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Pro Bono Service Program: Opportunities

The School of Law promotes and coordinates a variety of pro bono opportunities through a wide range of organizations. The pro bono opportunities offered to law students provide a hands-on learning experience outside of the classroom. The Pro Bono Service Program continues to develop new opportunities from which students can choose to fulfill the requirement.

Some of the following programs have unlimited availability for student participation, while others have caps on the number of students who can participate at a given time. Please contact Karen Pearlman Raab, Director for Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs, for more information about these projects.

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Program Name Program Type
Estate Planning Clinic

Students will staff monthly estate planning clinics at the 11th Street Family Health Services Center and at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.  Students will be trained in simple estate planning and will draft Powers of Attorneys, Advanced Medical Directives, and Wills for our clients.  The clinics will be held Friday afternoons and students must commit to participate in this project for the entire academic year.  Recruiting for this project will take place a the beginning of the Fall semester.

Direct Legal Services

Criminal Record Expungement Project

The Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP) is dedicated to working with the community to reduce the collateral effects of criminal records. In partnership with the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), C-REP provides free direct legal services to individuals seeking to expunge non-conviction records in Philadelphia County. Volunteer attorneys and law students host community clinics and provide legal counsel through all stages of the expungement process, including representing clients before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. Students must be available to staff the monthly clinic on Friday afternoon and are also asked to commit a minimum of 5 hours per week for the entire semester to work on cases. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

Direct Legal Services

Community Intake Clinic

The Intake Clinic housed at Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships offers direct services right in the community.  In partnership with Philadelphia Legal Assistance, this new community-based intake clinic allows us to reach isolated clients in a comfortable environment in the neighborhood.  Student volunteers will be trained to conduct intake interviews, provide legal information, and prepare cases for referral and/or representation.  Students must be available to staff the monthly clinic on Friday afternoon and then work with PLA attorneys on the off weeks to review and work on cases opened through the Dornsife Center.  Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters.

Direct Legal Services

Divorce Advocacy Project

Law students will be paired with pro bono attorneys from Dechert and Blank Rome to review divorce agreements for low income couples who choose to participate in mediation to negotiate their divorce settlement. Students will then assist in filing the divorce action with the Court on behalf of their clients. Students must commit to participate in this project for the entire academic year. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

Direct Legal Services

SeniorLAW Help Line

The Pennsylvania SeniorLAW HelpLine, a project of SeniorLAW Center, provides free and confidential legal counseling, information and referrals to older Pennsylvanians throughout diverse communities of the Commonwealth, including rural areas where there are few, if any, legal resources. The HelpLine handles a wide and interesting universe of civil legal issues, including real estate/housing, consumer protection, family law, estate and advance planning tools, public benefits, elder abuse, and neighbor disputes. After training, students will handle client intake activities – returning calls, collecting demographic information, and determining eligibility – and will elicit additional information to identify the legal issues. Students will partner with an attorney on providing direct services to senior clients by conducting research when necessary and writing client letters to reinforce the information or advice given by the attorney. Students also will have an opportunity to submit articles for SeniorLAW Center’s statewide quarterly electronic newsletter and to update “FAQs” on common legal issues for the website. As scheduling permits, students will also have the opportunity to accompany staff attorneys to Family, Landlord/Tenant, and/or Mortgage Foreclosure Court. The HelpLine Project Director will supervise all student work. Students must commit to work at least one half-day per week for the entire semester to participate in this project. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of both the Fall and Spring semesters.

Direct Legal Services

Campaign for Working Families Tax Clinic

The Campaign for Working Families provides free tax service to low income people in Philadelphia. It seeks to improve the economic well being of low and moderate income individuals, families, and communities by building a movement to dramatically increase access to tax credits and benefits and asset-building opportunities. The Campaign for Working Families will hold training sessions on tax return preparation for student volunteers. Once trained, student volunteers will have their choice to volunteer at one of the 17 sites around the city where the tax clinics are hosted. The tax clinics are open for tax season, from mid-January to mid-April. All sites have evening and weekend hours to fit your individual schedules. Recruiting for this project will take place in late-November and again at the beginning of January.

Direct Legal Services

Migrant Farm Workers Tax Clinic

The Low income Tax Clinic is organized by Philadelphia Legal Assistance and serves the local migrant farm worker population in Kennett Square, PA. Philadelphia Legal Assistance will hold training sessions on tax return preparation for student volunteers. Once trained, students can begin volunteering at the clinic. The clinics are held every Saturday in February and the first two Saturdays in April. Students do not have to attend all clinics, but are welcome to attend as many as they want, as there is a great need for volunteers. The clinics are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are provided, and Philadelphia Legal Assistance tries to coordinate carpooling out to Kennett Square for the volunteers. Recruiting for this project will take place in late-November and again at the beginning of January.

