One of the most important obligations of the legal profession is to perform voluntary pro bono publico service (work for the public good). The Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys state that "[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay" (ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1). There is an enormous need for pro bono work, as it is estimated that more than 80% of the legal needs of persons with limited means are currently unmet in the U.S. Chief Justice Chase Rogers of the Connecticut Supreme Court has been an active champion of pro bono service, convening a “Pro Bono Summit” and appointing a committee to explore ways lawyers can address the unmet legal needs of Connecticut residents. (See http://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/pst/probono/ProBono_Annual_Rpt_2012.pdf .) While pro bono service is not currently mandatory for Connecticut lawyers and law students, it is essential to fulfilling the goals of legal justice for all. The state of New York recently adopted a new rule requiring applicants to that state’s bar to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono service prior to admission. (See http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml.)
Pro bono service provides law students with the opportunity to address unmet legal needs in the community and beyond while enriching their own legal education. Faculty and students at the University of Connecticut School of Law provide a variety of legal services to persons of limited means, organizations that assist such persons, and other government and not-for-profit organizations. Various student organizations sponsor pro bono projects. Students may also work with alumni or faculty who are engaged in pro bono projects or volunteer to work directly with not-for-profit organizations that provide services to clients or engage in advocacy work. There are also many for-credit opportunities to perform legal work for under-served populations, including the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, the Criminal Clinics, the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, the Center for Children's Advocacy, the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative, and several externship clinics.
Students can become involved in pro bono projects as early as their first year of law school. Students who wish to form an organization to perform pro bono work, who would like to work directly with a faculty member or lawyer on a pro bono project, or who require other assistance in finding pro bono opportunities should contact Professor Timothy Everett, the Faculty Pro Bono Coordinator.
Students who complete 50 or more hours of pro bono service while in law school are eligible for the Pro Bono Pledge program. The student and other organizations listed below provide opportunities for students to fulfill the Pro Bono Pledge. Students are also welcome to arrange qualifying placements at other organizations.
Pro Bono Pledge Program
What is the University of Connecticut Law School Pro Bono Pledge?
Lawyers, and those aspiring to join the legal profession, have a professional obligation to provide legal services to those unable to pay, promote access to justice, and serve the public good. The University of Connecticut School of Law has a longstanding commitment to serving the community and educating students about the professional obligation of pro bono service and work in the public interest. The School of Law established the Pro Bono Pledge program to encourage and recognize law student participation in pro bono activities and community service projects for which no academic credit or compensation is received.
Law students are invited and encouraged to make a Pro Bono Pledge to perform a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono service, as defined below, while enrolled at the Law School. Students are encouraged to make this pledge during their first year of law school, but may do so at any time prior to completion of their final year.
Students who fulfill their pledge, and submit required documentation of their pro bono service, will receive a notation on their law school transcripts indicating that they have fulfilled a voluntary pro bono pledge by contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono service. Students who complete 100 hours or more of pro bono service will receive additional recognition.
Students are encouraged to continue volunteering after reaching the 50 or 100 hours Pledge threshold.
What is pro bono service?
For purposes of this program, "pro bono service" means uncompensated work, performed in conjunction with an organization, agency, law firm or individual lawyer, that helps to meet the legal needs of persons of limited means, or is in the public interest. Pro bono service that qualifies under this policy includes:
* The provision of legal services to persons of limited means, or to organizations that endeavor to address the needs of persons of limited means or the needs of underserved communities.
* Work in the public interest on behalf of individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil or human rights and/or liberties, or seeking to advance the public good.
* Participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.
The definition of pro bono service under this policy is non-ideological, and does not depend on the political perspective or viewpoint of the clients served, or the conception of the public good that is being pursued. Because of the critical need for legal services that exists among persons of limited means, and the legal profession’s special responsibility to ensure access to justice regardless of ability to pay, students are encouraged to devote a substantial proportion of their pro bono hours to activities that fit into the first category above.
What counts towards the Pro Bono Pledge?
1. At least 80% of the work must be law-related, requiring knowledge of the law or the exercise of legal skills for completion. Hours spent receiving training necessary to perform a particular law-related pro bono project may be counted towards fulfillment of the Pledge. Up to 10 hours of the 50 hours required for completion of the Pledge, or up to 20 hours of the 100 hours required for additional recognition by the Law School may be performed in non-law-related community service projects.
2. The work must be supervised by an attorney, or, in the case of services that do not involve the practice of law, by a person with sufficient expertise to competently provide the services in question.
3. The work must be uncompensated. Students may not receive any form of financial remuneration (salary, stipend, or grant), academic credit, or credit towards fulfilling required hours or tasks for a journal, for work that is counted towards the Pledge. In addition, the sponsoring lawyer or organization must not charge the client or recipient of services an hourly fee, a flat fee or a contingent fee for the services provided. A legal services organization or program that charges clients nominal fees, designed to be affordable to persons of limited means, satisfies this policy’s requirement that work be uncompensated.
4. The work must be documented through the completion and submission to the Registrar's Office of forms documenting the pro bono work. These forms shall be reviewed by the Pro Bono Coordinators to determine whether the law student’s work qualifies as eligible pro bono work under this policy and was satisfactorily completed. Any hours disapproved by a Pro Bono Coordinator may not be used to fulfill the Pro Bono Pledge. Students are encouraged to consult with a Pro Bono Coordinator in advance of performing the work to resolve any questions as to whether a project will qualify as pro bono work within the meaning of this policy.
