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.
Many projects incorporate a cross-disciplinary focus as Penn Law students work with graduate students across campus. A few examples include the Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless, which works closely with students from Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, and our law-related education programs, which collaborate with the Graduate School of Education. The law school currently has 31 student projects divided into six practice areas:
Animal & Environmental Advocacy
Civil & Political Rights
Animal Law Project
Animal Law Project (ALP), a chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, focuses on the protection and promotion of animal interests through the legal system. ALP’s goals are furthered in a number of ways. First, project volunteers provide pro bono assistance to animal-focused organizations. Second, ALP organizes speakers, screenings, and other events to engage the law school and broader Penn community in an open dialogue regarding the legal protection of animals. Finally, ALP organizes community events for student networking and collaboration. Events like PSPCA shelter visits and pet-friendly “Yappy Hours.” You can also follow us on Facebook!
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Danielle Bradly, Stevie Flanery, Erin Smith
BLSA’s Project Peace
The Project for Peaceful Endings Through Attorneys, Children, and Education (PEACE) dedicates its efforts to reducing conflict and violence in schools. Volunteers work with 3-4 students to teach students how to discuss and mediate disagreements peacefully. Volunteers facilitate programs that encourage the development of leadership skills, and teach students how to resolve conflicts: both external and internal.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Rodney Holcombe
Civil Rights Law Project (CRLP)
The Civil Rights Law Project is committed to protecting and promoting civil rights and social justice. The Project allows students to assist in important civil rights legal proceedings and/or participate in exciting legal research and writing to support local nonprofit organizations dedicated to civil rights and social justice. Through such rewarding work, students are able to hone their legal skills while advancing a just and rewarding cause. The project’s ultimate goal is to promote the principles of anti-discrimination, equal opportunity, and equal justice under the law for all persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or poverty. The Project works with civil rights organizations to distribute ad hoc research assignments to student volunteers, allowing us to find flexible opportunities for all interested law students. For Penn Law students interested in getting involved or to join CRLP’s mailing list, contact email@example.com.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Lilibeth Clelo, Ryan Smith, Brittany Brody, Katie King, Christina (Min) Seong
Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP)
The Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP) works to reduce the collateral effects of criminal records. In partnership with the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), C-REP provides free legal services to individuals seeking the expungement of non-conviction records in Philadelphia County. Volunteer attorneys and law students host community clinics and provide legal counsel throughout the entire expungement process, including representing clients before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia.
If you are interested in information about upcoming expungement clinics or have a question about your existing case, please call 215-995-1230. You can also follow us on Facebook.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Amy Mahan, Randall Bryer
Custody and Support Assistance Clinic (CASAC)
The Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, Inc. (CASAC) provides legal assistance to low-income individuals who are representing themselves in domestic relations disputes, including child custody, child support, and protection from abuse. CASAC Advocates advise clients about family law in the Philadelphia family court system, prepare clients to appear in court pro se, and draft necessary family court filings. When possible CASAC Advocates who are Certified Legal Interns provide clients with representation in family court.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Meredith Mill, Josh Balk, Felicia Alexander, Kim Cullen, Chase Morgan, Elizabeth Levitan
Democracy Law Project
The Democracy Law Project exists to assist partner non-profit organizations that work to strengthen our domestic democracy. It provides students the opportunity to have a direct impact on campaign finance reform, voter protection, and tightening government ethics through legal research and writing.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Blair Bowie, Nick Seaman, Justin Hamano, Christopher Cruickshank
Employment Advocacy Project
EAP advocates for the rights of employees and represents unemployment claimants who are appealing their denials of unemployment compensation. Student advocates interview clients, research applicable law, and then conduct and direct cross examinations and give closing statements before an administrative law judge. EAP was formerly known as the Penn Law Unemployment Compensation Project. You can follow us on Facebook.
