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

Northwestern University School of Law

Northwestern University
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
375 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

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Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Maureen Stratton

Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Public Service Coordinator

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Category Type

Formal Voluntary Program characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator

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Description of Programs

Students are encouraged to serve at least 40 hours of public service work over the course of their time at Northwestern Law. Acknowledging that not all students will choose public interest law as a career, students may volunteer in a wide range of legal and non-legal community service projects. Our public service coordinator assists students in finding placements, organizes opportunities and keeps track of their efforts.

Through our public service program, students work with many organizations that approach us on an as-needed basis, but we also have established a few key partnerships that continue on a regular basis from year to year, including an educational partnership with Chicago Public Schools' Futures Exchange Program, a partnership with Chicago Youth Programs, the Tax Assistance Program, and the Unaccompanied Children's Advocate Project. To assist in the expansion of legal representation of the poor, we also partner with several legal service organizations, including Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic, Center for Disability and Elder Law and Catholic Charities Legal Referral Program. For more information, go to the public service website at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/publicservice

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Location of Programs

The Office of Student Affairs

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The Public Service Coordinator is a half-time position.

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Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects

Black Law Students Association - Students provided opportunity tours to minority high school students to encourage law careers.

Public Interest Law Group - Students volunteered to prepare clemency petitions under the supervision of Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic.

St. Thomas More Society - Students volunteered with Catholic Charities Legal Referral Program.

Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteering - Provided Street Law training to at risk youth and constitutional rights foundation lessons to students at our adopted school.

Asian Pacific American Law Student Association - Students volunteered to assist lawyers with client intake at Asian Legal Services.

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Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

Northwestern Law does not have a faculty pro bono policy, but all faculty are encouraged to report annually to the dean the pro bono work he or she has performed.

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Students who fulfill our public service hourly goal are awarded certificates of outstanding commitment to public service. In addition, they recieve special recognition at graduation. Their names are highlighted in the graduation bulletin, and they receive distinctive honor cords to wear at the graduation ceremony.

Students who fulfill our public service hourly goal are also listed as "Public Service Stars" on the public service website.

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Community Service

Orientation Day of Service - every orientation, incoming students dedicate a day to community service. Each year, the projects vary but have included volunteering at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Animal Care and Control, Lake Michigan Federation, and YMCA.

Talcott Adopt-A-School Program - throughout the year, students volunteer at our "adopted" school in a weekly reading program, pen pal program and provide other assistance as needed.

Cabrini Green Tutoring Program - each week, students volunteer to mentor and tutor children through the Chicago Youth Programs.

MLK Day Service Celebration - our annual Martin Luther King celebration includes community service projects.

Holy Angels Adopt-A-Class Program - student volunteers teach classes once a month on a wide range of academic topics and also organize field trips at a low-income school on the Southside of Chicago.

Tax Assistance Program - each tax season, students assist low-income clients prepare tax returns.

Alternative Spring Break - for the past two years, over thirty students spent their spring breaks helping with the rebuilding efforts in Louisiana.

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Law School Public Interest Programs

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Contact Information

Cindy Wilson
Clinical Associate Professor and Public Interest Advisor
(312) 503-2924
Center for Career Strategy and Advancement

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Certificate/Curriculum Programs

Northwestern offers a unique Law and Social Policy concentration that provides students with an opportunity to study a wide range of law and social policy topics and recognizes students for these efforts. The concentration focuses on law as it consciously shapes society, as distinguished from its role in adjudicating disputes and making arrangements between private parties. This approach to the study of law is informed by the knowledge and techniques of the social sciences.

Because of its broad scope, this concentration has two "tracks" --policy analysis and public interest. The two-track approach reflects the fact that the interest leading students to this concentration as well as their career path may be quite diverse. Students may meet the requirements of either or both of these tracks, which will then be indicated accordingly on their transcript.

The policy analysis track is designed for students with a strong intellectual and practical interest in policy analysis. Students may be interested in working in policy-related positions in government, think tanks, other non-profit policy-related organizations, or academic research positions. The public interest track is designed for students with strong intellectual and practical interests in public interest law. Students may be interested in working in government enforcement agencies, non-profit advocacy or service organizations, or clinical academic positions.

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Public Interest Centers

The Public Service Office - Promotes public interest by assisting students in finding pro bono and other volunteer opportunities, sponsoring public interest panels and organizing school-wide pro bono and community service projects. More information about the public service program can be found at http://www.law.northwestern.edu/publicservice/.

