The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center teams students with agencies in the community in need of volunteers for both legal and non-legal advocacy projects. Students have the opportunity to assist supervising attorneys in a variety of practice areas and are afforded a meaningful opportunity to build practical skills while playing a key role in the promotion of access to justice.
There are opportunities for both in flexible and ongoing work. Projects are frequently added to meet the current need in the community as well as student interest. A few advocacy projects are listed below, but please contact HOPE to learn more about current opportunities to get involved!
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
As one of the poorest urban centers, Miami is in need of direct services that provide e-filing and rapid tax refunds, allowing clients expeditious access to funds without charging fees for the service. That's where Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) comes in. VITA is a nationwide program that provides free tax assistance to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals who need help with basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing. All VITA volunteers receive training from the IRS and operate a site in conjunction with the IRS during tax season. To ensure that all of Miami-Dade County's diverse residents may access the services, tax preparation assistance is offered in English, Spanish and Creole.
HOPE has partnered with local and national immigrant advocacy non-profits to connect law students with opportunies to assist attorneys with asylum, U-Visa, SIJ, and other immigration matters, and at Citizenship Clinics in the community.
HOPE seeks to raise awareness about domestic violence, foster student advocacy on behalf of domestic violence survivors and create initiatives to meet the needs of survivors.
Students collaborate with several legal services agencies and community organizations dedicated to serving the needs of indigent and low income women and their families, as well as survivors of abuse, neglect, violence and discrimination, including the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Kristi House, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, No More Tears, and the 11th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence Division.
Education: Empowered Youth / Youth Literacy: Books & Buddies
Empowered Youth: This local non-profit dedicates itself to helping at-risk young men between the ages of 12 and 19. Law students assist with tutoring on Saturdays and also serve as mentors to participants enrolled in a Youth Entrepreneurship class.
Books & Buddies: This program targets children who attend local elementary schools in order to promote reading, writing and education. Each semester, Books & Buddies pairs law students with a local student to share and communicate the excitement of reading through the exchange of letters. Correspondence is traded weekly between the Buddies and provides an opportunity for each to learn about their reading pen pal. At the end of each semester the elementary school children are invited to visit the University of Miami School of Law to meet their law school buddy.
Housing and Homeless Assistance: Legal Services of Greater Miami and Lawyers to the Rescue
Legal Services of Greater Miami: Students have the opportunity to interview and survey residents at mobile home parks in Miami as part of LSGMI's efforts to preserve affordable housing for local residents and volunteer with other initiatives throughout the year.
Lawyers to the Rescue: This group holds a monthly pro bono legal clinic at Camillus House, the county's largest homeless shelter. Students can volunteer to assist local pro bono attorneys with this effort.
Sealing and Expungement Project
The Sealing and Expungement Project allows law student volunteers to team with local agencies—including the ACLU, the Office of the Public Defender and the Office of the State Attorney—to provide assistance to individuals seeking to seal or expunge their criminal records.
Alternative Break Opportunities
HOPE organizes opportunities for law students to engage in pro bono and community service during fall, winter, and spring breaks, both locally and nationally. For example, during the 2016-2017 academic year, students traveled to Jackson, MS over spring break to volunteer with The Mississippi Center for Justice. Please contact the HOPE Office to learn about current offerings which are often updated based on community need and student interest.