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UB Law launches new pro bono programs, events

Do you do pro bono?

This fall, the University of Baltimore School of Law is going to make it easier to say yes — at least for UB Law students — by offering the Pro Bono Challenge.

It’s one of several new initiatives being launched this fall to expand pro bono for both law students and Maryland lawyers.

First, for UB Law students.

“The Pro Bono Challenge engages and encourages students and the law school community to do pro bono,” said UB Law assistant dean Jill Green, who is coordinating the new pro bono efforts. “And not just for the intrinsic good of helping people. It also allows students to connect to the community, test their skills and learn new areas of the law.”

The Pro Bono Challenge will provide students with a roster of opportunities. By signing up to help low-income people in need of civil legal help, students can earn a resume-boosting Pro Bono Challenge certificate at several levels: platinum (70 or more hours), gold (60 to 69 hours), silver (40 to 58 hours), and bronze (20 to 39 hours).

The program will also go a long way in establishing a pro bono hub at UB Law.

“We’ve always worked closely with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland,” Green said. “In establishing the Pro Bono Challenge, we worked together to come up with ways to make pro bono more accessible and convenient for students.

“Given all the demands on students between classes, journals, moot court, and externships, it was difficult for students to find pro bono on their own,” she noted. “By facilitating the process we expect our students’ pro bono hours to increase exponentially.”

By partnering with the PBRC and leading public interest programs — including the Bar Association of Baltimore City Legal Services to the Elderly, CASA de Maryland, the Community Law Center, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, and Maryland Legal Aid, to name a few — the program will bring cases to the students.

And that’s not all: To make pro bono opportunities even more accessible, UB Law will partner with the Young Lawyers Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, the University of Maryland Frances King Carey School of Law, and the PBRC host a pro bono fair in the fall

“We’ll bring pro bono opportunities to students,” Green said. “Legal services providers will be on campus for a multifaceted event — the Pro Bono Connection on Sept. 20.”

It’s open to all attorneys in Maryland, Green said.

“As the statewide coordinator for volunteer lawyers, we strive to engage the private bar for the most vulnerable among us,” said PBRC deputy director Jennifer Larrabee. “The Pro Bono Connection will allow students and lawyers to receive training in areas of critical need, as well as learn about the myriad volunteer opportunities available through the network of legal services providers. ”

Training for lawyers as well as law students will be offered in consumer protection and criminal expungement. “All the providers will be there, with cases that lawyers and students can take,” said UB Law’s Green.

At the fair, students who register to volunteer will be paired with a mentor, while first-time lawyers can get paired up with an experienced lawyer or a student to lighten the load.

“It’s so that taking a pro bono case isn’t overwhelming,” Green explained. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Also, there will be a table with experienced pro bono attorneys to offer advice — “more-seasoned attorneys will serve as models,” Green said. “The fair concludes with an appreciation reception. We hope to make this an annual event.”

Apprenticeship, development

But what about recent UB Law grads who are waiting for their bar exam results, or are without jobs due to the dismal job market?

The UB Law Apprentice Program is coming to the rescue in September.

“We have students who graduated from UB and other law schools without full-time legal work, especially during the period after they take the bar exam and before they’re barred,” Green said. “To help them maintain their legal skills and knowledge, and to continue making professional connections, we’ll help place them two days a week as volunteers at public interest law programs.

“It will allow them to give back, be involved, use their skills, and serve the community,” she continued. “They’ll come here bi-weekly to hear speakers and get coaching to keep them on track.”

Another new program to prepare UB Law students for the real world will premier this fall: the Legal Professional Development Institute.

“It’s another co-curricular piece that will offer students a more formalized approach to their professional development and award a certificate to students who complete it,” Green said.

“We keep hearing from employers about the importance of professionalism, soft skills and business skills,” she continued. “Through the institute, speakers and sessions will address the business of law, professional identity and career satisfaction, leadership skills, networking, stress management, and professional etiquette. It’s designed to support and bolster professionalism and marketing.

“We’ve created a list of speakers from large and small firms, in-house counsels, and our new dean, Ronald Weich, who will speak about professionalism from his perspective,” Green added. “He’ll tell his story so students can see him as an example. It’s for all UB Law students and runs for all three years of law school.”

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Joe Surkiewicz is the director of communications at Maryland Legal Aid. His e-mail is [email protected]