Welcome to Michigan Law's Pro Bono Program!
I'm Amy Sankaran, and as the director of externship and pro bono programs, I spend most of my time either encouraging students to take advantage of skill-building opportunities outside the classroom, or supporting those who have already made the (wise!) choice to do so. One such opportunity is our Voluntary Pro Bono Pledge, which asks JD students to complete 50 hours (LLMs must complete 25 hours) of pro bono service, defined as legal work on behalf of persons of limited means. Whether you are headed to a firm or into public service, pro bono work is for everyone. Through pro bono projects you can:
- Help our community and connect with what brought you to law school (not Torts and Property, I’m guessing?).
- Gain legal experience, which sets you apart from other applicants.
- Demonstrate interest in an area that isn't otherwise on your resume.
- Try new areas of law without devoting classes, summers, or clinic choices to it.
- Build your network!
- Learn new skills—e.g., interviewing, research, writing, and case preparation.
- Interact with potential clients, especially at a law firm.
- Fulfill an ethical responsibility. ABA Rule 6.1 states "every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year."
Since the Pledge launched in 2009, I've been amazed at the number of students who have stepped up to help fill the vast legal needs in our community. In 2013-2014, 189 students completed 9,174 hours of pro bono service on 30 projects. Further, the 2014 graduating class (consisting of December and May graduates) had the most students ever -- 80 -- who completed the Pledge!
How Can You Get Involved in 2014-2015?
First, and foremost, take the Pro Bono Pledge. There's no risk; if you don't finish it, nothing bad will happen to you—I promise. Rather, you'll be added to our listserv for pro bono news and announcements so you can stay informed.
After you take the pledge, you can take a look at our Pro Bono Project listings. If you don't find something that interests you, you can always launch your own pro bono project, which a number of law students have done over the years. I'm always available if you need some help.
Then, ultimately, you'll do some cool work and log your hours in our Student Hours Tracking Database. At the end of your time at Michigan, we'll recognize those who completed the Pledge at the Honors Convocation and the Public Service Banquet, and you'll receive a certificate signed by the Dean with your total hours on it (please keep logging those hours even after you reach 50!).
Finally, if you find yourself thinking you want to do even more to build our pro bono community, you can join the Pro Bono Board; just contact me for more information. Without this group of students, the pro bono community at Michigan Law would not be the vibrant, amazing thing it is. The Board works all year creating a fall Pro Bono Institute kick-off event, publishing two pro bono newsletters, inviting and publicizing speakers, honoring our students with awards, and answering countless questions about how the Pledge works.
We hope you'll join us, and we hope this site will get you started. If you have questions, please ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to help!
If you are an an individual seeking legal assistance, please note that Michigan Law students cannot provide direct legal advice or services to members of the general public. Since they are not yet lawyers, Michigan Law students must be supervised by a licensed attorney working for, or on behalf of, an organization approved by the Pro Bono Program.
For assistance, you might visit Michigan Legal Help or the Michigan State Bar's list of the various legal aid programs.