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 disabled children. 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 vs. Scholarship Service
  • Reporting Your Hours

Please note that law school service falls into two categories: pro bono and scholarship service.  Pro bono work is the provision of legal assistance without compensation through one or more of the law school’s approved projects.  Occasionally, approval is granted for activities outside of law school pro bono projects, but only with pre-approval in writing from the Pro Bono Program. 

At graduation, the law school honors students who have volunteered 50 hours (10 or more hours in the final year) with a Pro Bono Award for Significant Service; those who have volunteered 100 hours earn  a Dean’s Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service.

Scholarship Service is a 40-hour obligation attached to Dean’s Scholarships. It is fulfilled through approved service in pro bono projects, law school clinical courses, externships,  the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship, Alternate Spring Break (up to 30 hours) or translation conducted in connection with a pro bono project (up to 10 hours).  Pre-approval is required for activities outside of law school projects.

If you satisfy your scholarship service obligation through one or more pro bono projects, those hours count toward the service obligation and toward the graduation awards.  If you satisfy your service obligation through law school clinical courses, externships and/or the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship, these hours do not count toward pro bono awards because they are compensated with course credit.  

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.  For Street Law and FLiP, record the number of people in attendance at each presentation in the “Comments” section.

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

N.B. If you satisfy a service obligation through a pro bono project, record those hours on PHARS.  If you satisfy a service obligation through a Clinic, Externship or Marshall Brennan Fellowship, you must report those hours directly to Pam Mertsock-Wolfe Assistant Director for Pro Bono and Public Interest Activities (pmertsoc@camden.rutgers.edu) via email with “Scholarship Service” in the subject line.