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

University of North Carolina School of Law

University of North Carolina
University of North Carolina School of Law
100 Ridge Road
Van Hecke-Wattach Bldg., C.B. 3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Sylvia Novinsky
Assistant Dean of Public Service

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Category Type

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

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Description of Program

The UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program began in the fall of 1997. Since its inception the Pro Bono Program has filled hundreds of placements with attorneys in non-profit organizations, private practice, and North Carolina's legal services organizations. The program is administered by ten law students, matching students with placement needs.

The UNC School of Law Pro Bono program encourages and facilitates pro bono within the law school. The program matches law students with practicing attorneys across the state to work on cases that the attorneys have taken for free or on reduced rates. The Pro Bono Program provides clients with high quality, low cost legal representation. Additionally, working on pro bono projects gives students valuable hands-on experience while encouraging attorneys to take on cases that they might not otherwise have the resources to do. The program also works with student organizations on their pro bono projects.

The program is the central point for all pro bono activities at the law school and maintains a database to keep track of student pro bono activities. When students complete 50 hours of pro bono service, they receive a Letter of Recognition from the Dean of the law school. Students performing over 75 hours of pro bono service receive a certificate from the North Carolina Bar Association and the law school acknowledging their service at the end of their third year. The law school makes a special recognition at graduation of students who have performed over 100 hours of pro bono service. Furthermore, students with more than 50 hours of pro bono service earn a notation on their transcripts. The Pro Bono Program operates primarily from August to April, with special projects going on during the Winter and Spring Breaks.

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Location of Program

Office of Student Affairs, www.unc.edu/probono/

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A volunteer student Board of Coordinators handles the daily administration of the Pro Bono Program. The board has a Student Director; three Coordinators (that recruit students and coordinate/oversee individual student placement); an Attorney Coordinator; a Group Project Coordinator; a Student Groups Liaison (liaisons with existing student organizations); a PR Coordinator; and two Winter/Spring Break Coordinators. The Board is supervised by the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, who spends about 20% of her time overseeing the program.

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The Pro Bono Program is funded by the law school and has a budget of approximately $4500 per year.

The law school provides office space, two computers, a fax, a copier, and a phone with voicemail for the Pro Bono Program.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Carolina HIV/AIDS Legal Assistance Project (CHALA) - CHALA works to enable low income individuals and families afflicted by HIV/AIDS anticipate and prevent household instability resulting from illness, incapacitation, or death by helping them draft advance directives, such as living wills, powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney, and other legal documents.

Carolina Teen Court Assistance Program - Carolina Teen Court assists the Orange County teen courts by serving as mentors for the student attorneys.

Child Action - This organization is committed to fostering the understanding and involvement of law students in children's legal issues by familiarizing them with children's law and the system in which it operates. The group sponsors speakers, supervises the training and work of law students as area Guardian ad Litem attorneys, and visits area schools in conjunction with the Law-Related Education program. It also sponsors a Continuing Legal Education program about children's issues in the spring.

Community Legal Project- A volunteer organization that allows law students to gain interviewing skills and practical experience with the Interfaith Shelter in Chapel Hill. Volunteers interview clients on a weekly basis and have their legal research reviewed by a practicing attorney. The Community Legal Projects deals with a variety of issues but assists primarily with landlord-tenant, employment, and family law.

Death Penalty Project- The Death Penalty project is a student organization at the University of North Carolina that has been founded for the purpose of fostering a community that is more conscious of the effect of the death penalty on society. Students work on death penalty case research under the supervision of a faculty member.

Domestic Violence Advocacy Project - This organization supports victims of domestic violence as they confront the legal and court systems. The major goal is to help victims of domestic violence achieve the legal results they need to keep themselves and their families safe.

Entrepreneur Law Association - Students perform pro bono services to local entrepreneurs and start-up companies and encourage community interaction and development.

