UMass Law students exceed 100,000 hours of community service

Since the establishment of the Commonwealth's first public law school in 2010, its students have contributed nearly $3 million of pro bono legal services and other assistance to community organizations

Students and alum outside Taunton Trial Court

The UMass School of Law, established in 2010 as the Commonwealth’s first public law school with a mission to expand access to justice, has exceeded 100,000 student community service hours. That service is valued at nearly $3 million.

“A public law school in Massachusetts has a unique obligation to pursue justice,” UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson said. “It is inspiring to learn of UMass Law students living that mission even before they graduate. Beyond the numbers and dollars, these students are having a priceless impact on the lives of people and the community, and that impact will grow as they become justice-centered lawyers.” 

“Our students come to UMass Law with a strong desire to empower the powerless through the practice of law,” UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick said. “In our very brief time as the Commonwealth’s law school, we have nurtured an environment where students and faculty embrace the pursuit of justice. In addition to positively impacting the lives of people in our community, these experiences give our students perspective and skills that prepare them to be excellent lawyers.” 

UMass Law has documented a total 100,015 hours of community service valued at $2,988,448. To calculate the dollar value of the service, the law school assigned a conservative rate of $29.88 to each hour based on the Independent Sector standard for non-profit work

Bristol County District Attorney Tom Quinn said his office “has partnered with the Law School for a number of years.  We have had a number of students volunteer their time and gain valuable experience in the criminal justice system.  I am especially pleased that we were able to establish a Prosecutor’s Program at UMass Law, allowing students to gain first-hand experience in both the classroom and the courtroom.  Some of those students have been hired by our office as Assistant District Attorneys. I look forward to maintaining our close relationship with the Law School.”

UMass Law students have also served in the Essex, Cape and Islands, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester District Attorney offices. In addition, for a number of years at the Southeastern Regional Office of the Attorney General, UMass Law students have made a valuable contribution on a range of cases and community engagement events with the AG’s Office across the region.    

“UMass Law is an incredible resource to the entire SouthCoast community, where its students provide invaluable pro bono service and alumni continue to serve low and moderate income clients who often cannot afford market-rate legal fees,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mark Montigny (New Bedford), who led Senate efforts to secure the creation of the Commonwealth’s only public law school.  “This institution has generated numerous high-caliber legal interns in my office who have excelled on Beacon Hill through researching and drafting policy as well as serving my constituents with urgent health care and public assistance matters.  Today, two former interns serve as legal counsel in my office, crafting legislation to combat human trafficking, reduce skyrocketing prescription drug prices, diminish animal abuse, and decrease distracted driving.  I look forward to a bright future as the law school continues to grow and excel.”

UMass Law students have also served in the legislative offices of Sen. Michael Rodrigues (Westport), Sen. Marc Pacheco (Taunton), Rep. Antonio Cabral (New Bedford), Rep. Patricia Haddad (Somerset), Rep. Kay Kahn (Newton), Rep. Robert Koczera (New Bedford), Rep. Chris Markey (Dartmouth), Rep. William Straus (Mattapoisett), and Rep. Ted Speliotis (Danvers).

Executive Director of South Coastal Counties Legal Services Susan Nagl said, “Students at UMass Law have made it possible for South Coastal Counties Legal Services to provide legal representation to many low income families who, without their help, would not have received assistance with critical legal matters due to a lack of resources.  The commitment of the law school and their students to public service is a tremendous asset to the community.”

Other organizations where UMass Law students have served: Committee for Public Counsel Services - Mental Health Litigation Division (Multiple communities), Catholic Social Services (Fall River), Northeast Legal Aid (Lowell), Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts (New Bedford), New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park (New Bedford), and Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (Springfield)

Students delivered service in the following categories:

Law School Clinic: 61,522 hours

This includes client work performed by students working in the school’s Community Development, Criminal Prosecution, Human Rights at Home, Immigration Litigation, and Tribal Law clinics and an array of field placements.

Pro Bono Graduation Requirement: 26,086 hours

Every student at UMass Law is required to perform at least 30 hours of pro bono legal work prior to graduation.  Many students far exceed the requirement.  The members of UMass Law’s most recent graduating class performed an average of 150 pro bono hours.

Public Interest Law Fellows: 12,407 hours

Public Interest Law Fellows receive a scholarship based on their commitment to pursuing careers in public service. These students perform a minimum of 200 hours of community service as a condition of their scholarship in addition to satisfying the pro bono requirement.

UMass Law was awarded the Massachusetts Bar Association's prestigious Public Service Award at the MBA's House of Delegates on May 18. The award is given to individuals or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the preservation of MBA values, which include promoting access to justice for low-income individuals and making a strong legal education affordable to a diverse student population. 

The American Bar Association reported in May that UMass Law had the third highest percentage of 2016 graduates finding permanent full-time government and public interest law-related jobs. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of the 2016 graduates secured permanent full-time government or public interest-related jobs.

In addition to the legal services provided by students, UMass Law has established the Justice Bridge law practice incubator in New Bedford and Boston, which hires recent graduates to deliver affordable legal services to clients of modest means in family, housing, and other civil cases. Justice Bridge has served thousands of individuals since opening three years ago.

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