The Law School established the Pro Bono Pledge Program in 2009 to encourage and recognize law student participation in pro bono activities and community service projects for which no academic credit or compensation is received.
Law students are encouraged to make a Pro Bono Pledge to perform a minimum of (50) hours of pro bono service while enrolled at the Law School. Students are encouraged to make this pledge during their first year, but may do so at any time prior to graduating. Students who fulfill their pledge and submit required documentation of their pro bono service will receive a notation on their Law School transcripts indicating that they have fulfilled a voluntary pro bono pledge by performing (50) hours or more of pro bono service. Students who complete (100) hours or more of pro bono service will receive additional recognition.
Students are encouraged to continue volunteering after reaching the (50) or (100) hours pledge threshold.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to promote access to justice and serve the public good. The Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys state that "[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay." (ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1) There is an enormous need for pro bono work, as it is estimated that more than 80% of the legal needs of persons with limited means in the United States are unmet. Chief Justice Chase Rogers of the Connecticut Supreme Court has actively championed pro bono service by members of the bar and law students, and has formed a bench/bar committee to actively explores ways lawyers and law students can address the unmet legal needs of Connecticut residents.
Pro bono service provides law students with the opportunity to address unmet legal needs in the community while enriching their legal education. New York recently adopted a rule requiring that state bar applicants perform (50) hours of pro bono service prior to admission. Student pro bono hours can satisfy the New York rule.
For purposes of the pro bono pledge program, "pro bono service" means uncompensated work, performed in conjunction with an organization, agency, law firm or individual lawyer, that helps to meet the legal needs of persons of limited means, or is in the public interest. Up to 20% of a student’s pro bono service may be volunteer service in the community that is not directly law-related. At least 80% of the work must be legal in nature. Pro bono service that qualifies under this policy includes:
- The provision of legal services to persons of limited means or to organizations that endeavor to address the needs of persons of limited means or the needs of underserved communities;
- Work in the public interest on behalf of individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil or human rights and/or liberties, or seeking to advance the public good; or
- Participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.
The definition of pro bono service under this policy is non-ideological, and does not depend on the political perspective or viewpoint of the clients served or the conception of the public good that is being pursued. Because of the critical need for legal services that exists among persons of limited means, and the legal profession’s special responsibility to ensure access to justice regardless of ability to pay, students are encouraged to devote a substantial proportion of their pro bono hours to activities that fit into the first category above.
In order to inform members of the UConn Law Community on the Pro Bono Pledge Program, the program coordinators have compiled this list of frequently asked questions (FAQ). If Law Students cannot find an answer to their question here, they should contact Professor Timothy Everett.
What counts towards the Pro Bono Pledge?
- At least 80% of the work must be law-related, requiring knowledge of the law or the exercise of legal skills for completion. Hours spent receiving training necessary to perform a particular law-related pro bono project may be counted towards fulfillment of the Pledge. Up to (10) hours of the (50) hours required for completion of the Pledge, or up to (20) hours of the (100) hours required for additional recognition by the Law School may be performed in non-law-related community service projects.
- The work must be supervised by an attorney, or in the case of services that do not involve the practice of law, by a person with sufficient expertise to competently provide the services in question.
- The work must be uncompensated. Students may not receive any form of financial remuneration (salary, stipend or grant), academic credit, or credit towards fulfilling required hours or tasks for a journal, for work that is counted towards the Pledge. In addition, the sponsoring lawyer or organization must not charge the client or recipient of services an hourly fee, a flat fee or a contingent fee for the services provided. A legal services organization or program that charges clients nominal fees, designed to be affordable to persons of limited means, satisfies this policy’s requirement that work be uncompensated.
- The work must be documented through the completion and submission to the registrar's office of forms documenting the pro bono work. These forms are reviewed by the Law School’s pro bono coordinator to determine whether the work qualifies as eligible pro bono work under this policy and was satisfactorily completed. Students are encouraged to consult with Professor Tim Everett, the Law School's pro bono coordinator, in advance of performing the work to resolve any questions as to whether a project will qualify as pro bono work within the meaning of this policy.
Can pro bono service done before entering law school count?
No, only pro bono service accomplished after matriculation at the law school counts toward the Pledge.
Does pro bono service done during the summer qualify?