Direct Legal Services

Family Court Project - Domestic Violence Unit

The Domestic Violence Unit of Family Court helps pro se litigants file for Protection from Abuse Orders. Students selecting this placement will have the opportunity to interview victims of domestic violence and prepare petitions under the Protection from Abuse Act (23 Pa.C.S. Section 6101, et seq.) for review by a Common Pleas Court judge. Orientation and procedural and computer training will be given on a one-on-one basis. Students will be given the opportunity to observe court proceedings arising under the PFA Act and will be introduced to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure and the Philadelphia County Court Rules ("Local Rules"). Most of the hearings are not lengthy, thus they provide students with practical illustrations of such legal concepts as: jurisdiction, venue, standing, a preponderance of the evidence, hearsay, and the statutory definition of the word, "abuse." Students are asked to work in four-hour blocks and must make a 25-hour commitment to participate in this project. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of each semester. Summer placements are also available for this project.

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Assistance Project

In response to the unavailability of lawyers to represent and court staff to assist victims of domestic violence who seek Protection From Abuse Orders (PFAs), student volunteers will provide information and referrals to help litigants better understand and successfully complete the protection from abuse judicial process. Students will meet with pro se litigants who have filed petitions for PFAs and provide them with information about service of process, preparing for the hearing, and how to address abuse after obtaining a PFA order. Students will also provide pro se litigants with information about available resources as well as informational brochures. Students must make a semester commitment to this project and agree to staff at least three sessions each month. Shifts at Family Court are either 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of both the Fall and Spring semesters. Summer placements are also available for this project.

Domestic Violence

SOAR: Rapid Access to Public Benefits

The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) provides comprehensive legal assistance on a broad range of civil legal matters, including access to Social Security (SSI) benefits. Specifically, under a federal initiative entitled “SOAR” (SSI Outreach, Access and Recovery), HAP assists homeless individuals in gaining rapid access to SSI benefits. Once trained, students will conduct client interviews, obtain medical records, complete SSI application forms, write letters of support for clients in the SOAR Project, and participate in all other aspects of case development. Due to the expedited nature of the SOAR process, students will have the opportunity to work on cases from start to finish. The SOAR Project was recently expanded to address the needs of youth (18 – 21 years old) aging-out of the child welfare system and student cases will likely include this population. Students are asked to volunteer two to four hours a week for the entire year and can set their own schedules each semester. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall Semester.

Working with Youth

Immigrant Youth Advocacy Project

Law students will work with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Counsel (HIAS) attorneys in handling cases of unaccompanied minors. Students will engage in comprehensive case representation of minors with respect to immigration matters. Students work will include interviewing clients, conducting legal research, writing legal memoranda, interviewing witnesses, preparing affidavits, managing files, and, when practicable, attending court hearings. Students must commit to participate in this project for the entire academic year. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

Working with Youth

Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project

The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project sends law students (known as “Fellows”) into inner-city public schools to teach high school students their rights and responsibilities under the Constitution. The Fellows go to the schools in two-person teams once a week for one-hour sessions during the entire academic year. The substantive classroom visits culminate in local and national Constitutional Moot Court Competitions in the winter and spring. In order to participate in this Project, law students will need to enroll in a two-credit, pass/fail course which will be offered in the fall semester. The class will give Fellows the tools to teach the substantive constitutional law and moot court skills to the high school students. Pro Bono credit will be given to the Marshall-Brennan Fellows for their work in the field teaching and coaching the students. Students must commit to participate in this project for the entire academic year.

Working with Youth

Youth Courts

Teens who have had behavioral infringements at school will have the opportunity for their cases to be tried by their peers. This project seeks to introduce young people to the legal system—and their potential roles in that system, while serving as a platform of expression and a deterrent for future infractions. Students must be available to be on site at the McMichael School on Friday afternoons for the entire school year.  Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall semester.

Working with Youth

Pennsylvania Innocence Project

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is an organization dedicated to exonerating persons imprisoned in Pennsylvania for crimes they did not commit and to eliminating the causes of wrongful convictions. Law student volunteers may work on either evaluating a case (referred to as a Stage 2 review) or a full analysis of a case (referred to as Stage 3). New students and those who are looking for a shorter assignment will be assigned to a case in Stage 2. The goal of a Stage 2 review is to determine whether the inmate has a plausible claim for innocence. This will involve reviewing a questionnaire submitted by the inmate and reading the appellate documents from the case. When the review is complete, each student fills out both a Questionnaire Review Form and a Completion Memo with a recommendation of either to close the case or pursue it further. Students who can commit to coming to the office for at least 2 hours a week for one semester can have the chance to work on a Stage 3 case. This involves an in-depth review and analysis of all of an inmate’s case documents (i.e. transcripts, discovery, briefs, etc.). Stage 3 review also focuses on whether the inmate is actually innocent, but also involves trying to determine whether evidence may exist to submit in court. If the students can finish the review within their time with the Project, they will prepare an extensive memo for the Board of Directors to review and can present the case for potential acceptance to the Board. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of both the Fall and Spring Semesters. Summer placements are also available for this project.

