KU Law connecting students with nonprofits and government agencies

The University of Kansas School of Law this summer launched the KU Law Legal Corps, a project that will connect law students with regional nonprofit organizations and government agencies. 

It is part of the school’s efforts to match students with legal experiences, said Heather Spielmaker, assistant dean for career services at KU Law.

“The Career Services Office at KU Law strives to ensure that all students have the chance to gain legal skills over the summer,” Spielmaker said. “This program helped us achieve our goal.”

Students have worked on pro bono projects such as developing documents for the Access to Justice Committee of the Kansas Supreme Court, conducting legal research for the Willow Domestic Violence Center and Douglas County CASA, and helping complete a community legal needs assessment for Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

“Using their legal research and writing skills, KU Law students are providing a great service to local organizations,” said Meredith Schnug, clinical associate professor and chair of KU Law’s Pro Bono Committee. “The students' work is especially important now, as many nonprofits must shift their service models in response to the pandemic.”

Legal Aid of Western Missouri is partnering with the KU Law Legal Corps to complete a legal needs assessment and a report on its access to justice initiatives. The nonprofit organization provides free civil legal services to low-income and vulnerable individuals in a 40-county area of Missouri that includes Kansas City, Joplin, St. Joseph and Warrensburg. Students assigned to the project will survey stakeholders including former clients, judges and partner agencies, then analyze survey data and prepare reports.

"This community legal needs assessment will provide us with feedback from our clients and our partners in order to better serve some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Alicia Johnson, deputy director of Legal Aid of Western Missouri. “We also want to get a sense of how we can provide increased accessibility to our clients.”

The Legal Corps has also partnered with Kansas Legal Services to recruit interns to address legal needs created by COVID-19. KLS is a statewide, nonprofit corporation that provides legal assistance to low-income Kansans. Current students and recent graduates are working with KLS staff attorneys on cases involving debt collection and housing issues. 

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