BU Law Students Use Spring Break to Provide Pro Bono Legal Assistance

JD students volunteer with 10 different organizations to give pro bono legal aid to communities in need.

BU Law students on a Spring Break Pro Bono Service Trip to Jena, Louisiana with the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative.
Left to right: Edward Meyers (’20), Mario Paredes (’18), Betsy Byra (’20), and Arianna Lewis (’20) on their Spring Break Pro Bono Service Trip to Jena, Louisiana with the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative.

Boston University School of Law students recently travelled throughout the country to bring legal services to those in need. Through the Career Development & Public Service Office, 49 JD students participated in the annual Spring Break Pro Bono Service Trip program.

The participants traveled to Michigan, Louisiana, New York, Maine, and Puerto Rico. A third of the students remained in Boston to aid local entities. Professors and law school staff also joined various trips to contribute service alongside the students.

Chloe Sugino (’20) had special ties to her pro bono trip to Puerto Rico. The team traveled to her hometown of San Juan to work with Ayuda Legal Huracán Maria providing legal services and counseling. They worked on client interviewing and intake focused on FEMA appeals and other housing issues that have arisen since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017.

“Throughout our week, we drove all around the island attending trainings and helping interview potential clients in legal ‘brigades’ that the organization held in small, hard to reach communities. It was both interesting and saddening that the farther away we were from San Juan, the more apparent the damage from the hurricane was—I am happy that I was able to contribute, even in the limited way that I could, to the welfare of my home and my family.”

Mario Paredes (’18) went to Jena, Louisiana to support Southern Poverty Law Center attorneys with the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. The BU Law students went to the LaSalle Detention Center to perform client intakes, draft supporting legal documents, and even provide representation to a client during their bond redetermination hearing.

This is Paredes’ second pro-bono trip. His first was to Harlingen, TX to work with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project.

“I went to Texas during my 1L year and that was one of the best experiences in law school for me. I decided again this year, as a 3L on my way to graduating, to go back and do the same thing again with a different organization. For me, this trip was important both for personal and professional reasons. Personally, I have family members who are affected by the anti-immigrant policies that have been implemented,” he says. “This trip also allowed me to get a better sense of what’s happening with the immigration system throughout the country.”

Students partnered with attorneys at these organizations:

  • Ayuda Legal Huracán Maria (Puerto Rico): This grassroots program provides Puerto Ricans with legal assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
  • Brooklyn Legal Services (New York, NY): Brooklyn Legal Services addresses the legal needs of low-income people and works to defeat the causes and effects of poverty within the Brooklyn community.
  • Catholic Charities Legal Services(New York, NY): Students aided attorneys in Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services department with providing legal services for individuals in New York City, including representation in Immigration Court and administrative agencies.
  • Center for Law and Education (Boston, MA): The Center for Law and Education (CLE) strives to make the right of all students to quality education a reality and to help enable communities to address their own education problems effectively, with an emphasis on assistance to low-income students.
  • Court Service Center (Boston, MA): The Court Service Centers provide comprehensive legal assistance and access to resources for self-represented litigants (litigants without attorneys), including assistance with the completion of court forms, research on the public access computers, and explaining court processes and procedures regarding a variety of legal matters including, family law, guardianship, and housing.
  • Michigan Legal Services (Detroit, MI): Students volunteering with Michigan Legal Services helped prevent tax foreclosures and evictions for low-income Detroit residents.
  • Pine Tree Legal Assistance (Portland, ME): Pine Tree Legal Assistance is a statewide civil legal aid program that serves low-income people in Maine. Pine Tree Legal Assistance is dedicated to ensuring that state and federal laws affecting poor people are enforced and to addressing the systemic barriers to justice that low-income Mainers face. Students conducted research on two topics: education laws and the intersection with low literacy, and property tax foreclosures in Maine.
  • Project Citizenship (Boston, MA): Students helped attorneys at Project Citizenship provide free, high-quality services to legal permanent residents to help them become US citizens.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center, Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (Jena, LA):  The Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative provides pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants.
  • Volunteer Lawyers Project (Boston, MA): Students assisted attorneys providing legal representation to indigent persons in civil matters, particularly in the areas of housing, bankruptcy, and family law.

Interested in helping students engage with pro bono projects? Please contact the Career Development & Public Service Office, or for more information about BU Law’s Pro Bono Program, email probono@bu.edu.

Reported by Josee Matela (CAS/COM’20)

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