Social Justice

Prisoner Re-entry Project

The Prisoner Re-entry Project is an opportunity for law students from all the Delaware Valley law schools to assist with legal intake for former federal prisoners working to put their affairs back in order. This project exposes law students to a range of civil legal problems facing former long-term inmates, and enhances their interviewing skills. Law students will establish a law student-staffed intake system to clarify legal issues and ensure that participants are financially qualified for representation by lawyers volunteering through Volunteers for the Indigent Program (Philadelphia VIP). Students are required to attend a two part initial training, and, thereafter, students must be available to staff the intake clinic once a week. Clinic hours are on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the Federal Courthouse, where appropriate attire is expected. If schedules permit, students are encouraged to make a year commitment to this project. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of both the Fall and Spring Semesters.

Social Justice

Irish Immigration Clinic – Brehon Society Project

Law students will work with a licensed immigration attorney to conduct intake interviews and help fill out immigration paperwork, including N-400s and I-95s.  Students will have the opportunity to gain firsthand information about immigration law and the immigration process.  The clinic is held on the third Wednesday of every month from 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center in Upper Darby, which is easily accessible via public transit.  The clinic is open to all members of the Drexel Brehons, and all other students are welcome to join.  Scheduling needs vary on a monthly basis, depending on how many appointments are scheduled.  Students are not required to attend every clinic in order to volunteer.  Scheduling is typically done one week before the clinic date, in order to properly accommodate the scheduled appointments.  The Brehons will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Unemployment Compensation Project – Labor & Employment Law Society Project

The Unemployment Compensation Project advocates for the rights of employees and represents unemployment claimants who are appealing their denials of unemployment compensation. In partnership with Philadelphia Legal Assistance, this project offers student advocates the opportunity to interview clients, research applicable law, and then conduct direct and cross examinations and give closing statements before an administrative law judge.  This project requires an 8-12 hour weekly commitment. The Labor & Employment Law Society will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Escorting Project – LSRJ Project

Students are trained in relevant law and observe protesters outside of abortion clinics to help ensure women have safe and legal access to services under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Should a student escort perceive a potential violation of a woman's safe and lawful access to services, he or she will take a full report of the incident and file his or her notes with appropriate officials. The project is open to all members of LSRJ, and all other students are welcome to join.  LSRJ will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Judicial Bypass Intake - LSRJ Project

Some young women decide they cannot tell their parents about their pregnancy. A judicial bypass is an order from a judge that allows a minor to have an abortion without telling or receiving consent from her parent or legal guardian. Students assist young women seeking attorney representation at their judicial bypass hearing by conducting in depth intake interviews and filing out the Petitions to file with the Court. The project is open to all members of LSRJ, and all other students are welcome to join.  LSRJ will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Street Law Program – NLG Project 

The goal of the street law project is to increase access and knowledge to the law for residents of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. For this purpose, NLG has created a “Stop and Frisk” manual. Students will travel to community centers, libraries, and schools to not only explain the “Stop and Frisk” manual but to present the information in a way which will help individuals to think about how they would respond if they were stopped and frisked in the future. The training for the Street Law Project will consist of explaining the law contained within the “Stop and Frisk” manual (no prior knowledge of this law is needed) and how to present the information to different audiences. Street Law (actually going into the community) will most likely take place in the evenings and on the weekends. Groups of three to four individuals will present the information in community centers, libraries and schools throughout the Philadelphia region during the summer and throughout the school year. The project is open to all members of NLG, and all other students are welcome to join. NLG will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Legal Observer Program – NLG Project

Students will be trained as Legal Observers to observe and record incidents and the activities of law enforcement in relation to the demonstrators. This includes documenting, for example, any arrest, use of force, intimidating display of force, denial of access to public spaces like parks and sidewalks, and any other behavior on the part of law enforcement that appears to restrict demonstrators’ ability to express their political views. Trainings are roughly held each semester and students sign up to observe as dates of protests and rallies are made public. The project is open to all members of NLG, and all other students are welcome to join.  NLG will set the recruiting and training schedule for this project.

Student Organization Run Projects

Medical Legal Partnership
Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) have formed a Medial Legal partnership (MLP) in order to provide free legal assistance to patients on-site at public health centers in Philadelphia. MLP is the integration of legal staff into a health setting, so that they can work collaboratively with the health care team to meet the complex and critical needs of low-income patients in a comprehensive manner. Law student volunteers will serve as MLP Legal Advocates at Health Center #3, a high-volume health center located at 43rd and Baltimore Avenue in University City. Under the supervision of an experienced PLA staff attorney, students will interview clients, provide legal information and brief legal services, and give group presentations on legal topics to clients in the waiting area. Students must commit to staffing one shift per week of four consecutive hours at the Health Center and must attend a one hour weekly group supervision meeting at the Health Center. This is a demanding pro bono project that requires a strong commitment to service and reliability, but is a highly rewarding project. Recruiting for this project will take place at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters.

Direct Legal Services

Disclaimer for Those Seeking Legal Advice

The Pro Bono Service Program cannot offer direct legal help to the general public. Law students may only work under the guidance of a licensed attorney at an approved program placement or organization. If you are seeking assistance with a legal problem, please refer to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Online Referral Service or the Directory of Public Interest Legal Organizations.