Pro Bono Projects

Pro Bono Projects

SIRR partners with local public interest groups to offer students several pro bono opportunities during the academic year, all focused on assisting immigrants and refugees navigate the complex and, often, daunting U.S. immigration system. Each pro bono program is unique, reflecting the diverse needs of immigrants and refugees, and student volunteers can expect to take on varying time commitments and responsibilities depending on the program. Participants in all of SIRR's programs are eligible for New York State Bar and Columbia Law School pro bono hours. 

Below are examples of past SIRR pro bono projects. SIRR sends out emails regarding pro bono opportunities as they come up throughout the year, however the information below provides examples of the types of work that you might be able to do with local organizations.



Pro Bono Projects

In the past Columbia students collaborated with law school students from around the country to assist the Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project (ASAP) in creating two guides focused on asylum claims: (1) A guide focused on expedited removal proceedings; and (2) A start-to-finish tool-kit/guide on assisting pro se applicants with asylum applications. ASAP uses creative lawyering, an innovative model of remote representation, and large-scale volunteer mobilization to take on and win cases for refugee mothers and their families across the country. 

The organization focuses on taking on cases not well suited for traditional legal services - representing women whom the government has already wrongfully denied asylum or ordered deported, as well as families who are unable to access pro bono legal aid in their area. Columbia law school students will be working remotely with both ASAP staff and other law school students to ensure that guides are available for other lawyers seeking to assist some of the most vulnerable communities. 

A prominent non-profit in the fields of global development and immigrants and refugees rights, CWS was founded in 1946 and now has offices all over the world. Its headquarters are right next to campus, on 475 Riverside Drive. CWS provides low-fee and pro bono programs that are not restricted to any particular religious group. 

SIRR will reach out periodically throughout the academic year to publicize opportunities for pro bono work with CWS. There may be opportunities for students to assist CWS in many ways, including research, outreach, clinics, advocacy, client assistance, clerical, data compilation. The commitment tends to be 5 to 10 hours per week.

LaLSA and SIRR are co-sponsoring pro bono opportunities in conjunction with the City Bar Justice Center to create materials for and conduct Know Your Rights (KYR) workshops. These KYR workshops are targeted towards public schools and small business owners. Students will be expected to do research and create materials for these presentations and will also have the opportunity to conduct the workshops with the supervision of the City Bar Justice Center. This opportunity qualifies for both New York and Columbia pro bono requirements. 


Immigration Equality is non-profit organization specialized in advocating and representing LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants seeking safety, fair treatment, and freedom. Based in New York, it is the only national organization that both advocates for and directly represents LGBT and HIV-positive people in the immigration system. 

Volunteers have the opportunity to assist Immigration Equality in two ways. First, students with foreign language skills can provide translation services. Second, students can help prepare and update country conditions reports for various countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, Ukraine, Belarus, Bahamas, Croatia, Georgia, Guatemala, and Zimbabwe.

In the United States, children do not have a right to free counsel in deportation proceedings in immigration court. KIND works with pro bono attorneys from law firms throughout New York to represent undocumented children in deportation and other immigration matters. 

Students who are interested in volunteering with KIND can sign up to receive research and other assignments from both solo practitioners and law firm attorneys, and from KIND’s office in Midtown. Most students will receive assignments as they are needed for different cases, rather than staying with the same case from beginning to end. This helps ensure that participating students will receive work that is meaningful and can coordinate the work with their availability. Assignments are made available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Additionally, there may be some opportunities for students who are fluent in Spanish to screen children for eligibility for relief at the immigration court’s “surge” docket; children who would otherwise be rushed through the system without safeguards or attorneys to protect their rights. The so-called surge docket refers to the Department of Justice’s 2014 program to expedite removal proceedings for Central American children and families.


The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) is a nonprofit legal services organization providing free legal services to New Yorkers who cannot afford a private lawyer. NYLAG's robust Immigrant Protection Unit assists clients with a variety of immigration matters, including citizenship, legal residency, and removal defense. 

Students have the opportunity to participate in NYLAG's weekend immigration clinics, typically held on Saturday mornings. Law students will have the opportunity to conduct an initial screening of potential immigrant clients under the supervision of NYLAG staff. 

If you are interested in participating in an immigration clinic, or just generally in other pro bono/ volunteer opportunities through NYLAG, please fill out the volunteer inquiry form at the following webpage.

Once you sign up, you will receive email blasts each month about all of NYLAG’s pro bono opportunities including clinics. The email blasts will include an online form for you to sign up for specific clinics. Please be advised that because NYLAG only needs a certain number of volunteers for each clinic, they may not be able to confirm all of the students that sign up. Confirmation emails are usually sent one to two weeks before a clinic.

Those interested in NYLAG’s Immigration Clinics can watch a video of a NYLAG presentation from October 2016 here. In their email blasts, NYLAG also includes immigration relief webinar trainings that students can watch to prepare for the clinics.