As part of its mission to develop the next generation of civil rights advocates, the Center for Civil Rights offers professional development and enrichment programs for law students interested in careers in this area.
The center annually awards a recent law school graduate with a two-year fellowship. Fellows work under the direct supervision of the center’s director. Fellows have primary responsibility for one program area — either community inclusion or education — and may contribute to other areas as well. Fellows conduct legal research, draft policy documents, and lead community outreach programs. A primary objective of the fellowship program is to ensure that future generations of attorneys are equipped to continue the ongoing struggle to secure fair and equal opportunities for low-income individuals and people of color.
The center offers several internships each summer for rising 2L and 3L students as well as undergraduates, students from UNC and other universities and high school students. Interns work 12 to 14 weeks at the center, assisting with a variety of legal issues including public education, community engagement, housing, and environmental justice. Past activities have included meeting with community groups; drafting legal articles; conducting factual investigations; and assisting in the planning of strategic conferences.
The center is a placement site for the UNC School of Law Externship Program. The center participates in the three different academic options; the fall/spring three-credit program, the summer five-credit program and the full-time 12-credit Semester in Practice program. Externs’ work at the center is like that of a summer intern, but they receive academic credit for their work and are required to participate in programming through the Externship Office.
Pro Bono & Other Opportunities
Through UNC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program, the center offers many opportunities for students to participate in civil rights advocacy. Projects are listed through the Pro Bono Program or developed in collaboration with student groups. Individuals may contact the center directly to develop a pro bono project if one is not available. Previous opportunities have included research projects, wills clinics, and direct civic engagement outreach in client communities. Additionally, the center hosts a variety of lunch programs for students to learn more about the practice of civil rights law, including guest speakers, discussions of current cases, or court reenactments.
Since 2004, the center has hosted the North Carolina Election Day call center as part of the national, non-partisan Election Protection voter advocacy and information program. Election Protection is the nation’s most ambitious non-partisan program for preventing voter disenfranchisement. The coalition of state and national allies seeks to ensure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot that is counted. Center staff train law students on North Carolina election law and then those students staff the hotline and directly engage with voters to provide the information they need. Hundreds of students have staffed the hotline over the last 10 years.