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#makelawbetter in action: Tennessee A2J Summer Fellows Program

by Cat Moon

· makelawbetter,law students,a2j

In this post last week here on makelawbetter dot org, I shared about a summer program connecting law students to COVID-related access to justice pro bono opportunities. I also shared it with a group of pro bono and access to justice folks here in Tennessee, led by Anne-Louise Wirthlin, Director of Access to Justice and Strategic Collaboration for TN's Administrative Office of the Courts. I suggested that folks here in Tennessee create a similar opportunity for law students.

After a conference call last week and some rapid ground work by folks, this happened. 👇 This is how it works, folks. Make connections by sharing your ideas with people who can act on them. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. To #keeplawopen and #makelawbetter. 👊

Sent out today via newsletter under the auspices of Justice for All, the Tennessee Supreme Court's access to justice initiative:

Tennessee A2J Summer Fellows Program

The Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and its partners are launching the Tennessee A2J Summer Fellows Program, a project to connect law students with pro bono opportunities across the state. We have learned from law school faculty that many law students have lost their summer internships due to COVID-19 and are searching for pro bono work for the summer and into the fall.
Legal and law-related organizations will be able to enter pro bono opportunities into an online clearinghouse. The projects can be specific to responding to COVID-19 or applicable to the organization’s work in general. The expectation is that most, if not all, of the opportunities will be designed for the law students to do remotely. The draft online survey to submit projects is available at [link omitted]*.
The clearinghouse will not take the place of any internships, fellowships, or pro bono work your organization has lined up. It is meant to supplement your organization’s existing use of law students. Organizations who post opportunities in the clearinghouse commit to being available for an initial virtual meeting with law students to go over the project. Organizations will be asked to designate an attorney supervisor for each project who will be available for check-ins, provide feedback on the project, and sign off on pro bono hours.
Law students will apply to be a part of the Fellows program and commit to collaborating with each other to ensure that projects are completed timely and meet the organization’s expectations. Law students will receive an initial training on how to access and use the clearinghouse. The initial training will provide instruction on the types of project and general expectations. Law students will be required to participate in routine professional development trainings throughout the project. Law students who participate in the program will receive pro bono credit for their work applicable towards recognition from their respective law schools and the TN Supreme Court Law Student Recognition Program.
ATJ Staff at the AOC will review proposed projects and follow up with organizations if any clarification is needed. ATJ Staff will NOT match law students with opportunities. Students will be able to select up to three opportunities. ATJ Staff will notify organizations as students express interest in the opportunities posted by the organization. Organizations will have the final decision as to which students will work on their projects and supervise the students' project work following selection.
ATJ Staff will receive law student applicants and ensure students comply with program requirements. ATJ Staff will check in with organization contacts on a regularly basis to help trouble shoot any issues and get feedback.
We hope that your organization or law school will commit to piloting this Fellows program with us. Please follow this link [omitted]* to indicate your interest in participating in the program.
There are many law students eager to help the access to justice community in our response to COVID-19. Fellows will learn from talented and experienced attorneys, collaborate and network with their peers virtually, and gain valuable first-hand knowledge of the issues facing Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations.

*If you're interested in the program or simply want more information so you can replicate it in your neck of the woods, ping me at c dot moon at vanderbilt dot edu.