Pro Bono Pledge Program
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's clinical programs, externship placements, and public interest grants and fellowships all play an important role in these efforts. The School of Law also seeks to encourage and recognize law student participation in pro bono activities and community service projects for which no academic credit or compensation is received. To this end, the Law School has established the Pro Bono Pledge program.
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 from the Law School.
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 category (a) above.
In order to count towards fulfillment of the Pro Bono Pledge, the work performed by a student must meet the following requirements:
- At least eighty percent 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 Pro Bono Pledge. Up to 10 hours of the 50 hours required for completion of the Pro Bono 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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 Pro Bono 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. However, 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.
- The work must be documented through the completion and submission to the Registrar's Office of a form, for each pro bono placement or project the student engaged in.
- The forms documenting students’ pro bono work shall be reviewed by the Pro Bono Coordinator or other person or persons designated by the Dean, 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 the Pro Bono Coordinator or Dean’s designee may not be used to fulfill the Pro Bono Pledge. Students are encouraged to consult with the Pro Bono Coordinator or Dean’s designee 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. The Pro Bono Coordinator or Dean's designee may also issue guidelines consistent with this policy relating to the administration of the Pro Bono Pledge program.