Sun, Some Fun, and a Lot of Helping Hands


From Miami to Mexico, students join the Law School’s spring break caravans to aid social justice groups.
For some 80 Columbia Law School students, this week’s spring break is their cue to hit the road.
While many are heading to sunnier and warmer climes, their trips are hardly vacations. Instead, the students are part of the Law School’s Spring Break Pro Bono Project Caravans, in which they volunteer with social justice organizations grateful for a helping hand.
Students are working with immigrant rights’ groups, public defender’s offices, civil rights organizations, migrant workers’ rights groups, an environmental outfit, and a juvenile justice organization in such locations as Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Zacatecas, Mexico.
“We were even able to respond to student interest in helping Haitian immigrants and refugees,” said Tanya Greene, director of domestic and pro bono programs, Social Justice Initiatives. “Students contacted the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and were able to create a caravan of students to Miami to work on meeting some of the most urgent legal needs of this community.”
Greene said while students will work hard during the caravans, given that they are traveling to places like Miami and New Orleans, there will also be time to have a “bit of fun.”
About eight students will stay closer to home assisting groups in the Bronx and on Long Island.
Funding for the program, which offers eligible students a stipend to cover travel and accommodations, is being provided by the law firms Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett and Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
The Law School requires students to undertake 40 hours of pro bono work before they graduate, although many exceed that requirement.
The trips are student-led and are being organized by such groups as the Criminal Justice Action Network, which advocates for better indigent defense, the abolition of the death penalty, and prisoners’ rights. Other groups sponsoring caravans are the Black Law Students Association, the Latino/a Law Students Association, the California Society, and the Student Hurricane Network, whose founders include two Law School alumnae who created the group to help provide assistance to hard-hit Gulf Coast communities.


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