Pro Bono Program

 
The Pro Bono Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Can 1Ls participate in the pro bono program?

First-year students are encouraged to get involved in pro bono as soon as they feel ready. Many first-year students will do pro bono during the fall semester, but others will decide to wait until the winter break or the spring semester. Before committing to a pro bono project, consider your ability to successfully take on such a project in addition to your academic and other commitments. Some projects are not available to first-year students due to the need for advanced legal skills.

Can LL.M.s participate in the pro bono program?

LL.M. students are encouraged to get involved with pro bono. Some projects may not be available to LL.M. students. The Pro Bono Program is always happy to assist LL.M.s with finding an appropriate project.

Is the 75-hour Pro Bono Challenge a graduation requirement? Can I do more than 75 hours of pro bono? How do I log my hours for the Pro Bono Challenge?

The Pro Bono Challenge is a voluntary program and not a requirement for graduation. You can do as many hours of pro bono as you like, but you must do at least 75 during your time at the Law School (25 hours for LLM students) to be certified as completing the challenge. In order for your hours to count towards the Pro Bono Challenge, you must submit an online work log at the completion of the project. All hours for the year must be submitted by the last day of classes in the spring. Before your hours can be approved, you must also complete a student evaluation. You will not be able to log any hours until you have completed an online student volunteer agreement. All of these forms are accessible through GoodWorks.

In order to meet the Pro Bono Challenge, do students need to perform 25 hours per year or can all 75 hours be completed in a single academic year?

While students are encouraged to participate in the Pro Bono Program throughout their time at the Law School, students do not need to log 25 hours each year to meet the Pro Bono Challenge. Students must have logged 75 hours by May 1 of their 3L year.

When must hours be submitted by in order to qualify for a given year?

It is recommended that students submit their pro bono hours immediately upon completing a project. All hours for a given academic year must be submitted by May 1. Work logs submitted after the deadline will not be accepted. If you have a situation that will prevent you from logging your hours by May 1, please contact  lawprobono@virginia.edu.

What type of pro bono work qualifies for the Pro Bono Challenge?

  • law-related and necessitating the use of legal skills (e.g., assisting an attorney at trial, counseling clients, drafting motions, briefs or legislation, community education, legal research and writing, or interviewing witnesses)
  • supervised by an attorney or Law School faculty member
  • on behalf of a nonprofit organization, a legal services organization, a federal, state or local government agency (including both prosecutors and defenders), or a private law firm providing pro bono legal services
  • not for academic credit (e.g., classes, clinics or journal activities) or financial compensation
  • completed while the student is enrolled at the Law School

What type of volunteer work DOES NOT qualify for the Pro Bono Challenge?

  • Clerical tasks (e.g., filing, making copies)
  • Fundraising
  • Partisan political activities

How do I find a pro bono project?

The Pro Bono Program strives to find an appropriate pro bono opportunity for every student that requests one. All available projects are advertised to students through email alerts and are viewable in GoodWorks.

A.  In-House Projects: These projects require either a semester or year- long commitment of approximately 3-8 hours per week. They offer students hands-on experience with a variety of legal tasks including research, writing, client interviewing, and for students with third-year practice certificates, the opportunity to make court appearances. Applications are required and space is limited. Examples of such projects include the Hunton & Williams Pro Bono Partnership and the Pro Bono Systems Change Practicum.

B.  Ad-Hoc Projects: These short-term pro bono opportunities are typically initiated by outside organizations, local attorneys or Law School faculty members. These projects generally have more limited and less structured time commitments. Some can be done remotely.

C.  Student-Initiated Projects: Students may also develop their own pro bono projects. To begin the process, students should contact the organization they are interested in working with. If the organization is willing and able to host them as a volunteer, they should complete the appropriate Student-Initiated Pro Bono Project Form using GoodWorks. The form will be submitted to the staff of the Pro Bono Program for approval. Students should not begin work on a student-initiated project until it has been approved.
To view a list of where students have volunteered in previous years, go to the retained projects tab in GoodWorks.

Does work done for a Law School clinic qualify as pro bono?

Work done in association with a law school clinic qualifies as pro bono only if the hours are supervised by a clinical faculty member, the student confirms that they are not currently enrolled in the clinic, and/or they provide written verification that the work is not being done for academic credit.

Can work for a Law School faculty member qualify as pro bono?

Volunteering for a faculty member on a pro bono matter (e.g., amicus brief or policy advocacy project) will qualify. Assistance with the faculty member’s academic or scholarly research does not qualify.  The student may not receive any financial compensation for hours to be qualified as pro bono.

Does work done for my summer employer qualify?

Pro bono work completed over the summer will qualify for the Pro Bono Challenge only if it is done in addition to any work normally required by the student’s summer employer.  The student must not be financially compensated during the period the work is performed. Summer pro bono projects should be approved in advance by emailing lawprobono@virginia.edu.

Do judicial clerkships qualify as pro bono?

Clerking or interning for an individual judge does not qualify, but volunteer work for a court program that assists pro se litigants may count if the work otherwise meets the definition of qualifying pro bono. Contact lawprobono@virginia.edu to verify that your volunteer assignment with a court will count towards the Pro Bono Challenge.

Does work for a political campaign qualify?

Fundraising and other organizing projects for a partisan campaign are not considered pro bono. Nonpartisan poll monitoring that has attorney supervision can qualify for pro bono credit. Volunteering for a legislative committee under attorney supervision also qualifies.

Does translating work qualify?

Translation (written or oral) of legal documents and/or proceedings that is performed in conjunction with a pro bono case qualifies.

Does travel time qualify?

Training and travel time directly related to the provision of pro bono services qualifies (e.g., travel to other law offices, jails or detention centers, etc.). Travel time to and from the pro bono work site does not qualify.  

Does work for a student public service organization qualify?

Work with a student public service organization that is not supervised by an attorney and/or not law-related (such as tutoring, food drives, fund-raising, home-building projects), does not qualify for the Pro Bono Challenge. Such community service may qualify as public service work for the purposes of the PILA Grant application.  If you have a question as to whether or not a particular project qualifies as pro bono, please contact us at lawprobono@virginia.edu before you begin volunteering.