Pro Bono Program Guidelines
All students are encouraged to pledge 120 hours of pro bono legal services to the underserved prior to graduation.
Summary of Pro Bono Guidelines
- Suggested Hours: 120 total hours prior to graduation, 200 hours for elevated recognition.
- 20 hours for 1Ls
- 50 hours for 2Ls
- 50 hours for 3Ls
- Requirements to Qualify as Pro Bono
- Legal work
- On behalf of an underserved community or cause
- Supervised by an attorney or faculty member
- No compensation or academic credit
- Qualifying Projects
- Summer Hours
- Legal work for an underserved community or cause = up to 20 hours of pro bono credit for work done during 11th week
- Work done on a pro bono project in addition to your summer work (i.e. continuation of spring pro bono project) = credit for all pro bono hours
- Non-Qualifying Work
- Training: First 2 hours of formal training
- Commuting: Travel time to and from projects
- Externships: Work beyond required hours for externship credit may count, but you need approval of the Director of Public Interest Programs
- Compensated Work: Includes pro bono work completed on behalf of a law firm, if you are being paid by the firm
- Community Service: Non-legal work
- Law Review & Journals
- Political Causes
- Academic Courses
Commensurate with the American Bar Association’s suggestion that practicing attorneys complete at least fifty (50) hours of pro bono work annually, but taking into consideration that first-year students do not have a complete calendar year to fulfill such a requirement, the Law School suggests that all first-year law students complete twenty (20) hours of pro bono service, and all second- and third-year students complete fifty (50) hours of such service each year thereafter. It is recommended that first-year students refrain from participating in pro bono projects during the fall semester, with some exceptions.
All first-year students completing twenty (20) hours of pro bono service, and all second- and third-year students completing fifty (50) hours of pro bono service each year will be honored at an event in the Spring. Those students completing one hundred twenty (120) hours at the time of graduation shall receive a notation on their transcript and special recognition at graduation. Those students completing more than two hundred (200) hours of pro bono work prior to graduation shall be given elevated recognition at the Spring event and graduation.
For purposes of pro bono computation, the first year of law school is defined as September 1 to April 30, and the second and third years are defined as May 1 to April 30.
Back to Summary
Pro bono work shall be defined as any legal work completed by students for which they receive no credit and no compensation, and which is overseen by an attorney or law-related faculty. In order to qualify as pro bono, work must assist an underserved population.
- Previously Approved Projects: All legal work done on previously approved UCI Law Pro Bono projects shall count towards a student’s pro bono pledge.
- Student-Initiated Projects: Students are encouraged to seek out other projects for pro bono work. Those students wishing to do pro bono work that is not listed as a pre-approved project must make a written request to Anna Davis, Director of Public Interest Programs, which may be done by email to email@example.com.
- Summer Work: Summer pro bono work may count towards your annual pro bono goals in the following ways:
- If your summer work includes legal work on behalf of the underserved, you will receive up to 20 hours of pro bono credit for all work completed after the first 10 weeks. For example, if you work for a legal services organization like LASOC for the summer, you will receive up to 20 hours of pro bono credit for work done during your 11th week.
- If you work on a pro bono project in addition to your full-time summer work, you may count all of those pro bono hours. In most cases, this will be a continuation of pro bono work from the academic year, or work on a pro bono project advertised by the Director of Public Interest Programs during the summer. Please note that all other pro bono work must be approved by the Director of Public Interest Programs.
Click here for the list of projects pre-approved for pro bono credit.
Back to Summary
Examples of some work that is noble and important, but which does not qualify for pro bono hours, are as follows:
- Training: The first two (2) hours of formal training for any given pro bono project shall not count towards pro bono hours. However, any training time beyond two (2) hours shall count, if the student significantly participates in the pro bono project. For example, if a project requires a four (4) hour training, two (2) of those hours shall count towards a student’s pro bono pledge, assuming the student then participates to a significant degree with the project. Time spent discussing a pro bono project with a supervising attorney also counts towards pro bono hours.
- Commuting: Time spent traveling to and from pro bono assignments does not count towards pro bono hours. Please note that students can be reimbursed for travel outside of Orange County. Travel within Orange County is reimbursable based upon special circumstances and with the approval of the Director of Public Interest Programs.
- Clinics and Externships: Students participating in clinical programs and externships through UC Irvine School of Law receive academic credit for such work, and therefore cannot receive pro bono hours. However, if an externship exceeds the number of required hours for the semester, a student may be able to get pro bono credit, and should submit a request to the Director of Public Interest Programs.
- Summer Externships and Compensated Summer Positions: Students working in the furtherance of the public good during summer break shall not receive pro bono hours for such work if they are 1. receiving school credit through an externship, or 2. receiving any compensation, including but not limited to a PILF grant, for such work. This includes pro bono work completed by students working for a private law firm. However, any work done in furtherance of the public good, beyond the normal 10 weeks required for PILF funding, shall count towards the pro bono hours, but shall not exceed twenty (20) of a student's pro bono hours for the year.
- Community Service: Non-legal work on behalf of underserved communities is encouraged, but unfortunately cannot count towards pro bono hours.
- Law Review or Journals: Writing and/or research for Law Review(s) or Journals is not considered pro bono work.
- Political Causes: Fundraising and campaigning for political causes or elected officials does not count towards pro bono hours.
- Academic Courses: Any work that receives academic credit, including clinical work, cannot count towards pro bono hours.
- Judicial Clerkships: Work for judges and other judicial officers does not qualify as pro bono work.
Back to Summary
In order to receive credit under the pro bono program, and be eligible for public service recognition, the following must be completed:
- While not required, first-year students are encouraged to sign a Pro Bono Pledge (PDF) indicating their intention to complete 120 hours of pro bono service prior to graduation.
- Submit a preference request to the Director of Public Interest Programs, indicating your preferred project(s).
- Submit hours completed on a Pro Bono Time Sheet (PDF) to the Director of Public Interest Programs.
- Provide feedback to the Director of Public Interest Programs regarding your experiences.
Problems with a Pro Bono Project: Immediately contact the Director of Public Interest Programs if you have problems with a pro bono placement, including a lack of supervision or inappropriate work requests from a supervisior. If your pro bono supervisor is unresponsive after multiple attempts on your part to communicate, you should inform the Director of Public Interest Programs.