Cooley, DMBA to collaborate on pro bono mentorship program

Cooley Law School and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association (DMBA) announce the creation of a new program to expand pro bono services in Detroit and Wayne County.  The Cooley Law School-DMBA Pro Bono Mentorship Program, launched in recognition of Pro Bono Month, will allow students from Cooley’s Ann Arbor and Auburn Hills campuses to partner with a mentoring attorney in providing pro bono legal services to clients.

Beginning January 2011, legal services recipients will be referred to the program through a number of providers, including Legal Aid and Defender Association, Michigan Legal Services, the United Community Housing Coalition, Neighborhood Legal Services of Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Elder Law of Michigan. Participating attorneys will be assigned students on an individual basis and provide guidance and direction while fulfilling their own pro bono obligation and commitment.

As a law school dedicated to pro bono service, Cooley’s partnership with the DMBA on the Pro Bono Mentorship Program gives law students the opportunity to work with a licensed attorney on a pro bono case from inception to completion.

 Steven Cernak, legal counsel for General Motors and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee for the DMBA Foundation is very excited about the possibilities for this program.  He says, “This combines all of the most important aspects of the Bar Association’s service agenda. Students will have the opportunity to gain valuable exposure to many different areas of law and to build essential lawyering skills in the process. Experienced attorneys will mentor them and in the process provide needed legal aid to our community’s poor.  Local legal services providers will get badly needed help in providing legal help for their most vulnerable clients.  Everyone walks away feeling that they have gained something tangible and that good has been accomplished.”

The program will also give attorneys an opportunity to fulfill the State Bar of Michigan’s Voluntary Pro Bono Standard, which encourages them to represent three low-income individuals, provide a minimum of 30 hours of representation or professional services, at no fee or reduced cost, or contribute $300.00 to the Access to Justice Fund. 

Potential cases will include landlord-tenant issues, consumer law, expungements, family law, probate (including drafting simple wills and powers of attorney). Tax and bankruptcy issues are also being considered.

Requirements for students:

• Must have completed their first year of law school and completed Personal and Professional Responsibility as well as Research and Writing.

• Must be in good academic standing.

• Must be willing to commit to the case from inception to completion.

• Must be available to attend a one-hour pro bono orientation at their respective campus. 

Requirements for attorneys:

• Must be a licensed member in good standing with the State Bar of Michigan.

The program will be administered at Cooley Law School by Dionnie Wynter, Assistant Director of Cooley’s Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism (Auburn Hills) with faculty oversight from Associate Professor Ashley Lowe. Attorney Dennis Donahue will facilitate the cases through the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association.  For additional information about this program please email wynterd@cooley.edu.  To volunteer as a pro bono attorney please contact ddonahue@detroitlawyer.orga

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