship.

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Community Service

Via the Denver Law Partnership with Community Day (DPCD), law students give back to their community. Students complete service projects to improve the health and wholeness of the Denver community and raise awareness about the issues facing low-income neighborhoods and schools. They have wrapped presents for veterans, participated in Hope House, worked with attendees in the Special Olympics, gardened at a specific reservoir, and worked with Habitat for Humanity.

The Chancellor's Scholarship program, more information in our public service program, also organizes various community service days for their members. Oftentimes, they garden and clean up natural areas.

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Alexi Freeman
Director, Public Interest & Lecturer/Legal Externships University of Denver Sturm College of Law
2255 E. Evans Ave., Room 365M
Denver, CO 80208
Phone: 303.871.6788
afreeman@law.du.edu

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Certificate/Curriculum Programs

While the College of Law does not presently have a public interest certificate program, it does embrace public interest law as one of the areas of emphasis for students to pursue. It has certificate programs in Constitutional Rights and Remedies, Workplace Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, and International and Comparative Law. Within each of these programs, public sector related classes are offered and relevant programming is provided.

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Public Interest Centers

The Public Interest Office administers the Public Service Requirement and provides career, pro bono, and volunteer counseling and opportunities for students. It also maintains the virtual public service portal and works closely with two public sector career advisors within our Office of Career Development and Opportunities to support students and provide relevant programming. The office, along with the CDO, office does extensive outreach with externship supervisors and potential employers in the region and beyond.

Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute is a forum for research, discussion, and debate of critical land use and environmental issues in the Rocky Mountain West. www.law.du.edu/rmlui

The Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place and the Law (RPL) is a group of Colorado legal academics working together to identify and address racial inequities in the U.S. and around the globe. They offer a critical lens on the complex dynamics of power, locality, and law, and their impact on subordinated communities and provide support and programming to students interested in this field. http://www.law.du.edu/index.php/rocky-mountain-collective-on-race-place

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Public Interest Clinics

The Student Law Office offers six different in-house clinics for students to participate in. For detailed info visit: http://www.law.du.edu/index.php/law-school-clinical-program/clinical-programs. The clinics include:

  • Students participating in the Civil Litigation Clinic help low-income clients work through civil controversies in three areas: housing (eviction defense and termination of subsidies), domestic violence (civil protection orders), and employment (discrimination and wage and hour litigation). In addition to integrating legal theory and practice, students in the Civil Litigation Clinic may be required to work on a community project during their time in the clinic.
  • The Civil Rights Clinic (CRC) is an intensive, year-long litigation program in which students represent clients in civil rights cases in federal court under the supervision of clinic faculty. Students also participate in a seminar designed to help them develop their litigation skills and understanding of the law, as well as the political and social contexts of civil rights litigation.
  • The Community Economic Development (CED) Clinic teaches transactional practice skills to students through the representation of nonprofit corporations, community-based associations and enterprises, small businesses, and artists. The clinic provides both challenging client work and a rigorous classroom component to expose students to substantive legal concepts related to community economic development and business law
  • Students enrolled in the Criminal Defense Clinic represent low-income clients charged with misdemeanors and municipal ordinance violations including assault, disturbing the peace, and shoplifting. Students appear in court at arraignments, pretrial conferences, motions hearings, trials, and sentencing hearings.
  • Since 1984, the Environmental Law Clinic has provided real world experience for students interested in both developing practical legal skills and exploring the practice of environmental law. Students represent environmental advocacy organizations before courts and administrative agencies in a broad range of environmental matters.
  • Students in the Mediation & Arbitration Clinic will learn the skills needed to perform mediation and conflict assessment. They will perform mediations for cases originating in Denver County Court and for community members referred by the Student Law Office.


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Externships/Internships

With more than 450 placements a year, the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law's Legal Externship Program is an effective and comprehensive bridge to take students from law student to lawyer. There are substantial numbers of federal government agencies, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and public defender/district attorney offices within the region that are available to students. Students generally then enroll in a one-credit seminar related to the practice setting (e.g. nonprofit, government agency, etc.)

We also now offer some specialized externship programs related to public interest:

  • The Child Advocacy Externship allows students to work as Guardian Ad Litems with the Rocky Mountain Children Law Center. Students take a yearlong class and represent children in abuse and neglect, civil restraining orders, delinquency, probate and adoption cases.
  • The Hybrid Externship Program combines aspects of a clinical program with the structure of an externship program. The mission of the HIP is to teach students to become effective lawyers through real life, interdisciplinary representation of immigrant clients, policy advocacy relating to immigrants' rights, and the provision of legal education to immigrant communities. Placements vary.
  • The Racial, Social, and Economic Justice Externship Program brings together students, lawyers, and a range of organizations and agencies that specifically address issues of racial, social, and economic justice within different practice settings and across different issues areas. Students extern at government agencies with a civil rights focus, plaintiff side firms that do discrimination work, and civil rights nonprofit organizations.

