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Student Pro Bono Projects  

  • Student projects form the core of Penn Law’s pro bono experience by offering unique leadership and practical opportunities while helping under-served populations.

     

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Animal & Environmental Civil & Political Rights Criminal Justice Economic Justice Education Global
  • Aequitas at Penn

    The purpose of Penn AEquitas is to improve the quality of justice in sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking cases by developing, evaluating and refining prosecution practices. Our group is a partnership  with  AEquitas , which is a national legal organization. There is no set time commitment. Rather, group members receive an email when there is a project available describing the nature of the work and the anticipated commitment. It is entirely up to each member whether to respond and ask to take the assignment. The assignments are given on a first come, first serve basis. Penn  AEquitas  gives students the opportunity to work with leaders in the field, honing their research and writing skills. Past students have transformed their work product into advocacy and outreach material for distribution on local and national levels. Penn  AEquitas  is an exciting opportunity to take a passion for advocacy and give it systemic impact in the criminal justice system.

     

    Student Leader

    Devin Troy Director

  • Criminal Record Expungement Project (CREP)

    The Criminal Record Expungement Project (“CREP”) aims to ameliorate the negative effects of criminal records on the Philadelphia community.  Since background checks have become routine throughout the country, it is increasingly difficult for individuals with a criminal record to pursue opportunities regarding employment, housing, benefits, and education.  The goal of the project is to connect law students with the communities of North and West Philadelphia in order to assist in the expungement of non-conviction data from the clients’ criminal records.  

    CREP is encompassed within the Philadelphia Lawyer’s for Social Equity (“PLSE”), a non-profit legal aid organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income individuals who are affected by the Pennsylvania criminal justice system.  The clients that CREP assists are low-income residents of North and West Philadelphia who have criminal records.

    The time commitment of each volunteer will vary, depending on which of CREP’s various projects the student wishes to partake in.  There are three ways that students can get involved with CREP: 1) intakes; 2) draft petitions; 3) be involved in litigating cases.  There are three intakes per semester (running from approximately 11:30am-3:30pm on Saturdays), and a few hours of follow-up work required where students are asked to write short summaries for the clients they meet with as well as upload forms to the Google drive.  Students may attend any of the three intakes, depending on availability. Volunteers taking part in the petition drafting portion of the project should expect to complete the hour-long petition drafting training and spend a few hours drafting petitions based on the number of docket/cases they are assigned. Volunteers interested in advocating for clients in court must attend the hour-long litigation training session to become court certified. Upon being certified, volunteers will be assigned cases to litigate and the time commitment will vary depending on how many cases are assigned to the student (CREP tries to limit each volunteer’s commitment to approx. 5hrs for the litigation portion).

    CREP volunteers will gain a number of vital skills from this project.  They will obtain a much deeper and personal understanding of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania and how the expungement process works.  Additionally, those that partake in petition drafting and litigation will improve their writing abilities and advocacy skills.  Students will also develop their communication skills by having the ability to engage with the community members and supervising attorneys.

    There are many positive aspects of CREP, but what we love about the project most is the ability to learn from the individuals in our community and listen to their stories and experiences. This allows us to become more informed and compassionate law students and community members generally.  Among many things, CREP has given us the ability to understand the criminal justice system at a deeper level and to be able to think critically about how we can best serve our community as lawyers in training.

    Student Leaders

    David Pennant Chair
    Brittany Sherman Chair
    Mary Maginnis Litigation Coordinator
    Emily Lubin Intake Coordinator
    Abby Samuels Case Manager
    John Martin Social Outreach Coordinator

  • Domestic Violence Assistance Project (DVAP)

    The Domestic Violence Assistance Project aims to assist survivors of domestic violence in Philadelphia who are seeking Protection from Abuse Orders, or PFAs. Volunteers meet with individuals who have filed petitions for PFA and provide them with vital information about service of process, how to prepare for their PFA hearing, what to expect at the hearing, and how to address abuse after obtaining a PFA order. Volunteers also provide litigants with information about available resources as well as informational brochures. The time commitment is what you make it – the group has an online calendar where you can sign up for shifts – typically around 2 hours each – and you can sign up for as few or as many as you’d like. This project is so exciting because you get to go right into the courthouse and provide assistance directly to individuals during what may be the scariest, most intimidating experience of their life. It’s a fantastic way to give back to the community while learning the civil legal PFA process inside and out and getting invaluable direct client experience.

     

    Student Leader

    Devin Troy Project Coordinator

  • Legal Education Partnership (LEP)

    The Legal Education Partnership builds a relationship between Penn Law and a local charter high school named Boys’ Latin, a college preparatory academy. We host two after school programs for students – debate and mock trial. Our organization has two goals: 1) to allow Penn Law students to use their skills to coach high school students in legal-related subjects, and 2) to help high school students hone invaluable speaking, writing, and general communication skills to prepare them for college and beyond. Because debate and mock trial each meet once a week, volunteers are encouraged to attend the program of their choosing  once a week; we have found that the program is most successful when high school students can connect with and learn from the same volunteers on a regular basis. However, v olunteers can commit as much or as little time to LEP as they are able.  Volunteers must be available from 3:30-5:30 on either Tuesdays or Thursdays to participate in this project. By volunteering with LEP, Penn Law students will not only hone their own teaching, communication, and legal skills,  but  will also have the opportunity to really impact young minds and help them develop important academic and life skills. Joining LEP is the perfect opportunity for those students who want to get out into the local community and truly make a difference.  

