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Pro Bono & Volunteer Program Handbook
2023 – 2024

Why Do Pro Bono?

  • Get out of the classroom, meet real clients, and see real lawyers in action.
  • Try out an area of law you’re interested in.
  • Meet attorneys and make professional connections.
  • Gain experience you can put on your resume.
  • You are in a unique position to use your specialized skills and knowledge to make a real difference.
  • It’s some of the most rewarding legal work you will ever do.

What Is Pro Bono Work?

Pro bono work is work of a legal nature done on a volunteer basis, earning no monetary compensation or course credit. Pro bono work is intended to be work that assists with the representation of underserved clients or causes, including advocacy and policy work.

For purposes of counting hours toward law school awards, please refer to the following guidelines:

What Counts?

Following are some examples of work that could be counted as pro bono hours. Please not that this is not an exhaustive list; these are merely examples of commonly-performed pro bono tasks.

  • Conducting intake at a pro bono legal advice clinic
  • Assisting an attorney working on a pro bono matter
  • Doing volunteer research for a nonprofit or government legal office
  • Volunteering at a legal services office, a public defender or prosecutor office, or other nonprofit legal office
  • Participating in a training for a pro bono project
  • Helping to coordinate other students’ work on a pro bono project

What Doesn’t Count?

  • Volunteer work on political campaigns, such working at a phone bank for a candidate
  • Volunteer work that is part of a religious practice, such as teaching a Sunday School class (Please note, however, that volunteer work of a non-religious nature that is affiliated with a religious organization – such as working at a free legal clinic hosted by a church – is fine.)
  • Work done as part of a law school clinical course, for which a student is earning course credit*
  • Work done through one of the law school’s externship programs, for which a student is earning course credit*
  • Full-time summer internships (whether paid or unpaid) do not count*

* The following exceptions apply for externships and summer work:

Clinics & Externships

Unpaid work performed in addition to the required hours for clinics and externships may be counted toward an award. For example, if a student’s academic-year externship course requires 110 hours of work, and the student performs 120 hours of work, the additional 10 hours may be counted as pro bono work.

Summer Internships

Up to 25 hours of work per summer at an unpaid summer internship may be counted. For example, if a student works full-time for 6 weeks at a public interest law office, the student may count 25 of those hours toward an award. This applies regardless of whether a student receives a summer grant from the law school. Work performed at paid internships or work done for course credit may not be counted.

What Is Community Service?

Volunteer work that meets the above criteria but is not of a legal nature – such as working at a soup kitchen or tutoring in an after-school program – may be counted as community service volunteer hours for purposes of law school awards or the Certificate in Public Interest Law.

How Do I Find Out What Projects Are Available?

Near the beginning of each semester, the Public Interest Institute (PII) will host a lunchtime information session at which upcoming pro bono and community service projects are discussed.

At the beginning of each month, the PII will send an email newsletter with the subject line “Public Interest News Update.” This email will contain information about all known volunteer projects for that month.

In addition, most Mondays the PII will send out a brief “This Week in Public Interest” email, detailing events for the coming week.

The best way to find out about volunteer projects is to be on the lookout for these two emails: “Public Interest News Update” at the beginning of the month, and “This Week in Public Interest” at the beginning of the week.

What Are the Requirements to Work on a Pro Bono Project?

Many projects are open to all law students, regardless of year in school. Some projects require certain skills or experience which will be included in the project descriptions. All students must have attended a Pro Bono Training Session before participating in a pro bono project. These training sessions are held once a semester; you only have to attend once during law school.

Will I Receive Training?

Yes. Every semester the Public Interest Institute will hold at least one Pro Bono Training Session which will cover basic information on professional ethics, conduct and responsibility. If specific knowledge or skills are required for a project, additional training will be provided by either the law school or a partnering community organization.

How Do I Sign Up?

Generally, sign-up sheets for specific projects are posted online, and email notices are sent out with links to the sign-up sheets.

The best way to find sign-up sheets is to be on the lookout for the regular PII emails: “Public Interest News Update” at the beginning of the month, and “This Week in Public Interest” at the beginning of the week.

How Do I Report My Hours?

Go to the “Report Service Hours” form.

If you need assistance or would like to review the hours you have submitted, please contact PII Program Coordinator, Felecia Linton at

What Awards or Recognition Can I Earn for Volunteering?

  • Dean’s Community Service Award ‐ requires 40 hours of volunteer work, either community service or pro bono work, while a law student
  • Student Pro Bono Award ‐ requires 50 hours of pro bono work while a law student
  • Order of the Samaritan ‐ requires 90 hours of total volunteer work, at least 50 hours of which must be pro bono work
  • Pro Bono Excellence Award ‐ awarded to the three graduating 3Ls with the highest number of pro bono hours during law school
  • Excellence in Service Award ‐ awarded to the three graduating 3Ls with the highest number of community service volunteer hours during law school

Do I Have to Do One of the Projects Offered Through the Law School for It to Count?

No. You are free to participate in volunteer projects that you find on your own. If you plan to count your volunteer work as pro bono hours, it is recommended that you confirm with the Assistant Dean for Public Interest Law that your project will qualify as pro bono work.


Contact Glory McLaughlin, Assistant Dean for Public Interest Law: