Career Services: Becoming a Lawyer Means Accepting the Charge to Serve the Public

Published: August 27th, 2007

Category: News, Students

As law students, you have joined a professional group charged with the significant responsibility of providing and ensuring justice to all. This is a responsibility you should always be mindful of throughout law school and your career, no matter the type of law you practice or what kind of organization you serve.

There are a variety of ways attorneys can help address the abundance of social issues that affect the indigent, underrepresented, and underserved. Public interest attorneys are traditionally thought of as those who provide direct legal services to qualified clients whose individual needs are addressed, as those who address pressing social issues through impact litigation or policy and legislative research, or as those who work in the government through Public Defender’s offices or other federal, state, or local agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Florida Department of Children and Families. Those who work in non-public interest law firms or organizations are also provided opportunities to serve the underrepresented and underserved through pro bono work, community service work, and by maintaining a high level of professionalism in all of their actions and interactions.

Law students interested in pursuing a career in public interest law should start gaining relevant experience now, as public interest employers look for a dedicated interest in serving the public from their applicants. The public interest law community is tight-knit. Members of an organization who know you as a volunteer might think of you first to fill a permanent opening when it becomes available. Law students interested in pursuing a traditional private firm or in-house job should also consider the ways in which they can now begin to serve the public through volunteering and good works. Learn about the firm’s commitment to pro bono.

UF Pro Bono and Community Service Projects 

The UF Pro Bono and Community Service Projects recognize unpaid service in both the legal arena and in many capacities in the community. The Pro Bono Project recognizes legal work done in the public interest through volunteer efforts. Pre-approved sites for the Pro Bono Project can be found on the pro bono/community service link on the Career Services web page. These pre-approved local placements can provide valuable legal experience in assisting with children’s issues, prisoners’ rights, and the general concerns of people with low income, including access to public benefits, landlord tenant issues, and more.

There are many other opportunities to do qualified pro bono work at other organizations or in locations other than Gainesville. To qualify for the Pro Bono Project, the following criteria must be met:

  • You must be doing work that is legal in nature.
  • Your work must be with a government agency, court, or non-profit organization.
  • You must be supervised by an attorney.
  • You cannot receive pay or academic credit for your work.
  • Your work must benefit the under-served, under-represented, or those with limited resources. Volunteering for a law firm, while a valuable experience, is not pro bono in that it does not reach the larger goal of pro bono: bringing services to an under-served or under-represented individual or group.

Non-legal volunteer work that benefits those in need as outlined above falls under the Community Service Project. Community service is a way to give back to the community through a wide variety of locations and through a wide variety of work. Check out the Career Services website and its Pro Bono/Community Service link for information on both projects and what you need to do to participate. If you have any questions, contact Assistant Director Sam Sarno in Career Services.

Three Rivers Legal Services FALL 2007 Information – Registration Deadline of September 3: An Example of A Pre-Approved Pro Bono Project Site

Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. (TRLS) is a free, civil legal assistance program that serves low-income residents of Alachua and 16 other counties in North Florida. Since 2003, TRLS has run volunteer legal programs that allow UF law students to gain valuable experience and assist clients in various areas of law.

TRLS will be running four volunteer programs for law students during the Fall 2007: Housing, Pro Se Divorce, General Legal Intake, and Rural Outreach.

Housing A

Volunteers will conduct client interviews and draft memos and letters on landlord/tenant issues.

Training: Monday Sept. 10, 5-7 p.m.

Dates: Mondays, Sept. 17 and 24, Oct. 1 and 8, 4-7 p.m.

Housing B

Volunteers will conduct client interviews and draft memos and letters on landlord/tenant issues.

Training: Monday, Oct. 15, 5-7 p.m.

Dates: Mondays, Oct. 22 and 29, Nov. 5 and 12, 4-7 p.m.

Pro Se Divorce

Volunteers will assist domestic violence victims and low income clients with completing forms necessary for marriage dissolution petitions and related child support actions.

Training: Sept. 11, 3-5 p.m.

Dates: Thursdays, Sept. 20, Oct. 4 and 18, Nov. 1 and 15, 9 a.m.- noon

Rural Outreach

This program is designed to allow students to learn about and prepare a presentation to educate residents in the 8th Circuit’s rural counties (Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, & Union). Volunteers fluent in Spanish are encouraged to participate.Training and times for presentations will be developed with the consensus of the group.

Organizing Meeting: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 4-5 p.m.

General Legal Intake

Volunteers will interview clients and draft intake memos on various civil legal issues. Please register for either Mondays or Tuesdays, or both.Students may begin client interviews after training.

Training: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 9:30 a.m.-noon

Dates: Mondays, 1:30-3 p.m.

Tuesdays 9:30 a.m.-noon

Registration Details

Please email your registration requests to Based upon program availability, students may be allowed to participate in multiple programs. Returning volunteers are given registration preference. Training sessions will be held at the offices of TRLS at 901 NW 8th Ave., D-5; Gainesville (Call 372-0519 for directions). To participate, student volunteers must be in at least their second semester of law school. Attendance at all program sessions is greatly appreciated, but not required as long as prior arrangements are made with the supervising attorneys.

To register, copy and paste the following with your information:


E-mail address:

Mailing address:

Year/semester in law school:

Phone number:

What program do you want to participate in?(please list three and indicate your first, second, and third choices):

Returning volunteer?

Please indicate foreign language proficiency:

Failure to register properly may result in the denial of a volunteer placement, so please read and follow all directions carefully. If you have any questions, TRLS will be tabling in the courtyard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 27, 28 and 29.

Registration closes Monday, Sept. 3, 5 p.m. Placements will be emailed on Thursday, Sept. 6, by 5 p.m.