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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.

     

  • 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

    Emily Lubin Co-Chair
    Abby Samuels Co-Chair
    John Martin Intake Coordinator
    Valerie Snow Case Manager
    Grace Gale Outreach Coordinator
    Sarah Bleiberg Litigation Coordinator
    Allison Perlin Litigation Coordinator

  • Legal Education Partnership (LEP)

    The Legal Education Partnership is a project benefitting Boys Latin High School in West Philadelphia. Once a week during the semester, we visit the school and serve as coaches for the after-school Debate and Mock Trial club teams. We provide introductory level instruction, and work with a faculty advisor to help develop students’ public speaking, debate and argumentative skills. This project is a great way to hone your craft explaining legal and concepts to those without any background, and to give back to the local community. The project does not require a commitment to helping with both programs, but volunteers can serve both teams if they are interested. 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, volunteers can commit as much or as little time to LEP as they are able. Volunteers must be available one afternoon per week (day to be determined) 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.

     

    Student Leader

    Louis Lesser Director

  • 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 avoided illegal activities since completing 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 obstacles that people who have long completed their sentences continue to face. Volunteer recruiting and training takes place each fall.

     

    Student Leaders

    Erin Sweeney

    Co-Director

    Maura Hallisey

    Co-Director


  • Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH)

    Working in partnership with the University City Hospitality Coalition (UCHC) and Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless (PLAH) is a student-led pro bono project that serves the housing insecure and low-income population of Philadelphia. PLAH offers a weekly clinic at a local church and provides clients with holistic civil legal services including, but not limited to, social security and disability appeals and registration, birth certificate applications, landlord/tenant issues, and taxes. Each clinic lasts an hour, and volunteers are expected to attend at least four clinics per semester. This attendance expectation builds rapport, respect, and cooperation between the volunteers and clients.

    Because PLAH provides direct legal services to our clients, volunteers have the opportunity to strengthen their client interviewing and advocacy skills. More importantly, PLAH allows volunteers to immerse themselves in the greater Philadelphia community by building relationships with community members and community leaders. Additionally, volunteers build their professional network by working with fellow law students, students from other Penn schools, and attorneys who practice in Philadelphia.

     

    Student Leaders

    Khary Anderson President
    Paul Cotler Volunteer Coordinator
    Angela Monaco Vital Records Coordinator
    Colleen OConor Advocacy Chair
    Anna Marion Notary & Past President

  • 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.

     

    Student Leader

    Nishi Tavernier Director

  • Street Law

    The purpose of Street Law is to educate local students on the importance and relevance of law, government, and the Constitution.  We work with students at two nearby schools in West Philadelphia. By working with Street Law, law students will strengthen their organizational, speaking, and leadership skills by putting together lesson plans and teaching classes. Each volunteer will have the opportunity to teach a consistent class throughout the semester for an hour per week as well as review and modify the lesson plan on their own time to fit their schedule and style.  This is a unique opportunity to volunteer in a flexible, creative, and low stress way!

     

    Student Leader

    Brendan Walden 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 legal lessons, which primarily take place during the fall semester, Penn Law volunteers prep their students on a fact pattern that focuses on a legal issue that highlights all of the learned principles. The program culminates with the students competing against their peers from all the participating high schools in a Moot Court Competition which takes places at the Law School towards the end of the spring semester. 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 and engaged future lawyer, as law students prepare students to confront current problems and solve future ones.

     

    Student Leaders

    Jenna Smith Executive Director
    Caitlin Dunham Executive Director
    Mark Nakahara Academic Director
    Mia Cabello Teaching Director
    Josh Salzer Teach Director
    Saba Bajwa Special Projects

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