American University Washington College of Law
Washington College of Law
4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Jarrod L Shirk
Formal Voluntary Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator
Description of Program
Information on the voluntary Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program can be found at http://www.wcl.american.edu/publicinterest/probono.cfm.
Under this Program, students are encouraged to conduct at least 75 hours of pro bono work during law school. Up to 25 of the 75 hours may be non-legal community service work. The remaining 50 hours must be: legal in nature with an attorney supervisor, for the benefit of an underserved population, not for pay and not for academic credit. The Office of Public Interest maintains a listing of over 100 local legal service providers seeking WCL students for pro bono projects. In addition, there are numerous ways students can engage in pro bono activities through programs housed as the law school.
Location of Program
The Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program is administered by the Assistant Director in the Office of Public Interest. The office of Public Interest is separate from but works closely with the Office of Career Services. See www.wcl.american.edu/publicinterest.
The full-time Assistant Director is compensated to run the pro bono program as part of overall duties, and it is estimated to comprise one-fifth to one quarter of his time. There is also paid administrative and volunteer support of students. The faculty Public Interest Committee also advises and supports the program.
Commencing in the fall of 2002, the pro bono budget is approximately $15,000 per year (estimate based on salary and time of program coordinator, supplies, publicity, awards, etc.). It is funded through law school operating funds.
Student organizations receive significant support through the school's Office of Public Interest Office of Student Services, as well as through the SBA, which receives significant funding from the law school's operating budget. In addition, student organizations share a large common space with computers, filing cabinets, supplies and more.
Action for Human Rights - Organizes several experiential learning projects throughout the year, as well as the annual Alternative Spring Break trip in which students spend a week providing pro bono services to underserved populations outside of the DC area.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
Clinical Program Translators - Students provide translation services to clients of WCL's clinical programs and help explain the legal concepts involved in each client's case.
Genocide Teaching Project - Students visit area high schools to educate students about the genocide in Rwanda and the rule of law.
Marshall-Brennan Fellows - Marshall-Brennan Fellows, named in honor of the late United States Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan, are selected in a process that seeks to identify second- and third-year students who have excelled in constitutional law and have a passion for teaching young people. These Fellows teach a course on constitutional rights and responsibilities in Washington, D.C. public high schools. The course is called "We the Students" and is based on a casebook authored by WCL Professor, Jamin Raskin, entitled We the Students: Supreme Court Cases For and About America's Students. The course focuses on Supreme Court cases that directly affect the lives of high school students and includes a special curriculum about the history of voting rights with an intensive focus on problems of political representation for citizens living in D.C.
Street Law - Students teach legal rights and concepts to low-income community members and high school students.
Students United - Students are involved with several aspects at Oak Hill, DC's detention facility for juveniles. Work ranges from representation at disciplinary hearings to one-on-one tutoring to beautification projects. Legal work is supervised by lawyers not on staff or faculty at the law school. The project has no budget but has received a large amount of publicity for its work within the District.
UNCAT Participation - Selected students conduct legal research, draft documents and accompany Dean Claudio Grossman to participate in and attend meetings of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva each fall.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)- Students help area Washington residents with their tax forms on a walk-in basis. An initial training is conducted in the school's library by local area practitioners. Advice is given at a downtown library convenient to those who need the service. Members of the law school's clinical and non-clinical faculty provide supervision for the students. About 75 students participate each year.
The tenure policy of American University, Washington College of Law encourages and recognizes faculty contributions to the community, including all pro bono work.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
There is also a pending proposal to include faculty in the new Pro Bono Honors Pledge program by asking them to each voluntarily contribute and report on 25 or more hours of pro bono service per year, for which they would be recognized formally at an annual event and in writing.
Faculty members serve as advisors to every student organization. The faculty Public Interest Committee also provides advice and support for the Pro Bono Honors Pledge program.
The Marshall-Brennan program, the clinics, and our myriad human rights, women's rights programs and centers and other initiatives at the law school are all directed by faculty members. Though many have academic components, much of the work done through these offices and programs is pro bono and has significant faculty involvement.
The Peter M. Cicchino Public Service Awards Dinner. This annual event is held in honor of beloved former WCL Professor Peter M. Cicchino, who passed away in 2000. Professor Cicchino was a brilliant scholar and teacher, and a brave and creative public interest lawyer, who among many other accomplishments founded the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City.