Visit http://www.law.du.edu/index.php/legal-externship-program for more info.

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Classes with a Public Service Component

Many classes, beyond clinics and externships, have a public service component. Examples include:

  • Poverty Law and Low Wage Work: This seminar explores the relationship between employment laws, low-wage work, and domestic policies as they relate to workers' rights and poverty. Students complete a service project.
  • Wills Lab: Student draft wills and related documents for Legal Aid clients.
  • Street Law: Students teach law in high schools and/or the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities.
  • Trial Practice III: Mentor's Practicum: This is a year-long, skills-based course for law school students seeking to refine their trial skills, and improve their understanding and application of evidence and criminal procedure. Students teach these skills to local area high school mock trial students.
  • Probate Practicum: Students are assigned a client to represent and assist through a guardianship and/or conservatorship proceeding.
  • Lawyering Process: In this required 1L writing class, some classes have a pro bono requirement, e.g. writing memos for organizations considering class actions.
  • Genocide and War Crimes Prosecution. Students collectively analyze the genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity charges against an accused in a major international tribunal prosecution. Each student is assigned witnesses in the case and is expected to analyze that testimony.

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Public Interest Journals

A new website, The Public Service Portal, is now available. It helps to create a community for both current and prospective students by bringing together information, resources, and people associated with public interest at Denver Law. It also highlights one alum and one faculty member per month doing public interest work.

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Public Interest Career Support Center

The Public Sector Team (currently comprised of two people) within the Office of Career Development and Opportunities works to provide information and increase awareness about the public interest and public service legal community, public interest and public service job opportunities, and accessibility to funding for such work. The office sports various programs and events to bring in practitioners and potential employers, hosts an Annual Public Interest and Government Career Fair, conducts mock interviews and informational interviews, and helps with cover letters and resumes. For more info, visit this site.

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Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The College of Law offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) to benefit alumni who make a commitment to work in the public interest. It is a competitive program. To be eligible applicants must have Graduated with a JD from Sturm College of Law after May 2003, currently work in a public service field (government or non-profit) in a position that utilizes your legal skills (judicial clerkships do not qualify), have an income below $75,000, and be in repayment and not past due on your student loans. LRAP award amount are calculated based on a recipient's annual IBR/PAYE payment. The LRAP Committee, which includes the Director of Public Interest, a representative from the financial services dept. and others, strives to provide LRAP funding that will cover as much of a recipient's monthly payments as possible. For more information visit this site.

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Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

  • The Judicial Fellows Program pays recent graduates of the Sturm College of Law to work for local judges in participating state district courts, providing 20 hours of legal research and writing per week for a term of up to one year. The Fellows are compensated by the Sturm College of Law, proceeds from the DU Law Stars fundraising event and other generous donors, and the courts are charged nothing.
  • Denver Law has funded one postgraduate Fellow position each year with the Native American Rights Fund ("NARF"). NARF Fellows work full time in the organization's Boulder, CO office for a twelve week period, and have the opportunity to gain experience with legal issues affecting Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide.

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

  • The Attorney General's Fellowship Program provides opportunities for new attorneys to gain practical experience in the public sector while enjoying the personal satisfaction of serving the residents of Colorado and its many state agency clients. Funds for this are co-sponsored between the law school and AG's office.
  • In the Denver City Attorney's Office Postgraduate Fellow Program JD graduates of the Sturm College of Law apply to work full-time for one year in the Denver City Attorney's Office ("DCAO"). DCAO Postgraduate Fellows are paid through a combination of funding from the DCAO and Denver Law.
  • The Legal Residency Program has participating organizations hire one or more residents from a pool of new JD graduates provided exclusively by the two Colorado law schools. Residents work for a 12 to 18 month term depending on the employer's needs. Employers are not expected to make permanent offers at the end of a residency, though they may do so at their discretion. The Legal Residency is not envisioned as a substitute for first year attorney positions. Instead, it is a unique program designed to provide new lawyers with employment and training opportunities that do not currently exist in the marketplace. Employers have the benefit of cost effective assistance from residents coupled with the knowledge that they are contributing to the future of the legal profession. They may also end up discovering high quality legal talent, and can make hiring decisions after seeing their legal resident "in action," or base hiring decisions on references from others who have worked extensively with a resident. Participating employers determine pay rates for residents. The expectation is that participating employers will pay a reasonable wage, understanding that it will be adjusted downward from traditional entry level salaries to reflect the different nature of the position (essentially an apprenticeship).

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Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Chancellor's Scholarship - The Chancellor's Scholarship program has for the last ten years provided up to 12 full tuition scholarships/year for students with superior academic and public service backgrounds, who make a non-binding commitment to using their law degree to advance public interest. Chancellor's Scholars are some of our most active students, and they are required to engage in public service as part of their scholarship.

