In-House Pro Bono Projects 2016-2017
This is not an exhaustive list of projects. Please look here for more information on how to find a pro bono project.
Student-Run Pro Bono Projects
Please note, unless otherwise indicated (by “CLS only”) the projects listed below are open to JD's and LL.M's and qualify for both the CLS mandatory requirement (for 2 & 3Ls; voluntary for 1Ls) and the NY state bar requirement. "CLS only" means that the project does NOT qualify for the NY state bar requirement.
Black Law Students Association/Latino/a Law Students Association
Resilience Advocacy Project [CLS ONLY]: Students will work with attorneys to provide information in various areas to youth in schools and youth organizations. Students will lead “Know Your Rights” and advocacy workshops for youth around issues ranging from dating violence to reproductive rights, to public benefits and education, in order to help teens build social justice focused youth advocacy clinics in their communities. Contact: Mari Cardenas (email@example.com). Training 1/27, 1-5:30pm, JG 107.
Columbia Law and Entrepreneurship Society
Students will research small business clients participating in Start Small Think Big’s Food Business program, review their files, conduct client interviews, then prepare and submit an intake summary for SSTB’s pro bono attorneys. Contact: Nathalie Russell, firstname.lastname@example.org. This project is not active in Spring 2017.
Columbia Law School Military Association
Veterans Legal Assistance Project – New York Legal Assistance Group: Law students will meet with Veteran clients and their families to prepare benefits applications and develop the strongest cases possible. Students will have the opportunity to work on PTSD claims, Agent Orange-related disability claims, discharge upgrades, sexual assault claims, and appeals. Students will work simultaneously for multiple clients on various stages of the benefits application process. Students will be the main point of contact at NYLAG for each of their clients and will keep clients informed of case progress by telephone and in person. Contact: Alex Chelesnik, email@example.com. Apply by emailing Alex by January 27, 2017 with your name, class year, email, and phone number. Training will take place the first week in February 2017.
Columbia Law Women’s Association
Students engaged in the CLWA/HerJustice Intake project will assist HerJustice staff in conducting intake for potential clients seeking to receive legal services. Participation in the project requires a commitment of at least three four hours shifts per semester. Students will be trained in conducting phone intakes with clients, entering the information into our web based database, and writing a summary for our attorneys to review. Students may also have the opportunity to assist with drafting documents for a divorce or immigration case with Her Justice. Students will have direct client contact, developing intake interviewing skills, basic education in family, matrimonial and immigration law and experience working with a legal database. Contact: Sunny Kim, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Domestic Violence Project
- U-Visa Project: Participants represent undocumented low-income victims of domestic violence seeking a path to US citizenship through a petition for U non-immigrant status. Students are assigned a client and complete the petition application from beginning to end, and learn skills such as interviewing and drafting affidavits. This project includes a thorough training curriculum that exposes students to aspects of both immigration and family law in New York City. Contact: Cathy Zhu, L.Zhu@columbia.edu or Christina Zhang, email@example.com.
- Courtroom Advocates Project: Students serve as advocates in Family Court for domestic violence victims. Under the supervision of Sanctuary for Families, students help victims draft and file petitions for Orders of Protection, educate them on their rights and safety precautions, and advocate for them during court appearances. Contact: Shelly Kim, firstname.lastname@example.org. Apply online by 1/17.
- Uncontested Divorce Workshop: Law student volunteers participating in the Uncontested Divorce Workshop help victims of domestic violence attain uncontested divorces from their abusers. Under the supervision of attorneys from Sanctuary for Families, each two-student team meets with a client and helps her prepare and file papers for the divorce process. From this process, students can get experience working directly with a client while developing a better understanding of the issue of domestic violence. Completion of the project also involves learning and executing the procedure for filing for an uncontested divorce in the state of New York. This includes learning to draft and revise initial and final papers, as well as learning the rules around service (who is able to serve the papers, when must the papers be served, etc.) and filing. Contact: Daniel Klein, email@example.com.