The Cicchino Awards Dinner is the academy awards of student public interest and pro bono work. Students are recognized at a sumptuous dinner before their peers, faculty and staff for a variety of awards and accomplishments, including: completion of the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, the WCL Community Service Award, external pro bono and public service awards, post-graduate public interest fellowships, and the Cicchino Awards themselves.
Student awardees receive certificates of achievement signed by the Dean. Cicchino awardees receive an engraved plaque and cash award.
Each fall the Public Interest/Public Service Scholars and the Office of Public Interest organize the IMBY (In My Back Yard) public service day. IMBY is a volunteer public service project designed to engage new law students in public service projects in the D.C. community and to provide an opportunity for WCL students, faculty, and staff to give back to the local community. The event is the official kick-off of WCL's new student orientation with over 150 participants turning out each year to provide critical services to under-served individuals and institutions.
WCL students also organize an annual MLK Day of Service and an Alternative Spring Break program that sends students to domestic or international areas in need of legal and community service assistance.
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Law School Public Interest Programs
Judicial Clerkship Coordinator
Office of Career and Professional Development
Assistant Director, Public Interest Specialist
Office of Career and Professional Development
The Public Interest Roundtable series for 1L students is designed to highlight current cases and trends in the first-year core courses. At the same time, each roundtable provides information on upper-level courses on related public interest topics.
Students may also receive academic advising from the Office of Student Affairs.
Public Interest Centers
Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law - http://www.wcl.american.edu/humright/hracademy/
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law - http://www.wcl.american.edu/humright/center/
Health Law Project - http://www.wcl.american.edu/health/
Marshall-Brennan Fellowship - http://www.wcl.american.edu/wethestudents/
Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project - http://www.wcl.american.edu/innocenceproject/
National Institute of Corrections Project - http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/smith/0307conf.cfm
National Institute of Military Justice http://www.wcl.american.edu/nimj/
Program on Intellectual Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) - http://www.wcl.american.edu/pijip/
Program on International and Comparative Environmental Law - http://www.wcl.american.edu/environment/research.cfm
United Nations Committee Against Torture Project - http://www.wcl.american.edu/ilp/uncat.cfm
War Crimes Research Office http://www.wcl.american.edu/warcrimes/
Women and International Law Program - http://www.wcl.american.edu/gender/wilp/
Public Interest Clinics
Civil Practice Clinic (CPC) A one semester clinic where second- and third-year students represent low-income clients in such areas as bankruptcy, consumer, family law, health, housing, public benefits and special education. The Clinical web site is: http://www.wcl.american.edu/clinical/
Community and Economic Development Law Clinic (CEDLC) Provides transactional legal services for client groups engaged in different kinds of neighborhood-based community development.
Criminal Justice Clinic The Criminal Justice Clinic has been in existence for over twenty-five years, making it the law school's oldest clinic. Most students spend one semester defending juvenile and criminal cases in Montgomery County, Maryland and one semester prosecuting cases in Maryland.
DC Law Students in Court Clinic Offers an opportunity to obtain litigation experience in landlord-tenant and small claims cases in the D.C. Superior Court.
Disability Rights Law Clinic The DRLC is a two-semester clinic in which law students, under faculty supervision, represent clients in a variety of substantive areas and venues related to disability law and people with disabilities (both mental and physical).
Domestic Violence Clinic Student attorneys spend one semester representing individual victims of domestic violence seeking Civil Protection Orders, and another semester prosecuting domestic violence crimes at the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic Prepares students to be effective and thoughtful practitioners through direct experience in this rapidly evolving area. Through its activities, the Clinic strives to promote the public interest in copyright, patent, trademark and related fields.
Immigrant Justice Clinic The Immigrant Justice Clinic (IJC) provides representation on a broad range of cases involving immigrant communities in the D.C. area. These include cases of exploited low-wage immigrant workers (e.g., domestic workers, restaurant workers, and day laborers), including trafficked individuals, asylum and non-asylum immigration cases, and language rights cases.
International Human Rights Law Clinic Offers students the opportunity to represent individuals, families or organizations alleging violations of recognized or developing human rights norms before international and domestic judicial bodies.
Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic Teaches students the skills involved in representing low income clients who have commercial/business controversies. The clinic also seeks to provide legal assistance to a class of individuals caught up in a complex administrative and judicial system who otherwise would be unrepresented.
