It is very important that students report their pro bono hours. Not only does it allow them to qualify for graduation with Pro Bono Distinction, it is also critically important for the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law to have an accurate account of our law school's pro bono activity. This information is often shared with the president of Arizona State University, the Board of Trustees and the legislature of the State of Arizona. By reporting your hours, you are helping the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law achieve future success. There are many studies of law student involvement with public interest efforts. These efforts can only be accurately reviewed if students accurately report their participation.
Students should report all of their hours of pro bono service on-line at ASU Law Interactive. It is important to record your information in a timely manner because reports are made on an annual basis.
If you are unclear whether your work is considered pro bono service, please refer to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law's definition of pro bono below.
Students who graduate with 50 hours or more of pro bono service will graduate with Pro Bono Distinction and will be recognized at graduation.
These are the three levels of recognition:
Each level comes with its own seal to be placed on the law school diploma. Those students with the highest number of hours are also eligible for graduation service awards.
In addition, the Pro Bono Board hosts an annual Pro Bono Reception before graduation. This is not just for graduates. Most pro bono groups choose to recognize a distinguishing student volunteer, as well as there are awards for outstanding faculty/staff advisor, student group, and student leaders. In addition, the top volunteers of each class are recognized.
Law students should keep in mind that pro bono service and community service are not the same thing. We do encourage you to volunteer as you feel appropriate with community service efforts, but only professional, law-related services will count toward your pro bono record. The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law defines pro bono service as:
providing legal services, supervised by an attorney, free of charge and without earning academic credit:
a. to the indigent or to organizations that have, as a principal purpose, promoting the interests of the indigent;
b. for the purpose of securing or protecting civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights;
c. for the purpose of improving the legal profession or the judicial system;
d. to charitable organizations as defined by Section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code so long as the work is in furtherance of the charitable organization’s purpose; or
e. to judges, courts, the legislature, public officers, and governmental agencies including federal, state, tribal, and local agencies.
Pro bono service does not include:
1) Participating in law school activities such as moot court, journal, student organizations, ambassador duties, organizing and attending social events, fundraising and publicity activities, participating in writing competitions, or attending or participating in symposia or conferences;
2) A fellowship, paid internship, clinic, or externship with a qualified organization, unless the student provides legal services exceeding the requirements of the fellowship, paid internship, clinic, or externship (the amount of service hours counted toward pro bono for a fellowship will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the cost of living in the city of the fellowship/paid internship);
3) Community service (e.g. serving food at a soup kitchen, cleaning kennels at an animal shelter, etc.);
4) Work for political campaigns; or
5) Time spent commuting to/from home to the service opportunity within the Phoenix metro area.
Is pro bono service mandatory?
No, unless you plan to become admitted in New York (click here for more information about New York's pro bono requirement).
What are some examples of “legal services”?
Legal service is work that requires legal knowledge or legal skills. This includes, but is not limited to, drafting pleadings, discovery, and motions, preparing for and attending meetings with clients, preparing for and attending court hearings, legal research, drafting legal memoranda, drafting contracts, conducting client intake, etc. Legal service also may include certain legal education activities such as giving lectures on public interest topics to community organizations or creating legal brochures or web information on legal topics for underserved communities. Legal service also includes the application or interpretation of the law or formulation of legal policy and statutes.
What are some common examples of "organizations that secure civil rights or public rights"?
Organizations that seek to secure veterans' rights, victims' rights, family rights, prisoners' rights, environmental protection, etc. It also includes legal services provided to civic or community-based organizations such as religious organizations, cultural organizations, and bar associations.
What are some common examples of pro bono legal services that improve the legal profession or the judicial system?
Acting as a judge, juror, or translator for official competitions or events such as the Arizona Foundation for Legal Education and Services' We the People Project Citizen program or the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Counsel's Trial Advocacy Training program.
When can J.D. students begin doing pro bono service?
The College encourages every student to begin pro bono service immediately upon entering law school, so long as the student is confident that the pro bono service will not interfere with the student’s studies. Prior to beginning pro bono service, all students must either: 1) have completed the one-hour pro bono service ethics training; or 2) have a passing grade in Professional Responsibility. The pro bono service ethics training is offered once a year. If a student is unavailable for the live presentation, the student may watch a video and take a short quiz. Pro bono service done prior to entering law school will not count.
Can I count time spent traveling outside of the Phoenix metro area?
Yes. For example, if you ride the Family Justice Bus to a rural area for the purpose of providing legal services to the indigent and under privileged, you may count the time you spent commuting.
Can students initiate their own pro bono projects?
Yes, as long as it falls within the guidelines for pro bono service and is completed under the supervision of an attorney. Students are encouraged to consult with the Assistant Director of Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs prior to doing the pro bono service if the student wants to ensure that the activity will court toward pro bono service.
When is the deadline to report my hours?
Five weeks prior to the commencement ceremony.
Does work for a student organization count?
Time spent on student activities that primarily benefit the school or student body does not qualify. For example, selling tickets, planning and attending administrative meetings, fundraising, organizing social functions, etc. for the law schools pre-approved pro bono group or student organizations does not count. However, volunteering legal services in conjunction with a student organization or pro bono group does qualify if it falls within the scope of the definition of pro bono service.
Can LLM. students receive pro bono awards?
Yes. Pro bono distinction is awarded for at least 17 hours, high distinction for at least 34 hours, and highest distinction for at least 50 hours of pro bono service.
What if I am not sure about whether an activity qualifies as pro bono?
You are highly encouraged to discuss the College’s Assistant Director of Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs, Michelle Roddy.
Who should I contact if I still have a question?
Michelle Roddy, Assistant Director of Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.