Earning Pro Bono Hours: Volunteering for VITA

All you need to know about the VITA clinic

What is VITA?

Rachel Henderson

The Volunteer Income Assistance (VITA) clinic is offered by the University of Kansas School of Law each spring. Through VITA, law students prepare free federal land state tax returns for Douglas County residents earning less than $58,000 a year. KU Law students can earn pro bono hours by volunteering for VITA. This year, VITA runs from February 20 to April 17 (Tax Day). VITA sessions are held Monday through Saturday. Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday sessions are held at the law school. Tuesday sessions are held at the Ballard Center, and Thursday sessions are held at the Lawrence-Douglas Housing Authority. KU Law students volunteer for at least one session a week. Students attend training sessions led by Dean Mazza, and each tax return is checked by a site coordinator prior to being submitted.

Who can volunteer for VITA?

Any KU Law student can volunteer for VITA! Tax experience is preferred – but not required. “Tax experience” includes taking a tax class in law school or undergrad (VITA recruits students from Dean Mazza’s Income Tax!) However, I volunteered for VITA last year without any tax experience. I reached out to Dean Mazza and expressed my interest in volunteering for the clinic. Despite my lack of experience, Dean Mazza encouraged me to attend a training session and ultimately volunteer for the clinic. I quickly figured out how to use the software – with Dean Mazza’s and the site coordinators’ help. I encourage anyone who is interested in VITA to give it a go!

Why volunteer for VITA?

Kat Girod, 3L, recruiting students to take part in the VITA clinic

I really enjoyed my time volunteering for VITA last year and despite my busy 2L schedule, I’m making time to volunteer again this year. VITA allows students to serve their community in a meaningful way. Clients often struggle to file taxes on their own and are grateful for the service we provide. VITA provides law students with opportunities to develop interpersonal skills while working directly with clients. If students volunteer 15 or more hours of their time for VITA, they will make the pro bono honor roll! Finally, many attorneys have participated in VITA, and it is a great way to connect with attorneys during networking events or interviews.

Why should I try new things in law school?

Many law students come into law school not knowing what they want to do with their law degrees after graduation. Many of us think we know, but completely change our minds once we start learning about all our options. Participating in clinics like VITA allows students to experiment with different areas of law and find out what they like. VITA led me to take Dean Mazza’s Income Tax class last fall. While the class was challenging, I enjoyed it a lot. VITA and Dean Mazza’s Income Tax have inspired me to pursue a career in estate planning. VITA may lead you down a new and exciting path too!

Rachel Henderson is a 2L KU Law Student Ambassador from Wichita, Kansas