Environmental Law Project - This organization of law students share an interest in the legal and political aspects of national, state, and local environmental issues. The primary goal of ELP is to expand the opportunities available to law students in the area of environmental law. Each year, ELP provides pro bono legal research and writing assistance for specific projects to local environmental organizations, including The Nature Conservancy and The National Health Law Program.

Immigrants Outreach Project - The Project assists people who have recently arrived in the Triangle from other countries and who have legally related issues ranging from citizenship status to taxation. The Project's second goal is to raise awareness about the need for immigration lawyers and to help interested law students enter that field.

Innocence Project - UNC - The UNC Law School Innocence Project is affiliated with the Duke University Law School Innocence Project and the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. The Project is a student-operated volunteer organization with oversight provided by a UNC Law Professor and a criminal law attorney. The Project is dedicated to reviewing and investigating innocence claims made by North Carolina inmates. The fundamental goal of the project is to assist prisoners in challenging wrongful convictions. Additionally, the Project seeks to introduce students to elements of criminal law and investigation.

Just Democracy - Just Democracy is a national nonpartisan law student organization devoted to voter protection and education. Just Democracy's mission is to empower citizens of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic and racial communities, and political persuasions to participate in the democratic process by exercising the right to vote. On Election Day, volunteers will monitor polling precincts in North Carolina, educate voters about their voting rights, and answer calls from concerned voters at a statewide hotline.

Lambda's Power of Attorney Project - Lambda works to enable low- income individuals and families by helping them draft advance directives, such as living wills, powers of attorney, and other legal documents.

Latino Legal Initiative - The Latino Legal Initiative works to increase awareness about the rights of immigrants and related legal issues in the Latino community. Students have been involved in hosting workshops on legal issues at community centers, doing segments on Spanish radio shows, and producing and distributing information in Spanish on legal resources throughout the Triangle. The Initiative is a joint project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Hispanic/Latino Law Students Association, and the Immigrants Outreach Project.

Latino Legal Initiative - LLI works to increase awareness about the rights of immigrants and related legal issues in the Latino community through community workshops, radio spots, and literature distribution.

Prisoners' Rights Project - PRP, which includes the Death Penalty Project and the Innocence Project, has volunteers respond to inmate requests for legal and administrative assistance when possible and seeks to educate students about issues facing incarcerated people in North Carolina.

Street Law - Law students teach legal related topics to eighth graders in the public school system, one day per week for fall and spring semesters. In the spring, law students work with the eighth graders to do a mock trial. The primary goals of Street Law are to increase law students' ability to communicate to lay persons about the law and to teach middle-schoolers about their rights and responsibilities under the law.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program - VITA provides the community with assistance in completing and filing tax returns.

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Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

There is no formal faculty pro bono policy. Various faculty members are involved as group project supervisors or individual project supervisors.

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Each April the Director of the Pro Bono Program and the President of the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization collaborate, with the support of Student Affairs and Career Services, to host a Public Service Recognition Ceremony to honor students who have done pro bono work, the recipients of grants to work in the public interest over the summer, and faculty committed to pro bono and public interest. The ceremony is attended by students, faculty, staff, and employers.

Each year, the North Carolina Bar Association recognizes one graduating law school student for his or her pro bono work at a reception held at the North Carolina Bar Center. The Bar Association also recognizes one student pro bono project each year based on student involvement, audience reached and legal need met.

Students who complete one hundred or more hours of pro bono service are individually recognized at graduation.

Each year, one faculty member is recognized at our annual Public Interest & Pro Bono Recognition ceremony for their pro bono work and commitment to the public interest community at Carolina Law.

Professor Boger was recognized for his work with the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

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Community Service

One evening per month a group of students work in a local homeless shelter cooking and serving dinner.

