Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the Pro Bono Service Award and how many hours do I have to complete?
The Pro Bono Service Award asks students to perform 50 hours or more of pro bono or public service work over the course of five semesters of law school, starting in the second semester of their 1L year.
The purpose of this program is to:
- Inculcate the “habit” of pro bono in all law students by encouraging them to perform public service during law school
Click here to read an excellent article about using pro bono skills in the private sector
- Expose students to a range of legal issues and give them the hands-on training and experience that will shape their education and prepare them to be better advocates
- Help students build contacts with professionals working in a field of law that they may pursue
Why was 50 hours chosen as a goal?
The American Bar Association (ABA) Rule 6.1 states that “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” The 50 hour goal balances the program’s purpose to encourage all law students to experience pro bono work against the many other commitments law students juggle and is in line with New York ethics rules effective on April 1, 2009, stating that NY attorneys “should” provide 20 hours of pro bono service per year.
What kind of work qualifies?
The work must be:
- not for academic credit
- not for monetary compensation (with a limited exception for summer –see below)
- provided to the client free of charge
- provided to underrepresented persons, interests, or communities on behalf of a non-profit or government organization
What are some examples of work that qualifies for the Pro Bono Service Award?
Law-related pro bono work is broadly defined to include such activities as interviewing clients and witnesses, drafting documents or legislation, doing legal research or law reform projects, assisting at trials or administrative hearings, serving as an interpreter for clients who don't speak English, translating legal documents, or teaching law to underserved populations. Students may do work for non-profits or government agencies, or for a student pro bono group like the Unemployment Action Center or the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project. Attendance at training sessions (up to 5 hours) counts toward the recognition hours if the student later represents a client.
What are some student groups doing pro bono work?
The list below is a sampling of organizations that work directly to provide free legal services to the public. To get involved with one of these organizations join their list serve or email the co-chairs. Most groups hold trainings in the fall and spring semesters. For complete details on each organization, click here.
- Alternative Winter/Spring Break
- Debtors' Rights Project
- Domestic Violence Advocacy Project
- High School Law Institute/Legal Outreach
- HIV Law Society
- Law Students for Human Rights
- National Lawyers Guild
- NYU ACLU
- NYU Mediation Organization
- Prisoners' Rights and Education Project
- Research, Education & Advocacy to Combat Homelessness
- Suspension Representation Project
- Unemploymet Action Center
Does paid work performed during the summer qualify?
Yes, with some limitations. Students working in a public interest summer internship can count up to 25 hours for their 1L summer and up to 50 hours for their 2L summer. See NYU’s Summer Funding Program for more information about summer internships.
Students who do pro bono work in a law firm during the summer can include those hours, up to a limit of ten hours.
In this way, a 1L summer public interest internship and a 2L summer at a law firm can earn a student a maximum of 35 hours. However, all 50 hours can be earned through a 2L public service internship, as generally those students are preparing for public service careers.
What are some examples of work that does NOT qualify?
- interning for a judge
- assisting in political campaign efforts
- work done for a law journal
- community service work that is not law-related, such as tutoring elementary students or painting a school
- directed study or clinic work
- term-time internships where the student is paid
What if I receive a PILF grant for a term-time internship?
Becuse a PILF grant is a modest stipend akin to NYU's Summer Funding program, students receiving a PILF grant for a term-time internship may include those hours.
What about work done between terms or during spring break?
Law-related work done through an Alternative Winter Break or Spring Break trip will count toward the Pro Bono Service Award.
Can I count training hours and travel time toward the Pro Bono Service Award?
Training hours (up to 5) can count toward the Service Award if the student later advocates for a client, however, travel time does not count.
How do I get started on doing pro bono work at NYU?
Students are encouraged to work with NYU’s many student organizations providing legal services to the public. If you are interested in working with one of our student organizations, go to the student groups page and email the group’s co-chairs to find out how to get involved.
If you are interested in doing a summer public interest internship, see NYU's Summer Funding Program.
If you are interested in seeing what organizations or government agencies need term-time volunteers, please see internship postings on Symplicity or on www.pslawnet.org.
How will I keep track of the hours I’ve worked?
Students will keep track of their hours through an on-line honor system. The system is located in the "Pro Bono" tab on students’ CSM/Symplicity "Profile" page.
Can 1Ls do pro bono work?
Yes, 1Ls can count pro bono work performed after their first semester of law school. While students are allowed to perform pro bono work during their first semester, it does not count toward the 50 hour goal.
Why does the work have to be law-related?
While volunteer work of all types is valuable and a great way to serve the community, the program requires work to be law-related in order to encourage our students to use their use their developing legal skills to help those who cannot afford legal services.
Moreover, by engaging in law-related activities, students will acquire the experiential skills that are increasingly being sought by both private and public sector employers and will build professional ties with practitioners in the field.
Is the Pro Bono Service Award a graduation requirement?
No, this is a voluntary program.
Can I perform more hours than the 50 hour goal?
Of course, there is no limit to the hours of pro bono hours you can perform!
What happens when I complete the Pro Bono Service Award?
Graduating students performing at least 50 hours of pro bono work will receive a Pro Bono Service Award Certificate from the Dean. Students may also list the Pro Bono Service Award as an honor on their resume with the description “for completion of 50 or more hours of public service.”
Is there a deadline for when the work must be completed?
Yes, April 30 of your 3L year.
Can I get pro bono credit if I did the project a year, or even two years ago?
The work has to be performed between the second and sixth semester of law school, but it can be recorded at any time up to April 30 of your 3L year.
What if I have more questions?
If you have any other questions, please contact Jorge Luis Paniagua Valle at email@example.com or 212-998-6215.