Pro Bono Programs and Opportunities for Students


All Campuses

Hurricane Victims

Since 2007, over 200 Cooley students have traveled to New Orleans during their term break to partner with legal agencies involved with disaster relief legal work, shepherded by Assistant Dean Chris Church. Students have worked on probate issues involving homes in the lower Ninth Ward helping clients clear title to devastated homes, assisted with public defender cases in criminal courts, worked to clear the backlog of divorce cases from the hurricane, helped people obtain and maintain public benefits, helped people stay in their homes, and other related work. Students have learned first hand about the role of a lawyer in a community recovering from a catastrophe. One student said, "The Disaster Relief Legal Association has taken me from being the typical self-serving law student always looking for the next great résumé builder, to actually caring and not just 'doing what looks good.'" Contact Assistant Dean Chris Church at churchc@cooley.edu for additional information.

Indigent Defense Case Development Sessions

Cooley Law Professor Marjorie Russell runs case development sessions for lawyers representing indigent criminal defendants at Cooley's Lansing, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Auburn Hills campuses, and Cooley students participate in the working groups. The case development sessions employ the action methods for case preparation and trial presentation which Professor Russell has participated in developing since joining the faculty of the Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming in 1996. This pro bono service in aid to the indigent defense community is expected to continue as long as there is a demand for it among Michigan lawyers. The participants act as a sort of focus group which helps the lawyer identify and understand the story of the case, the people involved, and what will be important to jurors trying to understand what happened and why. Sometimes clients are present, in which case some of the time is spent exploring their story in action, and helping them access information important to their defense. Frequently students who have attended the sessions continue to work with the lawyer, follow the case, attend court, and form mentoring relationships. Contact Professor Marjorie Russell at russellm@cooley.edu for additional information.

Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program

Launched in 2007, Cooley's Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program has assisted thousands of deploying, deployed, and returning troops with free legal services in both Michigan and Florida. The program consists of three components: 1) Volunteer attorneys, students, and staff assist JAG officers in briefing deploying troops on their rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and with creating wills and powers-of-attorney for those who need them. 2) Returning troops of E5 rank and below who are experiencing non-military civilian legal problems are matched with participating attorneys for free representation. 3) Program volunteers educate the legal and veteran communities through publications and presentations. This program coordinates the voluntary efforts of hundreds of attorneys and Cooley students, faculty, and staff members and works closely with military leadership to ensure eligible service members are aware of the resource. Service to Soldiers has been a valuable partner to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project and Department of Defense Office of Legal Policy. After serving thousands of troops and publishing a bench book for Michigan judges on military legal issues, the program was honored with a Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Legion of Merit Award. Contact Heather Spielmaker at spielmah@cooley.edu for additional information.

Ann Arbor Campus

ABC/Cooley Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project

Cooley Law School has teamed up with Access to Bankruptcy Court (ABC) to create a bankruptcy pro bono program. ABC is a non-profit organization that provides free legal representation to indigent consumer debtors filing for bankruptcy. Through this program, Cooley law students are paired with experienced bankruptcy attorneys to represent clients in bankruptcy proceedings. A student is eligible to participate in this program if the student (1) has completed Research & Writing with a grade of C or better, and (2) has at least two terms remaining before graduation. If a participating student accepts a case assignment with a participating attorney, it is expected that the student will remain assigned to the case until its completion, or for two terms, whichever is shorter. Students must participate in two training sessions prior to being assigned an attorney supervisor and bankruptcy case. Contact Professor Lauren Rousseau at rousseal@cooley.edu or Melissa Stowe-Lloyd at stowellom@cooley.edu for additional information.

Bankruptcy Basics Seminar

Through a partnership between the United States Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Michigan, Access to Bankruptcy Court, and Cooley Law School, Cooley students conduct monthly education programs presenting "bankruptcy basics" that target debtors who are considering representing themselves in bankruptcy court. The program allows students to increase their knowledge of bankruptcy law, network with bankruptcy lawyers and judges, and hone their presentation skills. Contact Professor Lauren Rousseau at rousseal@cooley.edu or Melissa Stowe-Lloyd at stowellom@cooley.edu for additional information.