Food Drive

Cell Phone Drives for domestic violence survivors

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Ellen Hill
Associate Director of Career Services
Career Services Office

Lindsay Guice
Student Public Interest Coordinator
Career Services Office

Maria Mangano
Director of Career Services
Career Services Office

Sarah Wald
Interim Assistant Dean for Career Services
Career Services Office

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Certificate/Curriculum Programs

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a Non-Profit Management Certificate Program. This Certificate requires student to take five classes with a focus on non-profit management, including two law school classes (Law of Nonprofit Organizations and one nonprofit-related elective). See http://ssw.unc.edu/sswce/nonprof.htm for more information.

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Public Interest Centers

Center for Civil Rights - The Center for Civil Rights also offers pro bono projects throughout the year for students to work on.

Center for Civil Rights - The UNC Center for Civil Rights hires students for summer internships. The Center's work focuses on education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development and voting rights. See http://www.law.unc.edu/Centers/details.aspx?ID=128&Q=2 for more information.

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Public Interest Clinics

Community Development Law Clinic - A two-semester clinic in which third-year students provide corporate and transactional counsel to North Carolina nonprofit community development organizations. The aim of the CDL Clinic is to help students develop skills in corporate and transactional law and, at the same time, serve the legal needs of under-resourced communities in North Carolina.

CDL students work on a wide variety of business law projects including:

  • forming corporations and limited liability companies

  • spinning off subsidiaries for existing nonprofit corporations

  • advising organizations regarding local, state and federal taxation

  • negotiating and drafting contracts on behalf of nonprofit organizations

  • helping structure joint ventures between nonprofit and for-profit entities

  • obtaining necessary state licenses for nonprofit programs

      Criminal Law Clinic - A one or two-semester clinic in which third-year law students represent children accused of crimes. Our cases principally involve the defense of juveniles in delinquency and undisciplined proceedings in Durham and Orange Counties. In this context, students handle a wide variety of felony and misdemeanor cases, ranging from disorderly conduct and joyriding to assault and drug distribution. Students also represent children alleged to be truant, beyond the disciplinary control of their parents, and runaways.

      Gender and Human Rights Policy Clinic - Clinic students work with both state and international organizations on legislative and policy matters, prepare research papers, draft legislative and rule-making proposals, policy guides, and briefs. For more information, see

      The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic - A two-semester clinic where third-year students represent low-income clients in a variety of civil matters, including, but not limited to:

      • landlord/tenant and other housing law issues

      • family law cases, including domestic violence

      • unemployment benefits

      • consumer law issues

      • public benefits

      The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic also works with the UNC School of Law Center for Civil Rights and other statewide and national legal advocacy organizations on complex litigation in state and federal courts in a broad range of matters involving civil rights.

      The Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic - A two-semester clinic that provides students with an opportunity to represent clients in immigration cases and work on legal projects addressing human rights initiatives. Students work in teams of two or three, depending on the case or project, and consult with each other before and during weekly team meetings with their faculty supervisor. Students prepare claims and advocate on behalf of immigrant clients, including:

      • refugees applying for asylum

      • battered immigrants applying for VAWA relief

      • immigrants eligible for U (crime victim) Visas

      • immigrants eligible for T (trafficking) Visas

      • immigrants with claims to U.S. citizenship

      • other claims for permanent residency status

      There may be opportunities for ancillary state court representation related to immigration cases, depending on the needs of the client.

      Students will also engage in non-litigation strategies and collaborate with state, national, and international human rights organizations on legislative and rule-making proposals, policy matters, research papers, and amicus briefs. Topics may include trafficking, domestic workers, police reform, and various human rights treaty obligations and compliance. Students will work with organizations that are currently seeking to reframe domestic issues as human rights issues, and will engage in various law-related campaigns aimed at addressing a range of economic, social, and cultural human rights violations.

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      The Externship Program is designed to enhance traditional classroom instruction by engaging students in real life lawyering experiences with practicing lawyers and judges in the community. Students receive three units of pass/fail academic credit for working at an approved externship placement for approximately twelve hours a week during the semester, and thirty-two hours per week during the summer. Judges and lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices serve as mentors and on-site supervisors for the students. The Externship directors serve as the student's faculty supervisors. The faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the student's exploration of their externship experience through tutorials, journal writing and group discussion.

