Albany Law School honored 155 law students who volunteered more than 1,500 hours of law-related service to low-income communities in Albany and nationwide at the 2010 Pro Bono Distinction Reception, held at the law school at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 22.
Current pro bono programs include the Rural Legal Services Project; Freeing Political Prisoners Project, with D.C.-based partner Freedom Now; Family Court Helpdesk; Pro Se Divorce Clinic; Prisoners Legal Services; and Senior Law Day. In a brand new project, 12 law students from the Albany Law's OUTlaw student group, which supports gay, lesbian and bisexual students and faculty, are partnering with the ACLU of Mississippi on a wide range of research projects.
The law school's pro bono programs experienced a surge of growth over the past academic year, in large part due to a general boost in public interest fostered by Susan Feathers, the new Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. During the spring semester, more than half of the school's first-year students volunteered in some capacity.
"It's for the students who have a passion for public interest," said Dean Feathers, "that we're creating a vehicle, a structure for them to pursue their passion. But it's also for any student, who simply likes to help others, and now we teach them to use their new powerful tool—legal knowledge—to help."
Additionally, the Pro Bono Society, a student-run group, continues to coordinate a range of projects with community partners, including the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and the Legal Project.