Pro Bono Programs
The School of Law connects students with a growing variety of pro-bono programs that employ the diverse skills and interests of our student body. Since the Center's inception in 2007, our programs have grown from three to 13. Whether it is helping a victim of domestic violence obtain a protective order, assisting a non-profit organization with its incorporation, helping low-income individuals in their efforts to access and maintain safe and affordable housing, or providing services to individuals fighting to obtain unemployment insurance benefits, we offer many opportunities for our students to experience a service-based legal education.
Our successful partnerships allow the Center to reach more of Richmond's under-privileged population, bringing lawyers and law students together in the spirit of service.
In 2011, the Carrico Center joined a pro bono partnership with the Richmond Bar Association and the Legal Aid Justice Center in their operation of a pro bono housing law program. The Housing Law program connects volunteer attorneys with law students, who together represent low income individuals in their efforts to access and maintain decent, safe, and affordable housing. The cases range from landlord/tenant disputes to stays of eviction. A law student who volunteers with this program has the opportunity to participate in client and witness interviews, legal research, and document drafting. If a particular case proceeds to court, then in-court opportunities may be available as well.
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The diversity of the greater Richmond area is enriched by its growing immigrant population. Unfortunately, the legal needs of this population are often confounded by language and cultural barriers. The University of Richmond School of Law, in partnership with the law firm of Williams Mullen and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, supports a monthly legal clinic that serves low-income, qualifying immigrants in matters ranging from the adjustment of immigration status to unfair wage practices. In addition, through a partnership with the Challa Law Office and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, law students can also work closely attorneys providing pro bono legal assistance to undocumented immigrants, who are also victims of domestic or sexual violence. In both programs, law students perform client intake, gather evidence, and assist in document drafting. Students fluent in other languages often provide translation services as well, a great way to maintain language skills.
For attorneys, performing pro bono service can be a rewarding way to serve the community while meeting the pro bono recommendations of Rule 6.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct. While many ethical issues that arise in the context of pro bono service mirror those in a lawyer’s day-to-day practice, there are some special issues that an attorney should consider when engaging in pro bono service. This CLE will discuss the common ethical issues that attorneys may encounter when undertaking pro bono representation, including conflict checks, client capacity, and communication difficulties.
Taking advantage of our location in the state’s capital, the law school launched a legislative pro bono project, in which students provide bill tracking and analysis, as well as issue-blogging on issues relevant to pending legislation on behalf of local and statewide advocacy groups. Recent pro bono placements include the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from final orders and decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board and from certain arbitrator awards. A high percentage of these MSPB and arbitration appeals are brought on a pro se basis by government employees, and, in recent years, the number of such appeals has greatly increased.
In response to this growing need, the Federal Circuit Bar Association created the Government Employees Pro Bono Program, which provides pro bono legal assistance to individuals in their appeals of MSPB and arbitration decisions to the Federal Circuit. In this project, law students have the opportunity to work in two capacities:
- Perform case tracking and analysis of the MSPB and arbitration appeals that are currently pending with the Federal Circuit,
- Provide legal research and writing assistance to pro bono attorneys from across the country with the preparation of appellate briefs to the Federal Circuit on these cases.
In partnership with the Richmond Bar Association and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, this program connects volunteer attorneys with law students, who together represent clients seeking no fault divorces in the greater Richmond area. There currently is a two-year waitlist for low-income individuals seeking no fault divorces in Central Virginia, so they languish in marriages that have ended in all other respects. Law students who volunteer with the program are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide representation on these cases.Training Session
Working with the Virginia Bar Association – Young Lawyers Division, this project connects pro bono attorneys and law students with low-income/no-income clients seeking protective orders in the city of Richmond. Victims of domestic violence petition for permanent protective orders after a temporary protective order has been issued, and a hearing on the petition occurs within two weeks after filing. Because of the nature of domestic violence relationships, many victims are without the support needed to help with these proceedings. Through this project, law students assist these individuals obtain the protective orders they need to ensure their safety.
The Richmond Mentor Program of the Virginia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the University of Richmond School of Law partner with Woodville Elementary School to make a difference in the lives of Richmond children. Woodville Elementary is an inner-city school, with many of its students coming from low-income housing developments with higher than average rates of crime and poverty. Volunteers are paired with third grade language arts, science/social studies or reading classes and assist students with their classroom assignments.
Student vs. Marijuana
"Student vs. Marijuana" is a Chesterfield County collaborative project designed to increase student awareness of the consequences for drug possession on school property both in the school system and the judicial system. The project is coordinated by Chesterfield Youth Planning and Development and includes the involvement of Chesterfield County Public Schools, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Juvenile Probation, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the Police Department, and the Sheriff's Department. University of Richmond law students role-play as defense attorneys in the mock juvenile court proceedings in presentations held throughout all of Chesterfield County's middle schools.
The Carrico Center, in partnership with Williams Mullen and Offender Aid and Restoration, operates a Restoration of Rights Pro Bono Clinic at UR Downtown as part of its Alternative Spring Break program. Pre-screened clients meet with volunteer attorneys and law students, who will draft the petition for restoration of rights for submission to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Law students in particular work with the clients to secure the necessary criminal history documents and work with clients on the personal statements that are needed for these petitions.
The Carrico Center’s Street Law Program places law students out in the community and in local schools to teach topics related to the law and our society. The program seeks to inspire children to be interested in the law, as well as engage law students with the broader Richmond community. This year, we have four sites located throughout Richmond, with a diverse group of children of all ages: FRIENDS Association for Children, Peter Paul Development Center, United Methodist Family Services, Huguenot High School.
In 2015, the Carrico Center forged a new partnership with the University’s Common Ground, the Virginia Equality Bar Association, and Fan Free Clinic called the Trans Law Collaborative. Specifically, the pro bono program provides legal assistance to members of the transgender community who are seeking gender marker and name changes. According to a recent survey, only one-fifth of transgender people who have transitioned have been able to update all of their IDs and records with their new gender. As a result, members of the trans* community face barriers when voting, opening bank accounts, starting new jobs, and even purchasing some cold medicines. The Trans Law Collaborative hosts pro bono clinics in which lawyers and law students assist trans* clients in changing their name and gender markers with the circuit court, as well as updating identification documents (e.g., driver's licenses, passports and Social Security cards).