Award-winning Pro Bono program adds new projects – Georgia State University News


ATLANTA—Since its launch last year, the Access to Justice Center Pro Bono Program has already won several awards and continues to grow. The program works with partner organizations to connect GSU law students with volunteer opportunities to address the unmet legal needs of low-income people. In the past year and a half alone, the Pro Bono Program has facilitated over 1,400 hours of pro bono service for students under the supervision of practicing attorneys in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.

Since January 2019, students have the opportunity to volunteer with three new projects. On select Mondays, students can participate in the Northern District of Georgia Bankruptcy Assistance Program. Every other Tuesday, the Atlanta Office of the Public Defender’s Homeless Legal Project welcomes student volunteers. And on Mondays and Fridays, you can find GSU law students participating in the Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Transgender Name Change Project.

The Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s director of pro bono legal services, Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, is excited to welcome GSU law students to the transgender name change project. “In this project, client advocacy can be as simple as accompanying a client to court to ensure justice is served. Although it is clear under the law that a person can change their name, some customers are subject to an additional level of scrutiny that is invasive and beyond the scope of the law because of their gender. This project offers clients the assurance that they will be treated fairly and fairly with the help of a well-trained lawyer.

Under the supervision of the Atlanta Public Defender’s Office, students can volunteer in a homeless legal project run through First Presbyterian Church’s Community Ministries Program. Every other Tuesday, students meet with homeless and low-income participants to conduct client interviews under the direction of the Atlanta Public Defender’s Office. Peter Nielsen (JD ’19) was the first GSU project volunteer. “You definitely see a ton of potential legal and non-legal issues that homeless people face,” Neilsen said of her experience. “The supervising attorney felt comfortable letting me step in and lead a few questions. That was great.”

Veeda Mashayekh (JD ’21) recently signed up for an upcoming session with the Northern District of Georgia Bankruptcy Assistance Program. Working alongside pro bono attorneys and under the supervision of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Mashayekh will gain experience speaking to clients. “I am excited to gain hands-on transactional law experience alongside lawyers, so that I can broaden my professional skills,” Mashayekh said.

In addition to these new projects, students can work with tenants facing eviction, help draft bail motions for detained immigrants, work with veterans to secure benefits, assist with citizenship applications or provide estate planning assistance to senior clients.

“It’s exciting to see the Pro Bono program grow so much in such a short time,” said Darcy Meals, the center’s assistant director and program supervisor. “We are fortunate that our organizational partners have been so welcoming to GSU and enthusiastic about student contributions. As we grow, we really want to meet student interest and community needs by adding new opportunities. »

The program currently partners with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the GSU Veteran’s Assistance Project, the International Rescue Committee, the Atlanta Public Defender’s Office, and the Housing Court Assistance Center of the Fulton County Superior Court. For more information and to register, visit


Terri S. Tomasini