If you are a member of the public looking for help with unemployment compensation denial in Philadelphia, please call us at 215-746-1457 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to have this information available when you contact us:
- Contact information
- Household size
- Sources and amounts of income
- Current status of your unemployment compensation filing
- Circumstances surrounding your loss of employment
Please note that we do not assist clients with applying for unemployment. To file for benefits please click here.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Lani Lear, William Lee, Chris O’Brian, Oluwaseum (Shay) Familoni
Environmental Law Project
The Environmental Law Project fosters campus discussion of environmental issues and connects interested students to opportunities to explore environmental legal practice. In past years, we have assisted local and national environmental organizations with legal research and report drafting, published an EPA rulemaking comment in the Federal Register, sent teams to environmental moot court competitions, hosted campus talks and green career panels, and begun coordinating our efforts with other environmental organizations at Penn. EarthJustice International, Southern Utah, Wilderness Alliance and the Delaware Riverkeeper are among the organizations ELP has worked with. ELP is always looking for new members and new ideas, please feel free to contact us at ELP.PennLaw@gmail.com. To sign up for our mailing list, please click here.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Leia Andrew, Blaire Bowie, Stevie Flanery, Addie Rolnick, Paul Stephan
Financial Literacy Project
The Penn Law Financial Literacy Project aims to provide personal finance and tax assistance to those in need throughout Philadelphia, focusing on traditionally underserved, urban, and immigrant communities. The group works to serve as a facilitator between the community and larger government-funded programs that provide financial advice, assistance, and support.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Tyler Cook, Andrew Golden, Sophia Yan, Adam Tsao, David Seps, Samuel Baldinger
Guild Food Stamp Clinic
The Guild Food Stamp Clinic (GFSC) is a partnership of students from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Philadelphia Legal Assistance. GFSC’s student advocates assist people in food stamp application and appealing terminations or reductions in food stamp benefits. During weekly GFSC shifts, student volunteers manage clients with existing food stamp cases and conduct client intake. Student volunteers also research and apply state food stamp laws and regulations to each distinct case presented by each client in an effort to resolve their legal problems. Students communicate directly with clients to gather information about their food stamp issues and correspond directly with Assistant District Administrators at the Department of Public Welfare on behalf of clients.
If you are having a problem applying for food stamps in Philadelphia or if you’d like help appealing a decision by the County Assistance Office, please call 215-523-9502. If you need urgent legal assistance related to your food stamp benefits, please call 215-981-3800. To learn about eligibility and apply for food stamp benefits, click here.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Anne Bracaglia, Elyssa Eisenberg
Health Law and Policy Project (HeLPP)
The Health Law and Policy Project (HeLPP) is a pro bono group at Penn Law that aims to provide opportunities for Penn Law students to gain practical experience in the field of health law and policy in a pro bono setting. Our projects focus on increasing healthcare access and quality, especially for underserved populations, through opportunities to directly support patients and to conduct research on healthcare delivery and policy through partnerships with providers and researchers. If you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to participate, please contact us at email@example.com.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Hannah Glass, Biance Valcarce, Alyssa Lattner, Andrew Steinmetz
International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
The International Refugee Assistance Project is a student run pro bono project whose mission is to facilitate the resettlement of refugees from abroad, improve U.S. policy toward the refugee crisis, and ease the transition of newly-resettled refugees to American life.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Arhama Rushdi, Sam Scott, Shelby Stanton, Aaron Shaddy, Stephanie Dowd, Zack Sweebe
James Wilson Project (JWP)
On October 6, 1787, James Wilson, one of only six founders to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, delivered a highly regarded and influential speech in Philadelphia “to explain and elucidate the principles and arrangements of the [C]onstitution.” Considered among the most gifted legal minds and orators of his day, Wilson continued explaining and promoting the Constitution when the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) appointed him as the first professor of law in 1790. The James Wilson Project allows Penn Law students to carry on Wilson’s tradition of explaining and promoting the Constitution in Philadelphia. JWP volunteers teach local high school students about their constitutional rights and responsibilities. Volunteers also prepare students for a moot court competition by helping the students draft oral arguments and coaching them to deliver the arguments. The project’s goals are to teach urban high school students about the U.S. Constitution and their constitutional rights, connect the students to Philadelphia’s history as the site of the Constitutional Convention, and help them improve their critical thinking and oral advocacy skills.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Carolyn Carpenter, Alex Jee, James Schuster, Sean Vallancourt, Tom Mandracchia
Legal Education Partnership (LEP)
The Legal Education Partnership provides comprehensive support to the students and community at the Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School. The partnership is mutually beneficial, providing a place for community activism for the law students while also providing the high school with academic support, aspiration building programs, and legal resources. Activities include mock trial, debate, teen court, and student government coaching.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Tyler Williams, Nathan Emmons
