Penn State Law offers a variety of pro bono opportunities through the Miller Pro Bono Program. The program serves to educate students about their professional responsibility to provide legal services to the poor and underrepresented through the provision of pro bono opportunities as well as through recognition of students’ pro bono service. The program’s faculty, staff and students are dedicated to furthering the legal profession’s responsibility to increase access to justice.
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- The Pro Bono Handbook
The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 6.1 highlights the lawyer’s obligation to render pro bono legal services to the poor. Through the Miller Pro Bono Program and the Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy, The Dickinson School of Law furthers the mission of the Pennsylvania State University and the dictate of the legal profession’s rules of conduct by institutionalizing an ethic of service.
The program connects law students with private attorneys providing pro bono representation, legal services attorneys, public defenders, and court appointed counsel for indigent litigants. The students matched with attorneys through the Center provide assistance with discrete research requests and support for ongoing pro bono projects. These projects can often be completed remotely and provide students with exposure to poverty law issues as well as the opportunity to develop their research and writing skills.
Shelter Outreach Projects:
Students are encouraged to participate in shelter outreach programs where they accompany attorneys to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters to staff legal information tables and provide intake screenings. These programs are coordinated through county bar associations and legal services offices and provide students with the opportunity to team with local attorneys interested in combating issues of poverty, homelessness and abuse.
Pro Se Divorce and Custody Clinics:
Students have the opportunity to assist pro se litigants in completing forms to initiate proceedings under the supervision of attorneys through local bar associations and MidPenn Legal Services pro se clinics.
Alternative Break Projects:
The pro bono program works with the Public Interest Law Fund student organization to support students’ interested in organizing alternative semester break events where pro bono serves as the focal point of students’ winter, summer and/or spring break. Past events have included multiple trips to New Orleans to participate in the Student Hurricane Network as well as a local focus on assisting first responders obtain end of life documents through the Wills For Heroes program.
Wills for Heroes:
Wills for Heroes is a national program with support from the ABA and PBA. The idea for the program stems from the events of 9/11 and a desire on the part of the legal community to protect those who protect us. Student volunteers participate in training and are paired with licensed attorneys to provide wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders who are traditionally unlikely to have these documents in place.
Pro Bono Opportunities Initiated by Students:
Each new class of students brings with it a breadth of experience and passions with respect to serving the needs of the poor. As individual students discover opportunities to engage in pro bono, the Center will provide assistance with coordinating the project as well as recognition of attorney supervised law related pro bono work through the Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy certification program.
Recognition as a Miller Public Interest Advocate:
Students who complete, report, and submit a reflective memorandum discussing 60 hours of law-related public service under the supervision of a licensed attorney will be recognized as a Public Interest Advocate at a celebratory reception as well as upon graduation.