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

University of Minnesota Law School

University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Law School
229-19th Avenue South
Walter F. Mondale Hall
Minneapolis, MN 55455
www.law.umn.edu

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Andrea Nordick
MJF Staff Attorney
229 19th Avenue South, Room 90
Minneapolis, MN 55455
(612) 625-4854
uofm@mnjustice.org

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Category Type

Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator

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Description of Program

The U of M Law School, like all four Minnesota law schools, has partnered with the Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) to provide pro bono opportunities for its students. The U of M houses a full-time MJF Staff Attorney to assist its students in selecting pro bono positions that best fit their individual interests. Because MJF is a separate non-profit with staff attorneys at all Minnesota law schools, the U of M is able to offer its students volunteer opportunities with all possible Minnesota organizations, not just a share that have partnered with the U of M Law School. In additional, MJF offers paid public interest fellowships for the summer.

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Location of Program

The U of M Law School provides MJF with office space for both the Staff Attorney and the organization’s administrative staff within the law school building. The office is located next to the Career and Professional Development Center for the convenience of students looking to gain practical experience.

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Staffing/Management/Oversight

MJF is a separate organization from the U of M Law School. However, they work in partnership to assure that both of their goals are being met by the pro bono program. MJF has a traditional organizational structure with an Executive Director and Board of Directors that consists of local private and public attorneys.

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Funding

The U of M Law School provides MJF with an annual donation and in-kind office space, technology, and supplies. In addition, MJF relies on funding from the other Minnesota law schools, private donors, government grants, and foundations.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Asylum Law Project: First-year students organize trips during the winter and spring breaks to work on asylum cases for immigrants throughout the country. Students do their own fundraising, set up training sessions, and work with a variety of non-profit organizations.

Numerous other student groups include public service within their groups’ missions.

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Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

The faculty and administration of the U of M Law School encourage all students to participate in pro bono opportunities both while in school and as attorneys. They are more than willing to speak to students about their own pro bono participation and listen to students’ experiences volunteering in the community.

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Awards/Recognition

Law students who volunteer for at least 50 hours over their law school careers are recognized at a ceremony before their graduation. They receive a certificate, transcript note, and are eligible for certain scholarships. In addition, MJF recognizes one outstanding law student volunteer at their annual awards celebration.

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Community Service

Raise the Bar: Students organize a semi-annual day of service for the Minneapolis-St. Paul community. These opportunities reach beyond legally related volunteer opportunities and allow the students to better understand their community.

Law students are able to become involved with a state of citizens committed to community service.

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Contact information depends on specific program

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Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Students may receive academic credit for their public interest work through clinics, externships, and independent research opportunities. They may also choose to concentrate in the public interest related fields of health law and bioethics, human rights, and labor and employment.

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Public Interest Centers

The Law School’s nine research institutes and its program in Law and History provide important scholastic and community opportunities to explore legal application and responsibilities within a range of real-world issues and challenges:
  • Center for Business Law
  • Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences
  • Human Rights Center
  • Institute on Crime and Public Policy
  • Institute for Law and Economics
  • Institute for Law and Politics
  • Institute for Law and Rationality
  • Institute on Race and Poverty
  • Minnesota Center for Legal Students
  • Program in Law and History

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Public Interest Clinics

The U of M Law School offers programs of clinical education, with 17 diverse clinics. These clinics offer students opportunities to hone their legal skills and gain real-world experience with clients in a supportive setting. Nationwide, approximately 25% of law students participate in at least one clinic program, but at the U of M, more than 50% of law students participate in at least one clinic program. These students provide more than 18,000 hours of pro bono legal service to the Twin Cities community each year, primarily to lower-income individuals who otherwise would have difficulty obtaining representations. Under the Student Practice Rule adopted by the Minnesota Supreme Court, clinic students are permitted to represent clients in actual court and administrative agency proceedings under the supervision of clinic faculty. Clinics include: bankruptcy, child advocacy, civil practice, criminal appeals, environmental sustainability, federal defense, housing, immigration, Indian child welfare, innocence project, misdemeanor defense, misdemeanor prosecution, multi-profession business law, public interest law, special education, tax, and workers’ rights.

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Externships/Internships

Students may participate in a judicial externship in which they are assigned to a judge and serve as a part-time clerk for one semester. Positions are available with federal district, bankruptcy, state court of appeals, district court judges, and tribal courts. The students prepare research memoranda, observe judicial proceedings, and participate in the drafting of opinions and orders.

