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Service

Providing legal assistance to those in need is one reason many gravitate toward a career in law. At OU Law, our students are passionate about social justice. Here, you will gain real-world experience while making a difference in the local and global community, from the halls of the Cleveland County Courthouse to several countries around the world through our International Human Rights Clinic.

Pro Bono and Public Service

Making the Pledge

Every year at orientation, OU Law asks every student in the incoming 1L class to sign a voluntary Pro Bono and Public Service Pledge. Students can choose to pledge either 50 hours or 100 hours of pro bono and public service over the course of their law school career. In the current 1L class (Class of 2020), a record 100% of the students signed the Pro Bono and Public Service Pledge and nearly two-thirds of those students pledged 100 hours.

Pictured are Class of 2017 students recognized for their service at the annual Pro Bono Awards Reception.

OU Law has an incredible tradition of students performing pro bono and public service work during law school:

  • In the 2016-2017 academic year, OU Law students completed a record-breaking 23,333 hours of pro bono and public service.
  • Each year, OU Law recognizes at an annual reception over 100 students who have completed 25 or more hours of pro bono and public service during the academic year.
OU Law student and VITA volunteer, Hannah Holmes, assisting a client

 

Why Pro Bono and Public Service?

As a licensed attorney, it is the professional responsibility of every lawyer to actively participate in pro bono work. The phrase “equal justice under the law” embodies a professional obligation that justice must be available to everyone regardless of economic status. Through the Pledge, we hope to instill this importance in our students. If they commit to pro bono as law students, our hope is that they will commit to pro bono as practicing attorneys.

In addition, there are certain practical aspects to practicing law that students will never learn sitting in a classroom – including learning how to talk to a client plainly and succinctly about the law, learning how to manage expectations, learning how to manage time – all of these skills come from requiring a student to use his or her growing legal knowledge in the real-world, in real-time.

What qualifies as pro bono or public service work?

For purposes of the Pledge, “pro bono and public service” is defined as all unpaid, law-related work (including but not limited to legal research and writing, interviewing, counseling, oral or written advocacy, or representation of individuals) supervised by a licensed attorney or other qualified supervisor which serves marginalized groups, non-profit organizations, or governmental entities.

Students may not receive any financial compensation for pro bono and public service work. In addition, in the case of a paid internship with a firm, any pro bono work done during such internship cannot be counted as pro bono hours.

Any pro bono and public service work performed to fulfill requirements of a clinic or externship, or to obtain other academic credit, will not be counted towards recognized pro bono and public service hours. However, hours performed in a clinic or externship placement in excess of the hours required to receive credit may be counted as qualifying pro bono and public service work.

How do I report my pro bono and public service hours?

All pro bono and public service hours are self-reported via Symplicity. Students are provided instructions on how to report their pro bono and public service hours. Students are responsible for entering all pro bono and public service hours into Symplicity. Supervisors do not report hours to OU Law.

How does OU Law recognize pro bono work and public service?

Pro Bono Awards Reception - Every spring, OU Law recognizes all students who have completed more than 25 hours of pro bono and public service during the most recent academic year (May 1-April 30). In addition, OU Law recognizes each 1L, 2L, and 3L who has completed the most hours of pro bono and public service in their respective classes for that most recent academic year. Last, OU Law also recognizes the student in the graduating class who has completed the most hours of pro bono and public service over the course of his or her law school career.

Graduation Cords – Graduating students who have completed at least 50 hours of pro bono and public service during their law school career receive one crimson cord, and graduating students who have completed at least 100 hours of pro bono and public service during their law school career receive two cream cords.

OU Law provides students community-based pro bono opportunities, from assisting those seeking protection to citizens who require assistance filing personal tax returns.

From your first experience defending a client to walking across the stage at graduation wearing a special cord reflecting your pro bono commitment, service will perhaps be one of your fondest, most rewarding memories at OU Law.

In addition to other student-initiated opportunities, the below list provides a look at the options OU Law students have for pro bono and public service work.

Student Opportunities for Pro Bono and Public Service Work

Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City (Immigration Services)

Assist attorneys on immigration cases at the Catholic Charities’ office in OKC.

Cleveland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Function as a court advocate for abused and neglected children who are wards of the juvenile court. Students meet with the children and families and provide recommendations to the court. Training sessions occur in the fall and spring semesters.

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Assist attorneys on a wide variety of cases, including family law, landlord-tenant law, veterans’ rights, etc.

Legal Aid Live Help

Work online for a real-time chat service that helps site visitors find legal information and free legal services. Training sessions occur in the fall and spring semesters, as well as early summer.

Make-A-Will Project

In late April of every year, students attend a one-day event to assist low-income individuals and families prepare will and trust documents.

Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

During the Oklahoma legislative session (February-May), attend committee meetings at the state capitol and report on the legislation pertaining to children.

Trinity Legal Clinic

Work with attorney-volunteers at free legal clinics which are held the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th week of every month at various OKC metro locations.

Victim Advocacy Program

Assist victims in completing protective orders with the opportunity to become a court advocate for victims. Training sessions occur in the fall semester.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

Assist low-income and elderly taxpayers in the preparation and filing of their federal and state income tax returns. Training sessions occur in the spring semester.

In addition, if a student works unpaid with a law-related government or public interest organization during the summer, all hours completed during such internship count toward the Pro Bono and Public Service Pledge. In the past, students have worked unpaid for legal aid organizations, public defender’s offices, federal and state agencies doing law-related work, and international public interest and human rights organizations doing law-related work. Provided the students have not received academic credit for their work, they are permitted to count the hours worked at such organizations toward their Pledge.

OU Law Clinics

Providing legal assistance to those who need it most.

Service is an integral part of the complete OU Law academic experience. One of the most in-depth, hands-on ways our students learn is through our live client and advocacy clinics.

In our clinics, you can gain practical experience with civil and criminal cases while assisting local citizens who could not otherwise afford counsel. In our advocacy clinics, you’ll help address and find solutions for real-world issues, such as child abuse and the fundamental human rights of indigenous populations around the world.

Students who participate in our legal clinics develop more than just lawyering skills; they come away with a deeper compassion for and understanding of the human condition.

Explore our clinical experiences.

Live Client Clinics

OU Law’s live client clinics are functioning law offices that not only give students the chance to work with actual clients, but also with real case-management systems and other standard technology and processes of today’s law office. We have three live client clinics:

  • Civil Clinic – students represent low-income clients in variety of cases, including family law.
  • Criminal Defense Clinic – serves indigent defendants charged with municipal, misdemeanor, and felony cases in McCain and Cleveland counties.
  • Section 1983 Clinic – focuses on federal civil (constitutional) rights cases brought before the U.S. District Court for the Western District.

Advocacy Clinics

OU Law is home to two interdisciplinary advocacy clinics: Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect and International Human Rights Clinic. Both programs allow OU Law students to collaborate with graduate and professional students from across University of Oklahoma, such as medical and nursing students. The International Human Rights Clinic also provides students an opportunity for international immersion.

Our students are here to serve.

23,333 hours of pro bono service in 2016-17

100% of students voluntarily commit to 50 or 100 pro bono hours

500 hours of tax preparation assistance in a typical year through VITA

Updated 09/20/2017 by OU Law: lawcommunications@ou.edu

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