The Penn Law Pardon Project is dedicated to empowering formerly convicted persons to by providing legal aid and education on the pardon process in Pennsylvania. Despite having already paid for their crimes in jail time, court costs, and bail fees, formerly convicted persons continue to face discrimination in pursuing employment, furthering their education, accessing public housing, and exercising their right to vote. The only way to remove a felony or non-summary misdemeanor conviction from a record in Philadelphia is by receiving a pardon from the Governor. The pardon process is long and requires an extensive application process including several essays describing the conviction, the circumstances surrounding it, and why the applicant is requesting a pardon. Volunteer law students assist individual applicants on his/her pardon application, acting as a guide throughout the entire process. Students work individually with select applicants on their pardon application. In addition to providing direct legal services, the Pardon Project staffs bi-monthly community education sessions hosted by X-Offenders for Community Empowerment to educate the public and on the pardon process.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Jacob Boyer, Michael Crosson
Penn Housing Rights Project (PHRP)
The Penn Housing Rights Project (PHRP) is a student run clinic dedicated to protecting the rights of tenants in the Philadelphia area. Student volunteers work with attorneys to represent the rights of indigent litigants in landlord-tenant disputes. First year members assist by conducting research and meeting with clients. Members attend hearings and take part in settlement negotiations. Students who have completed three semesters have the opportunity to appear in court and take a lead role in client representation. If you have questions or comments please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Amy Mahan, Unsoi Choi, Nicole Pennycooke, Shelby Rokito
Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH)
Penn Advocates for the Homeless provide legal support to attendees of the weekly University City Hospitality Coalition soup kitchen at St. Agatha-St. James Church on 38th and Chestnut Streets. The clinic runs from 6pm to 7pm on Wednesday evenings. The volunteers help connect clients with important public assistance and resolve a range of legal issues. The project works in collaboration with the Philadelphia Homeless Advocacy Project.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Esther Clovis, Anna Mairon, Robert Thrasher
Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project (PLIRP)
Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH) provides civil legal services to the homeless and low-income populations around Penn Law’s campus. PLAH organizes a weekly legal clinic on Wednesday evenings from 6:00-7:00pm hosted by St. Agatha-St. James Church (38th and Chestnut St). During the clinic, members collect information concerning the civil legal issues of indigent clients and address the matters accordingly. Serving with PLAH is a tangible way to give back to your community while acquiring practical legal experience working directly with clients.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Tu Le, Kim Panian, Andrea Jung
Penn Law Innocence Project
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project at Penn Law provides Penn Law students the opportunity to investigate incarcerated individuals’ claims of innocence. Students examine a case’s entire history, delving into the criminal investigation, the trial, and appellate process. Through this review, students work with the Project staff to determine whether convicted individuals were found guilty of a crime in which they had no involvement. After going through various stages of review, a panel of experienced attorneys will decide if the individual has a strong innocence claim worth pursuing. If they do, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project will then litigate on behalf of that individual in an attempt to overturn their wrongful conviction.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Chris Brigante, Hanna Kropp
Penn Law International Human Rights Advocates (IHRA)
IHRA works with lawyers, governments, and human rights organizations to advance human rights globally. Participation in IHRA gives law students opportunities to learn about emerging issues in human rights, to directly help individuals who have had their rights violated, and to participate in international fieldwork. IHRA conducts research, undertakes advocacy campaigns, and educates colleagues about contemporary issues of international human rights. Projects typically focus on legal research and writing and out-of-court advocacy. For more information or to be added to our listserv, please contact lawgroup-IHRABoard@law.upenn.edu.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Allison Kowalski, Sarah Tufano, Joanna Hoodes, Leah Wong, Elizabeth Sahner
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice (formerly Law Students for Reproductive Justice) is a national network of law students and legal professionals dedicated to ensuring that all people have the right to decide if/when/how to create and sustain a family. Penn’s If/When/How chapter currently provides direct legal service to clients in the form of judicial bypass counseling and clinic escorting and performs legal and policy research. The chapter strives to provide access to other organizations that pursue reproductive justice.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Talyor Goodspeed, Stephanie Cheng, Nancy Zambrana, Sarah Kramer, Devin Troy, Carolyn Jackson, Elana Stern, Noel Lee
Service Members and Veterans’ Legal Assistance Project (SVLAP)
In 2011, Penn Law students founded the Servicemembers and Veterans Legal Assistance Project (“SVLAP”) to provide targeted and useful resources to Philadelphia’s veterans and servicemembers in need of civil legal assistance. SVLAP also supported attorneys in the Philadelphia Bar Association who have made it a priority to serve Veterans in our community. Oftentimes, veterans return home from service to find their life in disarray. Not only may veterans find criminal allegations pending against them, but also credit card liens, child custody issues, suspended driver’s licenses and landlord-tenant disputes. SVLAP and MAP’s goal is to aid veterans in sorting through their legal issues so they can focus on reordering their lives as civilians.
