Volunteering over the winter and/or spring break(s) offers the opportunity to serve a client in need while also enhancing your legal skills. Pro bono volunteers build their resumes, get real world legal experience and create professional networks.
Winter break pro bono projects are set up by interested students with assistance from the Pro Bono Program. Projects are typically completed during the first two weeks of January. Volunteering over the break can be an option for students who are unable to participate during the academic year or for those who need hours for their PILA grant application. Each year, over 100 students volunteer for winter break pro bono with national and international legal organizations.
How to Participate in Winter Break Pro Bono
1. Decide where will you be
Students will typically 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 wish to make a shorter time commitment.
3. Think about what type of pro bono work interests you
Pro bono projects can be with nonprofit organizations, legal services, state/local governmental agencies, prosecutors and public defender offices. Projects with the federal government can be difficult to arrange due to the necessity of background checks.
Use PSJD.org to search for host organizations. Log in, create your free account and begin searching by geographic and/or legal practice area.
4. Contact possible host organizations
Contact potential host organizations via email. Here is an example of a script to use. Attach a copy of your resume to your email. If you do not receive a response within two business days, send a follow up email. If you still do not receive a response, follow up by phone. Reach out to one organization at a time beginning with your top choice and moving down your list.
The staff of the Pro Bono Program can assist after you have contacted two or three organizations on your own. (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.)
5. Log your hours
Your supervising attorney submits the pro bono project form, here. Your supervisor should enter your name as the student volunteer.
Pro bono hours are logged in GoodWorks. All training hours may be entered as long as they are directly connected to the pro bono project. You may not log more training than service hours.
Alternative Spring Break Pro Bono (ASB)
ASB, administered through the Public Interest Law Association (PILA), offers pro bono trips during spring break in March. In 2018, 46 students participated in 11 trips, volunteering with legal aid, nonprofit, and public defender organizations in Charlottesville and Norfolk, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
ASB hours can be used to meet the pro bono hours requirement for the PILA summer grant application.
Additional information about ASB, including how to sign up for a trip, is provided by PILA during the fall semester.
Only uncompensated and supervised legal work can be logged as pro bono. ASB volunteers should confirm in advance with their trip leader if all of their hours will qualify as pro bono.