Women and the Law Clinic Students provide representation in the District of Columbia in domestic violence, child neglect, and support cases, as well as any legal matters that assist the client in addressing the underlying problems that brought her into the legal system.
The WCL Externship Program provides second- and third-year law students with exciting and varied learning opportunities in the work world through law-related field work.. Students are placed with government agencies, courts (state, local, and federal), non-profit organizations, and private law offices engaged in pro bono activities. Students work under the supervision of a practicing attorney and receive academic credit for their unpaid legal work.
In addition to the field placement, students participate in an externship seminar which draws upon their work experience and enriches their understanding of the law, legal institutions, and the work of a lawyer. (www.wcl.american.edu/pub/externship)
Human Rights Impact Litigation - Students provide direct representation, including court appearances in complex federal cases dealing with international human rights.
Classes with a Public Service Component
Selected Issues in International Trade - Students write papers commissioned by the Internataional Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP). ILEAP uses the papers in their technical support to clients.
The Constitution and Public Education - "The Constitution and Public Education" is a seminar that is part of the Marshall-Brennan Fellows Program. Marshall-Brennan Fellows receive academic credit for the course and their work teaching a course on constitutional rights and responsibilities.
Public Interest Journals
The American University International Law Review is produced by law students and publishes six issues per year, focusing on issues such as: Arms Control; Labor; Environmental Justice; Gender; Human Rights; Immigration; Ethics; International Crime; and more. ( http://www.wcl.american.edu/pub/ilr/home.htm)
The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law was founded in 1992 to provide a forum for those interested in gender issues and feminist legal studies. In 1998, the Journal expanded its mission to include social policy as well as gender issues. ( http://www.wcl.american.edu/pub/journals/genderlaw/)
The Human Rights Brief is a publication of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Washington College of Law. The Human Rights Brief reports about developments in international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as provides concise legal analysis of current human rights issues. ( http://www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/)
The American Jurist
Sustainable Development Law and Policy
Public Interest Career Assistance
Dedicated public interest career support staff is available.
In addition to individual counseling sessions and workshops for those pursuing internships and post-graduate positions, our career-related programs include a variety of educational programs such as: Fall and Spring Recruitment Programs, The World of Public Interest Fellowships; Financing Your Public Interest Career; Public Interest Roundtables; Public Interest Law Firm Panel; Politics and Public Interest Panel; Career Day for 1Ls; Preparing for your Summer Internship; Pro Bono Pledge Program; DOJ Information Session; Public Interest Speed Networking Event; D.C. Public Defender Information Session; Preaparing for the Equal Justice Works Career Fair, Preparing for the Washington, DC/Baltimore Public Service Career Fair; How to Use the Government Honors Handbook; Working on Capitol Hill; Zubrow Fellowship Information Session, the Presidential Mangement Fellow Information Session; Nuts and Bolts of Judicial Clerkship Application Process; Judicial Clerkship Panel Discussion; Judicial Internship/Externship Panel; How to Secure a Judicial Clerkship for the Upcoming Term; and Conversations about Clerkships Luncheon Series.
Students also attend the Washington, DC/Baltimore Public Service Career Fair Consortium.
For a loan assistance description see http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/pilrap.cfm
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
American University, Washington College of Law students have earned nearly a dozen post-graduate fellowships in the past five years. Students have been awarded Skadden Fellowships, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, and Soros Fellowships, among others. The school works closely with fellowship applicants to enhance their chances to win these prestigious awards.
Law School Funded:
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Public Interest/Public Service Scholars (PIPS) Program - http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/pipsscholarship.cfm
In 2001, WCL created the merit-based Public Interest/Public Service scholarship program to provide financial and programmatic support to students with both strong academic credentials and a clearly demonstrable desire and commitment to pursue a career in public interest or public service upon graduation. Every year, WCL will offer up to 10 full-tuition scholarships to entering full-time students. These students will receive individualized academic and career counseling, faculty and alumni mentoring and other support to ensure their experience at WCL will equip them to pursue and obtain rewarding and meaningful careers in non-profits, government, or private public interest law firms. They will also have many opportunities to develop relationships with other PI/PS scholars while here at WCL, ultimately graduating into a global network of other like-minded lawyers whom they can call upon throughout their professional careers.
