Students doing pro bono work help non-profit organizations and community members.

Membership in the legal profession carries with it inherent commitments to equal justice and public service. The Pro Bono and Public Interest Program, along with the law school’s clinical programs and externships and the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship, offer opportunities to weave service into every law school experience. Our goal is to help students develop the skills and inclination to perform service throughout their careers.

Students can become involved in pro bono projects as early as their first year in law school.  All law school projects are designed to enhance substantive knowledge and skills and professional networks while also serving unmet legal needs in the community. Through pro bono and public interest involvement, Rutgers law students have the opportunity to work with lawyers, the courts and the public, and to share in the satisfaction of helping clients who have nowhere else to turn. Hallmarks of all projects include comprehensive training and ongoing supervision.

Our in-house projects and external opportunities have been developed in response to community needs, educational value and student interest. If you have an idea for a new pro bono project, please share it with us. Below is a list of pro bono programs for students in Camden.

Alternate Spring Break

The “Alternate Spring Break” Project enables students to hone their legal skills in underserved locations. The 2016 ASB sent 26 students to work in Nashville, TN  at the following sites: Tennessee Justice Center, Ozment Law Group, Metro Government, Federal Public Defender’s Office, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid/Southern Migrant Legal Services Project, No Exceptions Prison Collective, Southern Environmental Law Center, and CASA, Inc.

Domestic Violence Project

The Domestic Violence Project trains students and then places them in the Domestic Violence Unit of the Camden County Family Court, where they help victims of domestic violence complete complaints and obtain temporary restraining orders.  Students also provide community education and develop materials for victims. 

Financial Literacy Project

The Financial Literacy Project (FLiP) gives trained students the opportunity to speak to groups and individuals about credit, credit scoring, building and maintaining credit, saving, budgeting and protecting their identities.

Honorable Judith H. Wizmur Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project

The Honorable Judith H. Wizmur Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project pairs students with volunteer attorneys, many of whom are Rutgers alumni, to interview low-income clients and to prepare and file bankruptcy petitions. This project is generously funded by the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation. 

Hurricane Sandy Project

Through the Hurricane Sandy Project students assist Legal Services of New Jersey lawyers with Sandy-related legal issues.   A three-way partnership among the Pro Bono Program, the Law School’s student public interest group and LSNJ, the Sandy Legal Relief Project provides opportunities to assist low-income New Jersey residents with Hurricane Sandy-related problems, including landlord-tenant, consumer and insurance issues, among others.

Learn, Empower and Advocate for People with Disabilities ("LEAD") Project

Learn, Empower and Advocate for People with Disabilities (“LEAD”) Pro Bono Project LEAD provides information and guidance to families in need of publicly funded resources for their children who have disabilities. Online materials will be posted on the law school’s website and distributed to libraries and to the helping community.

Mediation Project

Through the Mediation Project, students the designation of Trained Mediator” by the New Jersey Superior Court after completing a 25-hour  training course at the law school and observing two mediation sessions. Students then mediate cases in the local municipal and superior courts.  

Planning Estates Project

Through the Planning Estates (PEP) Project, students prepare wills, powers of attorney, and living wills for elderly, indigent Camden-area residents under the supervision of  faculty alumni pro bono lawyers.

Pennsylvania Innocence Project

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, housed by and affiliated with Temple University Beasley School of Law, is organized to exonerate those convicted of crimes they did not commit.  The Project involves law students in every aspect of representation, from screening to appellate work.

Pro Bono Research Project

Developed and administered in conjunction with Rutgers Professor Sarah Ricks, the Pro Bono Research Project offers free legal research services to public interest law practitioners, government agency attorneys and private attorneys for their pro bono cases. Students provide much needed assistance to public interest organizations while improving their own research and writing skills.

Street Law Project

The Street Law Project sends law students to area high schools and alternate youth placement centers to teach students and residents about legal issues pertinent to their lives.  Students complete training for this project prior to participation.  Last year law students made presentations at the Camden County Youth Center, East Camden Middle School, Urban Promise Academy, Woodrow Wilson High School, and many other programs serving vulnerable young people.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project (“VITA”) provides e-filing for clients, which results in faster processing and faster refunds.  This project, supported by the Internal Revenue Service, provides extensive training to our law students, who then staff the project two nights a week and Saturday afternoons in February, March, and the first half of April. They assist low- income Camden residents with preparation of basic state and federal income tax returns. Many clients of the VITA program are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Tax Credit and receive refunds. Federal and state refunds in 2016 totaled over $450,000.

Voters Rights Project

The Voters Rights Project provides election training for students who monitor voting sites during primary and general elections. On Election Day in November, our students fan out all over Camden, both monitoring and assisting the Camden County Board of Elections in its efforts to ensure compliance with all applicable law. Each year a comprehensive, detailed, well-documented report is created and delivered to the Camden County Board of Elections (Board).  2016 will feature several voter registration drives, including one at the Camden County Jail in partnership with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Youth Court Project

The Youth Court Project, an outgrowth of Street Law, guides Camden school children in restorative justice practices 

 

Additional Information
  • Pro Bono Service
  • Reporting Your Hours

Membership in the legal profession carries with it inherent commitments to equal justice and public service. The Pro Bono and Public Interest Program offers opportunities to weave service into every law school experience. Our goal is to help students develop the skills and inclination to perform service throughout their careers.

The Pro Bono Program is informed and guided by ABA Model Rule 6.1 which says that “[e}very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay” and directs lawyers to provide pro bono services to “(1)persons of limited means; or (2)charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.”

Eligible pro bono work must be:

  • uncompensated (no pay, no academic credit)
  • supervised by an attorney legally responsible for the work
  • substantive (primarily not clerical and not administrative)

Supervised by:

  • Lawyers at organizations providing legal services to low-income clients
  • Lawyers at government agencies
  • Lawyers at non-profit organizations (excluding trade associations and political organizations)
  • Private lawyers performing pro bono work
  • Faculty members performing pro bono work
  • Court projects assisting pro se litigants (Clerkships with an individual judge do not qualify.)

Timing

Pro bono hours may be accumulated during:

  • the academic year
  • spring break (30-hour maximum)
  • the summer (50-hour maximum)

Approval

Every student is advised to meet with the Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest or with a faculty mentor to discuss suitable pro bono placements. The Associate Dean retains discretion to limit or deny participation in any project or by any student.

Pro Bono work that is not part of an in-house Rutgers project must be approved in advance via this form.

Graduation Recognition

Hours must be recorded on PHARS

Pro Bono Publico Award: students who accumulate 50 or more hours of pro bono service through one or more pro bono project will qualify for a Pro Bono Publico Award for Significant Service. 

Dean's Pro Bono Publico Award for Exceptional Service: students who accumulate 100 or more hours of pro bono service through one or more pro bono project will qualify for the Dean's Pro Bono Publico Award for Exceptional Service.

PHARS is a tool for recording and reporting your pro bono activities and hours accumulated through law school sponsored pro bono projects.

Do not record travel or training time, as those hours do not count as pro bono service. Do not record Clinic, Externship, or Marshall-Brennan hours here. 

Please note that only projects and activities listed in the drop boxes qualify as pro bono. If you have any questions about eligibility or reporting, contact Pam Mertsock-Wolfe, Director, Pro Bono and Public Interest Program (pmertsoc@camden.rutgers.edu.