The Pro Bono Program
- What is Eligible Pro Bono Work?
- How Does the Requirement Work for Transfer Students?
- How Do I Report my Hours?
- Can I get Credit for Training Hours?
- Can I Get Credit for Training Hours if I Don’t Actually End up Doing the Work for the Organization or Project I Trained With?
- Are there any awards given for pro bono service?
- Can I Complete my Pro Bono Hours During the Summer?
- Can I Complete my Pro Bono Hours During Winter or Spring Breaks?
- Does Travel Time Count?
Can I Do Pro Bono Work Outside of Penn Law?
- With What Type of Organizations May Students Work?
- Can Students Engage in Lobbying to Satisfy the Pro Bono Requirement?
- Does Non-Legal Community Service Count?
- Does Judging Mock Trial and Moot Court Competitions Count?
- Does Assisting a Penn Law Student Group (Like EJF) Count for Pro Bono Hours?
- Does Any Work for Any Nonprofit or Government Organization Count?
- Does Work for an Organization that Previously was Approved for Work Mean that My Work will Automatically Count?
- Can I complete pro bono work under the supervision of a family member?
- How Do Clinic Courses or Externships Count Towards Meeting my Pro Bono Requirement?
- Can I Count Other Clinic Hours Towards my Pro Bono Work If I Exceed the Requirements for my Clinic?
- Does election-related work qualify?
- Does Research Help for a Professor Count?
- Do administrative tasks count?
- What Do I Do if I am Experiencing a Problem with my Placement or Have Trouble Meeting the Pro Bono Requirement?
What is the Pro Bono Requirement?
All students must complete at least 70 hours of law-related pro bono work supervised by an attorney. A minimum of 35 hours must be completed by the end of 2L year. 1L students may not count more than 35 hours of pro bono work towards the 70 hour requirement, but additional hours may count towards graduation recognition (more information below).
What is Considered Eligible Pro Bono Work?
As adopted in 1989 the Public Service Requirement provides that eligible work must be unpaid public service work that is non-clerical, professional, and law-related.
Eligible work may be performed for governmental employers, nonprofit employers other than trade associations, private law firms, law school faculty, clinical programs, or an extracurricular program under the following conditions:
- non-clerical, professional, and law-related work for governmental employers or nonprofit employers other than trade associations must be performed under the supervision of an attorney who is legally responsible for the work
- non-clerical, professional, and law-related work for private law firms must be performed under the supervision of an attorney who is legally responsible for the work, must be work for which the firm charges no fee or a reduced fee, and must be done on behalf of individuals or organizations who are not adequately represented by the private sector or the government
- non-clerical, professional, and law-related work for or with a faculty member must be done on behalf of individuals or organizations who are not adequately represented by the private sector or the government, must not be part of a faculty member’s scholarship and must be done without academic credit.
- non-clerical, professional, and law-related work performed for a clinical program, or for an extracurricular program must be done on behalf of individuals or organizations who are not adequately represented by the private sector or the government, and must be done without academic credit.
The Public Service Requirement provides that other law-related work “falling within the spirit of the program” in the view of the Public Service Committee may also be eligible to satisfy the Requirement, but requires prior approval by the Committee.
In evaluating other law-related work, the Public Service Committee is guided by the importance of training students to provide advice and representation, with appropriate supervision, to individuals and organizations not adequately represented by the private bar and by ABA model rule 6.1, (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/probono_public_service/policy/aba_model_rule_6_1.html) which states that lawyers should provide free legal services to:
- Persons of limited means and
- Charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.
In order to make sure that students are working on eligible projects, we ask that you obtain pre-approval from TPIC for any work that is not done with one of our student pro bono projects. A self-initiated placement form can be found here.
How Does the Requirement Work for Transfer Students?
For students who transfer to Penn as 2Ls, the requirement is the same- 70 hours, with 35 hours completed by the end of the second year. If transfer students engaged in pro bono work at their previous law schools, that work may be logged towards the Penn Law requirement as long as it meets our criteria. We strongly encourage all transfer students to meet with a TPIC staff member to discuss their pro bono in the fall semester of their 2L year.
How Do I Report my Hours?
Students can log their hours using Penn Law’s online tracking system, Replicon.
Can I Get Credit for Training Hours?
The number of training hours may not exceed the number of hours worked for a specific project. Additionally, the number of training hours for a single project should reasonably reflect the necessary training to be a successful volunteer.
Can I Get Credit for Training Hours if I Don’t Actually End up Doing the Work for the Organization or Project I Trained With?
No. Training is connected to service. Training hours may count only if a student performs at least an equal amount of pro bono service with that organization.
Are there any awards given for pro bono service?
Students who perform more than 80 hours receive special recognition:
- Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award: 80+ hours
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award: 120+ hours
- Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award: 200+ hours
- Exemplary Pro Bono Service Award: 400+ hours
- Extraordinary Pro Bono Service Award: 600+ hours
- Edwin C. Baker Award: Student with most pro bono hours of their class
Can I Complete my Pro Bono Hours During the Summer?
