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Encouraging Experiences in the Public Interest: Takeaways from the 2018 Law School Pro Bono Roundtable

On July 17th, 17 law school representatives met at PILI’s annual Law School Pro Bono Roundtable to discuss best practices, successful strategies and collaboration opportunities. This program is part of PILI’s regular Pro Bono Roundtable Series.

The program began with PILI Executive Director Michael Bergmann introducing PILI’s new initiatives and discussing how law students could get involved. Attendees were particular interested in the Legal Help Within Reach project, which will recruit attorneys and law students from urban areas to volunteer at free legal clinics for low-income Illinoisans living in rural and underserved communities. Shelby Smith, the Equal Justice Works Fellow who will be launching the project in the fall, was there to discuss this project.

Next, Robyn Rucker of Valparaiso University Law School led a discussion on the challenges of creating public interest mentorship programs. Attendees agreed that most problems stemmed from making good initial matches and managing expectations of both students and their mentors. They suggested creating tools such as a database of mentors across the state or a guide for students and mentors to help promote a positive experience.

Then, Elizabeth Boe of DePaul University College of Law talked about connecting students with immersive public interst and pro bono opportunities. She gave examples of local agencies that provide immersive service opportunities over law school breaks as well as examples of week-long service trips. Attendees discussed whether they give school credit or help with funding for these trips and how to connect law students with the best experience to accomplish their goals.

To end the Roundtable, Jill Roberts of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts presented on a program they are planning to engage law students in pro bono service who are not already interested in public interest law. The program will include presentations on the importance of pro bono work and a poverty simulation. Attendees discussed how to encourage attendance at the program, which is scheduled for February.

Thank you to Charles River Associates for hosting the Roundtable and for to all our attendees for participating. Registration is now open for the Illinois Forum on Pro Bono on October 3rd, which will bring this group together with representatives from law firms, corporations and legal service agencies to discuss timely pro bono issues. Learn more »

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