DMBA/Cooley Expungement Pro Bono Program

The Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and the Cooley are pleased to offer the Expungement Pro Bono Program. Participating students learn the process of setting aside a conviction to remove that conviction from the Michigan State Police’s public record. Students assigned cases meet with the client during an intake session and attend the court hearing on this matter, working under attorney supervision. A student is eligible to participate in this program if the student has completed Research and Writing, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure. The student must be currently enrolled in or have completed Personal and Professional Responsibility, as well. Please contact Melissa Stowe-Lloyd at stowellom@cooley.edu for additional information.

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Partnership

Through this program offered by Cooley's Career and Professional Development Office, law students under the supervision of MIUI attorneys represent individuals who have been denied unemployment benefits at their administrative hearings. Contact Career and Professional Development Coordinator Karen Poole at poolek@cooley.edu for more information.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Students work with Cooley faculty members, including Professor Gina Torielli, to provide income tax assistance to low-income citizens. Contact Professor Gina Torielli at toriellg@cooley.edu for further information.

Washtenaw County Probate Court/Pro Bono Guardianship Review Project

Students train to assist the Washtenaw County Probate Court in the annual review of active guardianships. By court appointment, students meet with and interview the ward and ward's guardian and prepare and file a report with the court on their findings. Students who participate receive three appointments per term and have 28 days from the order of appointment to complete their responsibilities in the case. Contact Melissa Stowe-Lloyd, stowellom@cooley.edu for further information.

Criminal Case Work

Cooley students help deliver pro bono services to indigent clients in felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile matters that the Washtenaw County Public Defender cannot handle because of a conflict of interest. Contact Assistant Dean Martha Moore at moorem@cooley.edu for more information.

Cooley Clinics Encourage Student Pro Bono Work

Cooley's many legal clinics allow students to do actual legal work for indigents, and receive credit for that. As it turns out, many Cooley students and clinic faculty work many hours in excess of what is required of them. We consider those extra hours—beyond what is needed to earn school credit—as pro bono work by both our students and faculty. Such pro bono assistance occurs at all of Cooley's clinics, including the:

Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic - Student lawyers assist indigent immigrants with both immigration claims, such as asylum and cancellation of removal, in Detroit at the Immigration Court and at the USCIS offices, and with civil claims, such as custody and landlord tenant issues, in Washtenaw County circuit and district courts. Contact Professor Jason Eyster, Clinic Director, at eysterj@cooley.edu for additional information.

Washtenaw County Public Defender Clinic, with classes in Lansing and Ann Arbor, and site work in Ann Arbor, where student lawyers perform all public defender functions. Contact Professor Terry Cavanaugh, Clinic Director in Lansing, at cavanaut@cooley.edu for additional information.

Auburn Hills Campus

Bankruptcy Basics Seminar

This partnership between the United States Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Michigan, the Federal Bar Association Eastern District Chapter, the Pro Se Law Clerk's Office for the Eastern District, and Cooley Law School, brings a legal education program conducted by students to litigants who are representing themselves in bankruptcy court. Contact Professor Lauren Rousseau at rousseal@cooley.edu or Ieisha Humphrey at humphrei@cooley.edu for more information.

Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association /Cooley Pro Bono Mentorship Program

Through a partnership with Cooley to provide mentoring and pro bono assistance, the DMBA locates the cases from local legal aid programs in the Detroit Metropolitan area and secures an attorney who will represent the client pro bono. Cooley students assist the pro bono attorney with the case from start to finish. Typical cases include landlord-tenant, consumer law, expungements, family law, and probate. Students must have completed their first year of law school, including Personal and Professional Responsibility as well as Research and Writing, and must be in good academic standing and willing to commit to the case from inception to completion. Students must also be available to attend a one-hour pro bono orientation at their respective campus. Attorneys must be in good standing with the State Bar of Michigan. Contact Ieisha Humphrey at humphrei@cooley.edu for additional information.

Federal Defender Office

Cooley students assist this office under the supervision of Auburn Hills campus Professor Alan Gershel by preparing Sixth Circuit appellate briefs, handling client files after indictment, calculating the sentencing guidelines, working on pre-trial motions, handling federal misdemeanor/ticket cases before a United States magistrate judge, and attending attorney/client meetings and court hearings. Contact Professor Alan Gershel at gershela@cooley.edu for additional information.

