Give back to the community and gain valuable legal experience
Brooklyn Law School offers over 25 student-run pro bono projects.Participation in pro bono projects allows students to commit to public service, develop legal experience, and enhance their resume. BLS offers a wide range of projects, including nationwide programs like the National Lawyers Guild’s Legal Observation at Protests, citywide projects such as the Suspension Representation Project, and projects unique to Brooklyn Law School like the Foreclosure Legal Assistance Group.
Pro bono projects span a range of practice areas and populations, including working with alleged debtors, domestic violence survivors, entrepreneurs, immigrants, public benefits recipients, students, and veterans. The Public Service Law Center also host alternative spring break and winter break trips where students engage in public service in locations across the country, including the U.S.-Mexico border and Puerto Rico. The PSLC is always open to students interested in starting new projects.
Asylum Relief Project (ARP) – Winter Break Trip
Participants travel to Karnes City, Texas during the last week of winter break to provide legal support at the Karnes Residential Center. This facility is a center for women and children who are currently being detained by immigration authorities and are seeking asylum status. Participants conduct intake with the detainees, prepare the detainees for interviews with immigration officials, and sometimes prepare detainees to be released from the center.
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
BCBF is committed to ending the unnecessary incarceration of indigent misdemeanor defendants due to the inability to pay small amounts of bail. Participating students will attend seminars in the fall semester and work as Pretrial Justice Fellows in BCBF’s office in the spring. The fellows will participate in determining client eligibility and paying bail; liaising between clients and public defenders, social workers, and third-party service providers; and assisting in the formulation and communication of policy recommendations.
Brooklyn Law Alternative Spring Break Trip
BLAST is a great opportunity for Brooklyn Law School students to spend their spring break working with legal services and other public interest organizations across the United States. Students work intensively in new communities to provide much-needed legal assistance for one week. Participants are responsible for assisting in fundraising for and planning the alternative spring break trips. In previous years, students worked at the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office, Tennessee Fair Housing Council , Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Gideon’s Promise in Atlanta, and #Cut50, Rebuild the Dream’s incarceration reform initiative in Oakland, CA.
Brooklyn Law School Lawyers Without Borders
Lawyers Without Borders is an international organization that works with law firms and their pro bono departments throughout the world. LWOB aims to raise awareness of poorly understood justice mechanisms and organize workshops and lectures on the rule of law. BLS LWOB performs a range of human rights-related projects, including fundraising, researching and community education.
Brooklyn Legal Services’ Pro Se Landlord Harassment and Repairs Clinic
As gentrification and displacement continue and the city’s affordable housing crisis worsens, an unprecedented number of tenants face harassment and negligence from landlords. The Pro Se Housing Clinic helps low-income New Yorkers commence proceedings in housing court to compel landlords to perform repairs and obtain orders against harassment. Student volunteers conduct intake with individual tenants, assist them in preparing the paperwork necessary to commence a case, help them tell their story in the most compelling and persuasive light, discuss establishing proof of harassment and substandard conditions, and work with housing advocates to develop a strategy for successfully litigating these actions pro se.
Brooklyn Trafficking Intervention Pro Bono Project
Students perform immigration intakes for foreign-born individuals who have outstanding cases in the Brooklyn Human Trafficking Intervention Court. Students receive training and supervision from Sanctuary for Families attorneys. Students gain experience in direct services and exposure to legal issues involving women and immigration.
Bronx Defenders’ Records Accuracy Project
BxD RAP is committed to serving individuals and communities in the Bronx to address the consequences of criminal justice involvement, particularly in the areas of employment and public benefits. Students interact with clients, review RAP sheets, correct errors, and apply for certificates of relief from civil disabilities and/or certificates of good conduct under supervision by staff at The Bronx Defenders. Students travel to NYC county courts to access documents demonstrating identified errors, draft cover letters describing errors and requesting corrective actions by the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Courtroom Advocates Project
CAP assists and advocates for victims of domestic violence seeking orders of protection in New York City family courts. Students help domestic violence survivors file petitions and maintain contact as necessary to ensure that the petitioner returns for his or her next court date. Students may also advocate for the petitioner before the judge on the return date. Students participating in CAP will gain court experience, exposure to New York civil procedure, client interaction and/or experience in domestic violence law.
Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) Consultation Center
CCC participants travel to various New York City neighborhoods to participate in brief advice clinics aimed at providing both new and existing small businesses with pro bono assistance. CCC sets up consultation centers, staffed by students and BLS alum attorneys, to provide much-needed legal resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs. These events focus particularly on reaching start-ups and new businesses run by women and owners from immigrant and diverse backgrounds. During consultations, students assess the needs of the small business owners and entrepreneurs; provide brief advice and information related to contracts, entity formation, and leases; and, as needed, refer them to legal representation.
Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office
Through CLARO, student volunteers help address the critical legal needs of low-income Brooklyn residents and learn about debtor-creditor law, consumer protection, economic justice, direct services, and civil procedure. CLARO participants assist volunteer attorneys advising consumer debtors, including victims of identity theft and predatory lenders and collectors. Students help consumers through the daunting process of self-representation, learn New York civil procedure and consumer law, gain experience working with clients, and gain an understanding of financial justice issues affecting low-income Brooklyn residents. Students also get exposure to legal issues regarding banking and commercial paper.
Education Law and Policy Society
Ed Law seeks to strengthen educational opportunities for all students, with a particular emphasis on U.S. public education reform. Its aim is to advance dialogue, prepare leaders, raise awareness in the legal community, and create opportunities for students to effect positive change by coordinating pro bono activities with other student groups, advocacy organizations, legal advocates, and other schools. Ed Law offers members opportunities to assist in litigation, policy research, and service projects and gain access to education law leaders. Ed Law members participate in A Law Student for a Day, a shadowing program where members serve as mentors in sharing the law school experience with high school students interested in pursuing careers in law and education.
Elder Law and Guardianship Project
Elder law is a rapidly expanding field concerned with all legal issues related to elderly individuals. ELG provides education, support, and aid to seniors and guardianship petitioners who face these issues from their unique perspectives. Working alongside attorneys with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, students are trained to give presentations about types of guardianships, the guardianship process, and the responsibilities of guardians. Students also assist clients in drafting guardianship petitions.
Foreclosure Legal Assistance Group
FLAG is a partnership among Brooklyn Law School students, the PSLC, the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, and Kings County Supreme Court. FLAG provides Brooklyn homeowners entangled in foreclosure litigation with information about New York’s unique foreclosure process. Student volunteers provide assistance to community members, learn about foreclosure law, attend foreclosure settlement conferences, and gain direct exposure to the mandatory foreclosure litigation process.
If/When/How - Abortion Clinic Legal Observing
If/When/How is a student-led, student-driven national non-profit network of law students and lawyers committed to fostering the next wave of legal experts for the reproductive justice movement. Reproductive justice connotes collective efforts to address and overcome the roots of reproductive oppression, while constructing legally tenable, realistically accessible avenues for informed, consensual, unobstructed decision making about education, sex, contraception, sterilization, abortion, procreation, birth, and parenting.
Immigrant Visa Assistance Project
Students participating in IVAP assist immigrant victims of crime with U-visa and Violence Against Women Act applications. Students interview clients, draft affidavits, and learn practical lawyering skills related to immigration practice. Students are supervised by upper-class students and attorneys through Sanctuary for Families.
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)
LIFT seeks to enhance access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, advice, community education, and compassionate guidance to empower individuals, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies. Students help pro se litigants understand their options by providing legal and procedural information in matters of child support, custody, visitation, paternity, orders of protection, and more.
Motivating Youth Through Legal Education
BLS students coach high school students to prepare for constitutional law debates throughout the year. Coaches help the students read and understand Supreme Court decisions and craft an argument to be delivered to a panel of law students and attorneys who act as judges at the debates.
National Lawyers Guild: Legal Observation at Protests
The Legal Observer program is part of the comprehensive legal support coordinated by the NLG to ensure that people can express their political views without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the government. Legal Observers work with NLG attorneys who represent individual activists and political organizations and play a distinct role separate from that of participants at demonstrations and protests. They are trained to promote police accountability by witnessing and documenting police. Documentation includes arrests, abuse, or civil rights violations. The presence of Legal Observers helps discourage police abuse, and the information collected by Legal Observers is used in all stages of defending arrestees and in lawsuits against the police or other government agencies when a person’s rights are violated.
Parole Preparation Project
The Parole Preparation Project, a project of the National Lawyers Guild, collaborates with and advocates for parole-eligible people serving life sentences in New York State prisons. Volunteers are trained to work alongside parole applicants, many of whom have spent decades in prison and have been repeatedly denied parole, despite their eligibility for release.
