Pro Bono Opportunities for Law Students

Please note: Law students cannot provide pro bono services to individuals directly.

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 availabile to law students, contact Greg C. Anderson, Assistant Dean and Director of Career Opportunities and Professional Development at ganderson@niu.edu or 815-753-9604.

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. See the Pro Bono Information Sheet (PDF) for details.

To have previous pro bono service recognized or to determine if proposed work will qualify for pro bono recognition, please 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, 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 three satellite offices in Tinley Park Mental Health center, Read Mental Health Center and Elgin Mental Health Center.

Legal Advocacy Services would prefer 3Ls and 2Ls but would not rule out any competent, dedicated and hard working 1L. If you need any additional information or have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Veronique Baker, director of Legal Advocacy Services, at 312-793-5914. For additional information, contact Greg Anderson at ganderson@niu.edu.

As part of the program, law students are paired with attorneys (including NIU alumni) from the area to help them with their pro bono work among the residents of the shelter. The attorneys lessen their workload with the assistance of volunteer pro bono students, those in need are given services and NIU students get practical experience.

There are four lawyers currently serving as supervisors and mentors who will rotate evening on-site service twice a month (at first) at the Hesed House Homeless Shelter in Aurora (average nightly population of about 425 persons). These volunteer attorneys will supervise four or five law students (preferably with 711 licenses) in intake, interviewing, counseling, litigation research and representation (or referral where appropriate).

Your experience will involve a variety of substantive legal areas of concern to your target population, which will be the shelter constituencies as well as those under-represented and qualified persons in the surrounding community. Clients have questions and concerns typical of those found in most legal services programs, such as immigration, domestic relations, consumer and landlord-tenant problems and the like.

This opportunity will be available this summer and during the academic year. To apply for this pro bono internship please contact Bruce Bachmeier, director of volunteers, at volunteer@hesedhouse.org or 630-897-2156 ext. 538.

The Superintendent of the Illinois Youth Center of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Chicago, wishes to ensure that youth in custody fully understand the records expungement process before they leave the facility. They are looking for students who would be interested in meeting with detainees once a month or once every two weeks to explain this process to the detainees prior to exit.

The center is located at 136 N. Western Ave. in Chicago at the intersection of Western and Lake. Volunteers are required to undergo background checks.

Contact Olukayode Idowu, Illinois Youth Center, 136 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60612, 312-633-5219 X4090 (facility).

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.

Most work for these agencies qualifies as pro bono work and our students are volunteering pro bono in many of these Illinois county offices, e.g., DeKalb, Kane, Winnebago, DuPage, Cook.

Annual summer openings are often available in the St. Charles, Rockford, Ottawa and Peoria offices. Waukegan, McHenry and Wheaton may have also have openings. Pro bono interns will work under staff or volunteer attorneys in handling the full complement of civil problems typically seen in legal services offices. Opportunities are available during the academic year as well as the summer.

These are quite valuable internship learning experiences. However, the training this agency provides requires 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 only available to 2L or 3L students. For more information or to fill out the application form for a summer internship, see the "Law Student Internships" section of https://www.pslegal.org/psls-career-opp.asp or contact the internship coordinators at intern@pslegal.org.

Administer Justice is a Legal Aid non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance, financial counseling and conflict resolution services to low-income individuals and families. They offer assistance in family law matters, landlord/tenant situations and contract disputes as well as a Low Income Tax Clinic.

Angela Siener Williams, an NIU alum, is the Director Of Legal Services and the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic in the Elgin office: (847) 844-1100 or (877) 778-6006 (toll free)

GoEco provides global volunteering opportunities for university or law students and faculty. You can choose from a variety of placements focusing on animal and environmental conservation as well as humanitarian aid, using your knowledge and skills to provide a personal contribution. Join the South Africa Tiger and Lion Park for a hands on wildlife experience, explore Cambodia while contributing to Teaching and Community Development or discover Israel with the Sustainable Agriculture Program. Volunteering with any program includes accommodations, full board, full pre-departure and in-country assistance, training and support.

Contact information: Phone - 646-240-4545 Email - goeco@goeco.org

If you would like to search for opportunities on your own, these websites discuss numerous opportunities in Illinois:

Illinois Legal Aid Online - This site includes a statewide database of volunteer opportunities that can be filtered by county, opportunity type, practice area and skills acquired.

Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) - This site is a complete listing of all participating agencies in Illinois that have been awarded grants to participate in PILI's Law Student Internship Program. Apply through PILI’s online application system.