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Classes with a Public Service Component

In addition to clinic and externship offerings, the following classes have public service components:

  • Legal Scholarship for Equal Justice: This course annually rotates amongst the four local schools but is open to all law students. Students create a research memoranda on a systemic issue submitted by a public interest practitioner. The papers are published on a website and presented at a CLE.
  • Street Law Seminar: This seminar engages law students in service to the community through teaching law to students in local schools. This is also available as a traditional volunteer opportunity through MJF.

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Public Interest Journals

The U of M Law School has a student-edited, faculty-edited, and student- and faculty-edited scholarly journals. xAll seven journals are open to articles related to public interest but the most relevant journals to public interest include:

  • Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice
  • Constitutional Commentary
  • Crime and Justice
  • The Labor Lawyer

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Public Interest Career Assistance

The Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC) has many resources for students who are looking for a career in public interest law or for summer job opportunities during law school. CPDC staff thrive to inform students of fellowship opportunities, public interest networking events, and new job openings. In addition, CPDC works with all local law schools to organize the annual Quad Public Interest Expo that allows public interest agencies to share their missions, programs, and career opportunities with current law students. They are always willing to work individually with students to plan their paths to future public interest careers.

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Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

LRAP of Minnesota helps make public interest careers possible by assisting recent graduates with loan repayment. While only recent graduates may apply for an initial grant, previous LRAP recipients may reapply for assistance for up to fifteen years. LRAP is supported by donations from the area law schools, firms, attorneys, and the annual Race for Justice.

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Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

  • Upper Midwest Human Rights Center Fellowship: The Human Rights Center accepts applications for fellowship grants to residents of the Upper Midwest—including students, teachers, lawyers, other professionals, community leaders, activists and others—to undertake practical experience in human rights organizations. The Fellowship Program is designed to promote human rights by providing practical training in the varied aspect of human rights work worldwide.
  • Robina Post-Graduate Fellowships: Multiple post-graduate fellowships are granted to recent graduates for either self-designed or existing unfunded positions in the areas of public policy, legal services, government services, and the courts. In 2009, 22 fellowships were awarded.
  • VISTA: The U of M Law School provides local legal services organizations with VISTA attorneys selected from their recent graduates. In 2009, three VISTA attorneys were hired from the May graduates.

Graduate Student Funded:

Walter H. Judd International Graduate & Professional Fellowships: The Walter H. Judd International Graduate & Professional Fellowship program seeks to increase opportunities for graduate and professional students at the University of Minnesota to study, intern, and conduct research abroad. Up to $2,000 may be awarded to support travel, living, and academic expenses

Other Funding Sources:

In addition to these fellowships, the CPDC staff is available to speak to students about additional fellowship opportunities offered by outside organizations.

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Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Students planning on pursuing public interest careers do have preference for some of the scholarships awarded to incoming 1Ls.

Graduate Student Funded:

None.

Other Funding Sources:

None.

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Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

  • Upper Midwest Human Rights Center Fellowship: The Human Rights Center accepts applications for fellowship grants to residents of the Upper Midwest—including students, teachers, lawyers, other professionals, community leaders, activists and others—to undertake practical experience in human rights organizations. The Fellowship Program is designed to promote human rights by providing practical training in the varied aspect of human rights work worldwide.
  • Robina Summer Fellowships: Multiple summer clerkships are granted to current students for either self-designed or existing unfunded positions in the areas of public policy, legal services, government services, and the courts.

Graduate Student Funded:

None.

Other Funding Sources:

  • Minnesota Justice Foundation Summer Clerkship Program (SCP): MJF provides approximately twenty Minnesota legal services agencies with full-time, fully funded law student clerks every summer. MJF selects the recipient organizations and administers the hiring process for the positions. Clerks are given $4,000-4,500 for the summer depending on whether the clerkship is within the metro area or in the greater Minnesota region.
  • U of M MJF Student Chapter Public Interest Clerkship Program (PIC): The MJF Student Chapter fundraises during the school year to provide funding for approximately five self-designed summer public interest clerkships. Applicants are responsible for developing their own projects and submitting proposals for a vote. Minnesota based clerkships are preferred but it can fund projects throughout the nation and world.

In addition to these fellowships, the CPDC staff is available to speak to students about additional fellowship opportunities offered by outside organizations.

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Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

None.

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Student Public Interest Groups

Public Interest Law Student Association: PILSA is a student advocacy organization focused on enhancing the U of M Law School’s programs for students pursuing public interest careers.

Minnesota Justice Foundation Student Chapter: The MJF Student Chapter fundraises for summer public interest clerkships for students. They also serve as advisors for the MJF Staff Attorney and organize public interest oriented programs for the general law student body.

Updated: 1/6/2010

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