Ford Pro Bono Project

This is a partnership between Ford Motor Company Office of General Counsel and the Hispanic and Latino Law Society of Cooley's Auburn Hills campus. Ford is involved in the provision of critical immigration pro-bono services to Hispanic women. There is a large migrant population of Hispanics in Grand Rapids, many of whom are undocumented, who arrived in the country as teenagers and have been working illegally ever since. Over time, some of these women became involved in abusive relationships, which they proceeded to report to the police despite their undocumented status. As it turns out, the law allows for victims of crimes to actively participate in the prosecution of such cases and, to the extent those victims are not legal aliens, it allows them to petition for a U-Visa, which in turn allows them to stay and work. Students must be bilingual in order to participate. Please contact Professor Monica Navarro at navarrom@cooley.edu for further information.

Help with Real Estate Issues

Cooley Professor Florise Neville-Ewell is the faculty supervisor for the "Ten Commandments of Real Estate Law Society" student organization at Cooley Law School (10CORE™ Law Society), an organization committed to one goal, educating the public about real estate issues. The 10CORE™ Law Society operates through three committees—scholarship, educational outreach, and computer donations—and provides people or organizations with basic information and fundamental tools and legal protocols regarding real estate issues so they can, for example, avoid scams or foreclosures or be made aware of new laws or mandatory steps to successfully complete housing developments (for non-profit developers). In conjunction with its educational function, the 10CORE™ Law Society also helps people understand the importance of their transactions and ultimate need for professional advice. As a result of the unique synergy resulting from law students and lawyers working toward this pro bono goal, this organization is a template and is in the process of adding additional chapters in law schools across the United States. Contact Professor Florise Neville-Ewell at nevillef@cooley.edu for additional information.

Immigration Law Outreach

Pro bono attorneys from the community teach and prepare qualified individuals for the naturalization process (from lawful permanent resident to United States citizens). Students interested in a basic understanding of issues that are faced by immigrants can volunteer their time during outreach events each term that will be staffed by students. Students can also help immigrants complete documentation at the Center. Contact Ieisha Humphrey at humphrei@cooley.edu for more information.

Land Conservancies

Professor Gerald Fisher has been providing pro bono services for land conservancies and related groups in Southeast Michigan for about 20 years. He has provided counsel on negotiating, drafting, and enforcing conservation easements, and on presenting and approving millages to purchase land for conservation; and he has served on Senate ad hoc committees, assisted in drafting the Wetlands Act and model ordinance provisions, and presented seminars on local wetland regulation and on conservation easements. Professor Frank Aiello oversees efforts to revise the model form of Conservation Easement used by land conservancies in Michigan, and has provided hundreds of pro bono hours in land acquisition transactions, including some currently in development. Each semester, one or two Cooley students assist Professor Aiello with each transaction. Examples of transactions include helping land conservancies acquire land and conservation easements against donated green space and other natural and undeveloped areas. Professor Aiello provided more than thirty hours of free legal service to the conservancy in connection with the transaction. Contact Professor at Frank Aiello at aiellof@cooley.edu and Professor Gerald Fisher at fisherg@cooley.edu for additional information.

Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA) Expungement Clinic

Professor Kevin Scott and Cooley students participate in this clinic to help eligible Southeast Michigan residents expunge offenses, which carry less than a life imprisonment sentence, from their criminal records. Together they were able to assist 39 people in taking an important step on a road to a better life. LADA estimates that there are over 3,700 residents who qualify for the expungement program. The Legal Aid and Defender Expungement Program is administered by the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. Contact Professor Kevin Scott at scottk@cooley.edu for additional information.

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Partnership

Through this program offered by Cooley's Career and Professional Development Office and the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, law students under the supervision of MIUI attorneys represent individuals who have been denied unemployment benefits at their administrative hearings. Contact Professor Ashley Lowe at lowea@cooley.edu, or Career and Professional Development Coordinator Alana Glass at glassa@cooley.edu for more information.

