Pro Bono Programs

WMU Cooley operates many programs through its Career and Professional Development Office that offer free legal assistance to people who cannot afford or who would not otherwise fund such work.

In the past, WMU Cooley faculty and students have contributed hundreds of thousands of hours of free legal service per year to pro bono projects and through externships and clinics. It is the breadth and quantity of free legal assistance offered by dedicated faculty who are not required to do such work and are not compensated in any way for doing it, and by students who undertake such work in many cases for no academic credit, through creative partnerships with agencies, shelters, courts, and bar associations, that distinguish WMU Cooley's efforts.

2015/2016 Pro Bono Initiatives:

Auburn Hills

• Bankruptcy Basics Seminar & ABC/ WMU Cooley Bankruptcy Pro Bono Program
Organization Description: The monthly Bankruptcy Basics seminar at the United States Bankruptcy Court in Detroit is presented in collaboration with the Court and the Federal Bar Association. The one-hour presentations are delivered to consumer debtors who are considering filing for bankruptcy pro se, and is followed by a question-and-answer session led by the Court’s Pro Se Law Clerk and a licensed bankruptcy attorney.

Job Description: The WMU-Cooley Law School student volunteers receive in-depth bankruptcy training once per term. The program offers valuable opportunities to network with bankruptcy attorneys and judges, learn bankruptcy law fundamentals, and hone presentation skills. The student-led presentations cover the following bankruptcy topics: Overview of the bankruptcy process; differences between Chapter 7 (liquidation) and Chapter 13 (reorganization); discharging debts and what isn’t dischargeable; what to expect at the meeting of creditors; explanation of forms; and the automatic stay - the Bankruptcy Law’s “stop sign.”

• Waterford Veterans Treatment Court (AKA Oakland County Regional Veterans Treatment Court)
Organization Description: The Waterford District Court Veterans' Treatment Court focuses on justice-involved veterans who have substance abuse and/or mental health issues. The program works closely with the Veterans Administration in Detroit and the Veterans Center in Pontiac along with area providers in numerous disciplines to include the legal, medical and other professions. The Court takes a multi-systemic approach to rehabilitation of the veteran and use of veteran mentors is instrumental to the anticipated successful completion of the program by the veteran. Veterans are supervised directly by the presiding judge, Honorable Jodi Debbrecht Switalski.

Job Description: The volunteer functions as a law clerk to an individual judge or as a staff clerk for both judges of the court. Additional duties may also include working with the probation department, specialty court program manager, or working with the clerk of the court or administrative personnel. Further responsibilities include: Conducting legal research and preparing responses for the court on pending cases; assisting the Program Manager in review of the cases; reviewing and making recommendations for further treatment and intervention with the justice-involved veteran; assisting in keeping files and reports updated for the justice-involved veterans; assisting in managing the docket and preparing the docket for the specific court dates; and producing brochures and manuals for the Veterans' Treatment Court.

• State Appellate Defender's Office (SADO)*
Organization Description: SADO is Michigan’s only state-funded public defense services provider, currently representing indigent criminal defendants pursuing an appeal. SADO obtains federal grant funding for special projects that ensure high quality representation and solutions to systemic problems, including: Wrongful Conviction Project providing appellate relief for cases involving questionable forensic evidence. SADO trains and supports criminal defense attorneys statewide through grants awarded by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, partnering with the Wayne Circuit Criminal Advocacy Program and Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.

Job Description: The DNA Project volunteer will assist the project attorney with screening and reviewing adjudicated cases and using a database to sort and filter information.
*Offers a pro bono opportunity, depending on the client and individual work assigned.

• CARE House
Organization Description: CARE House provides intervention, treatment, family support, and child advocacy for child victims of abuse.

Job Description: Volunteers are needed to act as Child Assistants. Child Assistants help child victims of abuse who come to CARE House for forensic interviews. Volunteers will stay with the individual child as they go through the interview process.

