Pro Bono Program - Alternative Spring Break

Pro Bono Program

Law students travel to New Orleans as part of Alternative Spring Break 2015.

From left, Siddharth Fresa, LLM ’15; Zack Carpenter, JD ’06 (staff attorney at Orleans Public Defender); Megan McKoy, JD ’17, Amy Tannenbaum, JD ’17, Natalia Renta, JD ’15, Erica Sollazzo, JD ’17, Zehava Robbins, JD ’17, and Isabel de Carvalho e Silva, LLM ’15 at the Orleans Public Defenders’ office.

It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect...If we are able to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.

Learned Hand, Address at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Legal Aid Society of New York

Why Pro Bono?

One of the most noble aspects of the American legal profession, and one outlined in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules, is its recognition that lawyers should aspire to provide significant pro bono publico legal service; using our legal expertise and skills to provide assistance to those who are most in need. Stanford Law School (SLS) similarly expects and encourages its students and faculty to provide such service. SLS views the Pro Bono Program as integral to its commitment to excellence in legal education. But to best understand the reason for SLS’s vibrant public service programs, one need only consider the words of students themselves:

Stacy Villalobos, ’15, said: “My pro bono experiences were some of the best of my law school career! My pro bono participation helped remind me of why I came to law school: to use the law to positively impact people. Law school can often separate the theory of the law from its impact, and the pro bono projects are a great way to meld the two together again!”

Trey Reliford, ‘15, said: “Without a doubt, the greatest joy and most invaluable experiences I have had during my time here have come from serving my Pro Bono clients. There is no greater feeling than being an advocate for the voiceless: the experience is both empowering and transformative; it is everything being a lawyer is about.”

And Carly Bittman, ’15, said: “Through pro bono I’ve had the privilege of meeting great people from all walks of life and been reminded that the dedication of a few can have a meaningful impact on many. I am very grateful for these experiences and would not be who I am today without them.”

These students were not alone. In 2015, 93 graduating 3Ls earned Pro Bono Distinction, which means that they spent at least 50 hours using their legal skills in unpaid public service during law school for which they received no academic credit. Additionally, 39 3Ls completed more than 100 hours, 13 3Ls completed more than 200 hours of pro bono and 7 3Ls completed more than 300 hours.

Even more important than the benefits students receive from pro bono are those they provide to the clients they serve. Through our various pro bono projects, SLS students do impactful work that provides much-needed aid to the people who seek their assistance. One client of SLS students who participated in a Justice Bus Trip to Fresno said: “I was very nervous, but when I met the person who was going to help me out [they were] so friendly and helpful, I felt like I knew the person and was more calm…Today I even found a friend! … I’m glad there are so many young people trying to help us out and make us feel good and be friendly to us.”

Another client, this time from Santa Rosa said: “I would first like to say thank you to everyone for having this event in Santa Rosa. I have lived [here] for 25 years and this is the first event of this type – hopefully there will be more to help the Sonoma County Community. Sincerest thanks. We hope you continue.”

A third client in Stockton said: “I came to today’s event to get my record expunged so I can better provide for my family. The volunteers and supervisors were very knowledgeable [about] the laws and the paperwork I needed to fill out. I am no longer the man my RAP sheet says. Thank you so much for your help.”

As these comments illustrate, the work SLS students do through their pro bono projects transforms the lives of the clients they serve. It is clear that SLS students volunteer for myriad reasons, but there are many common motivations: The need is dire; they learn a lot about themselves and the law; it’s fulfilling; and its fun. Everyone, regardless of career goal, should participate.

