Summer Stipend Recipients
A Student’s Guide to the Pro Bono Collaborative
The Pro Bono Collaborative develops and facilitates pro bono legal assistance projects that match RWU Law students with Rhode Island’s top law firms and attorneys to provide pro bono legal assistance to community based organizations and their constituents. Law students selected to participate in the Pro Bono Collaborative get:
- a realistic sense of what pro bono legal service is and experience how it is done while balancing other professional and personal commitments.
What is the commitment?
With the exception of the Alternative Spring Break Program, Pro Bono Collaborative law students commit between 4-15 hours per month to their projects. If selected for a project, students must commit to at least one semester. Students are not required to work on their project over the summer, during school breaks or during exam periods, though they often chose to continue working on their projects during these times. Law students are screened by the Feinstein Center but supervised by Pro Bono Collaborative partnering law firm attorneys. Project hours may be applied to the Pro Bono Experiential Learning Requirement.
What makes the Pro Bono Collaborative unique?
- Law students who participate in Pro Bono Collaborative projects are members of a team that usually includes at least one attorney and a representative from a community organization. Most Pro Bono Collaborative students report that their project work feels significantly different than an internship experience because law students and attorneys work together on projects as a team and often interact directly with clients at the clients’ trusted community outlet.
- Pro Bono Collaborative work is flexible and manageable. You can take a full course load, including a clinic or externship, and still participate in a Pro Bono Collaborative Project without feeling totally overwhelmed.
- Pro Bono Collaborative Projects are a great way to connect and give back to our most vulnerable communities.
- Law students and lawyers often provide legal services at community organizations, which are trusted and familiar to the clients.
Please visit Symplicity and apply under the job posting #3542 “Law Student Partner, Pro Bono Collaborative.”
Types of Projects
Business Law/Transactional Projects
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) law students are trained to provide tax assistance to low-income individuals and families at local community based organizations in order to help them maximize tax refunds for which they are eligible, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Law student volunteers have been able to return thousands of dollars to VITA participants, bringing greater financial stability to low-income families and communities.
- Rhode Island Foundation’s Initiative for Non-Profit Excellence Business Law Workshop Project. Law students work with the Pro Bono Collaborative staff to develop a series of business law workshops to be presented at the RI Foundation for local non-profits. The first workshop was presented on employment and labor for non-profits.
- Discrete Non-Profit Business Law Projects. Law students and attorneys provide discrete legal advice to non-profits on business issues. Recent work has involved review of purchase agreements, mergers between non-profits, and review of employee handbooks.
Criminal Law Projects
- Expungement Legal Clinics. Attorneys and law students hold monthly clinics for McAuley House guests on criminal expungement issues and the consequences of criminal convictions on housing, immigration and employment. The attorneys and law students also provide advice and counsel, as well as ongoing representation, to eligible clients. A similar project provides expungement assistance to those served by RI Coalition for the Homeless at Mathewson Church in downtown Providence.
- Criminal Law and Employment Project. Attorneys and law students provide bi-yearly workshop presentations to Year Up Providence participants with basic information on the effect their criminal histories may have on their future employment. In addition to providing educational workshops, the law firm provides brief one-on-one advice and counsel to Year Up participants.
- Immigration Help for Children (DACA and SIJ) Project. The Immigration Help for Children Project involves law students assisting young immigrants in determining their eligibility for immigration relief and, where eligible, helping with applications. Law students work under the supervision of attorneys Deborah Gonzalez, Hans Bremer, Cecily Ziegler, and Carl Krueger and conduct clinics at the following community sites: Olneyville Neighborhood Association, Central Falls Schools and East Bay Community Action Program.
- U Visa Project. Attorneys and law students assist immigrant victims of domestic violence "self-petition" to remain in the United States after leaving their abusive citizen-husbands or partners (through VAWA and U Visa applications).
Estate Planning and Guardianship
- Guardianship Project with Bradley Hospital’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Attorneys and law students counsel parents of severely disabled children, who are about to turn 18 years old, regarding various options available to assist their soon-to-be-adult children in managing finances and other major life decisions. Guardianship is one option of many that are discussed with clients. For families interested in petitioning the court to become the legal guardian of their adult child, the law firm, with the assistance of law students, provides ongoing representation through the guardianship process.
- Women's Center Legal Rights Workshops. Attorneys and law students present regular "Know Your Rights" workshops to Women's Center RI (domestic violence shelter) residents who will be transitioning out of the shelter. Workshops cover housing rights, the best move-in/move-out practices, credit reporting and employment.
Street Law is a national program that partners law students with local public schools and community-based organizations to teach youth about their legal rights and responsibilities.The program focuses on serving disadvantaged youth in urban areas of Rhode Island. Students prepare interactive lessons and activities and teach in public high schools and community organizations. One of our primary community partners is the YMCA of Greater Providence.
Alternative Spring Break
Alternative Spring Break is a project of the Association for Public Interest Law. Every year, during spring break, students use their legal skills to provide assistance at legal service and public interest organizations. Started in 2007 as the Student Hurricane Network, part of a national effort to send law students to the gulf coast to assist after Hurricane Katrina, the program has grown dramatically with more than 45 students participating in 2013 at ten sites in RI, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.