Boston University School of Law

April 2013

BU Law students spend spring break doing pro bono work in 11 cities

Sixty-three Boston University School of Law students participated in the School's spring break pro bono service trips to 11 cities across the United States (including Boston, our local community) to work on a variety of legal issues—from drafting wills for Native Americans in Oklahoma City to assisting residents of Detroit facing foreclosure.

Administered through the Career Development and Public Service Office’s Pro Bono Program, each trip included two to ten students plus a supervising BU Law professor, staff member or alumnus.

"Our goal is to show students how lawyers can get involved and what poverty and legal need look like in different geographic and topical areas," says Maura Kelly, assistant dean for career development and public service. "We try to cover a wide variety of legal issues that disproportionately impact individuals with limited financial means.”

The intensive week gave students the opportunity to translate theoretical lessons from the classroom into real lawyering work, which left a significant impression on the participants. The below testimonials speak to the impact of the experience on both a professional and a personal level.

bu law student pro bono spring breakBiloxi, MS
- Mississippi Center for Justice

“Putting together memoranda and presentations, which detailed the historical underfunding of public school districts in Mississippi, showed me the importance of a good understanding of the law. I now see civil procedure as more than a collection of abstract rules; I know it is the framework for ensuring a state legislature complies with its stated objectives. A right of action is not just an individual’s ability to sue large companies; it may be an avenue to compel a state to pay for projects it created and promised to fund. The fantastic staff attorneys at the Mississippi Center for Justice are dedicated public servants who take seriously their role in helping the community around them. After interacting with such a body of concerned lawyers, I now more fully appreciate the various ways attorneys can shape their environment.” — Caleb French ('15)



diane luDetroit, MI - Michigan Legal Services

“I studied subprime mortgages back in college, working on theory and policy, but to see the consequences first-hand in Detroit was unbelievable. Almost every day I met with clients one-on-one, assessing their financial situation, listening to their stories, examining their land contracts and property taxes, and analyzing and recommending the best available relief options for them. Some homes were already in foreclosure, many would be in foreclosure in two weeks, and the remaining were left up to auction in the fall. Depending on a client’s situation, I prepared payment extension applications or met with attorneys to discuss possible government negotiations or litigation. My fellow classmates and I were not just doing legal work—we were saving homes. The direct impact of our work on the clients’ lives was almost nerve-racking at first, but at the end of the day, and at the end of week, it was our work that helped the community. And that felt good. The spring break pro bono trip showed me the very human side of law, even in a desolate place like Detroit.” — Diane Lu (’15)

Read blog post about the Detroit pro bono trip by Elizabeth McIntyre ('14).


bu law student pro bono spring breakHarlingen, TX - ProBAR

“The immigration service trip to Harlingen, Texas was an amazing experience. Five BU Law students and I had the opportunity to work with staff attorneys at ProBAR, an organization that represents indigent clients in immigration proceedings. It was a unique opportunity to step out of law school for a week and apply some of the skills we learned in the classroom. My first-year Legislation course was extremely helpful when I was asked to research whether our client held automatic U.S. citizenship by virtue of having been adopted by a citizen in the early 1990s. The assignment provided me with an excellent introduction to the statutory scheme that governs our immigration law system.” — John Travis (’15)


bu law student pro bono spring breakKansas City, MO - Death Penalty Litigation Clinic

“Working in Kansas City with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic over spring break was a deeply moving and invaluable experience. Collaborating closely with passionate advocates, we had the opportunity to interview witnesses, hunt down potentially mitigating and exculpatory evidence, and even meet with a client facing execution. We learned vital appellate techniques and methods for overcoming various obstacles that individuals challenging severe punishment face every day. The proximity of our work to some of the most desperate situations any individual could confront was profound and enlightening, and it reaffirmed my desire to utilize the law to protect some of society’s most vulnerable members. I formed strong relationships with my colleagues at BU Law and made great friends in Kansas City. The experience was so great that I intend to participate in another service trip next spring.” — Mike Tartaglia (’15)