If you are a current or prospective student and have questions, please contact Jory Steele, Director of Pro Bono and Externship Programs, at

Stanford students help formerly incarcerated people become entrepreneurs

Stanford Law School’s Project ReMADE is a pro bono boot camp for formerly incarcerated people seeking to start their own businesses. Now in its fifth year, the 12-week program teaches basic business skills to aspiring entrepreneurs and helps them build the social capital needed to launch and sustain their enterprises. Students from Stanford’s Law School and Graduate School of Business lead biweekly classes on topics ranging from accounting and marketing to negotiations and public speaking. Additionally, entrepreneurs meet with student mentors and Silicon Valley professionals to develop individualized business plans. At the program’s end, the new entrepreneurs present their business plans to a panel of executives from local micro-development organizations.

2015-16 Pro Bono Projects

Workers’ Rights Pro Bono

The Workers Rights Pro Bono will work with the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center to provide free and confidential information to workers about their legal rights. Each clinic will have a topic, including denial of wages, discrimination, work and safety issues, unemployment benefits, harassment, and wrongful termination.  Students are asked to commit to all three quarters and to all of the two to three clinics per quarter (the schedule will be set in advance). We are looking for 3-4 1Ls and 2-3 2L/3Ls to join the project.

Co-Leaders: Amy Tannenbaum and Tamar Weinstock
Other Leader: Arturo Carlos Schultz

Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP)

Students in the Volunteer Attorney Program conduct intake interviews at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. Under CLSEPA attorney supervision, VAP volunteers counsel clients on a broad range of issues, including personal injury, debt consolidation, contract law, consumer protection law, small claims, family law, and more. The volunteers write follow-up memos and in some cases draft demand letters and answers to complaints. Students are required to attend a VAP-sponsored lunchtime training prior to participating. The program, which involves about two sessions per quarter (on Monday and/or Wednesday evenings) involves a total time commitment of about ten hours per quarter (including transportation time). Students learn how to effectively communicate with clients and will have an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-life scenarios.

Co-Leaders: Peter Davis and Christine Yoon

Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP)

The Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program (VLAP) works directly with military veterans of all stripes and eras in the local area to help them access the benefits and services they are entitled to. Through our partnership with the San Francisco-based non-profit Swords to Plowshares and attorneys from local law firms volunteering pro bono, we work directly with veterans at twice-monthly clinics held at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to assist them in accessing service-connected disability benefits, pensions, VA healthcare, and other veterans’ services.  A huge concentration of veterans live in the Bay Area, a large percentage of which struggles with untreated mental and physical health issues, homelessness, and unemployment. Without an advocate to help them navigate the complicated maze of the VA, many veterans will never access the benefits they are entitled to, and these benefits can make a huge difference in veterans’ quality of live.

VLAP is open to all SLS students, not just veterans. In partnership with staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares and volunteer attorneys from local law firms, students will assist in staffing twice-monthly legal clinics at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park VA Hospitals. Students interview veteran clients when they arrive at the legal clinic and brief pro bono attorneys on each client’s case, all under the supervision of staff attorneys from Swords to Plowshares. Students also conduct follow-up for each client and make referrals to outside legal aid organizations for legal needs that exceed the scope of our clinics.

Students will sign up to staff legal clinics, which will most likely be held 12:00-4:30 two Wednesdays per month at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park (alternating locations; split into two shifts). We ask that students commit to helping out with at least two clinics per quarter. Even if your class schedule does not accommodate staffing clinics this quarter, there are other ways for students to be involved in outreach, publicity, and expansion of VLAP. If you are interested now but cannot staff a clinic until next quarter because of your schedule, please go ahead and sign up so we can include you in training this fall, and just let us know that you won’t be staffing clinics right away.

VLAP is named in honor of Paul Lomio, a veteran and the law school’s former Library Director, who passed away on March 6, 2015. He was involved in the formation of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization (SLVO) and an early supporter of VLAP.

Co-Leaders: Vince Mazzurco and Christina Neitzey

Tax Pro Bono Project

The Tax Pro Bono Project assists lower-income individuals in filing their tax returns throughout the winter and early spring (up until the weekend before April 15).  Students in this project will interview clients, and help them put together their tax return using IRS-provided software.  Our projects offers students the chance to work directly with clients, and enables students to impact positively the lives of those who come into our clinic.  We are looking for 25-30 students, with a total time commitment of approximately 20 hours in the winter and early spring quarter.  No tax or accounting experience is necessary.