State Appellate Defender Office/Detroit Crime Lab

A 2009 investigation and audit of the Detroit Crime Lab uncovered systemic problems in the way ballistics tests were conducted, and it became necessary to determine how many convictions may have been impacted by tainted forensic examinations. The State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) represents indigent defendants on appeal and handled many of the files that required review. Given the potential number of affected cases, an informal agreement was reached between Cooley Law School and SADO whereby Cooley students help SADO review all case files to determine whether tainted evidence may have been used to secure a conviction. This file review includes reading trial transcripts, police reports, witness statements, expert witness reports, and other relevant documents. Cooley Professor Alan Gershel provided Cooley students with an overview of the applicable law and SADO attorneys provided additional training. The work is done in SADO's Detroit office and is supervised by Professor Gershel and a SADO attorney. Cooley students review guilty plea cases and letters written by defendants, and review the cases that were "flagged" initially as a form of quality control. They also drafted briefs in the meritorious cases and will be reviewing paper files. Contact Professor Alan Gershel at gershela@cooley.edu for additional information.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Students work with Cooley faculty members, including Professor Dan Matthews, to provide income tax assistance to low-income citizens. Contact Professor Dan Matthews at matthewd@cooley.edu for additional information.

Cooley Clinics

Cooley's many legal clinics allow students to do actual legal work for indigents, and receive credit for that. As it turns out, many Cooley students and clinic faculty work many hours in excess of what is required of them. We consider those extra hours—beyond what is needed to earn school credit—as pro bono work by both our students and faculty. Such pro bono assistance occurs at all of Cooley’s clinics, including the:

Estate Planning Clinic in Auburn Hills, a collaboration between Lakeshore Legal Aid and Thomas M. Cooley Law School to provide estate planning services to Oakland County seniors age 60 and older. Contact Professor Dustin Foster, Clinic Director, at fosterd@cooley.edu for additional information.

Family Law Assistance Project, a partnership between Lakeshore Legal Aid and Cooley Law School that provides free legal representation to low income people with family law and personal protection order matters in Oakland County. Find additional information, as well as clinic requirements and application process, on the portal under "Clinics and Externships." Contact Professor Ashley E. Lowe, Clinic Director, at lowea@cooley.edu for additional information.

Grand Rapids Campus

Dégagé Ministries

This soup kitchen serving a homeless population continues to provide counseling and interviewing opportunities for students. The legal assistance and counseling program is offered under the supervision of faculty to patrons of Dégagé the first, third, and fourth week of each month. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Ferguson Apartments

Ferguson Apartments is a nonprofit Dwelling Place site serving formerly homeless and disabled. Coordinated by Center for Ethics Assistant Director Karen Rowlader, legal services are offered to Ferguson residents two days each month by Professor Sherry Batzer. Two students are encouraged to accompany and assist her each time she goes. Professor Batzer also enlists the assistance of additional students offsite, as the case load warrants. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Community Education Project

This pro bono project was launched in early 2011. Students, under the supervision of Professor David Tarrien, study case law, prepare resource materials and offer presentations for area parent groups and educational organizations. The goal is to help educate parents and guardians of school age children with documented disabilities on their legal rights at IEP meetings, and to give counsel as to how parents can advocate successfully for their child. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Justice For Our Neighbors

This program provides free, high-quality immigration legal services for low income immigrants. Students participate in monthly clinics to help refugee families file their required green card applications. Students are trained at each clinic to assist volunteering attorneys in the preparation of all legal documentation for green card application and or refugee status changes. Students interact with clients under the supervision of attorneys typically assisting 15-20 clients every month. Volunteers are collected through the CPD office. Contact Kaleena Kowalkowski at kowalkok@cooley.edu for additional information.

Kent County Legal Assistance Center

Cooley's partnership with the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Kent County to operate the Legal Assistance Center has helped tens of thousands of unrepresented persons obtain legal forms and information to navigate the courts. Over one thousand patrons visit the Kent County Courthouse-based Center every month, where they are served by a Cooley staff attorney and students, other volunteers, and a full-time paralegal staff. Spanish-speaking staff is available. Most of the Center's assistance is in family law matters, but the Center also assists with landlord-tenant matters, expunging criminal convictions, consumer disputes, and a host of other legal matters commonly experienced by low-income residents who cannot afford an attorney. Contact Kaleena Kowalkowski at kowalkok@cooley.edu for additional information.

