LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law ranks highly among law schools contributing the most in legal services to their local communities, according to a national publication.
The Winter 2017 issue of PreLaw Magazine lists KU Law on its Community Service Leaders honor roll for “schools with the greatest community impact.” During the 2015-2016 academic year, KU Law students completed 18,725 pro bono service hours – an average of 52 hours per student – through law school clinics, field placements and other service opportunities.
Students represented elderly clients who needed assistance with benefits, grandparent visitation or advance directives through the Elder Law Field Placement. They reviewed claims of actual innocence and constitutional violations from people incarcerated in state and federal prison in Kansas through the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies. They assisted medical patients whose health issues might have legal solutions through the Medical-Legal Partnership. They prepared tax returns for low-income adults through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and more.
“At KU Law, we have long encouraged students to make a commitment to pro bono service as part of their professional lives,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school. “Lawyers — and law students — have specialized skills, and with those skills comes a responsibility to serve. Performing pro bono service in law school is an excellent way to give back to the community while gaining hands-on legal experience that enriches our students’ legal education and better prepares them for practice.”
Beginning with the Class of 2017, KU Law will formally recognize these efforts through its new Pro Bono Program. Students who complete 50 hours of pro bono service during their law school career will be honored at graduation, and students who complete 15 hours or more of pro bono service during a single academic year will be recognized on the annual Pro Bono Honor Roll.
Third-year law student Karly Weigel is among those working toward Pro Bono Distinction. As a volunteer ombudsman with the Kansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office, she works as an advocate at a Lawrence nursing home facility, helping residents navigate a range of care and treatment issues.
“I use many of the mediation and listening techniques from my law school course on alternative dispute resolution,” Weigel said. “Building relationships with the residents has allowed me to use my classroom knowledge in a real-world setting while giving back to the Lawrence community. KU Law’s new Pro Bono Program is a great way for students to be recognized for their service outside of the classroom.”
Pro bono service is uncompensated, supervised, law-related work that benefits the public. KU Law’s 2015-2016 pro bono service hours by program:
- Criminal Prosecution Field Placement: 1,440
- Elder Law Field Placement: 1,040
- Field Placement Program: 7,400
- Kansas Supreme Court Research Practicum: 1,020
- Legal Aid Clinic: 3,262
- Medical-Legal Partnership: 1,200
- Project for Innocence: 2,783
- Tribal Judicial Support Clinic: 480
- VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance): 100.