Co-Leaders: Fay Krewer and Sean McElroy


StreetLaw teachers work in teams to teach incarcerated and at-risk youth at San Mateo County juvenile hall (“Hillcrest”) and other local facilities. Each week, teachers choose a lesson on substantive law (e.g., Gangs, Drugs, Immigration) or criminal procedure (e.g., Hearings and Pleas, Search and Seizure), or life skills (e.g., Interacting with Police Officers). Each comes with a detailed and ready-to-use lesson plan, though teachers are welcome and encouraged to modify these or create new ones. The goal of StreetLaw is to inform incarcerated youth of their rights and responsibilities, develop their advocacy skills, and promote critical thinking about our justice system. New teachers are often surprised by how engaged and insightful their students are — and they often find themselves learning as much as they teach.

We generally have about 50 members, of whom 20-25 teach during any given quarter. Active teachers teach a one-hour lesson each week for 7-8 weeks each quarter (plus travel and prep time), and new teachers commit to teach at least two of three quarters their first year. As a teacher, you’ll receive training in the juvenile justice system as well as teaching techniques and classroom management. We welcome members with no prior teaching experience.

Traditionally, StreetLaw is among Stanford’s largest and most active pro bono projects. For many, it is a meaningful way to break out of the SLS bubble and see how the law affects real people in profound ways.

Co-Leaders: William Brenc and Molly Manning
Curriculum Chair: Amari Hammonds
Training/Recruit Chair: Torryn Taylor

Social Security Disability Project (SSDP)

The Social Security Disability Project (SSDP), the Mills Legal Clinic’s in-house pro bono project, gives students the opportunity to work with local clients in need, many of them homeless, under the supervision of Lecturer/Supervising Attorney Lisa Douglass. SLS established SSDP in 2007 to assist individuals in need who need representation in hearings regarding their federal disability benefits. Thanks to the help of SLS students, many of these individuals now have stable housing, income and consistent medical care. But many more still need help. After completing training, SSDP volunteers conduct intake interviews with new clients and help those clients file initial benefits applications or appeals. They then follow up by requesting medical records from the client’s health care providers and submitting them to the Social Security Administration. When the cases cannot be resolved without a hearing, representation will continue through SLS’s Community Law Clinic, where 2L and 3L students will represent SSDP clients at hearings before Administrative Law Judges. Volunteers are expected to attend one office hour session per quarter (held mostly on Friday afternoons) and perform 2-3 hours of follow-up work. There will be an evening (dinner) training session early in the Autumn Quarter and one lunch meeting per quarter thereafter.

Co-Leaders: Sean McGuire and Mary Rock
Other Leaders: Micah BlumingMatthew Sellers and George Warner

Project ReMADE

Project ReMADE allows SLS students the opportunity to work with formerly incarcerated people and help them to start businesses. Students can get involved by serving as a mentor, alongside a GSB student and a Bay Area executive or by teaching a class on a fundamental aspect of business (accounting, marketing, creditworthiness, etc.). Teachers are committed to teaching a class of approximately 1.5 hours (as well as prep time). Mentors are committed to meeting with the entrepreneur and mentor team 6 times for 3 hours over the course of the winter and spring courses. Although students must apply in the fall, the program does not begin until the winter. We do not have requirements by year in school; we simply take the best applicants. Please note that this is a serious, demanding, and rewarding commitment.