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

Federal work study public interest jobs

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Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Graduate Student Funded:

The Paterson Internship Fund provides assistance for students completing overseas internships. Grants average around $1,000.

Other Funding Sources:

Some funding sources include:

  • The student organization, the Public Interest Law Group (PILG), which sponsors an annual auction to raise money to fund an average of six summer fellowships for Denver Law students to work in public interest law.
  • The Hill & Robbins Internship was established in 1996 to encourage law students to do work in the public interest. Each year, a student from the University of Colorado or the University of Denver is awarded the internship to work on a public interest project either through the Colorado Lawyers Committee or Colorado Legal Services (CLS). During the summer, the student works for 10 weeks and earns $3000.
  • The Patton Boggs Foundation, funded by members of the law firm of Patton Boggs LLP for the support of law students doing pro bono public policy work, awards one Denver Law student a summer fellowship to do public policy work anywhere in the country.

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Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

The students groups mentioned below and within the pro bono section of this site organize an array of programs for student and the community. The Office of Career & Development Opportunities also initiates events, along with the 5 different law reviews, some of which are applicable for public interest law students. Our certificate programs also run programming and those associated with Workplace Law, Constitutional Rights and Remedies, International and Comparative Law, and Environmental and Natural Resources Law are often targeted to public interest minded students and the larger community.

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Student Public Interest Groups

  1. Public Interest Law Group (PILG) aims to encourage law students to devote their careers to the struggle for social justice, expose students to the broad range of work being done to advance progressive legal goals, provide a forum for discussion and an information base, and inspire students to follow their hearts. PILG encourages involvement in the community through its tutoring program, educates and provides a forum for discussion by bringing in and co-sponsoring speaker panels, raises its own funds via the Annual Auction to allow students to work for non-profit organizations during the summer through the clerkship program. PILG attempts to encourage law students (and the legal community) to devote time, energy, and intellect to helping disadvantaged individuals obtain access to our legal system. Public interest law addresses the political, social, and economic welfare of communities, with an emphasis on society's underrepresented issues and groups. PILG is dedicated to issues within, but not limited to, the substantive areas of constitutional law, criminal law, civil rights law, gay and lesbian law, elder law, environmental law, family law, immigration law, labor law, urban law, poverty law, Native American law, and legal ethics.
  2. The Ralph Timothy Potter Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Membership is open to all in the University of Denver law school community who support our mission of promoting and protecting civil rights. Activities include intake, case investigation, and research at the Colorado Affiliate Office, presentations on civil liberties issues, publication of a civil liberties newsletter and internet update, participation on ACLU legal panel and board, and promotion of civil liberties on campus and in the community.
  3. The National Lawyers Guild student chapter works with the CO chapter and is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members - lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees - the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people
  4. The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a group of students concerned about American law and politics. They believe deeply in the importance of law as the mechanism that governs the relationships between and among the individuals and institutions that form our society, and recognize the direct relationship between legal theory and the broader political debate about the kind of society in which we live.
  5. Amnesty International is an international human rights organization that works impartially for the release of all prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for political prisoners, and the end to torture, and executions. The Chapter at the College of Law presents several speakers on these and related topics throughout the year. It also initiates campaigns by writing letters to government officials and prisoners, and participates in Legal Support Network, a program recently initiated for lawyers and law students.
  6. Children's Legal Advocacy Group (CLAG) is a student organization focused on legal issues involving children and families. CLAG goals include increasing student awareness of legal issues involving children and families, and having an active influence in the community.
  7. The Spanish Speaking Lawyers Association (SSLA) is the student branch of the Lawyering in Spanish (LIS) program at DU. The SSLA works to facilitate the use of the Spanish language in the practice of law for DU law students and for the Denver legal community, while promoting global cultural understanding and a practical awareness of current legal issues in the Spanish-speaking community, both domestically and internationally.
  8. The Natural Resources and Environmental Law Society serves, educates, and provides information to law students regarding these important fields. NRELS sponsors several guest speakers throughout the year to provide its members, and all students, with topical and balanced information regarding legal and political issues of local, national, and global importance.
  9. The Elder Law Society is committed to working with DU Law students to further an interest in this complex area of law within the school and our community. The society believes issues affecting the elderly are important and that all law students should be informed to protect their family and friends in this truly service-oriented area of law.
  10. Various affinity groups, including the Black Law Students Association, the Asian Pacific American Law Students' Association, the Native American Law Students Association, DU OUTlaws, the Latino Law Students Association, the Jewish Law Students Association, the Middle Eastern and North African Law Society, Women's Law Student Association, and the Muslim Law Students Associationall organize events, some related to public interest as well.

Updated: 5/12/2014

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