Pro Bono Program
The Levin Center offers Stanford law students the opportunity to use their burgeoning legal skills to help communities in need and serve the public interest generally. Whether by providing in-person assistance to immigrants seeking asylum, or by fighting for environmental justice through impact litigation, students have the chance–almost immediately after joining the law school–to create change in our communities, in our country, and in the world.
The Levin Center empowers students to lead and participate in 20 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects. Each project partners with a local nonprofit, government agency, or SLS clinic to engage students in personally meaningful, substantive, and life-changing work. Student work is supervised by expert attorneys. Below are descriptions of each Student-Led Project (organized by subject area and skill category).
NOTE ON THE NY BAR REQUIREMENTS: Please note that while the majority of the pro bono projects approved by Stanford also satisfy the NY Bar Requirements, some do not. Every pro bono project listed herein DOES satisfy SLS’s pro bono criteria. Please don’t be dissuaded from participating in a pro bono project because it does not meet the NY Bar’s requirements. There are many other ways to satisfy the NY Bar requirements, including, for example, law school clinics and summer internships at non-profits.
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.
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 contact Mike Winn.
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.
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. Those who complete 150 hours or more of pro bono and serve in a public interest/pro bono leadership role (see below) may graduate with High Distinction, and those who complete 300 hours or more and serve in a public interest/pro bono leadership role will graduate with Highest Distinction.
Those graduating with High and Highest Pro Bono Distinction will need to meet a pro bono/public interest leadership requirement. This requirement can be met by serving as: (1) a leader of a Student-Led Pro Bono Project; (2) a leader of an Alternative Break opportunity; (3) a 2L Public Interest Mentor; (4) a 3L Public Interest Fellow; or (5) a 3L Public Interest Associate.
Students who receive Pro Bono Distinction will receive a cord to wear over 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 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.
Students will be given pro bono credit at SLS for the following public service work:
- All training and service in support of the 22 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects
- All training and service done during SLS-sponsored Alternative Break opportunities
- All organizing and coordinating work done by official student leaders of the 22 Student-Led Pro Bono Projects and the Alternative Break opportunities
- All other work that is:
- Uncompensated (either with money or course credit)
- At or with a public interest nonprofit, government agency, or other Levin Center-approved entity
- Performed under the supervision of an attorney, faculty member, or Levin Center- approved qualified supervisor
The number of pro bono hours that can be accrued during the Summer Quarter is limited. Pro bono hours worked during the summer are only eligible to the extent that they are above and beyond 320 hours otherwise worked during that same summer. Once you have worked 320 hours during the summer (in any sector, paid or unpaid), any more hours you work that are otherwise considered pro bono (see above ) can count toward Pro Bono Distinction. This means that most, if not all, of summer internship experiences will not count toward Pro Bono Distinction.
For example, if you worked for 8 weeks (e.g., 320 hours) at a private firm, then worked 4 weeks at a nonprofit or gov’t agency (unpaid and unfunded), you can log those 4 weeks of work at the legal nonprofit. Or, as another example, if you worked at a nonprofit or gov’t agency for 10 weeks (e.g., 400 hours) this summer and received Levin Center funding (for 9 weeks of work), but didn’t receive any further funding or pay for your work, then you can log the last week of work. Or, as a final example, if you worked for 5 weeks (200 hours) at a private firm and then 5 weeks (200 hours) at a nonprofit or gov’t agency (unpaid and unfunded), then you can log only 2 of your 5 weeks at the nonprofit or gov’t agency.
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. Please 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.