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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
160 Ridge Road
Campus Box 3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Sylvia Novinsky
Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs
(919) 962-7813

Dorsey Bachenheimer
Student Services Coordinator
(919) 843-9871

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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

Established in the fall of 1997, the UNC School of Law student and staff-run Pro Bono Program is one of the most unique models in the country. It connects law students with pro bono attorneys in both public interest and private practice. Each year, our students log thousands of hours at non-profit organizations, private firms and government agencies; over 75 percent of our students participate in projects offering high-quality free legal services to North Carolina residents in need.

The Pro Bono Program is administered by a 12-student Board and the Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs. Together, they work throughout the year with community partners, legal aid offices, law school student groups, professors, alumni, private attorneys, and fellow students to facilitate individual pro bono projects, special clinics, and group trips for students. The program also coordinates special projects over fall, winter and spring breaks.

Students participate in pro bono work not only to make a difference in their community by serving those with unmet legal needs, but they also gain valuable, practical work experience outside the classroom.

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Location of Program

Office of Public Service Programs (Student Affairs) http://www.law.unc.edu/probono/

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The Pro Bono Program falls under the purview of the Office of Public Service Programs, with close supervision from the Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs.

Pro Bono Board positions are selected once per year following an application and interview process held each spring semester. All chosen student board members must serve for two consecutive academic semesters, with the exception of the 1L Class Coordinator. The Pro Bono Board Director manages the Board of Coordinators and oversees Program operations. The Pro Bono Board of Coordinators consists of:

Attorney Projects Coordinator: Establishes contact and maintains relationships with attorneys submitting projects to the Program, managing student participation and any potential difficulties that may arise.

Class Coordinators (one position for each class year): Responsible for recruiting students from their respective classes to participate in pro bono projects; Manage students and their hours as they complete respective projects.

Student Group Projects Coordinator: Liaison and coordinator for pro bono projects run through student organizations at UNC Law; Helps to develop, maintain, and manage student group pro bono projects.

Public Relations Coordinator: Manages communications for the Program across the university, local, and state communities, including maintenance of the Pro Bono Program website, calendar, social media, and material for the Annual Report.

Winter and Spring Break Projects Coordinator: Winter and spring break projects coordinator, responsible for attorney and student recruitment for project participation.

Special Trips Coordinators (two positions): Responsible for coordinating group pro bono project trips during academic breaks, assessing needs of individuals across the state of North Carolina, recruiting community partners with whom to work, recruiting students to participate in trips, fundraising for trips, and ultimately coordinating all trip logistics.

Alumni Outreach Coordinator: Works with other members of the Board in addressing needs for alumni contact and/or outreach and manages communication with Pro Bono alumni.

New Project Development Coordinator: Identifies, develops, and transitions potential new pro bono projects into ongoing and sustainable student group projects; Manages all aspects of new projects including coordinating with community partners, recruiting students, running trainings, executing projects, and evaluating a project’s sustainability.

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Funding for the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program comes from private donations in combination with annual fundraising efforts.

The Pro Bono Board actively fundraises for special trips and programs during both fall and spring semesters. Below are examples of annual fundraising activities:

  • Food Truck Rodeo – various Triangle food trucks congregate at UNC Law during the day, donating tips and 10% of profits to the Pro Bono Program;
  • Merchandise Sales – students table weekly in the UNC Law Rotunda to sell Pro Bono items, as well as during UNC Law events such as Law Family Day and Commencement.
  • Mailing Solicitation – students participating in special trips (fall, winter, and/or spring break) solicit donations from friends, family members, and local businesses via solicitation mailings.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

American Constitutional Society (Constitution in the Classroom)
Asian American Law Students Association
Black Law Students Association
Carolina Intellectual Property Law Association
Carolina Real Estate Law Association
Carolina Teen Court Assistance Program
Child Action
Community Legal Project (The Women's Center)
Death Penalty Project
Domestic Violence Advocacy Project
Education Law and Policy Society
Environmental Law Project
Hispanic/Latino Law Student Association
Lambda Law Students Association
Lawyer on the Line (Legal Aid of North Carolina)
National Lawyers Guild
UNC Cancer Pro Bono Project
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Women in Law
*All groups listed above have active pro bono projects for the 2015-2016 academic year.

