Initiating a Pro Bono Project

Qualifying Projects

Projects must conform to Pro Bono Program guidelines to be eligible for recognition.  Pro bono projects must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Projects must be law-related;
  • Students may not receive any type of academic credit for pro bono work;
  • Students and pro bono host organizations may not receive compensation for pro bono work; and
  • Pro bono projects must include sufficient training by an attorney, law faculty member, or other licensed professional.

Volunteer legal work that is required as part of a research assistantship, directed study, clinic or journal is ineligible for pro bono recognition.  Legal work performed to fulfill the requirements of a stipend program is also ineligible for pro bono recognition.

Examples of qualifying pro bono projects:

  • Volunteering with a not-for-profit legal services organization;
  • Working on pro bono cases at a private firm, provided that neither the student nor the firm receives compensation; and
  • Participating in a project sponsored by a law student organization, which is appropriately supervised.

Students wishing to perform pro bono projects that do not conform to the requirements should schedule a meeting with Pro Bono Program staff to discuss their project proposal.

Project Proposals

Pro bono project proposals may be submitted by students, legal services organizations, or individual attorneys.  The submission method varies according to the project initiator.

Students are encouraged to design and submit pro bono project proposals that address their interests.  A student (or group of students) must identify a host organization and work with the organization to design a project.  The student submits a written Student Project Proposal application to the Pro Bono Program, and a staff member will then meet with the student to review the proposal.  The student may be required to revise aspects of the proposal and obtain approval of any revisions from the host organization.  The Pro Bono Program staff can then approve the project and the student may begin work immediately according to the schedule determined by the student and the host organization.

Legal Services Organizations
Legal services organizations should identify a specific project within their organization for student volunteers in which students are sufficiently trained by an attorney, law faculty member, or other licensed professional.  Legal services organizations may then obtain student assistance by submitting a Pro Bono Project Application, which requires applicants to describe the project goals and the type of student pro bono participation requested.  If pro bono student participation is used to support ongoing projects within the host organization, the organization should articulate specific goals for the student participation.  Upon receiving and reviewing the application, Pro Bono Program staff may conduct a site visit and meet with the project supervisors.  Once the project is approved, it will be advertised to students. Pro Bono Program staff will assist in the placement of students with legal services organizations.

If an organization is seeking student volunteers for multiple projects, it should submit a separate application for each project.  There is no limit to the number of students or projects that a single organization can host.

Individual attorneys working on pro bono projects may apply for student pro bono assistance using the Attorney Registration Form.  Pro Bono Program staff will arrange a meeting with the attorney to discuss the requirements of the Pro Bono Program and the attorney must sign a commitment to adhere to the Pro Bono Program guidelines.  Once an attorney is approved, the Pro Bono Program staff will make the project available to students.  Pro Bono Program staff will assist in pairing students with attorneys.

Required Information

The following information is required for all pro bono projects.  The format of this information will vary according to the project source and the application form used.

All pro bono projects must provide:

  • Contact information for the project supervisor and for the host organization;
  • A description of the pro bono project including project goals, clients served and expectations of student volunteers;
  • Time frame for project completion and student participation schedule (i.e., weekly time commitment, single day, according to student availability, etc.);
  • Location of required student participation;
  • Required legal skills, courses or clinic experience; and
  • Any language requirements.

Project applications should be submitted using the forms provided at the Pro Bono Program website.  Applicants may include with their application any training material that will be used to prepare student volunteers.  Applicants may also provide additional material, including publications or brochures about the organization or individual attorney or concerning the specific project.

Project Approval Process

Pro Bono Program staff review and approve all pro bono projects.  Upon receiving an application, Pro Bono Program staff will work with the applicant to revise the proposal to conform to the Pro Bono Program requirements.  Prior to submitting an application, applicants may request to meet with Pro Bono Program staff to discuss project ideas and create a qualifying project proposal.

To expedite project approval, applicants should ensure that their proposals address the following issues:

  • Articulate goals and expectations for individual student participation;
  • Describe supervision and training for student volunteers, keeping in mind the requirement that the training must be conducted by an attorney, law faculty member or other licensed professional with sufficient expertise in the subject area; and
  • Address how work serves eligible pro bono clients.

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