Yes, as long as it meets the other requirements of the Pledge Program. Work that is paid or covered by a summer stipend does not qualify. However, if a student continues to work on a volunteer basis beyond the period that is paid or covered by a summer stipend, those additional volunteer hours can be counted towards the Pro Bono Pledge.
Can an externship placement with a public interest organization qualify?
If you receive law school credit for the work you are performing, it cannot be counted towards the Pro Bono Pledge. However, if you continue working on a volunteer basis at your placement after you have completed the required number of hours for credit, the additional hours do qualify.
Do I need advance approval for a placement?
No, although students are strongly encouraged to seek approval from the Pro Bono Coordinator before beginning a placement, it is not necessary. Advance approval will help to ensure that the placement is one that qualifies for Pledge Program hours. Visit the student portal professional development page for the approval form.
How do I sign up for the Pro Bono Pledge?
Visit the student portal professional development page for the Pro Bono Pledge documents to sign up.
How should I keep track of my Pro Bono Pledge hours?
Pro Bono hours are to be reported on the Pro Bono placement time log that is available online or in paper form from the registrar’s office. Hours should be recorded at the end of a semester or the conclusion of a placement (although hours recorded at other times will be accepted). Before turning time sheets into the registrar’s office, they must be signed by the student and a supervising attorney. A separate time sheet should be submitted for each placement.
What happens when I meet my Pledge goal?
Students who satisfy the Pledge with (50) hours will receive a notation on their transcripts that they performed (50) or more hours of voluntary pro bono service. Students who complete (100) or more hours will receive a notation that they have performed (100) or more hours of service and will be issued a certificate by the Law School to commemorate their service.
What happens if I don't meet my Pledge goal?
There are no negative consequences for not meeting your Pledge goal.
Are LL.M. students eligible for the Program?
LL.M. students are eligible for the Pro Bono Pledge Program.
Are there any deadlines for submitting my placement forms and time logs?
Transcript notations will be updated at the end of each academic semester. Graduating students are responsible for completing the Pro Bono Pledge paperwork by the end of their last semester at the Law School.\
Can externship and clinic hours be counted towards a Pro Bono Pledge?
No. To qualify for Pledge recognition, the service cannot be for credit or compensation; therefore externships and clinics do not count.
Does service with a student-directed pro bono project or organization count toward the Pledge if there is not a supervising attorney?
Yes. Either the supervising attorney or the authorized student representative may sign the placement form and time log to verify those hours.
Does my pro bono service while at the Law School fulfill the prerequisite of pro bono service required by the State of New York for prospective members of its Bar?
It can. See the website explaining the new rule in New York, at Questions and Answers 9 and 10.
Law students are invited and encouraged to make a Pro Bono Pledge to perform a minimum of (50) hours of pro bono service while enrolled at the Law School. Students are encouraged to make this pledge during their first year of law school, but may do so at any time prior to completion of their final year. Students who fulfill their pledge and submit required documentation of their pro bono service will receive a notation on their Law School transcripts indicating that they have fulfilled a voluntary pro bono pledge by contributing (50) hours or more of pro bono service. Students who complete (100) hours or more of pro bono service will receive additional recognition from the Law School. Once completed this form should be returned to the registrar's office.Pro Bono Pledge Form »
Students are strongly encouraged to submit a "Pro Bono Placement Approval" form to the Pro Bono Coordinator before beginning pro bono service to ensure the chosen pro bono work complies with the Pledge program guidelines. If work has already been performed, this form may be submitted simultaneously with the Placement Time Log. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the placement complies with the Pro Bono Pledge program requirements. Once completed this form should be returned to the Office of the Registrar.Pro Bono Pledge Placement Approval Form »
Students are strongly encouraged to submit the pro bono placement log immediately upon completion of work to ensure timely approval and transcript notation. At least 80% of the work must be law-related, requiring knowledge of the law or the exercise of legal skills for completion. Hours spent receiving training necessary to perform a particular law-related pro bono project may be counted towards fulfillment of the Pro Bono Pledge. Up to (10) hours of the (50) hours required for completion of the Pro Bono Pledge, or up to (20) hours of the (100) hours required for additional recognition by the Law School may be performed in non-law-related community service projects. Once completed this form should be returned to the registrar's office.Pro Bono Pledge Placement Log »