Co-Leaders: Siggi Hindrichs and Steven Spriggs
Other Leaders: Sam McClureEric Silverberg and Mika Yakima

Naturalization Pro Bono

Students working with the Naturalization Pro Bono project assist local community members as they prepare for the interview component of the naturalization process. The International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA) runs classes for adult community members that prepare them for and help them through the naturalization process. Stanford students assist IIBA by going to the Fair Oaks Community Center in Redwood City and running mock naturalization interviews with the IIBA students. The goal of the mock interviews is to get the naturalization candidates comfortable with the format and questions that will be asked of them when they have their official naturalization interview. The interview contains both personal questions—about the candidate’s travels, family, etc.—and civics question. The mock interviews are extremely important to preparing the IIBA students for their real interview: many of the students are older and have an intermediate level of comfort with English, so mock interviews are great practice for them. And the mock interviews are a fun and relaxed way to talk to people and get to know them as they work towards citizenship.

Each Stanford participant should expect to volunteer for two hours, two to five times a quarter (for a total of 5-12 hours a quarter, factoring in the time it takes to get to Redwood City). The times will all be on a weekday evening: last year there were slots on Tuesday and Thursday from 6-8 PM. No prior knowledge of the naturalization process or language skills required. We would love to have at least ten Stanford students from any year participate.

Co-Leaders: Sarah Clark and Jason Despain

Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a national student organization that provides pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the United States.  Stanford’s student-run chapter offers students an opportunity to earn Pro Bono Distinction hours through both its client and policy teams.  The Client Advocacy Team partners students with an attorney to support Iraqi refugees who are based in Jordan and are seeking resettlement in the United States.  In recent years students have also worked to support Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), a visa designed to protect Afghans who have risked their lives to help American forces.  This year, IRAP is continuing to expand its

assistance for Syrian civil war refugees living in Lebanon.  Students do legal research, conduct interviews, and draft applications supporting their clients’ cases.  The Policy Team is also active: last year it produced a report documenting the threats SIV applicants face as they await decisions on their visas.  Last March, five Stanford IRAP members travelled to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with local organizations and interview clients.  Students commit to 1 year, which includes 10 hours of mandatory training spread over several sessions.  During Fall Quarter, 1Ls work about 2 hours/week on IRAP; in Winter and Spring, the commitment is 2-10 hours/week.

Co-Leaders: Gina Elliot and Jordan Ritenour

Immigration Pro Bono

SLS partners with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto’s Immigration practice to provide crucial legal services to the marginalized communities of undocumented immigrants in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities.  Undocumented immigrants face major challenges in accessing legal services in pursuit of lawful status in the United States.  This often keeps them from finding employment, escaping dependence on an abusive family member, and generally accessing the social and economic institutions within society.  Students in the Immigration Pro Bono Project work with a licensed volunteer attorney to interview potential clients, screen for legal issues, and help CLSEPA’s immigration staff provide counsel.  Students learn immigration law fundamentals, such as the special routes in place for victims of crime or domestic abuse to become legal permanent residents, or the process through which individuals fleeing violence in their home countries may obtain asylum.  Students also gain experience communicating with a diverse range of clients.  This is a year-long project that requires several hours of training during Fall Quarter, and volunteering at approximately two four-hour sessions per quarter.  If interested, participants can choose to volunteer at additional asylum workshops.  Although we have interpreters who will translate interviews for students who do not speak Spanish, because the majority of our clients are Spanish-speaking, Spanish fluency is a plus.

Co-Leader: Annick Jordan and Kai Medeiros

SLS Human Trafficking Project

The SLS Human Trafficking Pro Bono is a new project that will allow SLS students to work in partnership with local government and local organizations to improve the Bay Area’s awareness of and response to human trafficking.  In Fall Quarter, students will work closely alongside our partner organizations to develop networks for education trainings that will instruct community groups and members (such as law enforcement, local business owners, public agencies, high school students, recent immigrants) as to how to recognize victims of human trafficking and how to best assist them.  In Winter and Spring Quarters, students will help implement these trainings across different Bay Area interest groups and draft recommendations for improvements to Santa Clara County’s anti-trafficking programs and policies.  Students must be willing to work in a collaborative environment, in which they will respond to the real-time needs of local institutions.  The SLS Human Trafficking Pro Bono is hoping to recruit 6-8 1Ls, who can commit 1 to 4 hours of work per week.