No. Your pro bono work is intended to enhance your legal education, and to be integrated with your classroom experiences. Therefore the pro bono requirement must be completed during the academic year. Permission for completing the requirement during the summer may be granted by the Faculty Public Service Committee only in exceptional circumstances.
Can I Complete my Pro Bono Hours During Winter or Spring Breaks?
Yes. Students sometimes engage in service projects during these semester breaks.
Does Travel Time Count?
No. Travel time does not count.
Can I Do Pro Bono Work Outside of Penn Law?
Any pro bono work that is not performed through one of TPIC’s student pro bono projects or external opportunities circulated by TPIC will require a self-initiated placement form.
Students can engage in law-related work for a not-for-profit organization qualifying as tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3), government agencies, or for an organization:
- providing free civil legal services for low-income individuals;
- providing free criminal legal services for the indigent; or
- serving the poor or disadvantaged or otherwise promoting access to justice
Generally, lobbying is not permitted; however, substantive legal work advancing policy advocacy for 501(C)(3) organizations or for organizations that serve low income or disadvantaged individuals who cannot afford counsel and whose unmet legal needs prevent their access to justice may be eligible. Pre-approval from TPIC is required – students seeking to complete this work should complete a self-initiated placement form. (See the below FAQ about partisan work)
In accordance with the policy of the University of Pennsylvania, students may not receive pro bono credit for participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.
Students may engage in election protection work for pro bono credit in partnership with non-partisan, non-profit organizations as long as the work otherwise satisfies the criteria of the Penn Law pro bono requirement.
Does Non-Legal Community Service Count?
No. The work must be explicitly and substantively legal, but we support all community service work and will be recognizing great community service at our annual recognition event.
Does Judging Mock Trial and Moot Court Competitions Count?
Some coaching and teaching (such as with the James Wilson Project) may count, but in general judging competitions does not count. See us first before assuming any of this type of work counts.
Does Assisting a Penn Law Student Group (Like EJF) Count for Pro Bono Hours?
While we work closely with and tremendously support the work of EJF, service to any student organization other than our pro bono projects does not count towards pro bono since it does not meet the criteria of model rule 6.1.
Does Any Work for Any Nonprofit or Government Organization Count?
No. Though most substantively legal work for government and nonprofit organizations will count, however, this is not a hard and fast rule. Before starting at any placement, you should first stop by the public interest center, and fill out a self-initiated placement form.
Does Work for an Organization that Previously was Approved for Work Mean that My Work will Automatically Count?
No. While the previous approval of a project is a good indicator that a placement will be approved, it is not a guarantee. Please fill out a self-initiated placement form for approval by TPIC staff to be sure.
Can I Complete Pro Bono Work Under the Supervision of a Family Member?
Law students may not fulfill their pro bono requirement under the direct supervision of any immediate family members.
How Do Clinic Courses or Externships Count Towards Meeting my Pro Bono Requirement?
If you are enrolled in a Clinic course or are doing an externship, you can elect to drop 1 credit in exchange for 35 hours of pro bono service (assuming you do not need the credit for graduation). Students who elect this option must submit a Clinic/Externship Credit Exchange Form to TPIC.
Can I Count Other Clinic Hours Towards my Pro Bono Work If I Exceed the Requirements for my Clinic?
No. Clinics, like real practice, often require students to spend a considerable amount of time on work for their clients. Even if students technically exceed the hours of work needed for academic credit, they may not claim these for their pro bono requirement. However, if students continue to do work on a case in a semester when they are not receiving any academic credit for this work, they may, with the pre-approval of the supervisors and TPIC, receive pro bono credit.
Does Research for a Professor Count?
It depends. Assisting a professor on scholarship generally does not count. However, if a professor is doing work that would otherwise qualify under our definition of pro bono service, and you are assisting them on that, your work would most likely count. If you are in this situation, you must fill out a self-initiated placement form, so that TPIC staff can evaluate whether the work counts.
Time spent completing administrative tasks will not be counted towards the 70 hour requirement. Administrative tasks include the following: filling out paperwork, background checks or clearances, or any task that is considered a prerequisite to performing service.
What Do I Do if I am Experiencing a Problem with my Placement or Have Trouble Meeting the Pro Bono Requirement Timeline?
We’re here to help you resolve any problems or issues that you might be encountering within your pro bono work. Call us at 215-898-0459, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by TPIC right away.
TPIC has always worked closely with students who, due to a significant personal hardship, struggle to keep up with the required pro bono timeline. If you are navigating a significant personal hardship that is impacting your pro bono work, please access TPIC’s Hardship Notification System and submit the form. A TPIC team member will be in touch with you within two business days. All hardship forms are due by March 15, 2021.