The Pro Bono Program: Frequently Asked Questions

The Pro Bono Program: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Pro Bono Program?

The University of Virginia School of Law encourages all students to engage in pro bono during their time at the Law School.  The Pro Bono Program supports student-led pro bono, develops pro bono projects and clinics, coordinates winter break pro bono, and administers the Pro Bono Challenge.

Is completing the Pro Bono Challenge required for graduation?

The Law School’s Pro Bono Challenge is a voluntary program and not a requirement for graduation. However, all students are strongly encouraged to participate in pro bono during their time at the Law School. Students who complete the 75-hour Challenge (25 hours for LL.M.students) will be recognized at graduation and receive a certificate of achievement signed by the Dean.

Can I volunteer more than 75 hours of pro bono?

Students may volunteer as many hours of pro bono as they would like, but must log a minimum of 75 hours (25 hours for LL.M. students) in order to complete the Challenge.

Do I need to perform 25 hours annually or can I complete 75 hours in a single semester or year?

You do not need to log 25 hours annually.  To meet the Challenge, you must log at least 75 hours (25 hours for LL.M. students) by May 1 of your graduation year.

Can 1Ls participate in the pro bono program?

All students are encouraged to volunteer for a pro bono project as soon as they feel ready. Many students will do pro bono during the fall of their first year, but others will wait until winter break or the spring. Before committing to a project, asses your ability to do pro bono in addition to academic and other commitments.
Some projects may not be offered to first-year students due to the need for more advanced legal skills.

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

All students are encouraged to participate in the Pro Bono Program regardless of class year or career plans. LL.M. students who log at least 25 hours will meet the Pro Bono Challenge.

How do I log my hours for the Pro Bono Challenge?

Submit an online work log through GoodWorks at the completion of the project.

When do I need to log my hours in order to qualify for the Pro Bono Challenge?

Work logs should be submitted through GoodWorks at the conclusion of a project. All logs must be completed by the last day of classes, even if you intend to continue volunteering on the same project over the summer or during the following academic year.

What work qualifies as pro bono?

  • Law-related and non-clerical (e.g. interpretation/application of the law, legal research and writing, legislative drafting and work in preparation for litigation or trial);
  • For the benefit of legal services, nonprofit organization (501(c)(3) or (4)), governmental agency, or a private firm providing pro bono services;
  • Supervised by an attorney or faculty member;
  • Not performed for academic credit or financial compensation; and
  • Completed while the student is enrolled at the Law School.

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

Work done for a Law School clinic providing legal assistance to underrepresented individuals or organizations, supervised by a clinical faculty member, and not done for academic credit, can qualify as pro bono. Advance approval by both the supervisor and the Pro Bono Program is required.

Does 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) can qualify as pro bono. Research assistance for a faculty member’s academic or scholarly work is not pro bono. Students may not be compensated financially or with academic credit for pro bono hours.

Does non-legal volunteer work qualify as pro bono?

Non-legal, community service projects such as tutoring, mentoring, participating in food drives or community build days do not qualify as pro bono. Such public service work is encouraged and may be counted towards a PILA Grant.

Does work done for my summer employer qualify as pro bono?

Summer work, even if unpaid, is not pro bono unless it is done in addition to any work normally required by the summer employer. Students working on pro bono cases at an employing law firm may not log those hours. Pro bono hours volunteered after the summer program ends can be logged.

Summer pro bono hours should be approved in advance by emailing probono@law.virginia.edu.

Does coordinating a student organization’s project qualify as pro bono?

If the student organization and/or project has an attorney or faculty supervisor and otherwise qualifies as pro bono, time spent administering the project can be logged.  Fundraising for the organization is not pro bono.  

Do judicial clerkships qualify as pro bono?

Clerking or interning for an individual judge does not qualify as pro bono. Volunteer hours on behalf of a court sponsored program (e.g. Drug Court) that assists pro se litigants can be logged.

Does participation in a mock trial program qualify as pro bono?

Participation in mock trial programs on behalf of low-income or disadvantaged students (e.g. Street Law) qualifies as pro bono. Programs broadly directed at undergraduate or high school students do not count.

Is work for a political campaign pro bono?

Fundraising and other organizing work for a partisan political campaign is not considered pro bono. Nonpartisan poll monitoring projects that have attorney supervision can qualify.

Does translation work qualify as pro bono?

Written or oral translation of legal documents and/or proceedings performed in conjunction with a pro bono case can be logged.

Can I log training hours?

Training hours that are connected to the provision of pro bono services can be logged.  Students must volunteer at least an equal number of hours with the sponsoring organization or project in order to log their training time.

Can travel time be logged?

Travel time directly related to the provision of pro bono services (e.g., travel to other law offices, jails or detention centers, etc.) qualifies as pro bono. Travel time to and from the pro bono work site cannot be logged.

Can I develop my own pro bono project?

Law students are encouraged to create their own pro bono projects. Contact the staff of the Pro Bono Program (probono@law.virginia.edu) for assistance and approval of your project.

May I volunteer for more than one pro bono project at a time?

Students may volunteer for more than one project, but it is best to start with just one before you decide to take on additional work.

Do the hours logged towards the Law School’s Pro Bono Challenge qualify for the New York Bar Pro Bono Admission Requirement?

The rules for the New York Bar Pro Bono Requirement and the Pro Bono Program differ. Not all projects approved by the Pro Bono Program will satisfy the New York rule. More

Peter Kye

Peter Kye '17

"On an Alternative Spring Break trip to the Mississippi Center for Justice, I met with victims of the Gulf Oil Spill and helped them file claims to get compensation. Through my pro bono work, I have developed a better understanding of the issues facing low-income communities as a whole, as well as how to address the needs of individual clients."