Co-Leader: Paul Bennetch and Laura Vittet-Adamson

Housing Pro Bono

Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono works with CLSEPA in order to help renters with housing issues in East Palo Alto and the surrounding area.  Stanford students work with clients in landlord disputes – whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increase in rent, or other housing problems.

Housing is an incredibly important issue in the Bay Area.  Low-income housing is difficult to find, and often the landlord for low-income housing units do not provide habitable residences.  For example, many of our clients come from East Palo Alto, which is the city with the most legal protections for renters in the area.  These protections could be powerful, but they do nothing for renters who do not have the legal background to know what their rights are.  Landlords often attempt to evict our clients without providing good cause (which EPA’s city code requires).  CLSEPA and the Housing Pro Bono are able to tell these clients that they have a right to remain in their residence, and the law student who did intake with that client often writes follow-up letters to the landlord explaining that the client has a right to remain.  We help resolve a client’s issue, and we explain the law to the client so that they know their rights in the future and are able to share their knowledge with neighborhoods, friends, etc.

Stanford students will individually interview clients about their housing issues.  Once they have an understanding of the facts and the client’s goals, they will discuss the issue with a CLSEPA attorney and together brainstorm potential solutions to the problem.  Students will often conduct legal research and then advise their clients on the matter. Depending on the issue, students may also do further work on the issue, such as writing a demand letter to the landlord or filing a rent board petition with the county.  Each intake takes around four hours in total, including driving to and from CLSEPA’s office in East Palo Alto (we carpool to their office, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car) and drafting the legal documents after the interview.  We ask that students sign up for at least two intakes each quarter, so the total time commitment per quarter is only eight hours.  We would happily accommodate up to 20 1Ls and any LLMs that are interested – and these new volunteers will be joined by many of our 2Ls who said they want to continue on with the pro bono!

Co-Leaders: Laura Douglas and Katie McKeon
Other Leader: Ryan Wessels

Guardianship Pro Bono

Are you interested in making sure local children have the opportunity to grow up in a stable, loving environment?  Then join the Guardianship Pro Bono!  Volunteers will be trained in introductory ethics, client interviewing skills, and the basics of the California guardianship petition process.  During intake sessions, volunteers interview potential clients who are seeking guardianship of minors for whom they’re already providing care.  They then consult with volunteer attorneys about the proper advice and draft summary memos.  Guardianship is a great way to experience direct client contact and make a difference in people’s lives.  The expected commitment is about 8 hours a quarter.  We need 4 1Ls for this project.

Co-Leaders: Cari Jeffries and Madeline Skitzki

Environmental Law Pro Bono

The Environmental Law Pro Bono provides students with opportunities to research, analyze, and write about pressing issues in the environmental law field.  The Pro Bono works to introduce students to expert attorneys practicing environmental law, familiarize them with the complex array of laws and regulations surrounding environmental issues, and expose them to clients interested in protecting the health and integrity of their environment.  This year, students will work under the guidance of attorneys at Communities for a Better Environment, a California environmental justice group.  The work will focus in large part on analyzing proposed Bay Area Air Quality Management District rules regarding increased dirty crude oil processing in the Bay Area.  There will likely be additional opportunities throughout the year to engage with local environmental issues as needs arise at Communities for a Better Environment. Students are expected to commit about 8 to 10 hours per quarter.  We hope to engage 5-10 1Ls, 5-10 2Ls, and 3-5 3Ls.