SVLAP partnered with the Philadelphia Bar Association Military Assistance Project (“MAP”) in the spring of 2013 to offer pro bono legal assistance for veterans with economic hardship issues. Penn Law students play an important role in this process. After completing SVLAP training, students help veterans in financial distress by performing client intake, attending initial client meetings, putting together bankruptcy petitions when necessary, and seeing the bankruptcy process through to its completion. All of this takes place under the supervision of an attorney.
Beginning in 2016 students will also be aiding veterans in need of discharge upgrades and VA Benefits/Claims assistance. This area of assistance is frequently cited as the biggest need amongst the veteran community.
Additionally, how do we change the name of our project? Several members and board members have expressed interest in this. SVLAP is quite the mouthful. Perhaps this is something we can get the ball rolling on for next year, but we would like to know the process.
Lastly, a few times a month, MAP conducts in-take interviews with potential clients at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Coatesville. Volunteers with SVLAP are encouraged to participate in the in-take process as it gives students the opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with potential clients the entire time. Students learn how to interview potential clients and the types of questions they should ask depending on the legal issue. The VMC however is a little over an hour from school by car. I understand from the Practice Area meeting that transportation reimbursement is something under consideration by TPIC. I wanted to know if at this point, there is a way for us to reimburse students or not, so that I can inform the group accurately.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Sarah Lee, John Schippert, Chris Morales, Stella Li
Street Law provides an excellent opportunity for students to make an impact upon the lives of Philadelphia’s most important residents, its students. By partnering with local schools and teachers Penn Law students enter classrooms to deliver lectures on topics of their choice on legal or civic issues. Volunteers design and teach a curriculum to middle school students addressing constitutional issues and social justice, thereby empowering students to exercise their rights and inspiring them to think critically about the law.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Geoff Locher, Peter Fishkind
Student Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS)
Student Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS) is a great opportunity to get NY pro bono hours while getting to work directly with clients. Students work in groups to represent students going through the disciplinary process in the Philadelphia School system. You can take on as many or as few projects as you would like.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Katherine Schloss
Students Against Gender-Based Exploitation (SAGE)
SAGE serves survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual exploitation and other forms of gender-based violence. Students provide legal resources to individuals seeking emergency protective orders at two filing sites in Philadelphia. They give information regarding preparation of pro se petitions for permanent protective orders against abusive partners. Students also participate in legal trainings, including training on civil protection orders and domestic violence law, interviewing workshops for working with trauma survivors, and crisis intervention trainings for suicidal clients. Partner organizations are Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Women’s Law Project, and Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence. Please feel free to contact as at email@example.com.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Amanda Martin, Devin Troy, Samantha Weiss
Students For Technological Progress (STP)
Students for Technological Progress (STP) is a pro bono organization that seeks to train law students to advance the public interest by working at the intersection of law and technology, regardless of political affiliation. STP seeks to prepare students for leadership roles by providing opportunities to gain the skills necessary to help advance the interests of poorly represented populations in a rapidly changing field.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Lucas Tejwani, Tim Pfenninger
Urban Ventures Project (UVP)
The Urban Ventures Project sends law students to a youth detention center with customized lesson plans focusing on entrepreneurship. The project aims to empower students with skills and information necessary to start their own businesses within their communities.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Sarah Melanson, Lacey Nemergurt, Jake Routhier, Adam Tsao
Women’s Re-entry Legal Services (WRLS)
The Women’s Re-Entry Project dedicates its efforts to addressing the issues women face after incarceration. Women’s Re-Entry Project works to connect women with programs that help build networks of support. This includes securing stable housing, employment, social services, and medical care. Women’s Reentry Project works with Ardella’s House to support women returning from incarceration re-integrate into their homes and communities, and realize new possibilities for themselves and their families. Students organize employment-readiness workshops designed to teach practical skills that will aide the women during their job search process. The workshop helps the formerly incarcerated women understand their legal issues and works to proactively address the issues. Direct service volunteers will prepare a plan of legal assistance that will ultimately help the women advocate for themselves.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Eliza Novick-Smith, Nora Crawford, Jane Komsky
Youth Advocacy Project (YAP)
The Penn Youth Advocacy Project aims to assist in the nationwide effort to reshape our responses to juvenile delinquency. Law students, in partnership with social work students, work directly with children who are facing charges in adult criminal court by collecting background information that can be used to have the child’s case sent back to juvenile court where it belongs. Once the trial is complete, YAP volunteers continue to work with the children and their families as they prepare for reentry into society. Students also contribute research efforts to help shape policy, and work to educate the Penn Law and Philadelphia communities about the injustices children in the justice system face.
2016-2017 Student Leaders: Elizabeth Levitan, Martha Hanna