UofM School of Law unveils new pro bono pledge

ANN ARBOR, MI--Michigan Law's dedication to public service gets a boost this year -- just in time for the school's 150th birthday -- with a new voluntary Pro Bono Pledge for students.

The Pledge asks students to dedicate at least 50 hours to pro bono services while they are students at the school.

The school's Office of Public Service, which coordinates student pro bono efforts, is expanding its menu of opportunities to accommodate the new pledge, so students will be able to contribute to a wide variety of projects.

Some students will help create databases tracking wrongful convictions, environmental crime prosecutions, untested rape kits, or instances of human trafficking. Others will monitor the upcoming trial of former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic. And some will try to help change a policy that keeps struggling toddlers in Mississippi from getting the help they need to succeed.

Among the Law School's impressive partners in the effort are Human Rights Watch, an international NGO based in New York; the Mississippi Center for Justice, a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing economic and racial equity; the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Innocence Project, from New York and Chicago; the Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs; and Michigan Law's own Environmental Law & Policy Program.

''Being part of a public university, our role has always included serving the public in a wide range of ways,'' said Assistant Dean of Public Service MaryAnn Sarosi, who is spearheading the project. ''The Pro Bono Pledge is a natural outgrowth of that ethos of service, and it strikes me as the perfect way to celebrate our school's sesquicentennial.''

Beyond the students' contributions to clearly defined legal needs, the Pro Bono Pledge also will serve to foster the collegial atmosphere Michigan Law is known for. In many cases, students and faculty will work closely together to advance their projects. And the pledge will ensure Michigan students get even more ongoing exposure, as a supplement to their classroom studies, to the real-world work of lawyering.

Law School Dean Evan Caminker said the Pledge can help open students' eyes to the range of pro bono opportunities available to them after law school.

''Our students and graduates consistently impress me with their dedication to pro bono work, and the Pro Bono Pledge is bound to make that dedication even stronger,'' Caminker said. ''That's testimony to how deeply public service has been woven into the DNA of this school over the past 150 years.''

Published: Thu, Sep 2, 2010

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