Students at the University of Washington School of Law start classes this week. Some are just beginning their legal education, while others are in the midst of it or even prepping for the bar exam and soon, hopefully, practicing what they’ve learned. And many students are already using their education to gain real-world experience while simultaneously contributing their time and expertise back into the community through pro bono work.
Pro Bono at UW Law
Public service is central to the UW School of Law’s commitment as a public institution to increasing access to justice. UW Law has a long tradition of students providing pro bono service in the community.
In 1995, the school implemented a graduation requirement for all students enrolled in the Juris Doctor program to perform 60 hours of public service legal work. The JD class of 2019 collectively performed more than 11,300 hours of pro bono service while attending law school. Their work helped increase equity and access to justice for underrepresented and marginalized communities in Washington and beyond.
“At UW Law, we believe that it is the ethical responsibility of lawyers to promote justice,” said Huy Nguyen, director of the UW Law William H. Gates Public Service Law Program. “We view public service as a fundamental value that underscores our efforts to increase access to justice and support the rule of law.”
UW Law students are able to participate in pro bono work as early as their 1L year on a wide array of projects, such as the Immigrant Families Advocacy Project (IFAP), which works closely with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and pro bono attorneys from the community to assist immigrant victims of family violence as they petition for permanent residency in the United States. Students gain valuable real-life legal experience working directly with clients and attorneys. (For information on how you can work with IFAP please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“During my first year of law school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, helping refugees fill out asylum applications,” said Korica Simon, a 2L law student. “This experience was so incredibly important and instrumental for keeping me grounded during law school and reminding me of the reason I decided to become a lawyer. There are so many vulnerable populations in need of these services, and I strongly believe students should volunteer while in law school, as we often have more time than we think!”
Other UW Law pro bono projects for students include:
- The Washington Innocence Project Clinic, formerly Innocence Project Northwest, which takes on individual wrongful conviction cases. Students’ work has led to exonerations for 14 people, who collectively served 114 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. (If you would like to assist students in this effort, please contact Lara Zarowsky at email@example.com.)
- The Moderate Means Program: a partnership between the WSBA and all three law schools in Washington, in which students work with moderate-income clients (who fall within 200-400 percent of the federal poverty line) to evaluate their disputes and connect them with the program’s network of about 500 attorneys across Washington. The Moderate Means Program focuses its efforts in family, consumer, and housing law. (If you would like more information on how to support this program please contact Clay Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
About the Author
Jennifer Mackley is a founding partner of Mackley & Mackley, PLLC, and a member of the WSBA Pro Bono Public Service Committee. She developed this article in partnership with the University of Washington School of Law pro bono coordinators.