• Common Ground
Organization Description: Common Ground is a non-profit agency dedicated to helping people move from crisis to hope.  Common Ground serves more than 50,000 individuals each year and most services are free of charge. 

Job Description: Volunteers will participate in weekly legal clinics. At the clinics, volunteers will assist pro bono attorneys with the client interviewing, document preparation, and research.  Volunteers will have a direct contact with clients.

Organization Description: HAVEN is Oakland County's only comprehensive service provider for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Job Description: Volunteers will conduct criminal court advocacy, including: education and support of victims, crisis intervention and safety planning, documentation of survivor contacts, follow-up phone calls, documentation of court watch observations, and travel within Oakland County.

• Lakeshore Legal Aid*
Organization Description: The Civil Legal Response Team is a collaboration of Lakeshore Legal Aid and HAVEN, providing holistic civil legal services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Job Description: Volunteers will assist with coordinating and scheduling intake interviews, identify and communicate with community partners and resources, research legal issues and draft pleadings, and have opportunities to observe court proceedings.
*Offers a pro bono opportunity, depending on the client and individual work assigned.

• Legal Aid & Defender Association Inc. (LADA) – Various Opportunities
Organization Description: The Legal Aid and Defender Association is the largest provider of free legal services to the indigent in Michigan and one of the largest in the United States. Their mission is to provide comprehensive, aggressive, legal advocacy and representation for residents of metropolitan Detroit.

Job Description: Volunteers will perform client interviews; represent in court hearings under the supervision of an attorney; conduct legal research; prepare pleadings and correspondence; and various other duties, depending on opportunity.

• Michigan Community Resources
Organization Description: Michigan Community Resources allows lawyers to realize their volunteer potential. They provide lawyers who specialize in transactional legal services unique opportunities to represent nonprofits that serve disadvantaged communities.

Job Description: Volunteers will be involved in doing intake with nonprofit clients, facilitating attorney-client meetings, conducting follow-up on attorney-client meetings, attending community meetings, conducting research on specific legal issues, and writing short articles about legal issues relevant to their clients.

• The Arc of Oakland County, Inc.
Organization Description: The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization providing legal advocacy in the following areas: special education law, Social Security Disability and related governmental financial benefits; and estate planning, for children and adults with intellectual and related developmental disabilities.

Job Description: Volunteers will conduct legal research (probate/trusts/Social Security); write, interact with clientele via intake sessions; attend special education school meetings (i.e., IEPT's); handle file management; and conduct phone work with existing clientele/families.

• The Center for Civil Justice
Organization Description: The Center for Civil Justice advocates for people in Michigan who need help meeting their basic needs. They use legal expertise, informed by the experiences of low income people, to monitor and improve public policy and access to governmental programs and services.

Job Description: Volunteers will assist the attorneys with research on public benefits issues and assist clients on their helpline.

• The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy
Organization Description: The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy (CFA) provides legal advocacy and social work services to low-income families to prevent the unnecessary placement and prolonged stay of children in foster care.

Job Description: Every intern can expect to handle frequent client contact, varied legal research and writing assignments, and multiple court observations and appearances, all with the support and guidance of experienced attorneys.

• Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at United Way
Organization Description: VITA delivers free income tax preparation to low to moderate income residents of Washtenaw County.

Job Description: Once IRS-certified, volunteers will prepare taxes at the site of their choice.

• Wayne Co. Elder Law & Advocacy Center/Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan
Organization Description:  Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan is a non-profit agency that has provided legal and other services to the community for more than 40 years.

Job Description: Volunteers will interview and provide guidance to clients; draft pleadings; participate in all aspects of litigation, including court appearances; communicate with agencies; and conduct legal research and a variety of other client-related activities.

Grand Rapids

• Tenant Law Project
Organization Description: Volunteer attorneys and faculty from WMU-Cooley and Davenport University offer legal advice to Kent County renters at Tenant Law Project sessions held at Steepletown Neighborhood Services from 12-2 p.m. and Grand Rapids Urban League from 5-7 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month.