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Public Interest Clinics

The Bluhm Legal Clinic is comprised of a number of centers, each of which offers a variety of public interest clinical opportunities.

The Children and Family Justice Center is a comprehensive children's law center where law students, under the supervision of attorneys and clinical professors, represent young people on matters of delinquency and crime, family violence, school discipline, health and disability, and immigration and asylum. CFJC collaborates with communities and child welfare, educational, mental health and juvenile justice systems to develop fair and effective policies and solutions for reform. Clinical offerings include:

  • Juvenile Delinquency and School Law
  • Juvenile Justice and Reform
  • Mental Health Issues in Juvenile Court
  • Juvenile Justice and Death Penalty Trials and Appeals
  • Youth and Women Asylum Law

The Center for International Human Rights focuses on researching and addressing emerging human right norms and related issues as well as providing valuable clinical experiences for students interested in the protection of human rights on a global scale. Clinical offerings include:

  • Clinic Practice: Center for International Human Rights
  • Human Rights Advocacy in U.S. Courts and International Tribunals

The Small Business Opportunity Center provides affordable legal services to entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations focusing on job creation and economic development in the Chicago area. The purpose of the SBOC is to give students real-life experience handling transactional legal issues and to provide much-needed assistance to business owners and social entrepreneurs. Clinical offerings include:

  • Clinic Practice: Small Business Opportunity Center

The Center on Wrongful Convictions is dedicated to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice. Center faculty, staff, cooperating outside attorneys, and students investigate possible wrongful convictions and represent imprisoned clients with claims of actual innocence. Clinical offerings include:

  • Clinic Practice: Center on Wrongful Convictions
  • Wrongful Convictions, Juvenile Justice and Clemency and Parole

The Investor Protection Center provides assistance to investors with limited income or small dollar claims who are unable to obtain legal representation. Law students, under the supervision of faculty attorneys, represent customers in handling their disputes with broker-dealers. Clinical offerings include:

  • Clinic Practice: Investor Protection

The MacArthur Justice Center litigates issues of significance for the criminal justice system, including prisoner rights, the death penalty, and gun control. The Center has been deeply involved in litigation surrounding the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Clinical offerings include:

  • Clinical Justice Reform

Other clinical offerings include:

  • Complex Civil Litigation
  • Criminal Defense and Appeals
  • Federal Criminal Appellate Practice
  • The United States Supreme Court

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Combined with classroom work, externships give second- and third-year law students the opportunity to gain on-the-job training while earning class credit. They work 10 to 15 hours per week under the close supervision of lawyers, judges, government officials, and public interest professionals and also attend a seminar class once a week where they complete readings about their field, keep a journal, and write a paper or give a presentation linking their practice experience to theoretical questions.

Students bring back to the classroom valuable firsthand experience and a heightened level of confidence about appearing before judges, writing briefs or opinions, preparing cases, and working with clients.

Domestic externships are available in the following areas:

  • Judicial - Students placed as law clerks with a United States district court judge or magistrate work on the preparing of research memoranda and drafting of opinions.
  • Public Interest - Students working at a public interest legal organization represent clients in civil matters. Placements include, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Equip for Equality, Lawyers for the Creative Arts and Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, among others.
  • Criminal Law - Students work with either prosecution or defense lawyers in the federal or state criminal justice system, including the U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Defender's Office, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, and Cook County Public Defender's Office.
  • Civil Government - Students work at federal, state, or local government agencies involved in civil law, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, among others.
  • Mediation - Students can become certified mediators and conduct mediations under faculty supervision after completing mediation skills training from the Center for Conflict Resolution.

    All domestic externships that are completed during the fall or spring semesters are located in Chicago or the surrounding area. During the summer term, students may work in placements outside Chicago and participate in a practicum for externships outside Chicago.

Northwestern Law also offers a number of international externships for credit. Placements are available in the following locations:

  • the International Criminal Court (The Hague, The Netherlands),
  • the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (The Hague, The Netherlands)
  • the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Arusha, Tanzania),
  • the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Freetown, Sierra Leone, and The Hague, The Netherlands),
  • the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Cambodia),
  • the War Crimes and Organized Crimes Chambers of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina),
  • the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (Geneva, Switzerland),
  • the Supreme Court of Israel (Jerusalem, Israel), and
  • the Supreme Court of India (New Delhi, India).