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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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Pro Bono Publico Awards
Each spring, the Pro Bono Program Director works collaboratively with the Office of Public Service Programs, the Career Development Office (CDO), and the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (CPILO) President to plan an annual recognition ceremony held in April. The Pro Bono Publico Award ceremony honors students’ pro bono efforts throughout the year. The ceremony recognizes 3L students that completed over 75 hours of pro bono service while in law school, recipients of summer public interest grants, and yearly award winners for the Pro Bono Publico Awards (recognizing an alumnus, faculty member, student group, 1L, 2L, 3L, and graduating student for their pro bono contributions throughout the year). The ceremony is attended by students, faculty, staff, and employers.

North Carolina State Bar
Each year, the North Carolina State Bar recognizes one graduating UNC Law student for his or her pro bono work.

North Carolina Bar Association
The NC Bar Association recognizes one student pro bono project each year based on student involvement, audience reached, and legal need met. The NC Bar Association also recognizes UNC Law students with over 75 hours of documented pro bono services by providing certificates of recognition to these students.

Recognition at Graduation & Transcript Notations
Students who complete one hundred or more hours of pro bono service are recognized individually at the May commencement ceremony. Students documenting 50+, 75+, or 100+ hours of pro bono service receive notations on their UNC Law transcripts.

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Community Service

American Constitution Society (ACS) Constitution in the Classroom:
ACS hosts two Constitution in the Classroom events every year, where law students visit local middle schools and present a short lesson on important cases that affect student's constitutional rights. This is a fantastic opportunity to teach students the power of the law to bring positive changes into people's lives.

Child Action:
In collaboration with the UNC School of Social Work, Child Action hosts a Child’s Day in Court Mock Trial, educating social work students on how to interact and learn more about child custody hearings. Law students direct and cross examine social work students, and students learn more about being an effective witness. Child Action also encourages law student participation with Guardian ad Litem in counties surrounding the UNC campus.

Domestic Violence Action Project (DVAP) 5K Fundraiser:
Each fall, DVAP holds an annual 5K race at the UNC cross country trails to raise funds for summer public interest grants. These grants benefit UNC Law students seeking unpaid summer public interest internships with a focus on domestic violence.

Environmental Law Project (ELP) Recycling Program:
The Recycling Program is an important part of ELP's fundraising and awareness campaigns. Instead of outsourcing the recycling to an independent company, UNC Law pays ELP the same amount to empty the law school recycling bins. ELP then uses this money to provide grants to students with summer public interest jobs in environmental law. Additionally, ELP uses the Recycling Program as a springboard to educate others in the school about the value of recycling and what items they can and cannot recycle.

Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) Pet Photo Contest:
SALDF holds an annual pet photo contest to raise funds for the Orange County Animal Shelter. Faculty and staff are encouraged to submit photos of their pets, and individuals may vote on the cutest pet by making a donation on behalf of their favorite pet.

Women in Law (WIL) Girl Scout Mock Trial:
WIL hosts an annual Girl Scout Mock Trial with Girl Scouts of America, where local Girl Scouts participate in programming at UNC Law to earn their justice badge.

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Adrienne Allison
Director of Public Interest Advising
Career Development Office
(919) 843-9918

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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://uncnonprofit.web.unc.edu/ for more information.

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Public Interest Centers

UNC Center for Civil Rights - The UNC Center for Civil Rights focuses on education, economic justice, employment, health care, housing and community development and voting rights. The Center hires students for summer internships and offers pro bono projects throughout the year for students to work on.

N.C. Poverty Research Fund - The purpose of the Fund is to explore, document, research, and publish about the immense challenges of economic hardship in North Carolina

Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation & Resources - The Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation and Resources (CLEAR) provides UNC Law students with an opportunity to engage in cutting edge issues in environmental law and climate change. Together with the law school's co-extensive programs and centers touching on environmental issues, CLEAR is the backbone of UNC Law's renowned environmental program.

North Carolina Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center: The North Carolina Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center is a partnership of North Carolina Sea Grant, UNC School of Law and UNC Department of City and Regional Planning. It serves the citizens of North Carolina by bringing together the resources provided by its partners to address contemporary coastal issues.