Los Angeles, CA - Bet Tzedek Legal Services

"I spent my pro bono trip at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles with one other BU Law student. Together, we learned from a fantastic recent BU Law alum, Nick Levenhagen, how to draft California Advance Health Care Directives, powers of attorney for finance and statutory wills for elderly clients. We were then able to meet with multiple clients, most of whom were Holocaust survivors, throughout the week to help them fill out these forms. Meeting the amazing and personable clients was absolutely my favorite part of the trip! We also drafted a guide for attorneys on how to fill out these forms in the future. At the end of the week, I was able to assist Nick in giving a presentation to a Jewish Community Center in Lancaster, CA, about end-of-life documents. Overall, we had an amazing week meeting new people, learning valuable skills and soaking up the sunshine!" —Andrea Titone ('14)


bu law student pro bono spring breakNew Orleans, LA - Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

“One of the most inspiring parts of my trip was watching my supervising attorney work passionately and tirelessly on her cases. It can be difficult to find the right manner to conduct an interview while doing intake for clients dealing with unemployment and public benefits. The attorney I worked with deftly blended concern and focus on the issues at hand in order to determine what the next steps should be. As I met with clients on my own, it was helpful to use what she taught me, especially as I interviewed clients with difficult situations, such as a group of five women who were all dealing with a discriminatory employer. I appreciate how much SLLS trusted us and gave us all the opportunity to learn, and help, as much as we could during our week there.” — Hannah Fine (’15)


Queens, NY - Make the Road

“Spending my spring break working at Make the Road in Queens gave me a new outlook on legal research—it is very different in the real world when your goal is not just to get a good grade. Instead of choosing the side of an issue I could best argue, there was a real client on the other end. Whether or not he could stay in this country depended on the precedents I found. There was not a simple answer, and I found myself looking into every possible aspect of the asylum claim I could. I became more diligent knowing the effect that this case would have on his future. It was an eye-opening experience, and I believe that I am a better researcher for it.” — Stephanie Cipolla (’15)


Newark, NJ
- New Jersey Institute for Social Justice

“Along with six other BU Law students, I spent my week researching solutions to help New Jerseyans with criminal convictions obtain a level playing field in employment hiring practices. Collaborating with the policy directors and legal consultants at the Institute, our BU Law team analyzed public policy questions, researched legal matters, conducted state-by-state statutory surveys, attended legislative drafting conferences and participated in social justice strategy meetings. The NJISJ staff welcomed us with open arms and allowed us to see the inner workings of their 'think/do' tank up close and personal.” — J. Corbin Carter (’15)


bu law student pro bono spring breakOklahoma City, OK - Oklahoma Indian Legal Services

“The whole experience was illuminating, as I learned about a new part of the country, new areas of the legal profession, and my own motivation for attending law school. As a 1L, this was my first opportunity to do real legal work. The attorneys at OILS spent a significant amount of time teaching us about Indian law before providing us with an assignment—they truly wanted us to understand the implications of the pro bono work we were doing. The last two days we worked at a wills clinic, where I got to sit down with OILS clients and help to draft their wills. At the clinic the attorneys were extremely supportive and helpful yet gave me significant autonomy to learn. This experience was invaluable, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Indian law.” — Jennifer Gardner ('15)


Portland, ME - Pine Tree Legal Services

“This trip was a wonderful experience for me because I was able to make a difference in the lives of those from my home state. It made me appreciate the unique legal challenges that are facing the citizens of Maine, such as domestic violence, foreclosures and racial discrimination in schools. The work that Pine Tree does is truly inspiring, and it is clear that their services are desperately needed. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment and pride to think that we were able to help in any small way. Personally, the work I did is going to be invaluable when I return to Maine to work for the summer, as I now feel more in touch with the problems that are facing our state.” — Meghan Kelly ('15)

Media coverage in the Bangor Daily News