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Classes with a Public Service Component

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Public Interest Journals

Journal of Law and Social Policy

Journal of International Human Rights

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Public Interest Career Support Center

The Center for Career Strategy and Advancement has an experienced Public Interest Advisor who works with students in all aspects of their public interest job searches. The Public Interest Advisor spent many years practicing as a public interest lawyer prior to joining the law school. In addition to individual counseling and assistance, the Public Interest Advisor offers a wide variety of presentations on public interest law throughout the year. Topics include applying for post-graduate public interest fellowships, the public interest job search, working as a government lawyer, and relationships between public interest lawyers and pro bono attorneys in firms. The Public Interest Advisor also prepares written information for public interest students, including a fellowship handbook, websites for public interest job searches, and information on financing a summer public interest job.

The Career Center is one of the co-sponsors of Public Interest Law Week, a week in the fall term devoted to public interest programming. The Public Interest Advisor participates in the planning of Public Interest Week with the Public Interest Law Group, a student group devoted to public interest issues. The Career Center maintains a database of available public interest jobs, extensive files on public interest employers across the country, files on post-graduate and summer fellowship opportunities, and a wide variety of books and other sources on public interest employers.

The law school hosts the annual Midwest Public Interest Career Conference, a job fair for hundreds of students at law schools across the Midwest.

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Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

For many years, Northwestern Law has helped preserve a complete range of career choices for its graduates by providing graduates who enter public interest and government jobs assistance in repaying their law school loans. In 1984, Northwestern Law created its first such program, the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP).

The Law School has revised this program to reflect the changing economic landscape and the needs of its students, and it is now called the Public Service Fellowship (PSFP). PSFP assists graduates entering legal and managerial positions in the public and non-profit sectors.

Under the program, eligible graduates working as attorneys or managers in any government or non-profit agency will receive one-year forgivable loans for their legal education debt service. If the graduate remains in a qualifying position for one year, the loan is forgiven in its entirety. Graduates may participate in the program for up to ten years.

Those who qualify apply only a certain percentage of their earnings to their annual obligations for loan repayments; the Public Service Fellowship provides for the remainder of their obligations in the form of one-year forgivable loans. The amount of assistance granted to each participant is based upon the gross income and the amount of the indebtedness of the participant. The calculations adjust the participant's income downward to reflect annual debt service from undergraduate loans and a dependant's allowance of $5,000 per child. Married applicants are treated as having the higher of (a) his or her own income or (b) half of the joint income.

Income Level (AGI) % of Income Applicant is Expected to Contribute (per year)
$0-$30,000 0%
$30,001-$40,000 6%
$40,001-$50,000 7%
$50,001-$60,000 8%
Presently, the maximum annual law school contribution is capped at $13,000.

Website: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/admissions/tuitionaid/loans/lrap.html

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Post-Graduate Fellowships/Awards

Law School Funded:

The Zenner Grants are awarded each year to graduating students who plan to work in a public interest position. The grants are intended to assist students with payment of fees for bar review courses, bar applications, and other expenses in the summer after graduation. The number and amounts vary from year to year.

Graduate Student Funded:

The Len Rubinowitz Public Interest Fellowships are awarded both to students working in public interest positions during the summer and to graduating students entering public interest to assist with bar expenses and summer living expenses. Full grants are generally $4,500, and partial grants may also be awarded. The number of fellowships varies from year to year. The fellowships are funded by a combination of donations from students, faculty, administrators, and alumni, law school funds, and a number of fundraising events.

Other Funding Sources:

The Zenner Grants are awarded each year to graduating students who plan to work in a public interest position. The grants are intended to assist students with payment of fees for bar review courses, bar applications, and other expenses in the summer after graduation. The number of awards and amounts vary from year to year. The grants are funded by alumna Teri Zenner, founder of Zenner Consulting Group.

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Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships

Law School Funded:

Graduate Student Funded:

Other Funding Sources:

Public Interest Law Initiative, Equal Justice America

The Public Interest Law Initiative, a nonprofit agency in Chicago that awards funding to students working in public interest positions in Chicago, offers a number of term-time stipends to students from the law schools located in Chicago. Students at Northwestern have received these stipends on various occasions. The amount of the stipend is $2,250.