Mel Trotter Ministries

This Christian mission is West Michigan's largest homeless mission and is located next door to Cooley's Grand Rapids campus. It houses a residential substance abuse program, women-and-children program, soup kitchen, occupational training programs, and other services. Cooley's Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism, through Assistant Director Karen Rowlader and the Cooley Volunteer Corps, offers free legal services to the mission, coordinating the schedules for the several Cooley students who volunteer to support the work of the Christian Lawyers Association and Cooley faculty members who donate their time to offer free legal service. Two students are invited to accompany the attorneys during the four time slots each month. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Nonprofit Incorporation Project

With faculty support, students at Cooley's Grand Rapids campus offer start-up legal services to individuals and organizations seeking charitable nonprofit status through the Nonprofit Incorporation Project. The Project has served almost one hundred organizations that offer a variety of charitable works such as taking disabled children hunting and fishing, showing inner-city children the path to become pilots, rehabilitating properties in decaying urban locations to anchor redevelopment, providing transitional services to Somali refugees, and providing education to the children of Niger. For the organizations interested in incorporating and obtaining 501(c)(3) status, Cooley students lead the meetings, complete the paperwork, and handle correspondence with the clients. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Pro Bono Consumer Bankruptcy Program

During October 2010, national Pro Bono Month, the Grand Rapids campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in conjunction with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, the Grand Rapids Bar Association, and several area attorneys, launched the Pro Bono Consumer Bankruptcy Program. The program is designed to assist older adults and the disabled who fall below 150% of the poverty level. Screenings are done at Legal Aid and qualified clients are matched with an area bankruptcy attorney and a Cooley student. Trained students play a key role in gathering information, completing paperwork to file the petition, and participating at the creditor’s meeting. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Stand Down

Faculty and Grand Rapids area attorneys, accompanied by Cooley students, offer pro bono legal services at Stand Down, an event open to West Michigan veterans. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Teen Court

Through an agreement with the Kent County Prosecutor's Office, families of youthful offenders can opt to avoid the traditional criminal justice system by agreeing to participate in Teen Court. Cooley partnered with the Dispute Resolution Center, which received a $15,000 grant from the state bar to take over and expand the programming. Cooley contributes space and student support. Grand Rapids students have developed a Street Law curriculum, and train additional Cooley students to act as Respondents' and victims' advocates, hearing observers, and jury monitors during jury deliberations. Cooley students also have opportunities to serve as academic and life mentors, and to help the Respondents complete their required orders for diversion from prosecution. East Kentwood High School, Potter's House, and Creston High School offer the peer jurors for Grand Rapids Teen Court, a diversion program for first time misdemeanor offenders between the ages of 11 and 16. Contact Assistant Dean Tracey Bame at bramet@cooley.edu for additional information.

Tenant Law Project

The Grand Rapids campus, in collaboration with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, the Legal Assistance Center of Kent County, and the Kent County Renters' Alliance, launched the Tenant Law Project to offer free legal information to renters in Kent County. Under the supervision of a professor or Grand Rapids area attorney, students meet with renters on the first and third Monday of each month at the Steepletown Neighborhood Center from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m., and the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Grand Rapids Urban League office from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Grand Rapids students complete certification in January each year to participate in the Kent County Tax Coalition Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. They prepare federal, state, and city income tax returns for low-income citizens. Volunteers assist at several different sites in the greater Grand Rapids area. Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce serves the self-employed. Grand Rapids faculty are asked to assist at the Chamber on an "as needed" basis. Bilingual students are usually sought for the Chamber opportunities.

Contact Karen Rowlader at rowladek@cooley.edu for additional information.

Cooley Clinics

Cooley's many legal clinics allow students to do actual legal work for indigents, and receive credit for that. As it turns out, many Cooley students and clinic faculty work many hours in excess of what is required of them. We consider those extra hours—beyond what is needed to earn school credit—as pro bono work by both our students and faculty. Such pro bono assistance occurs at all of Cooley's clinics, including:

The Grand Rapids area Legal Assistance Center refers unrepresented persons who have more complex matters requiring the services of a lawyer to the Access to Justice Clinic, where a Cooley faculty member director, staff attorney, and law students ensure that the clients receive competent representation in family-law, landlord-tenant, and other consumer-law matters in a general civil practice. Contact Professor Mike Dunn, Clinic Director, at dunnm@cooley.edu for additional information.

