Pro Bono Program Overview

The provision of pro bono legal services is an integral component of a legal education and to the practice of law.  Hastings encourages and fosters pro bono participation by all members of our community in an effort to improve access to justice for all.

The Pro Bono  Pledge

Students are asked to commit to deliver 45 hours of pro bono services over the course of their three years at Hastings by signing the Pro Bono Pledge.   The hours may be satisfied in a gradually increasing manner (10 hours in first year, 15 in 2nd and 20 in 3rd) or may be satisfied in a single year.  Those students meeting the 45 hour goal prior to graduation will be inducted into the Pro Bono Society and recognized in the graduation program.  This achievement will also be noted on the student's transcript.  In light of the roll out of the program with the entering class of 2011, students in the class of 2010 will graduate as members of the Pro Bono Society if they complete at least 30 hours of pro bono and will be recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Pro Bono if they complete at least 100 hours.

Definition of Pro Bono

The legal needs of low-income Californians have increased in complexity as well as scope; the recent economic downturn has only served to magnify the impact of these unmet needs.  Legal services organizations, already unable to meet the demand for services, are more challenged than ever to protect the legal rights of the clients they serve.  

In recognition of the overwhelming need for civil legal assistance in California, Hastings encourages and recognizes the efforts or our students who strive to meet this need.  For purposes of graduation recognition, Hastings defines pro bono as volunteer work in law-related services provided directly to or on behalf of under-represented individuals or communities.

Examples of what counts as Pro Bono

Students providing pro bono legal services in a wide-variety of settings and contexts will be recognized for their efforts:

  • Direct legal services – under the supervision of an attorney, students may provide direct legal services to an individual, may interview individuals seeking legal assistance, conduct factual investigation, legal research and writing, legislative analysis and policy interpretation, development of legal education materials and presentation of legal education workshops.
  • Work with recognized student organizations - organizations like GAAP and VITA are student run and directed but are clearly law-related.  All work with organizations serving the under-represented count.
  • Summer work – work performed in summer positions that are full-time for up to 10 weeks would not count.  Pro Bono work performed beyond the 10 week commitment may be counted.  However, summer pro bono hours may not satisfy more than half of the total hours requirement, i.e., no more than 22.5 hours of summer work may be used to satisfy the 45 hour requirement.
  • Hastings Clinic work – general clinic work for which students’ receive credit does not count.  Similar to summer work though, if a student’s involvement goes above and beyond the semester in which he/she received credit, and all requirements for the clinic are fulfilled, the additional hours may be counted.
  • Public Service - law-related work in the public sector which does not otherwise meet the definition of pro bono may be counted up to 25% of the total hours requirement, i.e., no more than 11.25 hours of public service work may be used to satisfy the 45 hour requirement.
  • Community Service – while not directly law-related, work with one of the enumerated student groups performed during the academic year may be counted up to 25% of the total hours requirement, i.e., no more than 11.25 hours of community service work may be used to satisfy the 45 hour requirement.

Exceptions to what counts 

  • Administrative work –  will only count if the administrative services are directly related to the provision of legal services.  Examples of what would not count are – making travel arrangements, fundraising, HPILF applications logistics, etc.  An example of what would count is the updating and preparation of training materials.
  • Training time – individuals presenting the training may count these hours.  Individuals receiving the training in a group setting without the actual delivery of service may not count this time.  However, if the training is one on one in a shadowing type of role, these hours may be counted.

Time Verification

External verification of the pro bono work performed is required.  Student pro bono timesheets must be signed by a supervising attorney or student coordinator of the organization or group with whom the services were performed.  Timesheets may be submitted to the Externships and Pro Bono Programs office, 100 McAllister St., Rm 350.  Students who have signed the Pro Bono Pledge will receive periodic email reminders regarding their status toward completion of their pledged hours.

Pro Bono Recognition

Students who have delivered 45 hours or more of pro bono services prior to graduation will be recognized in the graduation program denoting membership in the Pro Bono Society.  Special recognition will be given to students who have delivered 150 or more hours of pro bono services; this will be noted in the graduation program indicating Outstanding Achievement in Pro Bono.  Recognition and an explanatory note regarding pro bono achievement will also be included on a student’s transcript.