Co-Leaders: Alison Gocke and Lauren Tarpey
Other Leaders: Mary Rock and Michelle Wu

SLS Clemency Pro Bono

Stanford Clemency Project works on one of the critical issues in today’s criminal justice system – fighting over-sentencing, particularly for low-level drug offenders.  Started in 2014 as a pilot program, the Stanford Clemency Project aims to complete 1-2 petitions to assist an incarcerated person file a request to the president for clemency.  President Obama has granted more than 60 such petitions in the last year, and we have every reason to believe he will grant more in the coming year.  Students who are part of Stanford Clemency Project will work on a variety of discrete tasks that may include: talking with a currently incarcerated client to learn more about his or her life story and the events causing him or her to be imprisoned, speaking with the client’s family and friends to learn details of his or her life to craft a compelling narrative for our petition, calculating our client’s sentence under today’s amended sentencing guidelines and helping to explain why our client would receive a reduced sentence today, researching a release plan for our client, including housing, work, and other resources available in the client’s likely community, and writing portions of our petition, correspondences with the national organization overseeing clemency petition efforts – Clemency Project 2014, or other correspondences to that may arise.

This pro bono is perfect for those who want to learn more about the criminal justice system, particularly 2Ls and 3Ls with some experience in criminal justice work – on either the prosecution or defense side.  Experience with federal sentencing is a plus and should be mentioned in the application.  Because the Clemency Project can be time-intensive, students should not participate while they are in clinic, but are free to participate the other quarters.

Co-Leader: Alex Twinem

The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF)

The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system, and raising the profile of the field of animal law.  SALDF works to address companion animal, farm animal, and wildlife issues, providing legal support and working directly with attorneys practicing in the field.  In the past, students have worked on projects to prevent abuse, protect endangered species, improve conditions at roadside zoos, enjoin sport-killing contests, and ensure that agencies enforce animal protection legislation.  These projects involve a number of different species from horses, dogs, big cats, wolves, etc.  Students are able to choose from a variety of projects in a wide range of subject matters.  We work closely in teams to provide legal research and writing support for supervising attorneys.  Time commitment is flexible and there is no limit on the number of students who may participate.

SALDF also hosts speakers, debates, panels, and conferences on current issues in animal rights/welfare law and works with students at other law schools who are pursuing interests in animal rights and environmental issues as well as attorneys working in the field.  Students may join any quarter.

Co-Leaders: Rachel Haney and Ann Linder

Access to Justice Pro Bono

California has a huge access to justice gap: there are simply not enough legal services available for vast numbers of low income Californians who need them.

The purpose of the Access to Justice Pro Bono Project is to engage in research that explores the economic and social benefits of legal aid services in California. Our ultimate goal is to operationalize and analyze a toolkit for data measurement that captures the direct and indirect impact of legal aid services in California – both to the clients served by these organizations and to the state as a whole. This project seeks to connect the objective data and narrative of impact to capture the effectiveness of legal aid services throughout the state and encourage smart funding decisions to help close the access to justice gap in California.

Last year, students analyzed how other states have measured their legal aid organizations’ effectiveness and economic benefits. We then used this research to write a report for the California State Bar to help them design and implement the first phase of the program: a pilot toolkit to capture the direct and indirect benefits of legal aid services.

This year, students will research and evaluate how the State Bar can use the information they have collected and make suggestions about how to improve collection efforts. We will help the State Bar understand both how to concretely measure the economic and social benefits of legal aid services and how to connect these objective measures with the power of narrative impact . Currently, the aim of the Access to Justice Pro Bono Project is to implement a model toolkit in pilot county/counties, analyze its effectiveness and feasibility for future wide implementation throughout the state, and to encourage participation by showing what benefits the report can provide for legal aid organizations and the community alike.

Students with backgrounds involving economic analysis, cost projections, public finance or social science or policy can be instantly involved in this work. Students will gain valuable knowledge about how legal services for those living in poverty are provided and funded and who the key players are in the State Bar system that fund and evaluate legal services, as well as how legal analysis and writing interact with financial and policy considerations. The hours required are dependent on the stage of the project, our client’s evolving needs, and the number of students involved. The project will require no more than 12 hours a quarter, and 5-10 hours is a realistic estimate for student time commitment.

Co-Leaders: Cari Jeffries and John Ugai
Other Leader: Demoni Newman


What is SLS’s Pro Bono Program?