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      Classes with a Public Service Component

      Domestic Violence Law - This course has a voluntary practical skills component for Spanish speaking students.

      Non Profit Organizations - This course addresses a number of issues involved in the formation, operation, daily management, and taxation of nonprofit organizations. It also examines the historical underpinnings and the political and public policy considerations that have given shape to the so-called "third-sector" with a practical skills component.

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      Public Interest Journals


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      Public Interest Career Assistance

      The UNC Law Public Interest Summer Job Fair, annually in February, brings numerous North Carolina public interest employers, including non-profit organizations and government employers, to campus to conduct interviews. For more information see

      The Career Services Office sponsors "areas of practice" sessions related to various areas of public interest law. Career Services also coordinates a Public Interest Peer Mentor program, along with the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization, and co-sponsors events such as the Public Interest Retreat.

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      Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

      NC LEAF's loan repayment assistance program provides for loan deferral for the first three years of public service employment, followed by loan forgiveness for continued public service. At the completion of year four, years two and four are forgiven, and at the completion of year five, years one and five are forgiven. Beginning with year six, loans are forgiven at the completion of each year.

      For further details, consult the NC LEAF web site at www.ncleaf.org, "Program Guidelines 2006-2007."

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      Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

      Law School Funded:


      Graduate Student Funded:


      Other Funding Sources:

      The UNC Center for Civil Rights selects one legal Fellow each year to serve as an attorney at the Center.

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      Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

      Law School Funded:

      The Daniel Pollitt Fellowship awards one student each school year a scholarship to work part-time at the ACLU of North Carolina.

      The J. Russell Kirby Public Service Scholarship

      The Trey Cheek Memorial Public Interest Scholarship

      Graduate Student Funded:


      Other Funding Sources:


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      Summer Fellowships

      Law School Funded:

      For summer 2005, students received grants from four endowed funds at the Law School, each of which was set up to provide funds to students working in various areas of public interest law: Ilene Nelson Public Interest Grant,Gibson Desaulniers Smith Public Interest Grant, Steven Whitesell Memorial Fund, and The Pollitt Fellowship.

      Graduate Student Funded:

      Other Funding Sources:

      For summer 2005, four student groups donated funds: The Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (which alone raised over $30,000 to fund students working in the public interest over the summer), Immigrants Outreach Project, Domestic Violence Advocacy Project, and The Environmental Law Project.

      In addition, each year the North Carolina State Bar Interest on Lawyer's Trust Account (IOLTA) Fund provides summer grants for public interest work by UNC students. For summer 2005, three $3000 grants were provided.

      There are between ten and fifteen community service work-study grants each year provided to students who work in approved public interest settings. These grants require a 25% match from the employer.

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      Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

      Social Work Collaborative Training - This program brings together law students and social work students in the hopes of preparing social work students to testify in court.

      Public Interest Retreat - Conducted annually, the retreat brings together students, faculty, administrators and practitioners to discuss careers in public interest law and timely issues in the public interest field, ranging from legal issues in a particular practice area to loan repayment assistance and debt management.

      Public Interest Week - Public Interest Week highlights public interest student groups at the beginning of the school year to introduce incoming students to different public interest options at the school.

      Public Interest Peer Mentor Dinner

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      Student Public Interest Groups

      American Civil Liberties Union - Carolina Law Chapter

      American Constitution Society

      Carolina Law School Republicans Society

      Carolina Law Student Animal Legal Defense Fund

      Carolina Law Young Democrats

      Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (C-PILO)

      Center for Civil Rights-Civil Rights Appellate Advocacy Team

      Conference on Race, Class, Gender & Ethnicity

      Federalist Society

      Feminist Action Initiative

      Health Law and Policy Association

      National Lawyers Guild

Updated: 6/5/2007

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