Eligibility = Both strong academic credentials and a clearly demonstrable desire and commitment to pursue a career in public interest or public service upon graduation.
Commitment = Montly meetings, Maintain a 3.0 GPA, Organizing our Public Service Day at WCL, Participate w/ Public Interest Roundtables, Participate in Pro Bono Honors Pledge, Writing, Three years of their first five years after graduation in full-time public interest or public service employement
Fred R. Joseph Memorial Scholarship - http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
This need-based award is for a student interested in public interest, civil rights, or criminal law as demonstrated through service to the community, work experience, or participation in WCL's clinical programs.
The Elliott S. Milstein Endowed Scholarship - http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
A third-year WCL student with demonstrated fincancial need who intends to go into practice representing the poor in either civil or criminal cases. The commitment to such work must be demonstrated by activities either before or during law school.
Arthur Mathews Memorial Scholarship - http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
A student whose record of commitment demonstrates that he or she will follow Mr. Matthew's example of fervently believing in the importance of pro bono service.
The Peter Cicchino Award - http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
Three awards will be given to recognize the accomplishments of one WCL student and two alumni who exemplify the highest level of dedication to working with marginalized and underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Cicchino Foundation - The Mary C. Arends Scholarship http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
First-year female student who is entering law school after several years in the workplace and who is interested in public interest or public service law, civil rights, or domestic issues.
John and Tyna Karl Employee Rights Scholarship http://www.wcl.american.edu/finaid/restrict_funding.cfm
A student who, through his or her academic and extracurricular commitments, demonstrates promise for a career advocating on behalf of employees in the workplace.
Graduate Student Funded:
The SBA, working with the administration, provides several stipends each year to students performing outstanding pro bono work.
Other Funding Sources:
Law School Funded:
Working closely with the law school faculty and administration, American University Washington College of Law's Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) awards fellowships of $4,000 each to students taking public interest employment in their first or second summers. The EJF raises money for these fellowships through an annual auction, and the law school matches a significant portion of the monies raised.Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
American University, Washington College of Law students are also eligible to apply for Equal Justice America fellowships.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Founders' Celebration include the following: Trade as the Guarantor of Peace, Liberty and Security; Election Protection and Democracy Expansion: A Constitutional Reform Agenda for the New Century; Crimes and Punishment: The Quest for Just and Effective Sentencing; Cultural Resistance to Oppression; Founders' Celebration: Opening the Floodgates on a Finite Resource: The Implications of a Human Right to Water; The Second Annual International Environmental Law Conference: Environmental and Social Standards for International Finance; Promoting Women's Health Through Human Rights; Working Time, Discrimination and the Law: The Family Responsive Workplace in Europe and the United States; International Health Policy Fourm; Activisim for Human Rights in Mental Health Conference: How the Law Can Support Grassroots Actions for Human Rights in the Mental Health System; Indigenous Rights Training Institute and Conference; Harmonizing Human Rights Training; Challenges to Realizing Social, Economic and Cultural Rights; Beijing + 10: A Look at the Beijing Platform Ten Years Down the Road
In My Back Yard (IMBY) Public Service Day - IMBY is a volunteer public service project sponsored by the Office of Public Interest and the PIPS Scholars designed to engage new law students in public service projects in the D.C. community and to provide an opportunity for WCL students, faculty, and staff.
Law & Government Lecture Series
Public Interest Roundtables the Public Interest Roundtables provide an opportunity for first-year students to discuss the public interest aspects of the core courses with faculty members over lunch. The group is kept small to foster interactive discussion.
Public Interest Speed Networking Event This collaborative effort among DC-area law schools provides an opportunity for second and third-year students to meet public interest and government lawyers, polish their informational interviewing skills, and learn about a variety of public interest organizations.
Student Public Interest Groups
Action for Human Rights
Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Black Law Students Association
Christian Legal Society
Criminal Law Brief
Criminal Law Society
Environmental Law Society
Equal Justice Foundation
Health Law and Justice Project
Human Rights Brief
Intellectual Property Law Society
International Law Society
Islamic Legal Forum
Israel & Law Society
Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law
Labor and Employment Law Society
Lambda Law Society
Latina/Latino Law Students Association
National Lawyers Guild
Poverty Law Society
Public Interest Student Coalition
Street Law Program
The Modern American
Women's Law Association