Pipeline to Diversity Mentorship
PDMP seeks to empower and assist minorities from underrepresented communities through e-mentorship to understand the demands of law school and prepare for the law school application and admissions process. PDMP seeks to inspire students to excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. PDMP matches undergraduate students with law students for informal mentoring and guidance. Mentors provide guidance in entrance essay writing, LSAT prep, negotiating scholarship packages, and more.
Puerto Rico Legal Brigade
Since 2017, a student-led BLS brigade has traveled to Puerto Rico every spring break and assisted lawyers in counseling low-income individuals appealing FEMA decisions that denied them food, shelter and other necessary financial resources in the wake of Hurricane Maria. In the past, students have traveled to the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law and the Inter American University of Puerto Rico where experienced lawyers and professors certified them to carry out legal check-ups and other relevant legal work related to FEMA appeals. In addition, the brigade carried out supplemental research to coordinate and spread other free legal information and aid efforts for persons affected by Hurricane María.
RAP Sheet Assistance Program
The RAP Sheet Assistance Program seeks to help individuals avoid or ameliorate the collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement, particularly in the areas of employment and public benefits. Working directly with criminal defense attorneys and the re-entry coordinator at Brooklyn Defender Services, student volunteers review RAP sheets, clear up errors, and apply for certificates of relief from civil disabilities or certificates of good conduct. Students work with attorneys, re-entry services providers, and clients to ensure that all RAP sheet errors are effectively removed.
Resilience Advocacy Project: Youth LEAP & GO Girls
RAP runs youth leadership programs in partnership with schools and community-based organizations. RAP uses what is learned from this on-the-ground work to advocate for improvements in youth- and poverty-related laws, policies, and government systems. Law students teach RAP participants about the New York City government, constitutional and poverty law, health and family rights, and advocacy skills in weekly 2-hour workshops. Projects have included community resource centers, meeting with city leaders, and conducting youth rights workshops for other teens.
Second Chance Project
The Second Chance Project helps parents with a finding of child neglect on their records to move forward in their lives. Students help clients request administrative reviews, request and advocate in fair hearings to amend clients’ records with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ Statewide Central Register, and file motions to vacate neglect findings or request suspended judgments so that clients’ records do not limit their employment opportunities. SCP volunteers learn about family law, criminal defense, and poverty law and have the opportunity to work directly with clients and get experience in court.
Suspension Representation Project
New York City public school students who receive long-term suspensions in elementary, middle and high school can end up in the "school-to-prison pipeline”. SRP’s goal is to advocate for students to keep them in school and on a path to graduation. SRP provides advocates with comprehensive training on interviewing and counseling, hearing procedures, direct and cross examination techniques, rules of evidence, burden of proof, and developing a “theory of the case” so that they can effectively represent students and their families in front of hearing officers at NYC Department of Education Superintendent Suspension Hearings.
Uncontested Divorce Project for Battered Women and Indigent Clients
UDP is a great opportunity for those interested in public interest work, family law, helping low-income members of our community, or working with victims of domestic violence. Following a training by a Sanctuary for Families attorney, students are assigned a client and then conduct interviews, prepare divorce petitions, file the court papers, and conduct follow-up meetings with the client. A separate training, conducted by an attorney with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, will enable students to regularly assist clients in self-represented uncontested divorces. Students will aid their clients in initiating their uncontested divorce and through entry of judgment. Male and female volunteers are welcome.
Unemployment Action Center
UAC advocates represent unemployed workers in mini-trials concerning their rights to unemployment benefits. Advocates do everything lawyers do, including interviewing and advising clients, conducting direct and cross-examinations of witnesses, and delivering arguments to administrative law judges. UAC’s vital service doubles a worker’s chances of obtaining benefits, while also giving students meaningful and worthwhile experience in the art of advocacy. UAC may appeal to students interested in trial and appellate advocacy, labor and employment law, workers’ rights, and direct legal services.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Launched in 2002, Food Bank for New York City’s Tax Assistance & Financial Services Program provides hard-working low-income New Yorkers with free tax preparation services, helping them get the refunds and credits to which they are entitled. These include the Earned Income Tax Credit—a key piece of the public safety net, which alone can be worth up to $8,293 for families. Following a two-part training course to become a certified income tax preparer, students assist individuals with their returns.