In a parallel access-to-justice program, Kent County refers legal matters involving systemic governmental issues to the Public Sector Law Clinic, a one-of-a-kind program in which a Cooley faculty member director, staff attorney, and law students explore ways to improve access to courts and other government services. This clinic at Cooley's Grand Rapids campus helps ensure that more individuals have greater opportunity to improve their lives through the orderly administration of law and government. Contact Professor Sherry Batzer, Clinic Director, at batzers@cooley.edu for additional information.

Lansing Campus

Advent House Ministries

Over the years Cooley has established a very active relationship with Lansing's Advent House, a weekend day shelter for the homeless that also provides Food Stamp assistance, employment counseling and assistance, transitional housing, a literacy program, and social security disability and SSI application assistance. Students supervised by lawyers, including Cooley Assistant Dean Cynthia Ward, visit to provide general legal advice and referrals, and help with letter writing and forms preparation for the indigent in Lansing. For several years the Cooley community has also supported the Advent House Thanksgiving event. Contact Assistant Dean Cynthia Ward at wardc@cooley.edu for additional information.

Cristo Rey Community Center

Cooley faculty have long been providing legal assistance to Lansing residents seeking help through the Cristo Rey Community Center. Cooley Law School students assist Professor Karen Truszkowski, and under her supervision, have a chance to do client counseling and legal work. Since this program started in 2006, Cooley students and faculty have offered thousands of hours of pro bono service. Contact Professor Karen Truszkowski at truszkok@cooley.edu for further information.

Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project (HAPP)

Assistant Dean of Students and Professor Cynthia Ward supervises this project where Cooley law students provide legal advocacy services to individuals in the Lansing area who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. Legal advocacy services include providing basic legal advice, assisting with letter writing, and making referrals to appropriate community and social services resources. HAPP's sites include the Open Door Ministry of Downtown Lansing and Advent House Ministries. In addition to the benefits to the individuals served, law students also benefit greatly from this volunteer opportunity as they are able to apply the knowledge, skills, and ethics they learn in the classroom to real life situations and serve those in the community who are traditionally under-served. Contact Assistant Dean Ward at wardc@cooley.edu for additional information or visit the Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project page on TWEN.

Lansing Community Connect

Lansing Community Connect events occur annually to assist the homeless and veterans. These events create approximately 20 student opportunities each year. Contact Assistant Dean Ward at wardc@cooley.edu for additional information.

Lansing Teen Court

One way to expose law students to real-life law is to develop a relationship with the local prosecutor's office that allows the Law School to host the adjudication of criminal cases involving teenagers. The Ingham County Prosecutor's Office has such an agreement with Cooley Law School. That office screens and refers to the Lansing Teen Court, juvenile offender cases involving youths ages 11-16. Local teenagers receive orientation and training and then act as jurors, while local judges and Cooley faculty preside as judges in the proceedings. The program provides teens with a diversionary program for relatively minor legal offenses, and allows other teens to not just see, but also decide, sentencing. The proceedings take place in Cooley's high-tech, state-of-the-art courtrooms. Cooley students serve as Respondents' and victims' advocates, hearing observers, and as jury monitors during jury deliberations. They also assist the Respondents in completing their required orders for the Teen Court diversion from prosecution. Volunteering as an advocate means holding the Respondent accountable and guiding the first time juvenile offenders through the steps in the juvenile diversion process, which takes approximately 90 days. Many of them also serve as academic mentors for the students and establish relationships with the teenagers that continue beyond Teen Court. Professor Evelyn Calogero, at calogere@cooley.edu, works with Lansing Teen Court Director Mike Botke, who can be reached at (517) 371-2823 or botkem@cooley.edu or teencourtlansing@cooley.edu.

Social Security Assistance Program

Volunteer attorney and law student teams are trained on handling social security applications and appeals for homeless individuals and those in dire need in the Lansing area.  Services are provided free-of-charge for these clients.  For additional information, please contact Heather Spielmaker at spielmah@cooley.edu.

Stand Down 

Stand Down events occur annually to assist the homeless and veterans. These events create approximately 20 student opportunities each year. Contact Heather Spielmaker, Director for Ethics, Service and Professionalism at spielmah@cooley.edu for additional information.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Launched in 2010 under the direction of Professor Dan Sheaffer, this program offers Cooley students tax filing experience while helping low-income families file for much-needed refunds. Various student organizations help supervise and support the program, which offers approximately 150 student hours of pro bono assistance. Contact Professor Dan Sheaffer at sheaffed@cooley.edu for additional information.

