Usually threw the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a public interest firm. When you telephone the ACLU, the intake is done by college students who write down the impt elements. A lawyer reveals the info to see if a potential claim exists. The ACLU does not take all civil rights comers. They look for specific fact patterns that they feel might have a good chance of success. Sometimes the lawyers agree the person has a good claim. They want to win, however. A negative decision affects many people for a long time. The Board meets and culls the cases. Most large firms have associates eager to litigate, not do litigation support for many years.
A college student cannot speak for the Board. Firms are contacted. The sexy cases go to the large firms. A single ACLU lawyer cannot absorb the costs. The firms have all procedures in place and the supporting equipment for complex litigation.
The Board works with other civil rights orgs. to present a uniform front. It sounds as tho there was no merit in the case cited by A Guest. One of the reaons minority students and others have problem adjusting to law is that you need to remove your emotions and private sense of justice from cases. Wrongs happen. There are not always legal remedies.
The large firms prob. have committees within the firm to vet proposed cases. A few times an associate brought in a case. Rather, the associate informed the partnership committee. The firm must be scrupulous that no conflicts occur. If a positive ruling would affect the legal interests of a paying client, the client wins. The "sexiness" quotient of a case is important.
Different cities have different methods of dealing with pro bono assignments. Also, NY and DC are very heavy with public interest firms. Philadelphia has hardly any when compared with them.
Another idea might be to get in touch with a law school clinical program. I used one but only b/c they knew how wacky law student clinics can be. It might be better than nothing. The work is supervised.
So much of it has to do with factors beyond your control. A compelling case is the only the start. Obviously, though, there would be no pro bono cases if everyone failed. One problem is that we know the Witness culture. Most people do not and may think we are crying about spilled milk.