law students posing at a downtown office.

Professor Bernadette Gargano (far right) with law students Zarianna Peterson, Aaron Lin, and Maria Valeri, Pro Bono Recruitment Coordinator at Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Access to Justice Hybrid Clinic

More than twenty-five million Americans are denied legal assistance each year due to lack of resources. This crisis impacts individuals and families that are part of our most vulnerable populations.

In this service-learning clinic, students will interview clients at the courthouse and assist practicing attorneys in advising clients through the ECBA Volunteer Lawyer’s Project (VLP) or the Volunteer Legal Services of Monroe County (VLSP). Working with Professor Bernadette Gargano, Bridget O’Connell, Esq., and VLP or VLSP, students will also perform legal research, develop legal resources for unrepresented litigants, and provide litigants with assistance in navigating legal documents and the court system.

Students will staff either the Help Desk in Erie County Family Court or the Pro Se Assistance Program in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (Buffalo and Rochester placements are available). As part of their fieldwork, students will participate in skills training and write a white paper (5-6 pages) on a social justice/access to justice topic of the student’s choosing.

Applicants must:

  1. be available to work in court for at least two days per week; and
  2. provide a copy of their semester class and work schedules with their application or as soon as they are available.

The Family Court Help Desk is staffed from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. (Students may choose a M/W, W/F, M/F, or T/R schedule.)

The Federal Court Pro Se Assistance Program is staffed from 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays in Buffalo, and on Wednesdays in Rochester.

Some combined court staffing are available.

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This course satisfies four hours of the experiential learning requirement and provides the 50-hours of pro bono service required for admission to the NYS Bar.