On January 19th, Akin Gump’s pro bono partner, Steven Schulman, and Harvard Law School alumni Josh Sekoski ’12 and Melissa Chastang ’14 spoke to a room full of students interested in making pro bono work part of their careers.
Mr. Schulman leads Akin Gump’s Pro Bono Scholars Program, started eight 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. In past years, Akin Gump has placed several Pro Bono Scholars directly with organizations with which the firm works, while other scholars have obtained a public interest position independently. According to Akin Gump’s website, scholars have worked at organizations that handle matters such as human rights, women’s rights, asylum cases, family services, economic advocacy, education and health care in organizations such as the following:
ACLU of Massachusetts; Bet Tzedek Legal Services; Bronx Defenders; Children’s Law Center; Human Rights First; Human Rights Initiative; Her Justice; KIPP Charter School Network, Office of the General Counsel; National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership; National Veterans Legal Services Program; New Schools for New Orleans; New Orleans Public Defenders; Pro Bono Asylum & Representation Project (PROBar); The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; Tahirih Justice Center; Teach For America, Legal Affairs Team; Whitman-Walker
“We encourage students to follow their passion, and help them find legal services organizations that fit their own interests,” said Mr. Schulman. “Our pro bono scholars have worked for a range of organizations from Los Angeles to South Africa.”
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.