Volunteering over the winter and/or spring break(s) offers the opportunity to serve while also building your legal skills. Pro bono volunteers enhance their resumes, gain real world experience and develop professional networks.
With assistance from the Pro Bono Program, students create their own individualized pro bono experience. Projects are typically completed during the first two or three weeks of January. Volunteering over the winter break is an excellent option for students who are unable to participate in pro bono during the academic year or for those who need additional hours to qualify for a PILA grant. Each year, over 100 students participate winter break pro bono with a wide variety national and even international legal organizations.
How to Participate in Winter Break Pro Bono
1. Decide where you want to volunteer
While a limited number of winter break projects are posted on GoodWorks and interested students are encouraged to apply, most students will independently arrange a project in their hometown or another place where they can live for free. *The number of students seeking projects in the Charlottesville area is usually greater than the number of pro bono opportunities available.
2. Determine how many hours you can volunteer
Plan to commit at least 40 hours during the first two weeks in January. Many organizations will not accept volunteers who who cannot commit to this minimum number of hours.
3. Think about what type of pro bono work interests you
Qualifying pro bono projects can be with nonprofit organizations, legal services, state/local governmental agencies, prosecutors and public defender offices. (Volunteer work for a federal, state, or local judge does not qualify for the purposes of the Pro Bono Program. Please see FAQ 7). Projects with the federal government are more difficult to secure due to the necessity of lengthy background checks.
PSJD.org is an excellent way to search for potential host organizations. Log in, create your free account, and begin exploring options by geographic and/or legal practice area.
4. Contact possible host organizations
Reach out to potential host organizations via email. Here is a sample script you can follow. Include a copy of your resume with your initial email. If you do not receive a response within several business days, send another email. A follow up to your emails by phone may be more effective. Ask to speak to the intern or volunteer coordinator if you do not know the name of a specific staff attorney. Reach out to one organization at a time beginning with your top choice and moving down your list. Generally, students secure a placement after making just one or two contacts.
If you would like to know if we have alumni or other contacts at a specific organization, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The staff of the Pro Bono Program will offer additional assistance to those students who contact more than three organizations without success.
5. Log your hours
To log your pro bono hours in GoodWorks, your supervising attorney will need to submit the pro bono project form, here. Your supervisor should enter your name as the student volunteer.
All pro bono hours must be logged in GoodWorks. Hours spent training may be counted only if you actually volunteer an equal or greater number of hours working on the project. You may not log more training time than hours of actual service.
Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono (ASB)
ASB, administered through the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), coordinates pro bono trips during the Law School's spring break in March. In 2019, 58 students participated in 25 trips, volunteering with legal aid, nonprofit, and public defender organizations in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Bronx, NY; Charlotte, Durham, and Greensboro, North Carolina; Whitesburg, KY; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
ASB hours are approved for the pro bono hours requirement for the PILA summer grant.
Additional information about ASB, including how to sign up for a trip, is provided by PILA during the fall semester.