July 27, 2023

Pro bono work helps students gain experience, keep faculty on top of legal changes

Concord Law School’s pro bono externship provides real-world experience


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As a lawyer and Concord Law School administrator, Shaun Jamison impresses upon his law students the importance of giving back and being a force for good.

Jamison, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, serves as Concord’s associate dean of academic affairs and provides pro bono services through Minnesota Legal Advice Online.

Jamison has supervised three Concord students who completed their externships with the online legal service. The students helped people in need of free legal guidance regarding housing, employment, child support, benefits, consumer rights and debt collections. Jamison also was recently recognized by the Minnesota State Bar Association in the May/June 2023 edition of Bench & Bar Magazine for providing 50 or more hours of pro bono legal services in 2022.

While pro bono work is not a graduation requirement, Jamison says it can be a way for students to explore various legal areas. Students can volunteer on their own or do pro bono work at legal aid offices, with public defenders or at other non-profit organizations serving low-income legal clients. They can earn academic credit for doing so if they complete 70 hours of such work over the course of a semester through Concord’s Legal Education Experience Program, or LEEP.

“Pro bono work is one way for law students and the legal community to help individuals who are in need and might not otherwise be served,” Jamison said. “Unresolved legal matters negatively affect the financial outlook and health of people involved. And unrepresented clients can affect court resources.”

Opening opportunities to serve, help and learn

M.J. (Matt) Conaway (Executive Juris Doctorate ’22) was in need of an externship. Jamison offered Conaway the opportunity to work remotely with him on the online service.

Conaway, who lived in Iowa at the time, was eager to help – and had to learn Minnesota civil law. “It was interesting to work with the legal code of a state different than my own,” Conaway said.

Conaway was diagnosed with mixed quadriplegic spastic athetoid cerebral palsy at birth, and Concord helped him grow in his desire to become a stronger bioethicist and disability policy scholar. He is a staff scholar at the Institute for Strategic Change.

“The pro bono work has strengthened my skills for my advocacy and policy work,” Conaway said.

Jamison said the personal experiences of students and attorneys can add a deeper understanding of the needs of pro bono clients that better enable them to advocate for those clients beyond their immediate legal needs.

“Law students can be future policymakers who can advocate for resources and better policies to avoid the problems that pro bono addresses,” Jamison said. “It's important for the public to understand that law students and lawyers can be a force for good.”

Concord Law School is part of Purdue Global, Purdue’s online university for working adults. Concord is celebrating its 25th anniversary as the nation’s first online law school. One of the school’s goals is to expand access to legal education to increase the availability of legal services, particularly in areas and populations that are underserved. 

Writer/Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-496-6160, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Shaun Jamison, MJ Conaway

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