Pro Bono Research Bureau
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can request assistance?
The Bureau will consider requests from:
- individual attorneys looking for assistance on a specific pro bono case OR
- practicing attorneys working at public interest organizations who need extra help on a specific project.
The Bureau welcomes requests from attorneys working through county, state and law firm pro bono programs.
Attorneys working at public interest organizations are welcome to request help; do note assistance from the Bureau is not intended to replace staff or for-credit externships.
The Bureau reserves the right to refuse any request for any reason.
Please note: the Bureau cannot provide legal assistance to individual citizens at this time. If you need legal assistance, please contact your local legal services office (see here for a list of offices in Pennsylvania) or check online.
What kind of work product can I request or expect?
Mostly commonly, our students can provide memos, brief drafts, and/or statutory/regulatory research.
The Bureau and H. Laddie Montague Jr. Law Library collaborate to ensure our students provide timely, thorough legal research
Requests should be a fairly narrow question that can be answered with a discrete work product. The Bureau will not accept requests for work tantamont to a student taking on an entire case, or assignments more appropriate for an intern receiving academic credit or for paid staff.
What is an example of an appropriate request?
“My client claims they are facing housing discrimination based on x and y facts. Is there precedential caselaw in my state that supports their claim?”
“I am working on an asylum case and need some help adding the country conditions section to my brief. I would like a student to do some research and add it to the argument section of the brief, which I have already drafted.”
“My organization does advocacy for children and youth. Our clients have been significantly affected by the opioid crisis—more and more grandparents and family friends are getting involved. We are wondering if other states have statutes that allow for non-relatives to have temporary custody, and under what conditions. We would like this project to look at all 50 states.”
How much time will it take?
You should allow at least three weeks before any deadline when submitting your request.
For a standard memo on a fairly specific question presented, we recommend leaving students at least two weeks before submitting the work product. Assignments with a broader scope should be given a suitably longer timeline.
During the summer or exam periods (December and May), we may not be able to accommodate requests with shorter timelines.
How does it work?
After you submit your request, we will review the assignment to ensure it is appropriate for the Bureau.
If it is appropriate, we will circulate the request to student Bureau members and ask for a volunteer to take the assignment.
Once a student accepts the assignment, we will introduce the student volunteer and supervising attorney. If no student volunteers, we will let you know as soon as possible.
The student and attorney will then communicate to ensure they understand the parameters of the assignment, including initial deadlines.
Once a student submits the final work product, both the student and supervising attorney will be asked to submit a short closing memo (a quick summary of the assignment and work produced on a one-page form).
What are my obligations as a requestor?
Attorneys must affirm they are either working on a pro bono or “low bono” case, or on a project for a public interest organization.
Attorneys are responsible for keeping in touch with the student volunteer.
If you have reached out to the student volunteer several times and not heard back, notify the Bureau’s coordinator.
After the student submits a final work product, the Bureau will send you a one-page closing memo to complete and return.