Each year at entering class orientation, Rutgers School of Law–Newark introduces first-year students to the many opportunities available for pro bono work and internships with public interest organizations. Such opportunities enable students to help provide legal assistance to economically-disadvantaged New Jersey residents while exposing them to real-world scenarios.
In its Fall 2013 newsletter, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) spotlights its growing partnership with Rutgers–Newark Law School, thanking students and faculty “for their wholehearted support of pro bono work and commitment to social justice.”
Lisa Perri ’14, who volunteered this fall at VLJ, notes that her experiences – which included appearing under attorney supervision in municipal court and in family court – will be beneficial when she joins Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP as an associate upon graduation. “VLJ exposed me to different areas of law than what my practice will concentrate in,” she tells the newsletter, “and the skills I developed here will undoubtedly carry over and contribute meaningfully to my work at the firm.”
The partnership between VLJ and Rutgers–Newark Law extends beyond the individual student and reaches into the classroom. Professor Taja-Nia Henderson, who has added a skills component to her Confinement, Reentry and Policy Seminar, gives students the option to build legal skills by engaging in a project in lieu of writing a paper. Six of her students worked with the VLJ program, ReLeSe (Newark Reentry Legal Services), and had the opportunity to represent nine clients with driver’s license suspensions. In all but one case, which was negotiated down from a fine to community service, they successfully advocated for the dismissal of all outstanding tickets, fines and warrants.
VLJ also applauds the participation of students in the Civil Justice Clinic, under the guidance of clinic director Professor Jack Feinstein, in the organization’s divorce and consumer law clinics. Student experiences include screening clients for eligibility, observing attorney consultations, drafting pro se pleadings, and reviewing supportive documents.
The relationship between the law school and Volunteer Lawyers for Justice has strengthened with the Neisser Public Interest Program’s development of the Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project. The endeavor pairs law students with a pro bono attorney to represent clients needing Chapter 7 bankruptcy assistance. Students work with the attorney providing client consultations, reviewing documents, and preparing files and pleadings, with the goal of discharging the client’s debt. Approximately 40 students volunteered for the program this fall, assisting 15 clients referred by VLJ.
Jessica Kitson, Neisser Public Interest Program director, says of the relationship between the law school and VLJ: “We are very fortunate to have such a strong partnership with one of the leading public interest organizations in New Jersey. Whether through individual student internships or partnership with our Pro Bono Bankruptcy Project, our students have been able to benefit greatly through the work and commitment to pro bono that VLJ exemplifies.”| Read Story