Job Description: Volunteers will conduct client intake interviews, observe attorneys, refer renters to community resources, and other tasks under the supervision of faculty and volunteer attorneys. Volunteers must complete a tenant law training session before volunteering with the Tenant Law Project.

• Mel Trotter Ministries
Organization Description: Volunteer attorneys offer legal services to guests of Mel Trotter and the Heartside Neighborhood on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month from 2-4 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.

Job Description: Student volunteers will act as program coordinators and attend all sessions during the term. Volunteers may conduct client intake interviews, observe attorneys, refer guests to community resources, and other tasks under the supervision of the volunteer attorneys.

• VITA-United Way/Kent County Tax Coalition
Organization Description: The Kent County Tax Coalition delivers free income tax preparation to low to moderate income residents of Kent County.

Job Description: Once IRS-certified, volunteers will prepare taxes at the site to which they are assigned.

• 20th Circuit Court Legal Self-Help Center
Organization Description: The Legal Assistance Center provides free legal information, assistance, and resources to people who for financial or other reasons choose to represent themselves.

Job Description: Volunteers will provide walk-in patrons with information on legal processes, assist patrons in filling out forms, review paperwork for completeness, and advise patrons on how and where to file. 

• Allegan County Legal Assistance Center
Organization Description: The Allegan County Legal Assistance Center provides assistance to self-represented litigants.

Job Description: Volunteers will assist self-represented litigants by providing legal information to Allegan citizens in civil actions. Tasks will include contacting litigants, data entry, and coordination with the supervisor in planning for extended services.

• Disability Advocates of Kent County
Organization Description: Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) is a non-profit organization that advocates and facilitates action by persons with disabilities and the community to achieve equal access for all.

Job Description: Volunteers will conduct research on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in regards to consumers' inquiries, compile lists of relevant cases, and prepare documents for the resource section of DAKC's website.

• Justice for Our Neighbors
Organization Description: Justice for Our Neighbors provides free, high-quality immigration legal services for low income immigrants.

Job Description: Volunteers may assist with: case intake, research, investigation and development; legal research and drafting documents; fair housing testing projects, including coordinating test assignments; outreach to new areas; database management; public relations strategies; and work on advertising and fundraising activities and/or programs.

• Kent County Legal Assistance Center (LAC)
Organization Description: The LAC provides a broad array of free legal information, assistance, and resources to people who do not qualify for Legal Aid and who cannot or choose not to retain the services of an attorney.

Job Description: Volunteers will provide patrons with information on legal processes and required forms and assist clients as they fill out the forms.

• Michigan Legal Self-Help Center of Muskegon County*
Organization Description:  The Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center of Muskegon County is a free resource for area residents who need to represent themselves in simple legal matters. It is affiliated with the statewide legal self-help website which provides free information about Michigan law.

Job Description: Interns will assist patrons in navigating the Michigan Self-Help website at computer terminals located in the law library of the Muskegon County Hall of Justice. The interns will also help patrons to understand court processes and direct them to other resources, such as shelters for victims of domestic violence or community organizations.
*Offers a pro bono opportunity, depending on the client and individual work assigned.

• Muskegon County Public Defender's Office
Organization Description: The Muskegon County Public Defender's Office provides quality legal representations for defendants without means to retain legal counsel, after being charged with criminal or civil violations.

Job Description: Interns will assist with trials, jury selection, sentencing/pleas, client counseling, response to queries, opening/closing/organizing/reviewing files, jail and home visits, investigation, negotiation, attend meetings/conferences representing the Defenders, research/writing briefs, staff supervision, strategy sessions, attorney management, etc.


• ACLU Student Representative Project
Organization Description: The Student Representation Project of Mid-Michigan protects the rights of students in mid-Michigan. Volunteer advocates represent mid-Michigan public school students in suspension and expulsion hearings.

