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Pro bono FAQs

Learn more about what it means to be one of our pro bono partners.


Have more questions? Our pro bono team is here to help.

If you still have questions after reading these FAQs or would like to take a case, email Jennifer Grishkin, Managing Attorney for Pro Bono Coordination, at We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Ask about pro bono partnerships

  • Yes.

    We have many clients who speak a variety of languages, including English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Mam—to name a few. If you would like to get involved but do not have Spanish language capabilities, we can look out for a non-English-speaking client for you. We also recommend that you invite a Spanish-speaking colleague to join your team. To read more about options for how to work with non-English speaking clients, see our informative blog post on the subject.

    Read post on working with non-English clients

  • Yes.

    Defensive immigration cases are, for the most part, adjudicated by an immigration judge in immigration court. If you are looking for litigation experience, immigration pro bono is a great way to get it. Cases almost always go to trial, trials are relatively short, and trial dates usually are set two to three months out.

    Immigration cases provide valuable pretrial and trial skills practice. In one type of a case for children, a pro bono attorney litigates a (usually uncontested) custody case in state family court as part of the overall case. This gives attorneys practical experience in preparing and filing complaints and related documents, effecting service of process, and drafting proposed orders. In deportation cases for adults, attorneys prepare their cases and evidence for trial as though the rules of evidence will be strictly observed but often find that those rules are more relaxed in practice. Many pro bono attorneys find they prefer this type of litigation in which your advocacy is the key to your client’s case.

    Pro bono attorneys taking Amica Center-referred cases also have the opportunity to make a broad impact through appeal and litigation in federal district courts and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

  • No.

    Our malpractice insurance does not cover pro bono attorneys under the Amica Center malpractice insurance. Pro bono attorneys are required to have their own malpractice insurance in order to take cases.

  • An Amica Center mentor can help you schedule a meeting with your client.

    Most of our child clients spend a few weeks to several months in detention and then are reunified with family or friends. This means your child client will likely be living in a family home in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. by the time you first meet them. Many pro bono attorneys use remote technology platforms such as WhatsApp to communicate with their child clients and schedule only one or two in-person meetings.

    Most of our adult clients remain detained during their cases in one of two detention facilities located in Virginia. A few clients, particularly those who reside in Maryland, may be detained in Pennsylvania or Georgia.

    We recommend that pro bono teams meet with their client at least once at the outset of proceedings and once during trial prep, although many pro bono teams schedule more in-person meetings. For facilities farther away, we recommend using confidential phone calls.

  • We expect pro bono teams to commit to covering litigation expenses associated with their cases.

    In some cases, this includes expert witnesses and translation/interpretation costs. In other cases, there will be only minimal costs associated with printing and mailing. We always walk through potential costs with interested pro bono teams before placing a case with the team.

  • No.

    Many of our pro bono attorneys have never worked in the immigration field or appeared in immigration court before. All Amica Center matters placed with a pro bono team are robustly mentored by an Amica Center attorney. Our mentoring program includes an opening meeting to discuss the scope and process of the matter, provision of samples, guidance on the law, review of draft filings, assistance with client contact, and guidance on preparation for interviews and hearings.

  • Yes.

    Children’s asylum cases are adjudicated in an interview process that is non-adversarial. This is a great way for attorneys who are not litigators to stretch their advocacy muscles by preparing exhibits, gathering evidence and prepping their client for the interview, without having to litigate in court. However, attorneys should be prepared for the possibility that the asylum office that interviews the client may not grant asylum, in which case they will need to litigate in immigration court.

    Amica Center sometimes offers other opportunities to get involved in pro bono work that do not require in-court litigation. Appeals of immigration court decisions are almost always resolved by the Board of Immigration Appeals on the briefing and without oral argument. We have also placed requests for prosecutorial discretion and requests for release from detention with pro bono teams. We are happy to work with you to find the right type of opportunity.

    T-Visa and U-Visa cases also require no hearings and are adjudicated on the papers. You will not have to appear in any forum but will still get to work with, and advocate for, your client.

  • No, with the exception of SIJS cases.

    For most of the cases that Amica Center places with pro bono attorneys, you need only be barred somewhere in the United States. This is because most of our cases are adjudicated in immigration court (adult cases) or at the USCIS Asylum Office (children’s asylum cases). To appear in immigration court or before the federal agency, an attorney must be a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any state, possession, territory, or Commonwealth of the United States, or the District of Columbia.

    The exception to this is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases. Because SIJS cases require an appearance in state family court, pro bono attorneys must be barred in Virginia, Maryland, or DC, depending on the child’s residency, or obtain the court’s permission to appear pro hac vice in the case.

  • We perform industry-leading due diligence before placing a case with a pro bono team.

    Amica Center is the only organization primarily focused on providing legal services to immigrants from the Capital region who are detained in Virginia and across the country. We regularly visit detention centers to inform immigrants about their rights and conduct preliminary intake screenings to identify potential clients for pro bono teams.

    Before placing any case with a pro bono team, we undertake a thorough review of the client’s legal options. This includes interviews with the client, conversations with the client’s family and friends, and review of public records.

    While we cannot guarantee the results of any case or that a case will not have a few twists and turns, we can guarantee that we will not place a case with a pro bono team before we do industry-leading due diligence.