Law students meet with representatives from a variety of local public service programs at Tulane Law’s Pro Bono Fair each fall. Photo by Ali Mansfield.
With the fall semester winding down, Weinmann Hall seems quieter as students hunker down for finals. But that only temporarily masks how active the past few months have been as students juggle classes, extracurricular activities and service to the community.
Tulane Law values its leadership role in public service. Tulane was the first U.S. law school to require pro bono work as part of the curriculum, and students collectively have provided more than 200,000 service hours during the program’s 25+ years. Other schools have added pro bono to their graduation requirements, but even Jeopardy! recognizes Tulane’s distinction as the leader: it was a clue on the show in October.
While Tulane Law students have dozens of different pro bono opportunities with community partners, Assistant Dean for Public Interest Programs Julie Jackson points to these six as her most interesting:
- Entertainment Law Legal Assistance (ELLA)
New Orleans is an exciting hub for art, music and drama. But how can upcoming artists afford to protect their interests in the often-cutthroat entertainment industry?
ELLA, a collaboration of Tulane Law School, the Tipitina’s Foundation and the Arts Council of New Orleans, provides legal advice for performers and artists. Students help clients protect their interests and recognize their rights under contract and intellectual property law.
“ELLA’s perspective is unique,” Jackson said. “Students quickly see that lawyers can be proactive and can help clients avoid or minimize future legal problems.”
- Gulf Restoration Network (GRN)
One of south Louisiana’s less-celebrated claims to fame: its rapidly eroding coastline. But students can get involved in ongoing efforts to save the coast through legal channels and raising public awareness.
Public Interest Program Coordinator Eileen Ryan and Assistant Dean Julie Jackson help place students in a host of unique service opportunities locally and nationally each year. Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano.
The GRN is dedicated to protecting and restoring the Gulf Coast, and it offers law students invaluable experience in environmental law. The GRN tackles water quality, sustainable fisheries, smart energy, hurricane rebuilding and endangered species protection. Law students at the GRN may review permit applications, help develop corporate accountability resolutions and perform legal research.
- Eden House
Eden House, a residential program for victims of commercial and sexual exploitation, provides exposure to the legal issues surrounding human rights violations. Founded and run by Tulane Law graduate and former U.S. diplomat Kara Van de Carr (L ’98), Eden House connects its clients to various rehabilitative services, including legal aid. And cities across the nation are now looking to it as a model for supporting human trafficking survivors, Jackson said.
“The program takes a holistic approach to helping clients, who may have legal concerns but also have social, educational and healthcare needs,” Jackson said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for law students to be exposed to the interrelationship of law with other fields.”
- New Orleans City Hall
Fascinated by politics and government? Through Tulane’s partnership with the City of New Orleans and its Volunteers in Government of Responsibility program, law students work alongside undergraduates at City Hall, assisting with various aspects of municipal government. (B.Y.O. political aspirations.)
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Tulane’s newest pro bono offering is with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, providing a chance to see the operation of an office within a vast federal agency.
Although the department offers assignments covering an array of legal projects, much of the local DHS office’s work pertains to immigration issues, a key area overseen by the department and one where students can get timely experience in immigration law.
Caroline Wick and Angela Pokorn (both L ’15) attend a hearing for a POPS client at Angola Penitentiary.
- Tulane Project for Older Prisoners (POPS)
This program originated at Tulane Law School, focusing on an often-overlooked segment of Louisiana’s overcrowded prisons: inmates over age 50 who have already served the bulk of long sentences. POPS represents selected, older inmates in parole hearings. This sector
of the prison population poses a significantly lower risk of recidivism, or committing more crimes. The program benefits the public by saving funds spent on costly, continued incarceration and freeing limited prison space
that may be better utilized for younger, higher-risk inmates.
Under the supervision of Tulane Law alumna Suzy Mixakis (L ’03), POPS successfully represented four clients this fall.
“Students learn to interview the clients and also see the correctional system from the inside out, which is an invaluable experience for all citizens, as well as for future lawyers,” Jackson said.