Stanford Law School has a robust Pro Bono Program with many student-led pro bono projects.  SLS defines pro bono work as any law-related work done in the public service that is

  • Uncompensated
  • At or with an SLS-approved non-profit or government agency
  • Performed under the supervision of an attorney, faculty member or other qualified supervisor
  • For which no academic credit is received.
What pro bono projects are available?

SLS’s pro bono projects cover diverse subject matters and types of legal work.  Examples of projects include StreetLaw, where students educate incarcerated youth about their legal rights and responsibilities, develop their advocacy skills, and promote critical thinking about our justice system, the Immigration Pro Bono, where students work with licensed volunteer attorneys to interview potential clients at Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), screen for legal issues, and help CLSEPA’s immigration staff provide counsel, and Project ReMade, where students provide recently incarcerated individuals comprehensive entrepreneurship training, leadership development, and mentoring in teams comprised of a law student, a business school student, and a Silicon Valley business executive. Other students participate in pro bono projects focused on, for example, providing pro bono legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of Iraqi refugees seeking resettlement in the United States, or assisting people who wish to become naturalized citizens.

How Do I Earn Pro Bono Distinction at SLS?

Students who volunteer at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono work without compensation or academic credit before graduation will receive Pro Bono Distinction.  Students who receive Pro Bono Distinction will receive a pin to wear on their graduation robes to recognize their achievement, it will be noted in the graduation program, and they will be able to note it on their résumé.

Members of the faculty and staff are also encouraged to aspire to meet the standard of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which call for fifty hours of pro bono service annually, or the financial equivalent.  Faculty and staff who complete 50 hours of pro bono service within a year will also receive Pro Bono Distinction.

What Hours Count for Pro Bono Distinction Credit at SLS?

Students will be given pro bono credit at SLS for the following public service work:

  • Law-related assistance to a non-profit agency engaged in uncompensated legal representation of low-income clients
  • Law-related assistance to a governmental entity
  • Lesson preparation and presentation in legal education projects
  • Hours in excess of SLS clinical program requirements
  • Hours in excess of those for which a student is receiving summer funding at a public interest placement
  • Substantive training directly relating to the pro bono project
  • Student leader time spent organizing and coordinating projects
  • Note: Travel time does not count towards pro bono hours
New York Bar Pro Bono Requirements

The New York Bar has also recognized that the provision of pro bono services is central to the legal profession, and now requires all those who wish to be admitted to practice law in New York to complete 50 hours of pro bono work prior to admission.  The New York Bar’s definition of pro bono is slightly different than SLS’s definition; for example, clinical coursework can count towards the New York Bar’s requirements, but not towards SLS’s requirements.  By contrast, lesson preparation and presentation of legal education projects counts towards our requirements, but not towards the New York Bar’s requirements.  For more information about the New York Bar’s pro bono requirements, please visit its Frequently Asked Questions page: note: those students, particularly LLM students, wishing to meet the New York Bar’s pro bono requirements while at SLS should begin their pro bono work early in the academic year.

Who Can Participate?

Everyone!  Students at all levels, from 1L to LLM, are encouraged to participate in these projects, regardless of your ultimate career goals.  Just as lawyers in all walks of life can and should contribute to the public good, whether as firm lawyers donating their time and skills to those in need, or as life-long public interest or government lawyers, so too, can students pursuing any career path.

How Can I Participate?

Each fall, a Pro Bono Fair is held for 1Ls, where they can learn about and sign up for pro bono projects.  Students returning to campus, transfer students and LLM students are also invited to sign up for pro bono projects in the fall.  For more information on these projects and SLS’s Pro Bono Program, please review the 2015-16 Pro Bono Handbook (provide link here), or contact the Director of Pro Bono and Externship Programs, Jory Steele, at

What Training is Required?

Every student who commits to participate in a project must attend the SLS Ethics Training (given in the fall of each year), any student who will be interviewing clients must watch a video on how to interview clients, and students must participate in any training required by the project itself.