University of Cincinnati College of Law, The Help Center                                         

Roger Williams University School of Law, The Pro Bono Collaborative

This week’s post focuses on two different law schools’ efforts to address the access to justice issues in their communities.  As an article in the ABA Journal written in September 2017, explained, “In the U.S, the majority of our citizens cannot get legal help, whether that is for criminal charges, civil matters, or their small-business issues.” Increasingly, law schools are stepping up, and I could justify featuring probably two dozen law schools this week. The two projects I have chosen to focus on are the Pro Bono Collaborative at Roger Williams University School of Law and The Help Center at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

The Pro Bono Collaborative is a partnership among the law school, local law firms, and community organizations, and it has been operating for more than five years. The students deliver legal assistance to local nonprofit organizations serving low-income people on a variety of legal issues, including expungements, special education claims, guardianships, housing, employment, and health. It has been cited as a model program by Stanford professor Deborah L. Rhode, the legal Services Corporation, and the National Center for Access to Justice.

The Help Center is of more recent vintage. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice originally suggested the idea of the Help Center. The product of a collaboration among the local bar association, the local legal aid society, Cincinnati-based law firms, the Clerk of the Courts, and Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law, The Help Center, launched last September, provides legal advice to individuals dealing with small claims matters, collections, landlord-tenant issues.

The Report of the National Center for Access to Justice notes about a dozen other law student pro bono initiatives worth emulating.