Can pro bono service done before the Pledge Program began qualify for Pledge hours?
Students enrolled at the Law School before the 2009-2010 academic year are eligible for Pledge Program hours for pro bono service done during that time, if they can document the placements and hours served.
Does pro bono service done during the summer qualify?
Yes, as long as it meets the other requirements of the Pledge Program. Work that is paid or covered by a summer stipend does not qualify. However, if a student continues to work on a volunteer basis beyond the period that is paid or covered by a summer stipend, those additional volunteer hours can be counted towards the Pro Bono pledge.
Can an externship placement with a public interest organization qualify?
If you receive law school credit for the work you are performing, it cannot be counted towards the Pro Bono Pledge. However, if you continue working on a volunteer basis at your placement after you have completed the required number of hours for credit, the additional hours do qualify.
How do I sign up for the Pro Bono Pledge?
Click here to sign up for the Pro Bono Pledge.
Do I need advance approval for a placement?
No, although students are strongly encouraged to seek approval from a Pro Bono Coordinator before beginning a placement. This will help to ensure that the placement is one that qualifies for Pledge Program hours. Click here for the Placement Approval form.
How should I keep track of my Pro Bono Pledge hours?
Pro Bono hours are to be reported on the Pro Bono Placement Time Log that is available online or in paper form from the Registrar’s Office. Hours should be recorded at the end of a semester or the conclusion of a placement (although hours recorded at other times will be accepted). Before turning time sheets into the Registrar’s Office, they must be signed by the student and a supervising attorney. A separate time sheet should be submitted for each placement.
What happens when I meet my Pledge goal?
Students who satisfy the Pledge with 50 hours will receive a notation on their transcripts, that they performed 50 or more hours of voluntary pro bono service. Students who complete 100 or more hours will receive a notation that they have performed 100 or more hours of service, and will be issued a certificate by the Law School to commemorate their service.
What happens if I don't meet my Pledge goal?
There are no negative consequences for not meeting your pledge goal.
Why does the Pledge Program recognize community service hours?
This exception is intended to make it possible for students in their first semester, who are just beginning to develop their legal knowledge and skills, to engage in pro bono service, and to encourage projects that will promote awareness of and engagement with community needs.
How do I find community service volunteer opportunities?
There are a number of student organizations involved in community service projects throughout the year which are advertised through e-mails and posters around campus. A list of student organizations that sponsor community service projects is at the bottom of this page.
Are LL.M. students eligible for the Program?
LL.M. students are eligible for the Pro Bono Pledge Program.
Are there any deadlines for submitting my Placement Forms and Time Logs?
Transcript notations will be updated at the end of each academic semester. Graduating students are responsible for completing the Pro Bono Pledge paperwork by April 1 of their last semester at the law school.
Can externship and clinic hours be counted towards a Pro Bono Pledge?
No. To qualify for Pledge credit, the service cannot be for credit or compensation; therefore externships, experiential learning classes and clinics do not count.
Does service with a student-directed pro bono project or organization count toward the Pledge, if there is not a supervising attorney?
Yes. Either the supervising attorney or the authorized student representative may sign the Placement Form and Time Log to verify those hours.
Does my pro bono service while at the law school fulfill the prerequisite of pro bono service required by the state of New York for prospective members of its Bar?
It can. See the Questions and Answers, 9. And 10., at the website explaining the new rule in New York. (http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf .)
Student organizations sponsoring pro bono projects
- Domestic Assistance Program, contact Kelly Smith
- Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP), contact Christina Lindberg and Kayleigh Lombardi
- Keep the Power On Clinic, contact Robyn Andersen
- Small Claims Workshop [through the CT Department of Consumer Protection], contact Danielle Jaffee, Kelly Wall
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), contact Casey Smith
Organizations seeking pro bono assistance
- Connecticut Association for Human Services Contact Tracy Helin
- Connecticut Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Contact John Jepson, Esq.
- Connecticut Consortium for Law & Citizenship Education Contact Beth DeLuco, Esq.
- Connecticut Fair Housing Center Contact Erin Boggs
- Connecticut Health, Housing and Benefits Pro Bono Project Contact Professor Jay Sicklick
- Connecticut Voices for Children Contact Sharon Langer, Esq. (860) 548-1661
- Connecticut Women's Education & Legal Fund Contact Amy Miller, MSW
- Disaster Accontability Project
- Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) Contact Jessica DeLoureiro or Alexa Farmer
- Office of the Victim Advocate Contact Michelle Cruz
- Lawyers For Children America Contact Priscilla Pappadia, Executive Director
- Lawyers Without Borders Contact Luvean Myers, Esq.
- People Advocating Therapeutic Homes Contact Professor Robert Whitman
- ABA State Directory of Pro Bono Programs
- ACS ResearchLink
- CTLawHelp.org Pro Bono Portal
- Equal Justice Works
- National Center for State Courts Legal Services/Pro Bono Resource Guide
- Pro BonoNet
Important Disclaimer For Members of the Public
UConn's pro bono program is not designed to provide direct assistance to individual members of the public who are seeking advice or representation. UConn Law students are not licensed to practice law and may only work under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Persons seeking legal assistance should consult the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website. Individuals may also contact the local county bar association's Lawyer Referral Service as follows:
- Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham: (860) 525-6052
- Fairfield: (203) 335-4116
- New Haven: (203) 562-5750
- New London: (860) 889-9384