Information for Attorneys Supervising Student Pro Bono Volunteers

Information for Attorneys Supervising Student Pro Bono Volunteers

Thank you for your interest in working with a law student volunteer. Pro bono is an important part of our students’ legal education, providing them with opportunities to develop critical legal skills while serving clients in need.

All pro bono projects for students must be law-related. Examples of appropriate projects include: interviewing witnesses/clients, developing community education materials, drafting legal documents, providing research, analyzing legislation, or assisting in court.  Please note that students working at a law firm may not receive credit for work done when they are being paid. Work done on behalf of paying clients at a law firm does not qualify as pro bono.

Student volunteers can provide both assistance for short-term, ad hoc projects, or they can commit to a defined number of hours each week throughout the semester or academic year. Volunteers can come to your office or work remotely.  Law school exams are administered in December and May, so projects submitted at the beginning of an academic semester (late-August and mid-January) receive a better response. Projects should have a time commitment of no more than 3-8 hours/week. We are unable to guarantee student availability for any project. If you would like help developing a pro bono opportunity, you can contact us at probono@law.virginia.edu.  

For posting on our online GoodWorks system,  pro bono projects must meet the following criteria:

  1. Law-related:  requires some knowledge of the law or the use of legal skills
  2. Supervised by an attorney: student pro bono volunteers must receive appropriate training, mentoring and evaluation.  All student work product must be reviewed by the attorney supervisor. The supervisor must ensure compliance with applicable ethical rules and codes of professional conduct
  3. On behalf of: indigent clients or an under-represented causes or organizations (e.g. legal services, governmental agency, nonprofit (501 (c)(3)) or public defender)
  4. Uncompensated: students may not receive financial compensation or academic credit.

Request a pro bono student volunteer here in Charlottesville or in another location by completing and submitting a project request (Pro Bono Project Request Form). Student applications, including a resume and a brief statement of interest, will be sent to you as they are received for screening and volunteer selection. Pro bono projects posted on GoodWorks will be advertised to students through an email alert sent on a weekly basis, during the academic year.

Checklist for Effective Attorney Supervisors

  1. Schedule a meeting to discuss the substance of the project, as well as training, deadlines, and office policies/ procedures.
  2. Confirm how you will communicate with your volunteer (e.g. email, phone, Zoom, or in-person meetings).
  3. Educate your volunteer about the rules of professional responsibility, especially for conflicts, unauthorized practice, and client confidentiality.  Provide them with copies of relevant policies to review. Discuss email protocol. Be alert to the fact that student volunteers  may have previous clinical experiences, externships or summer jobs, which could create a conflict.
  4. Include your volunteer, whenever possible, in case-related activities—meetings with clients, witnesses, or opposing counsel.
  5. Provide substantive feedback on an ongoing basis.  Regular communication reduces volunteer anxiety and enhances their ability to produce a quality work product.
  6. Conduct an exit interview with your volunteer at the conclusion of the project and offer advice for future pro bono work.
  7. Complete and submit our evaluation form and approve volunteer’s pro bono hours. You will be emailed a link to these forms.

Questions or concerns?  Contact Assistant Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest, Kimberly Emery at (434) 924-1419 or probono@law.virginia.edu.