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.
Because Richmond is home to the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia, as well as a strong and highly-respected criminal defense bar, our law students are uniquely poised for a hands-on experience with complex criminal appeals. In partnership with members of the criminal defense bar, law students work on criminal appellate cases from the initial petition stage through the merit phase of the appeal. Specifically, students draft preliminary documents, research legal issues, and, if qualified under Virginia's Third-Year Practice Rule, may argue the appeal before the Court.
In response to the increased number of disability claims by veterans, the law school has partnered with the Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) in its operation of a program to facilitate pro bono representation in these appeals. Law students perform case tracking and analysis of the Federal Circuit’s disability appeals docket, as well as provide individual case assistance to pro bono attorneys. In addition, University of Richmond law students author an annual veteran’s law article, which is published by the FCBA and used by its members nationwide.
In partnership with the law firm of Williams Mullen, the University of Richmond law school participates in its Wills Pro Bono Program, providing basic estate planning services to low-income seniors and families in Central Virginia. At a wills program, law students and pro bono attorneys provide clients with wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives. Law students support this program through client intake, document drafting, and witness services.
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.
Training Videos (December, 2016)
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.
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.
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’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.
Each year, the Supreme Court of Virginia provides newly appointed judges three weeks of training that includes a mock trial in a local courtroom (Hanover, Henrico, Richmond, Chesterfield, etc.). Licensed attorneys try the cases before these new judges, and each attorney is asked to provide witnesses for the trial in which they participate. The new judge hears the case, an active judge critiques the new judge, and, after the trial, the attorneys and witnesses are asked for their feedback. According to the new judges, these mock trials provide an invaluable experience. University of Richmond law students are annually invited by the Supreme Court to serve as witnesses in these trials. This is a great opportunity for students, as it provides direct and candid exposure to the training of new state court judges as well as the judicial process as a whole.
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).