- Human Trafficking Intervention Court Project: Columbia students doing this pro bono project work with Sanctuary attorneys to interview foreign-born individuals with cases before the Human Trafficking Intervention Court to identify any trafficking-based or other immigration remedies potentially available to them. Contact: Katy Urbanelli, firstname.lastname@example.org.
High School Law Institute [CLS ONLY]
HSLI has law school students spend their Saturday mornings and early afternoons teaching high school students a legal curriculum based on Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Moot Court, and Mock Trial. The knowledge our student-teachers learn in their classroom and extracurricular settings plays directly into their lesson plans. Contact: Anu Akinbamidele, email@example.com or Norian Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
Through If/When/How's Legal Research Initiative (LRI), volunteer law students and legal professionals are matched with partner organizations around the country to complete a wide variety of legal research projects. Projects can be short-term or longer-term, can be completed remotely, and have flexible time commitments. Legal research is supervised either by the partner organization’s legal staff, or by If/When/How’s in-house Legal Fellow. Contact: Mia Hutt, email@example.com
The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual [CLS ONLY]
The JLM is a handbook of legal rights and procedures distributed to thousands of prisoners across the country each year by Columbia’s Human Rights Law Review. Student volunteers write, update, edit, and cite check discrete sections of the JLM and its various state supplements. Short assignments are available (up to 6 hours), but volunteers who complete longer assignments may be eligible for “by-line” writing credit. Students interested in immigration law can also work on the JLM Immigration Law Supplement. Contact: Shawn Shariati, firstname.lastname@example.org
Latino/a Law Students Association
NYLAG Immigration Clinics: Students will work with attorneys in New York Legal Assistance Group’s community-based immigration clinics to conduct legal screenings or provide specific application assistance. Some clinics are focused on providing general legal immigration screenings to help individuals to determine eligibility for various forms of immigration relief, including family based petitions, deferred action, T and U visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and asylum, while others are designed to provide specific application assistance for some immigration benefits, like Naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Temporary Protected Status. Contact: Ricky Garza at email@example.com.
Law in Africa Student Society
Students will write short (5-6 page memos) about relevant international legal frameworks around extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and occasionally arbitrary detention. They will also research and write memos on the international legal framework governing discrimination of ethnic/religious groups by state forces. They will compare the international legal frameworks with national laws (the laws will be provided by the AI team in Kenya, and they will assist students in understanding the law). Further students will be required to compile data from human rights reports about the number of extrajudicial killings occurring, and other details (e.g. time, location, suspected crimes), which will be used as part of an Amnesty International report looking at extra-judicial killings in Kenya. Contact: Anjli Parrin firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Join a team of Columbia students staffing a legal clinic at a local homeless shelter. Working with attorneys from the City Bar Justice Center, students will be assigned a client and advocate for the resolution of various legal issues. Students commonly work on issues related to public assistance, immigration, employment, and family law. Contact: Rebecca Azhdam, email@example.com.
Mentoring Youth through Legal Education [CLS ONLY]
Debate & Mock Trial Program: CLS students work with attorneys from major New York firms in coaching New York high school students for constitutional law debates. The year-long constitutional law debate program is a key part of Legal Outreach’s effort to inspire and prepare young people to go to college. Student coaches will establish a strong mentoring relationship with individual students through one-on-one tutoring and guidance. They will also adjudicate a series of four exciting debates, all conducted at CLS. Contact: Chris Mendez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Queer and Trans People of Color
Transgender Legal Defense Fund: Through the Transgender Name Change Project, law students assist transgender clients in petitioning to have their names legally changed to match their gender identity. This involves both helping the client file name change documents and representing them in a hearing before the court. Therefore, students learn valuable written and oral advocacy skills, as well as gaining firsthand experience interacting with clients.
Leveraging the vast research resources available to Columbia students, Rightslink provides free legal research services to human rights groups that lack the capacity or political freedom to conduct their own research. Students interested in human rights gain the opportunity to contribute to research projects covering both domestic and international issues ranging from language discrimination to human trafficking. Contact: Jacob Bogart, email@example.com, or Rachel LaFortune, firstname.lastname@example.org [CLS ONLY]
The Rightslink Research and Advocacy Program (RAP) will give students (JDs and LLMs) the chance to join a dedicated human rights advocacy community and participate in exciting human rights research on-going at CLS. Contact: Jacob Bogart, email@example.com, or Rachel LaFortune, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
- International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP): CLS students partner with attorneys to help refugees primarily located in the Middle East navigate the refugee resettlement process. Students can (1) volunteer to take on a case under the supervision of attorneys at major New York law firms, assisting a client with the preparation of submissions to and interviews with UNHCR, IOM, and DHS through the case's completion (likely a multi-year commitment), or (2) assist IRAP National with their client intake process by screening potential new clients (a one-year commitment). Contacts: Rebecca Nocharli (email@example.com) and George Najjar (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Kids in Need of Defense (KIND): KIND serves children facing deportation who would not otherwise have legal representation. Project includes court observation, legal research, and client interviews. Contact: Katy Urbanelli, email@example.com.
- Immigration Equality: Students assist attorneys at Immigration Equality with asylum applications for LGBT immigrants. Students can sign up to write country conditions reports, which support an asylum application by providing information about the applicant's country of origin to corroborate their claim of persecution. Students may also apply to work on an entire asylum application over the course of a semester under the supervision of an attorney from Immigration Equality. Contact: César Rivière, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Church World Service: A prominent non-profit in the fields of global development and immigrant and refugee rights, CWS was founded in 1946 and now has offices all over the world. Its headquarters are right next to campus, on 475 Riverside Drive. CWS's low-fee and pro bono programs are open to all immigrants and refugees, regardless of their religious affiliation. To learn more about CWS, check out its website. Starting this spring, Columbia Law students may apply to assist CWS’s senior staff attorneys with its immigration and refugee program. Students may decide to assist CWS in a great many ways, from advocacy to managerial work. Interested students should submit their résumé and a short statement of interest to César Rivière (email@example.com), SIRR’s pro bono coordinator for this program, by Tuesday, January 31st.
Suspension Representation Project [CLS ONLY]
SRP is a pro bono project in which law students represent New York City public school students at their suspension hearings. This project is ideal for students looking for practical litigation experience, and/or are interested in youth, education, or school-to-prison pipeline issues. If you are still interested in joining SRP but missed our fall trainings, or if it's been a while since your last case and you want a refresher, there will be another training on Tuesday February 7, at 7:00pm, in Room 102 at Cardozo School of Law. Contact: Jillian Ruben, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tenants’ Rights Project
- SRO Law Project and NMIC Legal Services: Students assist attorneys at local community organizations in all aspects of low income tenant representation. Types of work include legal research, motion and memorandum drafting, client intake, and court appearances. Cases range from eviction defense, to living condition complaints. Contact: email@example.com.
- Manhattan Legal Services Housing Intake Clinic: Manhattan Legal Services will hold a weekly housing intake clinicon Fridays during the Fall Semester. During intake sessions, students will conduct one-on-one intake interviews with potential low-income clients, helping to assess legal issues presented in the case, as well as potential defenses and evidence for litigation. All work will be performed by students under the supervision of housing attorneys at Manhattan Legal Services. Students will be required to complete a 2 hour training at the beginning of the semester which will cover basic NYC housing law and client interviewing skills. Students are asked to commit to 3 to 6 shifts per semester. Each shift will last approximately 6 to 8 hours. MLS is seeking 4 students to staff each clinic. Register at http://bit.ly/MLS_S17. TRAINING: 1/27, 10 AM-12 PM, JG 105.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund fights to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. This project provides a chance to complete legal research, writing, and fact investigation on pending animal litigation issues and cases. Animal law permeates most traditional areas of the law – including tort, contract, criminal, and constitutional law. The animals involved range from companion animals and wildlife, to animals used in entertainment, research, and raised for food. Students must make a semester or year-long commitment to work at least 20 hours per semester. The start and end dates are flexible. This work can be done remotely. Interested students should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workers’ Rights Student Coalition
The Employment Unit of The Legal Aid Society has partnered with the Columbia Law Worker's Rights Student Coalition to create a pro bono opportunity available to all Columbia law students. Volunteers will complete discrete research assignments remotely or at the Legal Aid Office. The research assignments will range in content and all will be immediately useful to the unit in its endeavors. Tasks may include investigating developments in the city, state, and federal levels of employment law and updating "Know Your Rights" materials for workers in New York City. Coursework in employment law is recommended but not required. Volunteers must commit to a minimum of 3 hours per week. Contact: Dan Richards, email@example.com.