     

    Student Leaders

    Brittany Beyer Executive Director
    Josh Mehta Mock Trial Coordinator

  • Pardon Project
    The Penn Law Pardon Project empowers people to move past their prior convictions. Despite having already paid for their crimes in bail, jail time, and court costs, formerly convicted persons continue to face discrimination when they try to get jobs, go back to school, apply for housing, and register to vote. In Pennsylvania, the only way to remove a felony or non-summary misdemeanor conviction from a record is by receiving a pardon from the Governor. 
    The pardon process requires an extensive application, including several essays describing the conviction, explaining why the applicant is requesting a pardon, and persuading the Board that the applicant has “reformed” since the completion of parole or probation. Penn Law students work alongside the client and our supervising attorneys from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) to request necessary documents and complete the application and essays. The three best things about the Pardon Project are: 1) direct client experience; 2) flexibility and freedom to meet with your clients when your schedule permits; 3) an opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of the hurdles that people who have long completed their sentences continue to face. 

     

    Student Leader

    Erin Sweeney

    Co-Director

    Michael Crosson

    Co-Director


  • Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH)

    Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH) is a student-led pro bono project that provides civil legal services to homeless and low-income populations in the vicinity of Penn Law’s campus. In order to accomplish its mission, PLAH partners with local churches and other UPenn professional schools to host a weekly clinic in the West Philadelphia neighborhood. Volunteers are expected to attend at minimum three to four clinics per semester; clinics last roughly an hour and a half.

    As a direct legal services project, PLAH provides a real-world forum for volunteers to strengthen their client interviewing skills through identifying legal issues and appropriate remedies. Volunteers also gain exposure and develop comfortability with completing government paperwork such as Birth Certificate and Social Security Benefits applications. Aside from providing practice legal experience, PLAH enables volunteers to immerse themselves in the Penn Law and greater West Philadelphia community by building relationships with community members and fellow law students.

     

    Student Leaders

    Anna Marion President
    Robert Thrasher Board Member
    Abdul Alwattar Board Member
    Darien Wynn Board Member

  • Project PEACE

    Project peace is a peer-mediation, anti-bullying and youth court training program that enhances the skills of non-violent conflict resolution and active civic engagement in Edward Heston Middle School students. The program empowers children with important life-skills that promote constructive communication, problem solving, critical thinking and self-esteem. Project Peace has a very reasonable time commitment. Excluding planning sessions, and volunteer lesson planning preparation, volunteers will need to attend seven sessions in the first semester and nine sessions in the second semester. The sessions are held on Friday afternoons from 11:30 am-1:00pm.  While steady attendance is expected, arrangements can be made to accommodate the volunteer’s scheduling conflicts. Volunteers will gain valuable client contact information as they practice imparting complex legal issues to those that are unfamiliar with the legal system by disseminating “Know Your Rights information,” and instructing the children to operate a Youth Courts and Mock Courts.

    I love seeing the tangible impact that a session can have on a child’s life. During the anti-bullying session, one student recognized that he had bullying tendencies and vowed to be more considerate to the emotions of his peers. One of our most productive sessions was the College and Academic Success session. We discussed professional goals, potential colleges, and the steps each student must take to fulfil their academic goals. I have learned the importance of prioritizing public interest projects such as this, and the value of representation. These students truly respond to students and professionals who have had similar backgrounds, experiences, and tribulations as them, and they rarely receive individualized attention of this nature, in this context. 

    Student Leader

    Jordan King Coordinator

     


  • Street Law

    The purpose of Street Law is to educate Middle School- and High School-aged students on law and government, and why they are important.  We work with students at two schools close to the law school for approximately two hours per week.  By working with Street Law, law students will learn to strengthen organizational and speaking skills by putting together lesson plans and teaching classes.  I love working with the students and watching them learn and grow each week.  I love seeing that lightbulb moment when they understand.  I hope you are interested in Street Law too!

     

    Student Leaders

    Kyla Risko President/ Executive Director

  • Youth Education Program (YEP)

    The Youth Education Program places Penn Law students in under-resourced high schools throughout Philadelphia to teach students basic Constitutional principles. Through the curriculum, Penn Law students strive to hone the student’s argumentation skills and increase their civics knowledge, while giving students concrete examples of how the law impacts their lives. Volunteers provide a unique opportunity to make the law relatable and understandable for high school students. Not only do the Constitutional principles YEP teaches prove incredibly relevant to these students’ lives, but Penn Law students also become an integral part of their surrounding community. Following the basic lessons, Penn Law students then prep their students on a fact pattern meant to highlight all of the learned principles. The students will then compete against their peers from all the participating high schools in a Moot Court Competition which takes places at the Law School. Each student prepares a set of oral arguments and competes against other high school students. In short, the Youth Education Program offers real-world, hands on experience in enriching the community and in becoming a more skilled, engaged future lawyer, as law students prepare students to confront current problems and solve future ones.

     

    Student Leaders

    Carolyn Carpenter Internal Executive Director
    Bryan McIntyre External Executive Director
    James Kim Academic Director
    Adrian Parlow Tournament Director
    Tom Mandracchia Teaching Director
    Jenna Smith Teaching Director
    Zach Feldman Teaching Director
    Jimmy Schuster Special Projects Committee
    Kaitlin Gottlieb Special Projects Committee
    Pratik Agarwal Special Projects Committee

     


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