The American Bar Association (Model Rule 6.1) encourages all lawyers to aspire to render at least 50 hours annually of pro bono legal services. Due to increasingly limited government-funded legal services, pro bono is an essential part of ensuring access to justice for the indigent and underrepresented. According to the Justice Index of the National Center for Access to Justice and the Benjamin Cordozo School of Law, there is just one legal services lawyer for every 8,893 low-income clients.
The Law School is committed to instilling this ethic of pro bono service in its graduates. The Pro Bono Program responds to the professional obligation of lawyers to ensure access to justice by providing law students with an introduction to pro bono before they begin their professional careers.
Established in 1999, the Law School’s Pro Bono Program develops, administers, and publicizes pro bono opportunities for students while responding to the volunteer needs of community groups and other outside organizations. The Pro Bono Program administers in-house projects, develops a variety of ad-hoc pro bono opportunities throughout the academic year, and supports winter and spring break pro bono projects. The Pro Bono Program, through orientation sessions, e-mail alerts, speakers and volunteer recognition and awards, encourages every student to participate in pro bono while at the Law School.
“Thou shalt not ration justice.”
- Chief Judge Learned Hand, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit
“As far back as judges and lawyers have existed, the pursuit of equal justice for all, rich and poor alike, has been the hallmark of our profession.”
- Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, State of New York, Court of Appeals
Pro bono is a critical component of access to justice and to addressing the unmet need for legal services. Pro bono service also provides an opportunity to develop legal skills and build a professional network. Pro bono work enhances your law school experience by connecting the academic work you do in the classroom to the real world of practice.
Pro bono is:
- a structured way to gain practical experience in legal research and writing, client interviewing, and other advocacy skills
- an opportunity to try different practice areas or career options without committing to a summer internship or clinic
- a way to strengthen your resume by demonstrating relevant work experience and legal skills
- an opportunity to gain legal mentoring, career-planning advice, and networking contacts
- a way to produce writing samples and/or legal references
- an opportunity to interact with clients
- a way to fulfill your ethical obligation to perform 50 hours of pro bono annually (ABA Model Rule 6.1)
- personally satisfying and can often be one of your most rewarding experiences in law school (see sidebar testimonials for what some of our student volunteers had to say about their pro bono experiences)
- Set a goal of completing the 75-hour Pro Bono Challenge during your three years of Law School. (LL.M.s complete 25 hours)
- Log on to GoodWorks and regularly check for new projects. If you don’t see a project that suits your needs or piques your interest, you can create your own pro bono opportunity by submitting a student-initiated project through GoodWorks.
- Stay alert for pro bono emails containing updates and information about pro bono opportunities.
- Log all of your pro bono hours using GoodWorks.