What counts as Pro Bono work?Where can I find volunteer opportunities that match my interests?
Q: What counts as Pro Bono work?
A: Chief Justice Ronald George of the California Supreme Court has stated, "If the motto 'and justice for all' becomes 'and justice for those who can afford it' we threaten the very underpinnings of our social contract." In California, there is roughly one legal aid lawyer for every 8,361 low income Californians; by contrast there is one private lawyer for every 250 Californians. Roughly one-third of our low-income population has access to civil legal assistance; too often this assistance is far less than what is needed.
In an effort to bring the resources, efforts and energy of law students to help bridge this gap, UC Hastings has defined Pro Bono as:
Volunteer, law-related services provided directly to or on behalf of under-represented individuals.
Some questions to help answer whether the work you are doing meets this definition of Pro Bono:
1) Am I a volunteer? If you are receiving compensation of any sort (pay, stipend, academic credit, etc.) you are not a volunteer.
2) Is the work law-related? If you are making use of your specialized knowledge and skills acquired as a law student, the work is law-related. Law-related activities and skills include: intake, interviewing, form completion, education about legal process or rights, legal research and drafting, providing interpretation or translation services to assist in seeking legal aid, negotiating, problem-solving, working to increase diversity in the legal profession, etc.
3) Are my efforts and energies provided to or on behalf of under-represented individuals or communities? The unmet civil legal needs in California are overwhelming. Work which benefits individuals or groups who would not otherwise have access to representation based on their ability to pay or because they have traditionally been disenfranchised from the legal process will count.
Q: Does volunteer, law-related work which does not otherwise meet the Hastings Pro Bono definition count?
A: While all Pro Bono work is public service, not all public service work is pro bono. However, up to 25% of the hours necessary for graduation recognition may be satisfied through volunteer law-related work with a governmental or non-profit law office. Most work in a governmental law office in the criminal context (a District Attorney's or Public Defender's Office, etc.) will not meet the UC Hastings Pro Bono definition because individuals in the criminal context are constitutionally entitled to representation; there is no civil corollary.
Q. Does summer work count?
A: As a general matter, a full-time summer position - whether it includes Pro Bono work in a law firm or work with a public interest organization - does not count. However, Pro Bono work beyond the typical ten week summer job commitment may qualify. These additional summer hours may count up to one-half of the total Pro Bono hours goal.
Q: Does work in one of UC Hastings’ clinical courses count?
A: Like summer work, time spent on clinic cases during the semester in which you receive credit does not count. However, if you work on a case or project beyond the clinic's requirements for academic credit, these hours may count toward the 45-hour goal.
Q: I ‘m a volunteer tutor at a local school. Do these hours count?
A: Community service work which is not law-related may be counted. However, only 25% of the total Pro Bono hours may be satisfied with community service work.
Q: Does work for student organizations count?
A: Yes, certain kinds of activities performed for student organizations qualify. Refer to the Program Requirements for more information.
Q: Does work in an externship count?
A: Like clinic work, externships with a non-profit or governmental law office during the semester in which you receive academic credit does not count as pro bono. However, if you continue to volunteer beyond the semester in which academic credit was received and the work meets the definition of pro bono for graduation recognition, these hours may be counted as pro bono. If the work is law related but does not meet the definition of pro bono, these hours may be counted as public service hours.
Q: Where can I find volunteer opportunities which match my interests?
A: There are many recognized organizations and student-initiated projects looking for volunteers. There are opportunities with a wide-range of time and/or task commitments. Do you want to work with an organization not on the list? Don't see anything you like? Contact Nancy Stuart to discuss further options.
Q: I’m feeling pressured by time. Do I have to commit to a regular schedule?
A: No. Many opportunities only seek a few hours on a single day, or a few hours weekly. Some opportunities consist of doing research which can be done from home at your leisure. How and with whom you choose to do pro bono is up to you.
Q: What are the benefits of meeting the 45 hour Pro Bono pledge?
A: In addition to the rewards stemming from being part of increasing access to justice, students who provide a minimum of 45 hours of pro bono legal services prior to graduation will be inducted into the Pro Bono Society and will be recognized for their accomplishments in the graduation program and on their transcript.
Q: Is there a benefit to doing more than 45 hours of Pro Bono?
A: The more you do, the greater the benefit to those you serve. Additionally, those students who match the aspirational goal set for practicing attorneys, 50 hours per year for a total of 150 hours prior to graduation will be recognized for their Outstanding Achievement in Pro Bono. This achievement will be reflected in the graduation program and on the students' transcript.
Q: Why should I do Pro Bono work?
A Law students engage in pro bono for a variety of reasons ranging from the personal to the professional. Pro bono work is a great way to give back to the community, develop your legal skills, network with legal services and private sector lawyers, put theory into practice, etc. See the Top Ten.
Q: Why should I sign the Pro Bono pledge now?
A: Sign up now to make a personal commitment, stay up-to-date on program offerings, pro bono opportunities, and pro bono resources. Plus, receive email reminders to submit your time sheets or to meet your pro bono goal.
Q: How do I submit my hours?
A: It’s simple. Fill out the Pro Bono time sheet (including a description of the volunteer work). Make sure your supervisor signs the form, then drop it off in room 350 of the Tower (100 Bldg), or submit it electronically to Jayme Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Is funding available to support pro bono work?
A: Limited funding of pro bono activities may be requested. Funding is intended to facilitate student involvement in pro bono activities. Preference will be given to pro bono activities which maximize the direct impact funding will have on the community.
Q: What is the process for requesting funding?
A: Student groups or individuals may request partial funding of pro bono activities twice each semester. Funding requests for the fall semester should be submitted to the pro bono advisory committee on May 15th or September 15th, and by November 15th or February 15th for the spring semester.
Q: Whom do I contact if I have more questions?
A: Contact Nancy Stuart, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning by email or phone (415.565.4620).