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 offers many annual events, including:
Pre-Orientation Program: This program allows incoming J.D. students to visit DC Superior Courts, where they sit in on family, criminal, civil, landlord/tenant, and other small claims courses, visit Ballou High School, where students help fix up the school and get it ready for the new year, and visit the Correctional Treatment Facility and the DC Jail, where students are challenged to consider the demographics of the jail population and what leads to individuals being incarcerated.
Public Interest and Pro Bono Fair: This event exposes students to the GW Law pro bono program, and provides the opportunity for organizations seeking law student volunteers. Organizations that have participated in past fairs include Bread for the City, Children’s Law Center, Disaster Accountability Project, and many more.
Alternative Spring Break: During spring break, law students stay in Washington, DC to learn more about public interest law by attending Supreme Court oral arguments, attending public interest panels and working with DC Public Schools, and other pro bono activities run by the Student Bar Association.
Pro Bono Recognition Ceremony: As a way of thanking students who participate in the Program, GW Law celebrates certain students each year over graduation weekend. Any J.D. student who provides 60 hours or more of pro bono legal services while at the Law School or any LL.M. student doing 20 hours or more of the same will be recognized. This will include an invitation for the student and the student’s family to attend the annual Pro Bono Reception to receive a certificate from the Dean, as well as inclusion in the Honors & Awards section of the Commencement Program.
The Pro Bono Program also offers many opportunities, including:
GW Cancer Pro Bono Project: The GW Cancer Institute and GW Law have partnered to create the GW Cancer Pro Bono Project. The services offered through the project 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) so that patients can determine what services, if any, they might need and what services we are able to provide.
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 over 200 volunteer attorneys and legal assistants, 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: Miriam’s Kitchen, Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, Unity Health Care, Thrive DC, So Others Might Eat, and Rachael’s Women’s Day Center.
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.
District Record Sealing Service (DRSS): This program 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 law students then assist community members in the record sealing process.
Innocence Project: Every year, scores of individuals are convicted of crimes for which they did not commit. Under the guidance of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), the GW Innocence Project not only helps the wrongfully convicted, but also provides an opportunity for students to get real world experience in the criminal justice process. Specifically, the students participating work on three aspects of this project: screening cases, assisting with DC cases, and researching legal issues.
Street Law: Street Law has been a vibrant student organization for years at GW Law. In it, students volunteer to teach basic legal courses in the DC Public Schools. The course 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.
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 and lives shattered by these two disasters.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: The VITA program at GW Law offers free tax preparation services to low income DC residents, and law students also counsel taxpayers on banking and consumer credit services. Students have the opportunity to participate in a citywide tax fair sponsored by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in addition to providing walk-in services at the law school. The program ensures that qualifying clients receive important tax benefits, such as the earned income tax credit, which is responsible for lifting millions of low-income workers out of poverty each year. This program gives students the chance to put their substantive knowledge into practice and provides a glimpse into the real-world implications of tax policy. Comprehensive training is provided to all interested students.
Animal Welfare Project: The project seeks to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and promote legislative changes to advocate animal welfare and improve the lives of animals in DC. Students participate in the project by researching all aspects of animal welfare, including laws and regulations in place and proposed, enforcement issues, and possibilities for reform.
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.