On Tuesday, January 20th, Akin Gump’s leader of worldwide pro bono practice, Steven Schulman, spoke to a room full of HLS students interested in making pro bono work part of their careers.
Mr. Schulman leads Akin Gump’s Pro Bono Scholars Program, started seven years ago. This two-summer commitment program is currently offered in five offices: Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. During their 1L summer, Pro Bono Scholars spend seven weeks at a public interest organization of their choosing. Mr. Schulman said the organization could be located anywhere in the world, and in discussing this with the students, encouraged them to choose a placement that matches their interests and will provide them with a meaningful experience.
In addition, students also spend four weeks at the Akin Gump law firm, where they engage with substantive assignments in a variety of subject areas and interact with other attorneys in a mentoring environment. During their second summer at the firm, students have the opportunity to work on substantial pro bono matters. It is expected that they will go on to make pro bono work an integral part of their practice careers.
Why Do Pro Bono?
Helping people is what lawyers are all about, said Mr. Schulman. “It is in the essence and DNA of lawyers.” Former Pro Bono Scholars have helped develop a charter school, represent abused women, assist asylum seekers, and prepare custody cases. At Akin Gump students find a large pro bono practice which includes the areas of death penalty trial defense, education reform, environmental protection, human rights and refugees, impact litigation, international development, and policy work in the public interest.