Law-Related Service

Today, we continue our coverage of the third year, with a look at the Law-Related service requirement.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the Law-Related Service Program:

As we mentioned at the conclusion of yesterday’s post, all students are required to complete at least forty hours of uncompensated legal service to the public and/or service to the legal profession during their third year (ideally, students will do some combination of both). Students may receive a maximum of two course credits for Law-Related Service in their third year. A student wishing to receive two course credits for Law-Related service must complete, at a minimum, eighty hours of uncompensated service. Work done during the summer may not be counted towards a student’s service requirement, however, students may complete their requirement throughout the academic year. Students who complete more than one hundred hours of uncompensated service are awarded a certificate and their extraordinary service is noted at commencement.

There are several reasons for this requirement. First and foremost is the W&L Law community’s commitment to professionalism.  To us, professionalism calls upon us not only to approach the practice of law with honor, care, and diligence but also to serve our communities and our profession.  This duty to serve derives not only from the longstanding values of our institution (integrity, character, honesty) but also from the expectations of the greater legal community.  In Rule 6.1 of its Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the American Bar Association has called upon all lawyers to engage in direct pro bono representation of indigent clients.  There is also a general expectation within the profession that lawyers will be involved in the life of their legal community through participation in local bar association activities and committees. We believe it is important for students to begin cultivating these habits while they are in law school.

We are often asked by prospective students, “What satisfies the law-related service component of the third year?” The short answer is, “A lot of things.” For examples of some of the things our students have done to satisfy this requirement, please feel free to review our profiles of several students’ service projects. However, here is a longer list of some of the activities that count towards the service requirement:

Serving on the Editorial Board for a JournalClick here to see a listing of our journals

Moot Court Executive Board
Click here to read more about our Moot Court program

Research Assistant for a Professor – Click here to see a complete list of research positions (after the jump, the listing is about halfway down the page).

Kirgis Fellows – Kirgis Fellows are second- and third-year law students who serve as formal mentors to first-year students. They provide information about law school life, University services, extracurricular options, and study skills. Click here to learn more about the program.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance – Each Spring, the School of Law sponsors a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.  The VITA program provides free current year income tax preparation assistance for low-to-moderate income taxpayers in the Rockbridge county area.

Mock Trial Coaches – Assistant coaching positions are available for students interested in working with Professor Belmont and the undergraduate mock trial team. Assistant coaches work with the students as they develop case theories, prepare direct- and cross- examinations, formulate opening statements and closing arguments, and develop their objection colloquy.

Citizenship and Immigration Program Translators – Students may assist The Citizenship and Immigration Program as translators.  Students must be fluent in Spanish and willing to coordinate schedules with client interviews.

Southwest Virginia Innocence Project – The Southwest Virginia Innocence Project provides post-conviction legal assistance to criminal defendants seeking to prove their innocence. This organization allows students to participate in ongoing cases involving possible innocence, from reviewing cases to filing motions for DNA testing within the Virginia court system.

Project Horizon Advocates – Project Horizon is dedicated to reducing domestic, dating, and sexual violence in the Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County area through crisis intervention services and prevention programs. Students volunteering with Project Horizon can assist clients through a number of the organization’s direct services and outreach programs, including a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, crisis intervention, counseling, applicable referrals, and court advocacy.

PEER Internship ProgramPublic Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national, nonprofit service organization dedicated to assisting federal, state and local resource professionals who fight to uphold environmental laws and ethics within their organizations. As an intern, students help support PEER’s legal program by assisting PEER’s General Counsel, Executive Director and staff attorneys in all aspects of litigation, primarily through legal research and writing. Interns also assist PEER with investigating and documenting potential environmental laws and ethics violations.

Documenting the Right to Counsel – Court Observation Project – The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) and the American Constitution Society (ACS) have partnered together to develop a pilot project to place highly skilled and trained law student volunteers in courtrooms in select jurisdictions across the country to observe and document how indigent defense services are provided in state and local trial courts. There are two primary goals of this endeavor: (1) to gather data on the delivery of right to counsel services in locations about which this valuable information has not been collected; and, (2) to educate law students about the Constitutional requirement that states provide a meaningful right to counsel for those accused of crime who cannot otherwise afford it and our nation’s ongoing, systemic failure to fulfill that requirement.

These are just a few examples of the advertised activities in which our students may participate. Click here to see a complete listing of the advertised activities. There is also some flexibility for students to propose their own project, however, students interested in this option must receive approval from our Assistant Dean for Clinical Education and Public Service, Mary Natkin.

For additional information about the Law-Related Service requirement, please be sure to check out this interview with Mary Natkin:

On Monday, we will turn our attention to the practicum component of our third year curriculum. Over the next week, we will feature posts from both students and faculty reflecting on these hands-on, problems-based courses.

Click here to see all our blog coverage on the third year

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