Student Pro Bono Projects
The following projects are accepting new volunteers for the Spring 2016 semester:
- Animal Law Project (ALP) – Contact Rhea Gosh
- Democracy Law Project (DLP) – Contact Blair Bowie
- Financial Literacy Project (FLP) – Contact Jenny Wang
- Innocence Project – Contact Catherine Eagan
- International Human Rights Advocates (IHRA) – Contact Natasha Arnpriester
- Legal Education Partnership (LEP) – Contact Jon Kaplan
- Students for Technological Progress (STP) – Contact Ross Slutsky
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
The Animal Law Project (ALP) focuses on the protection and promotion of animal interests through the legal system. Additionally, ALP hopes to engage the law school community in an open dialogue regarding animal welfare and rights issues. Project volunteers provide pro bono assistance to organizations including the Pennsylvania SPCA and the Animal Law section of the Pennsylvania Bar.
BLSA’s Project PEACE
The Penn Law Black Law Student Association (BLSA) participates in Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings through Attorneys, Children, and Educators), an engaging pro bono initiative which focuses on reducing violence and conflicts in schools. The program was implemented in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in 1999. Through a close partnership with Martha Washington Elementary School, BLSA visits the school’s sixth grade class on a biweekly basis to lead courses on mediation and positive means to manage conflict. The goal of Project PEACE is to continuously expose students to an array of conflict resolution methods. BLSA works closely with the Pennsylvania Bar Association to ensure the success of the program.
The Penn Law Civil Rights Law Project is a recently-formed organization committed to protecting and promoting civil rights and social justice in the Philadelphia area. We work with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and we are also actively seeking to form partnerships with other civil rights advocacy organizations to assist with their litigation and public policy efforts on civil rights issues, all with the aim of promoting the principles of antidiscrimination, 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 Civil Rights Law Project is devoted to the work of combating discrimination in all its forms.
C-REP provides services to individuals seeking to expunge non-conviction records in Philadelphia County. Volunteer attorneys and law students host community clinics and provide legal counsel through all stages of the expungement process, including representing clients before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. C-REP also educates the public and the legal community on the expungement process and advocates for criminal record policy reform.
The Custody and Support Assistance Clinic (CASAC) is an independent, incorporated entity which is administered and staffed by Penn Law students. Supervised by attorneys at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, volunteer advocates provide legal assistance to low-income residents of Philadelphia regarding child support and custody issues. CASAC provides volunteer advocates with a unique opportunity to gain experience in client interviewing, drafting legal documents, and out-of-court advocacy, as well as the potential for in-court legal advocacy in their second or third years.
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.
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.
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.
The Guild Food Stamp Clinic provides legal counseling and representation to clients in food stamp cases. Students engage in over-the-phone advocacy with the county assistance office and in administrative hearings, when necessary. The project works in collaboration with Philadelphia Legal Assistance.
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.
The Iraqi 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.
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.
L.E.A.R.N. is and interdisciplinary organization that seeks to create a forum for graduate students interested in improving the quality of education in America’s schools. We aim to foster dialogue about pressing issues, increase knowledge of and access to career opportunities, and engage students in service opportunities in the field of education law and policy. L.E.A.R.N. is based at Penn Law, and draws students from the Wharton School, the Graduate School of Education, and the Fels Institute of Government.
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.
The Penn Law Pardon Project is dedicated to empowering formerly convicted persons to become change agents in their lives 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. In partnership with X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, the Pardon Me project provides free direct legal services to individuals seeking to apply for a pardon.
Volunteer law students assist individual applicants on his/her pardon application, acting as a guide throughout the entire process. Students conduct intake sessions at local area pardon clinics run by X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, and work individually with select applicants on the rest of the pardon application. In addition to providing direct legal services, the Pardon Me project also educates the public and the legal community on the pardon process and advocates for criminal record policy reform.
The Penn Housing Rights Project pairs law students with attorneys at several Philadelphia firms to represent tenants who are involved in disputes with their landlords, often over wrongful evictions. First year members help attorneys prepare to represent tenants in the Philadelphia Municipal Court by conducting research and meeting with clients. Members usually attend hearings and often take part in settlement negotiations with landlords. Participants become certified to appear before the court in the spring of their 2L year and begin taking the lead role in representing their clients.
Penn Advocates for the Homeless provide legal support to attendees of the weekly University City Hospitality Coalition Wednesday night soup kitchen. 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.
The Immigrant Rights Project provides legal assistance to immigrant detainees seeking relief from deportation as victims of persecution or domestic violence in collaboration with the Philadelphia immigration legal community.
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.
Penn Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) assists various state and international organizations as well as clinics in the Philadelphia area with legal research, lobbying, and client representation. The project advocates for all people who seek access to reproductive healthcare and/or choice in their own reproductive lives. The project works in collaboration with the Women’s Law Project, Planned Parenthood, and the Philadelphia Women’s center.
The Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project (PEAP) promotes efficient self-advocacy among prisoners while fostering a better understanding of prisoners’ issues among law students. PEAP participants teach several weekly classes in the Philadelphia prison system and volunteer with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.
Provides targeted and useful resources to Philadelphia Veterans in need of civil legal assistance and supports attorneys in Philadelphia who have made it a priority to serve Veterans in their community.
The Street Law Project takes a fun and creative approach to providing legal education within the Philadelphia public schools. 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.
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.
The Urban Ventures Project partners with area schools and enhances the academic experience of urban youths by helping them to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into action. The UVP gives students a solid foundation for entrepreneurship by guiding them from the business planning stage to the implementation stage.
For the majority of women convicted of a criminal offense in Philadelphia, criminal justice issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Housing, employment, custody and benefits are just a few of the areas in which formerly incarcerated women desperately need legal support tailored to their specialized needs. The Women’s Re-entry Legal Services is a student pro bono project that aims to address these issues by providing holistic legal support and education to formerly incarcerated women. Our project’s work is at the intersection of criminal and civil law and includes research, curriculum development and case management.
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.
Co-Founders/Co-Directors: Elizabeth Levitan & Martha Hanna
Teens who have had behavioral infringements at school will have the opportunity for their cases to be tried by their peers. This project seeks to introduce young people to the legal system—and their potential roles in that system, while serving as a platform of expression and a deterrent for future infractions.