Pro Bono and Volunteer Opportunities
Law school programs that promote public service are important not only for supporting and training students interested in pursuing careers in the public sector but also for reinforcing the notion that every law student and every lawyer in this country must play a role in achieving justice for all. Moreover, these programs help students understand and explore ways in which they can personally contribute their time and talent to this mission by exposing them to the various avenues through which they can donate their services.
Every applicant to the New York State bar must show that they have contributed a minimum of 50 hours toward pro bono before seeking admission. Cardozo offers numerous opportunities within our experiential learning programs (clinics, externships and field clinics) and summer public service stipend programs for students to meet the requirement. In addition to those programs, Cardozo offers a number of project-based opportunities for students to provide access to legal services for those who desperately need pro bono assistance. Through these projects, students benefit from gaining essential lawyering skills while providing access to justice to countless people who otherwise would have not received legal assistance. Below are descriptions of the current projects available to students. You can also read more about the New York State bar pro bono requirement and ways to fulfill it at Cardozo here.
Access to Justice Program (Consumer Debt Practice and Uncontested Divorce)
This program operates in partnership with the New York State Court System. Volunteers provide limited representation to pro se defendants in consumer debt cases under the supervision of an attorney. Specifically, volunteers represent defendants in court during pre-trial conferences, negotiate settlements with opposing counsel, conference with court attorneys, argue motions before a judge, and advise clients on trial preparation and strategy.
Cardozo Advocates for Battered Women CABW is a student-run club that brings to the Cardozo community a variety of domestic violence advocacy programs. Programs include the Courtroom Advocates Project, the Uncontested Divorce Program, and the CONNECTing Survivors to Citizenship Program. CABW hosts several community events, including a holiday toy drive and the Valentine's Day/National Condom Week Condoms & Candy fundraiser.
The group also hosts several panel discussions each year on issues like incorporating domestic violence advocacy into a legal career, the rights of incarcerated women who fought back against their abusers, and other issues that are important to raising awareness.
Cardozo F.I.R.E. (For Immigration Rights and Equality)
Students assist immigrants who can apply for the new Deferred Action Childhood Arrival Program (DACA).
Unemployment Action Center
Students receive training to help laid-off workers navigate the regulatory maze of unemployment benefits and to advocate on behalf of their clients before administrative hearing officers.
Cardozo Youth Advocates
Students visit Washington Irving High School, a public school near Cardozo, to teach a weekly class to high school students called Law Talk. The class covers a variety of topics—law students facilitate conversations about such legal issues as the death penalty, same-sex marriage, the First Amendment and children’s rights. This program is intended to get young people thinking and talking about the law.
National Lawyers Guild
The National Lawyers Guild is an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. The organization seeks to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization that functions as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
Cardozo NLG represents the Cardozo School of Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
Prisoner’s Rights Projects
Through the Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, students are trained to counsel incarcerated mothers on Riker’s Island. Students provide one-on-one legal counseling to mothers on child custody and visiting issues and help conduct legal information sessions for groups of mothers on their rights and responsibilities as to their children while incarcerated.
Disaster Relief Projects
Students provide legal assistance to residents in areas affected by natural disasters. For example, following Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, many students participated in the Student Hurricane Network, traveling over spring break to areas along the Gulf Coast to assist residents with storm-related legal issues. The Cardozo Sandy Relief Network trained students to work with clinics and other legal organizations established throughout the metro area to assist those affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Suspension Representation Project
Students advocate for New York City public school students in superintendents' suspension hearings and help safeguard their right to education. Students are trained and supervised by experienced student mentors.
Following is a list of resources that can provide more information about pro bono opportunities in the Greater New York City area.
City Bar Justice Center
The City Bar Justice Center increases access to justice by leveraging the resources of the New York City legal community. Drawing upon their relationship with the New York City Bar, the Justice Center provides legal assistance to those in need.
American Bar Association
The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is the national source of information, resources and assistance to support, facilitate and expand the delivery of pro bono legal assistance. The Standing Committee and its project, the Center for Pro Bono, focus on encouraging lawyers to do pro bono work and helping them connect with opportunities that meet their needs. The center’s programs, projects and services help pro bono advocates and policymakers address the legal needs of the poor.
Pro Bono Net is a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City. Their mission is to increase access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation. The site’s NYC Pro Bono Center provides lawyers, paralegals and other advocates in New York City with information about volunteer opportunities, pro bono news, and access to training materials and other practice resources.