Job Description: Volunteers serve as advocates and appeal on behalf of students at suspension and expulsion hearings.

• Appalred Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC)
Organization Description: The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is a free service provided by Appalred Legal Aid to assist low-income taxpayers who need help with tax problems and controversies such as: responding to IRS collection notices, audits or examinations, earned income tax credit problems, innocent spouse relief, self-employment issues, injured spouse claims, tax debts & installment agreements, offers in compromise, audit reconsideration, and tax court representation.

Job Description: The LITC has income and payroll tax cases docketed for trial, in collections, and audit. Students will perform research tasks related to these cases.

• Asset Independence Coalition - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Organization Description: The Asset Independence Coalition delivers free income tax preparation to low to moderate income residents of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.

Job Description: Once IRS-certified, volunteers will prepare taxes at the site to which they are assigned. 

• Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Kids, Inc. Barry & Eaton County
Organization Description: CASA for Kids is a non-profit organization that trains and supervises volunteer advocates for the family courts in Eaton and Barry Counties. To help these children, CASA recruits, screens, trains, supervises, and evaluates community volunteers to advocate on behalf of these children.

Job Description: A CASA acts as an independent advocate (appointed by the judge as an officer of the court) to investigate the case and offer an informed opinion of the child's best interests.

• Elder Law of Michigan, Inc. – Various Opportunities
Organization Description: Elder Law of Michigan, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization that promotes and protects the rights, health and economic well-being of older adults and people with disabilities by providing information, advocacy, legal advice and professional services.

Job Description:  A volunteer experience with Elder Law will allow you to learn about the legal issues seniors are faced with and how to interact with older, low-income clients.  The focus of these positions is to assist attorneys in providing legal advice and services to Michigan seniors. 

• End Violent Encounters (EVE), Inc. – Various Opportunities*
Organization Description: EVE, Inc.'s primary purpose is to provide shelter, support, advocacy, counseling, and crisis intervention, as needed, for all persons experiencing domestic violence. Their PPO Office provides technical assistance and court advocacy to victims of domestic violence and stalking who are filing for or have a personal protection order.

Job Description: Volunteers may work in a variety of areas including: crisis line, advocacy, community education, counseling, research, mentoring, volunteer recruitment, public relations, grant writing, intake, technical assistance, and client follow-up.
*Offers a pro bono opportunity, depending on the client and individual work assigned.

• Immigration Law Clinic
Organization Description: Since 1997, the Immigration Law Clinic, a program of St. Vincent Catholic Charities, has been providing low-cost immigration representation.

Job Description: Volunteers will meet individually with naturalization clients to conduct an individual assessment of skills, conduct a practice naturalization interview, and assist the clients, as needed, to prepare to successfully pass the naturalization interview and test.

• Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM)
Organization Description: Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM) is a private, non-profit agency which provides free civil legal services to people living below 200% of the federal poverty guideline and provides full representation to clients in the areas of family law, evictions, state and federal income benefits, and consumer and elder law issues.

Job Description:  Volunteers will conduct interviews on the telephone hotline and in person, draft documents and letters, conduct legal research, and appear in court when possible.

• Teen Court Lansing Juvenile Justice Diversion Program*
Organization Description: Teen Court Lansing Juvenile Justice Diversion Program of Child and Family Charities is a non-profit organization affiliated with other community agencies in the greater Lansing area.  The organizational mission is to identify non-violent, first-time youth offenders (ages 11-16) and encourage them to participate in a Peer Jury Model Court Disposition Process.

Job Description: Volunteers will monitor program involvement and maintain phone contact with respondents and families to document needs and progress, attend Teen Court Hearings and assist with hearing activities, assist respondents and monitor their progress towards completion of their dispositional orders, and develop and maintain appropriate relationships with community resources to achieve overall goals and objectives.
*Offers a pro bono opportunity, depending on the client and individual work assigned.


