Pro Bono Opportunities for Law Students
Please note: Law students cannot provide pro bono services to individuals directly.
- If you are an NIU student in need of legal assistance, please contact Students’ Legal Assistance.
- If you are not affiliated with NIU, please contact other resources in the area such as the DeKalb County Legal Self-Help Center, Prairie State Legal Services or Administer Justice Legal Services, or seek the advice of a practicing attorney.
The NIU College of Law pro bono initiative pairs law students with mentoring attorneys who are willing to engage in legal work on behalf of:
- persons of limited means or underserved populations
- charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations for various purposes
- individuals or groups who wish to secure or protect civil rights
Law students may only be paired with, and supervised by, practicing attorneys.
Some pro bono programs are available for first-year students, and most are available to second- and third-year students. All students may volunteer for pro bono activity at any time.
For more information about pro bono opportunities available to law students, contact Colleen Boraca, Pro Bono Coordinator and Clinical Associate Professor.
Approved Pro Bono Service Recognition
Your diploma will note your pro bono activity if you have performed more than sixty hours of service while at the College of Law. To have previous pro bono service recognized or to determine if proposed work will qualify for pro bono recognition, please review and fill out the Pro Bono Service Recognition Form (PDF) and return it to the Office of Career Opportunities and Professional Development in room 280.
Sources of Pro Bono Opportunities
This agency protects and enforces the rights of individuals with mental illness, developmental disability or physical disability through three separate divisions: the Office of State Guardians, Legal Advocacy Services (LAS) and the Human Rights Authority.
The staff attorneys of LAS provide advice and representation to thousands of persons with disabilities, including minors and adults as well as residents of the community and treatment facilities. Their services include but are not limited to:
- serving as court-appointed counsel, in the trial and reviewing courts, and in hearings for involuntary mental health commitment and treatment
- responding to requests for information regarding the legal rights of persons with disabilities
- investigating alleged violations of those legal rights and providing advocacy to remedy substantiated violations
Law students have the opportunity to assist a senior LAS attorney representing respondents in civil commitment and/or treatment hearings and to assist senior attorneys in research and writing appellate briefs from an order for civil commitment or involuntary psychotropic medication.
Prior student LAS volunteers have conducted research, handled involuntary civil commitment and treatment hearings, participated in mental health law training and provided information to persons in treatment facilities who have questions about their legal rights. They have also assisted in drafting advanced directives for healthcare, property and mental health treatment.
The Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission has nine offices located around the State of Illinois including Chicago, Des Plaines, Peoria, Rockford and Maywood, and two satellite offices in Read Mental Health Center and Elgin Mental Health Center (pending).
Positions, paid and unpaid, are available for interns or SCR 711 students.
However, please note that generally state's attorney work does not qualify for pro bono certification unless it involves work exclusively in child support enforcement, victim's support, a domestic violence unit, drug diversion or veteran's courts and the like. Most County State’s Attorney Offices will offer these sorts of programs for pro bono student assistance.
Here is contact information for local offices:
Most work for these agencies qualifies as pro bono work, and our students are volunteering pro bono in many of these Illinois county office.
Here is contact information for local offices:
Annual summer openings are often available in all of Prairie State's offices. Pro bono interns will work under staff or volunteer attorneys in handling the full complement of civil problems typically seen in legal services offices. Some offices may have opportunities available during the academic year as well as the summer.
These are quite valuable internship learning experiences. However, due to the extensive training this agency provides, internships require significant time commitment -- perhaps equivalent to that required for an externship. Last summer, for example, PSLS asked students for a commitment of approximately 300 hours.
This opportunity is available to any law students, but preference is given to 2L or 3L students. For more information or to fill out the application form for a summer internship, review the Internships page or contact the internship coordinators at email@example.com.
Administer Justice is a legal aid that gives attorneys an easy way to serve those who would otherwise have no access to civil legal services. Attorneys serve with a support team once a month, usually on a Saturday morning from 9 am to noon. Each attorney meets with 3 clients in a 45-minute appointment to provide basic legal advice and referral and lays out a next-step plan for the client. Tools and resources are available so that any attorney, no matter their practice area, can provide effective counsel. Law students may sit in on client appointments and learn from experienced attorneys. Administer Justice’s legal centers are located throughout Kane, DuPage and McHenry counties.
The Public Interest Law Initiative is a statewide agency that advances equal access to justice through its programs and initiatives. PILI has an internship program for those interested in pro bono work. More information can be found through their Law Student Internship Program.
The Office of the Illinois Attorney General has information on various legal aid providers throughout Illinois as well as their contact information and what types of cases they handle. Contact the agencies directly to see if they are looking for pro bono volunteers: Legal Assistance Referrals.
Illinois Free Legal Answers Clinic and Happy Hour
November 9, 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
The DeKalb and Kendall County Bar Associations, along with PILI (Public Interest Law Initiative) and NIU College of Law, are hosting this event. Students will be paired with practicing attorneys to respond to legal questions being asked to those impacted by poverty. A networking reception will follow. This event will take place at Fatty’s. All are welcome, no 711 license is needed for this event. If interested, please RSVP to Colleen Boraca by Wednesday, November 1.
NIU Pro Bono Student Alliance
A new partnership between the NIU College of Law (COL) and the NIU Students’ Legal Assistance (SLA) Program is being launched during the Spring 2004 semester. In this partnership, students at the COL seeking pro bono hours will work at the SLA under the supervision of its director while receiving pro bono credits to be applied to the 60-hour pro bono graduation recognition. A variety of legal issues are handled by the SLA including, but not limited to, criminal expungements, debtor/creditor, housing, employment and discrimination. For more information and the application, contact Colleen Boraca. Applications are due by Monday, November 13.