GW Law 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. Volunteering also 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 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 [email protected].
The Pro Bono Program also offers student opportunities, many of which we created, including:
Family Law Pro Bono Project
The Family Law Pro Bono Project provides GW Law students with the opportunity to assist under-served communities while also enhancing their lawyering skills. Student volunteers are trained in substantive family law and court procedure before attending a weekly shift at the courthouse to help pro se litigants with their family court matters. Students answer questions, draft pleadings, and help individuals make informed decisions about what is best for their families. Additional opportunities to participate in community outreach, such as presentations on custodial rights and helping parties settle their family court matters, are available to interested students.
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.
Hypothermia Homeless Family Outreach Pro Bono Project
The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (WLCH) provides outreach at the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (FRC) to families who have no safe place to sleep at night and who are seeking emergency shelter. Volunteers circulate flyers and speak one-on-one with families, informing them of their legal right during hypothermic conditions to shelter and to appeal the denial of shelter.
Landlord-Tenant Pro Bono Project
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center created a pro bono project to provide law students with the opportunity to play an impactful role at Landlord and Tenant Court. Law students staff the Landlord Tenant Resource Center, work with customers to identify their legal issue(s), and relay relevant information to the attorney providing services to the customer.
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 Veterans Pro Bono Project
Every Friday at DC VA Medical Center, the Veterans Consortium, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, and the DC VA Medical Center partner with law students and local corporate legal departments to staff The Veterans Pro Bono Legal Clinic. Volunteer attorneys and law students interview veterans and triage cases on a broad spectrum of issues.
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.
The Pro Bono Program produces many annual events, including:
Public Interest & Pro Bono Pre-Orientation Program
This program allows incoming JD 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 volunteer for short-term pro bono projects at wide variety of providers and work with like-minded students from other local law schools.
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 student who provides 50 hours or more of pro bono legal services while at the law school 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 and the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, which consists of a gold-silver-or-bronze lapel pin signifying the number of hours submitted up to 250+.