AUWCL Celebrates Pro Bono Month with Student Trainings

November 5, 2018

Volunteer Kathleen Merlo, left, with Emily J.C. Maloney, staff attorney at Catholic Charities Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington.
Volunteer Kathleen Merlo, left, with Emily J.C. Maloney, staff attorney at Catholic Charities Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington.

In honor of the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Celebration in October, American University Washington College of Law’s Office of Public Interest (OPI) dedicated the month of October to highlighting the many ways AUWCL students are able to get involved with pro bono work while they are still in law school.

Through a number of on-campus, pro bono trainings for legal providers through the D.C. Courts, homeless clinics, veterans’ organizations, and more, OPI trained students to participate with a variety of pro bono opportunities with legal service providers in the DMV area.

Such opportunities included the D.C. Landlord Tenant Resource Center; the D.C. Family Court Help Center; Veterans Consortium; Catholic Charities; Homeless Persons Representation Project; International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW); and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

Staff attorney at Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Ann Marie Staudenmaier, left, with volunteer coordinator Kelsey Vaughn.
Staff attorney at Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Ann Marie Staudenmaier, left, with volunteer coordinator Kelsey Vaughn.

D.C. legal service providers acknowledge the key roll law students play in closing the justice gap.

“We are so grateful to our law student volunteers for their time, energy and compassion,” said Kelsey Vaughan, volunteer coordinator at Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. “D.C. families experiencing housing instability and homelessness often face barriers to accessing shelter; during the coldest months of the year, students provide much-needed support by speaking with community members about their legal rights, sharing info on social services and advocacy opportunities, and connecting them to attorney assistance.”

“Simply put, pro bono law students play a crucial role in [our] fight to use the law to end homelessness in Maryland,” said Michael Stone, Ken Morrison director of the Montgomery/Prince George's County Office Homeless Persons Representation Project. “When I operate a legal clinic at homeless shelter or soup kitchen, pro bono students are the first people with whom the clients interact. The students multiply the number of clients HPRP can help, and without them, HPRP would only be able to serve of fraction of individuals.”

The opportunities comprise part of AUWCL’s Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program. In addition to garnering public service experience, students that take the pledge enhance their resumes while networking and gaining valuable legal skills.