Tampa Bay

• St. Michael’s Legal Center Family Law Pro Bono Case
Organization Description: St. Michael's Legal Center for Women and Children, Inc. (SMLC), formed in 2009, and serves persons in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus counties. The main purpose of the corporation is to provide legal advice and representation in the areas of Family Law, including child support, visitation, custody, and dissolution of marriage.

Job Description: With training and under the supervision of an attorney, volunteers will assist with legal research regarding pro bono family law cases.

• Florida’s Children First Pro Bono Research Project
Organization Description: Florida’s Children First (FCF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the rights of at-risk children, especially those in foster care. Uniquely positioned as Florida’s premiere independent advocacy organization, our mission is to obtain meaningful and sustainable improvement in Florida’s child serving systems.

Job Description: With training and under the supervision of an attorney, volunteers will assist with drafting case summaries that pro bono attorneys will use when representing foster children.

• Veterans' Treatment Court Mentor Program
Organization Description: A court that allows honorably discharged veterans to get qualifying misdemeanor charges dismissed if they successfully complete a treatment and assessment program. Veterans must both volunteer to enter the court and be otherwise eligible to receive VA care.

Job Description:  Volunteers will act as mentors to veterans participating in the Veteran Treatment Court Program.  No legal advice will be given, but students would assist the veterans in completing the obligations of the program.

• VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Initiative
Organization Description: VITA delivers free income tax preparation to low to moderate income residents of Hillsborough County.

Job Description: Once IRS-certified, volunteers will prepare taxes at the site of their choice.

• Bay Area Legal Services, at the Family Justice Center
Organization Description: The Family Justice Center, in operation since 2006, is a "one stop shop" where victims of domestic violence can receive free services from approximately 23 community agencies. 

Job Description: With training and under the supervision of an attorney, volunteers will assist victims of domestic violence in completing Florida Supreme Court approved pro se forms to request injunctions for protection against domestic violence.

• Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program (BAVLP)/Family Forms Clinic (FFC)
Organization Description: The FFC is a free program that uses volunteer attorneys, law students and law graduates to help people who do not have an attorney complete Hillsborough County's court approved family law forms and packets.

Job Description: The volunteers assist with filling out the forms, organizing the pleadings to be filed and explaining the forms and the process to the walk-ins.

Organization Description: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group.  CAIR is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with regional offices nationwide and in Canada. 

Job Description: Interns will handle the intake line for civil rights’ complaints; work with the Civil Rights Director to draft legal correspondence, pleadings, and EEOC charges; participate in intakes, witness interviews, negotiation and mediation sessions, and possibly attend and help prepare for court proceedings; and write formal and informal legal memorandums on topics connected to pending civil rights matters.
*May be a pro bono program, depending on the client and individual work assigned.

• Gulfcoast Legal Services – Various Opportunities
Organization Description: Gulfcoast Legal Services (GLS) is a non-profit corporation providing free legal assistance to income eligible residents of the greater Tampa Bay area.

Job Description: Volunteer interns will work with individuals over 60 on a variety of legal matters. They also assist homeless, homeless veterans, domestic violence and human trafficking victims obtain the required paperwork to substantiate their identification under the new nationwide Real ID Laws.

• Public Defender of Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit  
Organization Description: The Public Defenders represent adults and children charged with criminal offenses and clients held in civil commitment under the "Baker Act" and the "Sexually Violent Predator Act."

Job Description: Volunteer interns investigate cases, research the law, and after receiving special training may represent individuals in court.

• West Florida Center for Trafficking Advocacy
Organization Description: The West Florida Center for Trafficking Advocacy (WFC) exists to provide legal and professional services and advocacy for survivors of human trafficking and to service-providers, as well as to assist in trafficking-related legislation and policy matters.

Job Description: Interns will assist the supervising attorney with accomplishing the mission of advocacy group.

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Charles Toy
Associate Dean of Career and Professional Development
(800) 577-6745

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