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Public Interest Clinics

Civil Legal Assistance Clinic - The Civil Legal Assistance Clinic is a two-semester clinic in which third-year students represent clients in various civil matters related to employment, housing, consumer issues, and other areas of civil rights and poverty law.

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

Domestic Violence Clinic - The Domestic Violence Clinic is a one-semester experiential course taught in both the fall and spring semesters in which third-year law students represent low-income clients in civil matters aimed at assisting clients in safely leaving abusive relationships.

Immigration Clinic - This two-semester clinic provides students with an opportunity to represent clients in immigration cases. Students prepare claims and advocate on behalf of immigrant clients, including refugees applying for asylum, battered immigrants applying for relief through the Violence Against Women Act and immigrants eligible for U-visas for crime victims.

Youth Justice Clinic - The Youth Justice Clinic is a one or two-semester clinic in which third-year law students represent children accused of crimes. Our cases principally involve the defense of youths in delinquency and undisciplined proceedings in Durham and Orange counties.

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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.

The Summer Program: The summer program offers 50 placements, both at judicial and non-judicial sites. First- and second-year students interested in summer placement earn 5 pass/fail credit hours during the 7 week session and are on-site 32 hours per week. Externs attend class on Friday mornings during the summer session.

The Semester in Practice Program: The Semester in Practice program offers full time, semester long externships with our partner government agencies and public interest organizations in Washington DC, New York City, Atlanta and North Carolina. The program is designed as a capstone experience for students interested in a particular area of practice or skills set who are willing to spend the full semester off campus and externing full time with the host organization. Students are trained and mentored by on-site supervisors at the host organization. In addition, the Externship Program’s faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the student’s exploration of their experience through virtual classroom discussion, journal writing and individual conferences.


The Career Development Office provides resources and counseling for students’ public interest internship search, including evaluations from students concerning their summer employment experiences with public interest employers. The Director Public Interest Advising is the full-time counselor for students interested in public interest (including government) positions and careers.

Symplicity: The CDO uses the online software Symplicity to manage job listings (internship, summer, and permanent), on-campus interviewing, off-campus interview programs, and other recruiting events. Access to Symplicity is available online to current students and Carolina Law alumni 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On Campus Interviews: On-campus interviews are typically held in the fall semester during August and September and in the spring semester from late January through February. Students bid (apply) for on-campus interview opportunities through the Symplicity system.

Off-Campus Interview Programs: Students at Carolina Law are invited to participate in more than 30 off-campus interview programs each year, giving them access to employers who do not ordinarily participate in on-campus interviews or who are seeking students with specialized credentials or characteristics.

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Classes with a Public Service Component

Several transition-to-practice courses give students the unique opportunity to explore public service more deeply and apply what they have learned to real-world problems. In these classes, students will hone practical skills, working closely with faculty on projects and learning from practitioners on a broad range of legal topics.

  • Criminal Justice Policy
  • Domestic Violence Law
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Law Practice and Policy
  • Gender Violence and the Law: A Transition to Practice Course
  • Human Rights Policy Seminar
  • Juvenile Courts & Delinquency
  • Political/Civil Rights Poverty and Public Policy in North Carolina
  • Race and Poverty
  • Sex Offenders and the Law
  • The Lawyer as Public Citizen: Access to Justice

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Public Interest Journals

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Public Interest Career Assistance

The Career Development Office prepares students for a successful job search. From help with interviewing and resume preparation, to developing a job search strategy, our staff members are a valuable resource for students and alumni. The office also plans a series of networking events to connect employers with potential applicants. In addition, the Career Development Office administers several programs specific to public interest students. The Director Public Interest Advising is the full-time counselor for students interested in public interest (including government) positions and careers.

Public Interest Peer Mentor Program - The Public Interest Peer Mentor Program pairs incoming 1Ls who are interested in public interest law with upper-class students who are pursuing a public interest career. The program schedules a variety of group social activities each year, including the Annual Chili Dinner, brown bag lunches, a spring picnic and other events.