Cooley Clinics

Cooley's many legal clinics allow students to do actual legal work for indigents, and receive academic credit for that. As it turns out, many Cooley students and clinic faculty end up working many hours in excess of what is required of them. We consider those extra hours—beyond what is needed to earn school credit—as pro bono work by both our students and faculty. Such pro bono assistance occurs at all of Cooley's clinics, including the:

Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic: Students enrolled in the Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic represent area seniors with a wide range of legal issues including family law, estate planning, consumer debt, contracts, real property disputes, guardianships, probate and others. Students act as lawyers in all aspects of representation under careful supervision by attorney-faculty members. Students also go into the community and speak to groups about the Clinic's services and about specific areas of law relevant to seniors. Students must enroll in this program for credit (either two 3-credit terms for a total of 6 credits or one 5 or 6 credit term) and are required to bill 30 hours of fieldwork for each credit enrolled. Most students bill over the required hours. Contact Professor Kimberly O'Leary, Clinic Director, at sixtyplus@cooley.edu for more information.

Sixty Plus Estate Planning Clinic students also represent seniors under careful supervision by attorney-faculty supervision regarding their estate planning, probate, preparation of deeds, Medicaid counseling, and conduct guardianship reviews for local courts. Many of them are students who commute or work full-time and enroll for a minimum of three credits for one term in the context of a busy work or travel schedule. Contact Professor Gary Bauer, Director, at sixtyplus@cooley.edu for further information.

Cooley Innocence Project Clinic: Interns review files of the incarcerated to determine whether DNA evidence may prove them factually innocent, and occasionally visit inmates at the prisons with their supervising attorneys. Innocence Project interns are required to bill 90 hours per term for their client casework, but most interns bill over the required 90 hours. Contact Co-Directors Marla Mitchell-Cichon, at mitchelm@cooley.edu or Donna McKneelen at mckneeld@cooley.edu for additional information.

The Washtenaw County Public Defender Clinic: with classes in Lansing and Ann Arbor, and site work in Ann Arbor, student lawyers perform all public defender functions. Contact Professor Terry Cavanaugh, Clinic Director, at cavanaut@cooley.edu for additional information.

Tampa Bay Campus

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Launched in 2013 as a partnership with the United Way Suncoast’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), Tampa Bay students obtain certification to prepare income tax returns for low-income citizens at sites located in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.  The program is supported by the American Bar Association's Law Student Division Chapter at Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus.  Contact Amy Bandow at bandowa@cooley.edu for further information.

 

All Campuses

  • Hurricane Victims
  • Indigent Defense Case Development Sessions
  • Service to Soldiers: Legal Assistance Referral Program

Ann Arbor Campus

  • Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association/Cooley Pro Bono Mentorship Program
  • Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Partnership
  • Safe House
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
  • Washtenaw County Bar Assoc. Road Show
  • Washtenaw County Probate Court/Pro Bono Guardianship Review Project
  • Criminal Case Work
  • Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic
  • Washtenaw County Public Defender Clinic

Auburn Hills Campus

  • Bankruptcy Basics Seminar
  • Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association/Cooley Pro Bono Mentorship Program
  • Federal Defender Office
  • Ford Pro Bono Project
  • Help with Real Estate Issues
  • Immigration Law Outreach
  • Land Conservancies
  • Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA) Expungement Clinic
  • Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Partnership
  • State Appellate Defender Office/Detroit Crime Lab
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Grand Rapids Campus

  • Dégagé Ministries
  • Ferguson Apartments
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) Community Education Project
  • Justice For Our Neighbors
  • Kent County Legal Assistance Center
  • Mel Trotter Ministries
  • Nonprofit Incorporation Project
  • Pro Bono Consumer Bankruptcy Program
  • Stand Down
  • Teen Court
  • Tenant Law Project
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Lansing Campus

  • Advent House Ministries
  • Child Welfare Training Institute
  • Cristo Rey Community Center
  • Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project (HAPP)
  • Lansing Teen Court
  • Project Homeless Connect and Stand Down 
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Tampa Bay Campus

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)