What is the Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge?
A core part of The Florida Bar Foundation’s mission is to promote public service among lawyers by making it an integral part of the law school experience. The Foundation launched the Challenge among Florida law schools in January 2019. The goal of the Challenge is to connect students with lawyers to partner on pro bono cases from legal aid organizations. Powered by FloridaProBonoMatters.org, students use an interactive platform to pick a pro bono case and then be matched with an lawyer mentor. The Challenge ran again in 2020 and 2021.
The Challenge does not assist clients in finding a pro bono lawyer. If you are in need of a pro bono lawyer, contact your local legal aid office, which can be found here.
When does the competition run?
The 2022 Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge will run January 31 – March 25, 2022. Law students will have early access to pick their cases beginning January 19.
Why should I participate?
The competition will:
- satisfy students’ pro bono requirements,
- satisfy lawyers’ professional obligation for pro bono,
- allow students to network with lawyers,
- introduce students and lawyers to a local legal aid organization,
- boost school pride, and
- provide students with opportunities to be mentored and work with real clients.
I’m a law student. How do I take a pro bono case?
- First, navigate to the platform beginning January 19: www.FloridaLawSchoolChallenge.org
- Choose “student”, then choose your law school. Agree to the terms.
- On the next page, choose the case you’d like to take by clicking “Interested?” on the case card, and filling out and submitting the interest form. You will be required to use an email address that ends in “.edu”. You may take up to two cases.
- Once your case has been picked by an lawyer partner after January 31, you’ll be notified via email. You’ll receive your lawyer partner’s contact information and further instructions.
- The legal aid organization that hosts the case will contact you and your partner.
- If you submitted an interest form in error or are unable to take a case, you may rescind your interest form before you’ve matched with a lawyer. Refer to the link in the first email you receive from the Challenge.
I’m a lawyer. How do I connect with a law student?
- First, navigate to the platform: www.FloridaLawSchoolChallenge.org
- Choose “lawyer”, then click “I agree” to the terms.
- Next, choose your law school. (If you did not attend a Florida law school, you can still participate! Just choose the law school that you’d like to support.)
- On the next page, you’ll be shown cases picked by students who are awaiting an lawyer partner. Click “Interested?” on a case card, and fill out and submit your interest form.
*If no cases are available, you may choose a case from another school, or request to be notified when a case from your school becomes available.
- You and your student will receive an email that shares your and your student’s contact information and further instructions.
- The legal aid organization that hosts the case will contact you and your student.
How will the Challenge work during the Covid-19 pandemic?
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, many legal aid programs are offering remote and virtual pro bono opportunities. We encourage students and lawyers to follow their local health guidelines when working on their case.
Is the case mine once I receive a match email?
A match email means that a student and a lawyer are both interested in the same case. The legal aid program will now reach out to you and answer any questions you have about the case. If all parties agree that the case is appropriate, the program will provide the necessary information for the student and lawyer to begin work. If the case is not an appropriate fit, then the program may invite you to work on another case or you may choose another case from the Florida Pro Bono Law School Challenge.
What if I have matched with a student/lawyer, but have not been contacted by the legal aid program?
Legal aid programs work to place multiple pro bono cases on a timely basis. If it has been more than a week since you matched and you haven’t heard from the program, please call Jessica Brown, Director of Communications, at 407-960-7000.
I didn’t attend a Florida law school. Can I still partner with a student?
Yes! Just choose the Florida law school that you’d like to support (they will earn 1 point for your participation).
I’m not a licensed lawyer in the state of Florida. Can I still participate?
Lawyers must be able to represent clients in Florida to participate in the challenge. If you are not a Florida lawyer, you may be able to represent clients pro bono as an emeritus lawyer. Certain law professors, judges, in-house counsel and lawyers retired from Florida or other states may qualify. The legal aid program hosting your case can assist you in becoming an emeritus lawyer. Read more here.
Where is my case located? Can I take a case that’s not in my local area?
Each case card provides the general location of the client or matter on a map at the bottom of the card. Please be aware that many cases will require you to be local. However, the beauty of FloridaProBonoMatters.org is that you can view cases from all over the state. As long as you are willing to travel or work remotely, you can take a case outside of your local area.
What resources are available to support my representation of the client (especially if I am new to this area of law)?
Most legal aid programs can provide substantive training or mentorship in their practice areas. Pro bono lawyers can also access board certified lawyers who are willing to provide advice and counsel in their area of expertise through the Certified Lawyers on Call (CLOC) program.
Are volunteer lawyers covered under the hosting legal aid organization’s malpractice insurance?
All legal aid programs that offer pro bono cases cover volunteer lawyers under their malpractice insurance. Please check with the legal aid organization hosting your case for terms and limits. Cases posted by courts will not offer malpractice insurance.
How will my school get credit?
Each student who takes a case will earn one point for their school. Each lawyer who takes a case will earn one point for their school. If a UF Law student and a UF Law alum match, UF Law earns two points. If a Stetson student takes a case and partners with a FAMU alum, each school will earn one point.
What happens if my case hasn’t concluded by the time the challenge ends?
Each student and lawyer receives a point for the competition when they sign up. Please be aware that some cases may extend beyond the challenge end date or the end of the semester. Students and lawyers are expected to continue working on their case until the case or matter is properly and formally concluded.
What awards will be given?
Winners are recognized at the Florida Bar Annual Convention in June. Three trophies are presented to:
- the law school with the most student engagement,
- the law school with the most alumni engagement, and
- the law school with the most overall student and alumni engagement.
Scores are weighted based on each law school’s enrollment and alumni numbers.
I haven’t been matched with a lawyer partner yet, but I received a notification that my case is no longer available. What happened?
Since the Challenge is powered by FloridaProBonoMatters.org, cases will remain on the site until a lawyer submits an interest form. In the interest of serving legal aid clients as soon as possible, the case will go to the first lawyer who submits a form; if that lawyer is your partner, you’ll be matched and the case is yours. If that lawyer is not participating in the Challenge, the case will go to him or her and not be available to you any longer. If you receive a notification that your case is unavailable, please choose a new one at www.FloridaLawSchoolChallenge.org.
What is Florida Pro Bono Matters?
Florida Pro Bono Matters (www.FloridaProBonoMatters.org) is an interactive website that enables lawyers to search for pro bono cases that suit their interests and submit an interest form to the legal aid or pro bono program that posted the case. The site is the first in the country to automatically gather and display available pro bono matters from multiple programs via their case management systems. Click here for the Florida Pro Bono Matters FAQs.
I need more help. Who can I talk to?
If you need additional assistance, please contact Jessica Brown at [email protected].