Equal Justice America, a national nonprofit organization that provides funding for law students working in public interest positions, has funded a number of Northwestern students for term-time positions. The number and amounts vary from year to year.

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Summer Fellowships

Law School Funded:

Graduate Student Funded:

The Student Funded Public Interest Fellowship (SFPIF) awards the Len Rubinowitz Public Interest Fellowships to students working at public interest organizations during the summer. Full grants are generally $4,500 and partial grants may also be awarded. The number of fellowships varies from year to year. The fellowships are funded by a combination of donations from students, faculty, administrators, alumni, law school funds, and a number of fundraising events.

Other Funding Sources:

The Stevens Fellowships are awarded to Northwestern Law students for summer work at the public interest employer of their choice. The fellowships are funded by former law clerks of Justice Stevens to honor his devotion to public service and to encourage students to obtain public interest jobs. Generally, two to four awards are given, in the amount of $5,000 each.

Each year, the school selects two Mansfield Fellows to work at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Mansfield Fellows receive $6,500 for a ten-week period. These fellowships are funded by the Mansfield Foundation, the Legal Assistance Foundation, and the law school.

The Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association provides funding for two Lefkow Fellowships for Northwestern Law students to work in public interest jobs in the summer. The fellowships are in honor of the life and work of Michael Lefkow, who worked as a public interest lawyer for many years in Chicago. The fellowships provide funding of $5,000 for the summer.

The law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal through its Sonnenschein Scholars Program sponsors students to work at the public interest organization of their choosing, including two students from Northwestern Law. Students are paid $4,000 for the summer.

The law firm of Howrey LLP through its Howrey HELPS program selects first year students from a number of law schools, including Northwestern, to work in a public interest organization in the city in which they attend law school. The compensation is $5,000 for the summer.

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Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs

Innocence in Capital Sentencing Symposium - Panel of diverse group of professors and practitioners discussed the impact of wrongful convictions on the capital punishment debate.

Reforming the United Nations Conference - Participants from the U.S. and Europe examined, among other issues, how the United States' decision to act without Security Council authorization in the war with Iraq has impacted the future role of the United Nations.

Janet Reno - Former U.S. Attorney gave the keynote speech for Women's Symposium focused on "Women Finding Their Voices" and urged involvement in public service.

"Countdown to Execution" film and panel - Center on Wrongful Convictions hosted premiere of documentary about the capital case of Darnell Williams. The post-film panel included former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan, a death penalty proponent, who commuted Mr. Williams death sentence, the lawyers and law students who represented Mr. Williams and the lead prosecutor.

Public Interest Law Week - The Public Interest Law Group organizes Public Interest Law Week (PILW) each fall. PILW includes a keynote address, numerous panels on public interest topics, a reception, and a variety of other events.

Public Interest Brown Bag Series - PILG sponsors a series of brown bag lunches focusing on the practical aspects of public interest work -- jobs and internships, financing a public interest career, and the law and course offerings at the law school.

DREAM Committee - The group that plans the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration sponsors public interest programs.

Public Interest Speaker Series - PILG sponsors a spring speaker series featuring faculty discussing their areas of public interest expertise.

Journal of International Human Rights - presented a number of panels on topics such as, "Abu Ghraib", "Human Rights in the Shadow of China: the case of Taiwan", "The trial of Saddam Hussein", and a panel on human rights in Islam.

"Gautreaux at 40: Race, Class, Housing Mobility and Neighborhood Revitalization" --conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Gautreaux decision.

The Children and Family Justice Center - hosted a number of programs, including a meeting of the National Children's Law Center Network, a conference on the health and human rights of children involved in the juvenile justice system, a program called "Making Child Poverty History", a meeting of the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, and a reception for attorneys doing children's law.

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Student Public Interest Groups

Advocates for Reproductive Freedom

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

American Constitution Society

Amnesty International

Animal Legal Defense Fund

Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Black Law Students Association

Diversity Coalition

The D.R.E.A.M. Society

Environmental Law Society

The Federalist Society

Latino Law Students Association

Law School Democrats

National Lawyers Guild


Public Interest Law Group

South Asian Law Students Association

St. Thomas More Society

Student Bar Association

Student Effort to Rejuvenate Volunteerism

Student Funded Public Interest Fellowship

Women's Leadership Coalition

Updated: 9/20/2007

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