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 Job Search Group (3L) - Each year, the UNC Law CDO organizes a job search group for 3L students pursuing full-time employment in the public interest and/or government sector. Participants benefit from peer-to-peer support, direct career counselor contact, and methods for taking an active and structured approach to the job search process.

Public Interest Job Search Tips – The CDO has compiled a few specific insights and suggestions for students regarding the Public Interest job and internship search. For more information see http://www.law.unc.edu/career/public/.

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Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

The goals of the UNC School of Law's Loan Repayment Assistance Program are:

  • To encourage students to enter permanent public service employment without regard to debt burden; and
  • To assist graduates entering public service with law school loan debt.

The program aims to supplement other available sources of loan repayment assistance so as to permit graduates to perform public service in North Carolina, the nation and the world, without being restricted or discouraged by law school debt.

LRAP recipients receive a short-term loan from UNC School of Law and use those funds toward the payment of law school education loans. Eligibility is determined through the application and is reconfirmed after a year. If the recipient is still LRAP-eligible after a year, the short-term loan is forgiven. If a recipient becomes ineligible at any point during the year, the ineligible funds must be repaid.

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Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Center for Civil Rights annually awards a recent law school graduate with a one- or two-year fellowship. Fellows work under the direct supervision of the Center's senior attorneys. In the past, Fellows have primary responsibility for one program area (most recently either community development or education) and may contribute to other program areas as well.

In 2015, UNC School of Law piloted a bridge-to-practice fellowship program, which provided up to thirty (30) recent graduates with a modest stipend for volunteer work with a public interest employer for the three-month period after the July 2015 bar exam.

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

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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 Trey Cheek Public Interest Memorial Scholarship Fund is available to either a 2L or 3L based on financial need and a commitment to public interest law.

The Peter K. Daniel Memorial Scholarship Fundis available for a second-year student. This scholarship will be awarded based on a demonstration of an exceptional commitment to community service (to be distinguished from public interest law), entrepreneurial spirit, strong work ethic and strength of character.

The William Henry Holderness and William Edward Elmore, Jr., Scholarship Fund is available to one 2L and one 3L to reward academic achievement, financial need, and a commitment to public interest law and community involvement.

The Whichard Scholarship is available to students who entered law school from careers in education, or those considering careers in public service.

The Kirby Service Scholarship is available to a student from eastern North Carolina who intends to pursue a career of public service in government, politics or education.

The J. Russell Kirby Public Service Scholarship is intended to foster, recognize and reward service as epitomized by Sen. Kirby. This award is given to a student who has been selected as a Chancellors Scholar at the UNC School of Law. Preference is given to students from eastern North Carolina who intend to pursue a career of public service in government, politics or education.

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

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Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Each year summer grants are awarded to students who are taking unpaid or low-paying summer public interest and public sector jobs. Funding for these grants comes from several sources, including student organizations and private funds. Examples include:

  • Steven Whitesell Memorial Fund Grant (preference given to a student in the City and Regional Planning program)
  • Sandra Johnson Public Interest Summer Grant
  • Class of 2001 Public Interest Summer Grant
  • Gene R. Nichol Public Interest Law Fund
  • The Dan Pollitt Fellowship (preference given to a student who works in the area of civil liberties)
  • William E. Underwood, Jr., Public Interest Fellowship (preference given to a student working with the Council for Children's Rights in Charlotte, NC)
  • Gibson Desaulniers Smith Public Interest Award

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

Various student organizations also award partial grants. In 2015, the following student organizations awarded grants to students:

  • Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (C-PILO)
  • Environmental Law Project
  • Domestic Violence Action Project

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Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

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Student Public Interest Groups

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – Carolina Law Chapter
American Constitution Society
Carolina Health Law Organization
Carolina Public Interest Law Organization (C-PILO)
Carolina Teen Court Assistance Program
Child Action
Community Legal Project
Conference on Race, Class, Gender and Ethnicity (CRCGE)
Death Penalty Project
Domestic Violence Action Project (DVAP)
Environmental Law Project
Immigration Law Association
Innocence Project
Lambda Law Students Association
National Lawyers Guild
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Veterans Military Advocacy Student Organization
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Updated: 11/18/2015

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