DePaul University College of Law is rooted in a strong tradition of service and social justice and its students are actively involved in helping the poor and underserved. The Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative ("PBCSI") is an integral part of the College of Law and the DePaul law student experience. PBCSI facilitates and encourages student volunteerism and works directly with students to help them find a volunteer site that fits their schedules and interests. Students have a wide range of options when it comes to volunteering. They can volunteer with one of PBCSI's six partners or any other non-profit organization whose mission is to assist disadvantaged individuals or groups. This includes both legal and non-legal sites. Additionally, PBCSI offers six Donate-A-Day service events a year. Students who complete and report at least 50 hours of service during their time at DePaul are eligible for a service award.
The 1L Service Day takes place directly after orientation and gives incoming students a chance to “hit the ground running” when it comes to service at DePaul. It is also a great way for students to socialize and relax before the start of the semester. Students work in groups at a range of community sites throughout the city, which have included schools, parks, homeless shelters and senior centers. Law faculty and staff and second- and third-year students also participate as site leaders.
PBCSI proudly sponsors at least six annual Donate-A-Day projects. Typically held on Saturdays, these projects provide meaningful legal and non-legal service opportunities for students whose schedules do not permit an extended volunteer commitment or who want to supplement their ongoing volunteer work. Donate-A-Day events incorporate time for education about the needs of the community and for reflection on the meaning and impact of service work.
As its name suggests, PBCSI’s newest pro bono project aims to meet some of the most pressing legal needs of our neighbors in the South Loop. The Neighborhood Legal Assistance Project (NLAP) operates twice a month at a free breakfast for the homeless hosted by the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. With the assistance of a supervising attorney, trained law student volunteers work directly with homeless clients to assist them with sealing and expunging their criminal records and obtaining state identification cards. NLAP volunteers also provide legal information on a range of other issues, including public benefits, housing and family law, and wage theft.
DePaul College of Law offers service immersion trips to Washington D.C. and New Orleans during the last week of winter break. Service immersion trips provide law students unique and inexpensive opportunities to work, live and build relationships with other law students, while learning about social justice issues in two fascinating American cities. Volunteering with community agencies that serve low-income people, rebuilding homes and meeting with local leaders are just a few of the activities that are offered during a service immersion trip. University Ministry in the Loop organizes these trips.
The Pro Bono Spring Break Staycation gives DePaul law students the chance to help low-income clients while gaining valuable hands-on legal experience at a variety of local public service organizations during spring break. Projects have included shadowing attorneys in court, preparing advanced directives for seniors, conducting legal research, and assisting on family law cases. This is a great opportunity for students to make contacts in Chicago’s legal aid community.
DePaul’s volunteer program with Legal Prep Charter Academy allows volunteers to expose high school students to the legal profession and legal skills. Law student, alumni, staff and faculty volunteers meet with students on a monthly basis to teach law-related lessons and prepare students for their mock trial and negotiation competitions.