The George Washington Law School is committed to encouraging students to volunteer their legal services. That commitment is reflected, in part, by the Pro Bono Program. In the program, students provide legal services to those who cannot afford them or who might not otherwise receive those services. Participation in the program gives students the opportunity to give back to their community by donating their time and legal expertise.
There are also other reasons to join the program. Volunteering allows students to gain practical legal experience, build their resume, and provide valuable opportunities to establish networking contacts.
The Pro Bono program does not provide pro bono counsel to the public. If you need an attorney, please contact the GW Law Clinics Program at 202.994.7463.
The Pro Bono Program produces many annual events, including:
Public Interest & Pro Bono Pre-Orientation Program
This program allows incoming J.D. students to spend three days meeting one another while visiting and hearing from speakers at various public service and pro bono opportunities such as the Arlington County Detention Facility, the Correctional Treatment Facility, the Council of the District of Columbia, DC Superior Court, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Park Service (community service project), the DC Office of Administrative Hearings, the DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Takoma Wellness Center (medical marijuana dispensary), and the US Marshals Service.
Pro Bono Fair
This event exposes students to the GW Law Pro Bono Program and provides the opportunity for organizations seeking law student volunteers to recruit them. Organizations that have participated in the past include Bread for the City, Children’s Law Center, Disaster Accountability Project, and many more.
Alternative Spring Break
During spring break, law students can stay in Washington, DC to learn more about public interest law by attending Supreme Court oral arguments and public interest panels as well as working with DC Public Schools and other pro bono activities run by the Student Bar Association. GW also sponsors a program during this time examining immigration issues while visiting the Arizona/Mexico border.
Pro Bono Recognition Ceremony
As a way of thanking students who participate in the Pro Bono Program, GW Law celebrates certain students each year before graduation. Any JD student who provides 60 hours or more of pro bono legal services while at the Law School or any LLM student doing 30 hours or more of the same will be recognized. This includes an invitation for the student and a guest to attend the annual Pro Bono Reception (typically at a Nationals game) to receive the Dean’s certificate as well as inclusion in the Honors & Awards section of the Commencement Program. GW Law also partners with the GW Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service to recognize students who have submitted 100+ hours with silver graduation cords, the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, which consists of a letter from President Obama, a Presidential Certificate, and a gold-silver-or-bronze lapel pin signifying the number of hours submitted up to 250+.
The Pro Bono Program also offers student opportunities, many of which we created, including:
Animal Welfare Project
The project seeks to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and promote legislative changes to advocate for animal welfare and improve the lives of animals in DC. Students participate in the project by researching various aspects of animal welfare, including laws and regulations in place and proposed, enforcement issues, and possibilities for reform.
Cancer Pro Bono Project
The GW Cancer Institute and GW Law partnered to create this project. The services offered through it help patients with issues relating to advanced directives, employment, insurance coverage, social security, and wills. The project connects patients with law students under the supervision of licensed practicing attorneys.
District Record Sealing Service (DRSS)
This project provides a platform for GW Law students to assist community members seeking to seal their criminal records. The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia screens community members to ensure eligibility, and DRSS students then assist them with the record sealing process.
Gulf Recovery Network
Since Hurricane Katrina and even more so since the gulf oil spill, GW Law students travel to New Orleans during winter break to provide both legal support and assistance with re-building homes.
Homeless Pro Bono Project
The core of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless’ work, through its Legal Assistance Project, is the representation of individual low- and no-income clients through a network of volunteer attorneys, principally in the following areas: public benefits, shelter and housing, and consumer debt/credit. Through this project, GW Law students are paired with an attorney to provide legal assistance to the homeless at one of the Clinic’s weekly, hour-long intake sites.
Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project
Under the guidance of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, GW Law students help the wrongfully convicted and receive an opportunity to get real world experience in the criminal justice process. Specifically, participating students work on three aspects of the project: screening cases, assisting with DC cases, and researching legal issues.
The Office of Administrative Hearings Pro Bono Project
Students volunteer at the Resource Center of the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). There, under the supervision of an attorney, students guide the public through cases involving, among other things, unemployment denial, shelter suspension, and notices of violation from the Department of Public Works. Most cases heard at the OAH are before Administrative Law Judges.
In Street Law, students volunteer to teach basic legal concepts in DC Public Schools. The course taught focuses on practical legal knowledge such as landlord-tenant, employment law, and family law, while at the same time addressing larger topics such as civics, civil rights, and criminal law.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
The VITA program at GW Law offers free tax preparation services to low income DC residents. Law students also counsel taxpayers on banking and consumer credit services. This program gives students the chance to put their substantive knowledge into practice and provides a glimpse into real-world implications of tax policy.
For more information and current student documents, please visit the GW Law Portal.
If you are an attorney looking for student assistance or a student looking to volunteer, contact David Johnson, Assistant Dean for Pro Bono & Advocacy Programs.
The Pro Bono Program office is located in STU221 and is also available to answer your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.