Projects with Partnering Law Firms and Organizations
Bankruptcy Assistance Project
Under the direction of Legal Services for New York, students will conduct client intake to assess the appropriateness of cases and will help clients file bankruptcy petitions. Students can apply upon SJI notice.
Davis Polk Asylum Workshop
Under the direction of Davis Polk & Wardwell, teams of Columbia students assist in preparing the factual record and brief the legal issues involved in complex asylum cases that bring human rights violations from around the world into the US legal arena. Students can apply upon SJI notice. The workshop will be on Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 pm, beginning March 1st. Apply at http://bit.ly/DPAsylum_S17 by February 13th
Students will staff LiveHelp, an online, real-time chat service that will direct users toward relevant self-help materials, legal assistance organizations and court information. Volunteers will receive several hours of training on the LiveHelp software and in handling common questions using the resources on LawHelp/NY and the websites of New York State Courts. If you are interested in attending the training, please complete the online LiveHelp Volunteer Questionnaire by Thursday, January 19, 2017. Additionally, please email your resume to both Michelle Born at firstname.lastname@example.org and Maureen North at email@example.com, and note that you have completed the online questionnaire. TRAINING: 1/24 at 6 PM in JG 728.
New York State Courts Access to Justice Programs
- Volunteer Lawyer for the Day - Consumer Credit: The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program seeks 2nd and 3rd year law students to provide pro bono assistance for unrepresented litigants in its Volunteer Lawyer for the Day - Consumer Credit Project in New York City’s Civil Courts. This program provides law students with the opportunity to represent clients in court, negotiate with opposing counsel, and argue before a judge. Interns gain invaluable, hands-on experience in lawyering while simultaneously helping some of New York’s most disadvantaged civil litigants obtain due process of law. The program is supervised by a coordinating attorney with expertise in consumer credit law. The Consumer Debt Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Program operates in all NYC Counties morning sessions only from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Volunteers are expected to volunteer for an entire morning session. We usually ask that volunteers volunteer a minimum of 5 sessions. Kings County, Queens County and Bronx County operate 4 mornings a week Monday through Thursday. New York County operates 4 mornings a week Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Richmond County operates Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
- Uncontested Divorce Program: The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program is seeking 2nd and 3rd year law students to provide assistance to unrepresented litigants in Uncontested Divorce matters in New York City’s Supreme Courts. The program is supervised by a court attorney with expertise in matrimonial law. Assistance through this project is targeted to those litigants who cannot afford counsel. Law Students will assist unrepresented litigants with the preparation of uncontested divorce forms under the supervision of the Supreme Court Help Center’s Court Attorney. The court system will provide training at a date to be determined at CLS. Law students do not represent litigants in court or file papers on their behalf. The Uncontested Divorce Program operates in all NYC Counties. The Kings County program operates a morning and afternoon session on Tuesdays and morning sessions only on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Queens County Program operates a morning and afternoon session on Tuesdays. The Bronx County program operates a late afternoon/early evening session on Thursdays. The New York County program operates an afternoon session on Tuesdays. Richmond County operates Tuesdays bi-weekly. Volunteers are expected to volunteer for the entire session which lasts about 3 hours. TRAINING: 2/8 at Noon at the NYC Civil Court, 111 Centre Street in Manhattan, 12th Floor. Attendees must use the White Street entrance and must register in in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Break Caravans
Spring Break Caravans are a popular way for students to combine travel, fun, and public service. Student-directed teams may be granted small travel stipends to help particular organizations with legal work during the week of Spring Break. To learn more, please visit the Caravans page on the SJI website.