University of Virginia School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Kimberly Carpenter Emery
Assistant Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest
P: (434) 924-1419
Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator.
Description of Programs
Established in 1999, the Law School’s Pro Bono Program seeks to cultivate in students a lifelong commitment to the provision of legal services to communities in need. We believe that members of the legal community have a professional obligation to provide quality legal services to those who could not otherwise afford representation.
The program offers all students — from first-years to LL.M.s — the chance to use their developing legal skills to help clients in need and ensure access to justice for all. Opportunities range from providing in-person assistance to victims of violence seeking protective orders to working on impact litigation for civil rights and racial justice. By participating in the Pro Bono Program, students will engage in meaningful legal work and gain practical skills while providing critical legal services to underserved communities in Charlottesville, Virginia and beyond.
The Law School's Pro Bono Program develops and administers pro bono opportunities for students while responding to the volunteer needs of community groups and other outside organizations such as prosecutors, public defenders, legal services, nonprofits, government agencies and private law firms providing pro bono services. The Pro Bono Program strives to provide every interested student with an appropriate pro bono project. This is accomplished through in-house projects, ad hoc projects, student-initiated projects, and winter and spring break pro bono projects. Students working on pro bono projects may do legal research and writing, client and witness interviews, policy review, investigation and evidence gathering, and actual trial work. Third-year students who have their practice certificates may represent clients in court under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
The Law School encourages all of its students to engage in law-related volunteer service. The Pro Bono Challenge recognizes those students who complete 75 hours or more of pro bono during their three years at the law school (25 hours for LL.M. students). Students who volunteer at least 75 hours will be honored at commencement and will receive a Dean-signed certificate of recognition. In addition, the graduate who best demonstrates an “extraordinary commitment to pro bono service” is honored with the annual Pro Bono Award. 1Ls who log at least 25 hours in their first year and 2Ls who log at least 50 hours by the end of their second year will also be commended for their service.
Pro Bono Facts, 2020-21
Total Hours Logged
12,188 by 350 students
102 Class of 2021 graduates completed the 75-hour challenge
Winter Break Pro Bono Hours
3,700 hours logged by 131 students at 65 organizations
Location of Programs
The Pro Bono Program is administered by Assistant Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest Kimberly Emery. Emery and her staff in assist students in locating appropriate pro bono placements and also assist student-run organizations with the development of their own pro bono projects.
Law school funded.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
Students who complete their required hours receive a certificate of recognition at the end of their first and second years.
Graduating students who have logged at least 75 pro bono hours are recognized in the commencement brochure and receive a certificate of completion signed by the Dean.
The Law School’s annual Pro Bono Award is granted to a graduating J.D. student who demonstrates an “extraordinary commitment” to pro bono service and who exemplifies pro bono leadership through delivery of essential volunteer legal services to underserved communities. Award recipients are selected, not only on the basis of the number of hours of service performed, but also on the substance and scope of their work. Those honored with the pro bono award volunteer well in excess of the 75 hours required to meet the Pro Bono Challenge. In honor of their achievement, the award recipient is recognized at the Law School’s graduation ceremony and receives an award commemorating their pro bono contributions.
Alternative Winter or Spring Break Projects
Winter break pro bono is an opportunity to volunteer for a week or two in early January. These projects allow you to serve clients in need, develop critical legal skills, enhance your resume, and gain real world experience. Winter break pro bono is also an excellent option for students who are unable to participate in pro bono during the academic year or for those who need additional hours to qualify for a Public Service Summer grant. In 2023, 197 students participated in winter break pro bono projects, volunteering over 6,390 hours at organizations across the country including nonprofits, legal services providers and governmental agencies.
Another option for students needing additional hours to qualify for a Public Service Summer grant or for the New York State Bar’s pro bono requirement is to volunteer over the Law School’s spring break in March. In recent years, spring break pro bono volunteers have been hosted by a variety of legal services providers, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies located across the country in both rural and urban areas. For example, students have volunteered in Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Bronx, NY; Charlotte, Durham, and Greensboro, North Carolina; Whitesburg, KY; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Assistant Dean for Public Service; Director, Program in Law and Public Service;
Director, Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center
P: (434) 243-4318
Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center
Public Interest Centers
Program in Law and Public Service - The Program in Law and Public Service is designed to offer a select group of students the opportunity to receive intensive and appropriate training that will prepare them for a career in public service. Each year, up to 20 first-year students will be admitted to the program. Another five slots will be held open for second-year students.
Program participants will be required to take the course "Law and Public Service" in the spring of their first year of law school. (Students admitted to the program in their second year of law school may take the "Law and Public Service" course in the spring of their second years.) They will also be required to take the course on advocacy skills for public interest lawyers in the spring of their second year of law school. Last, they will be required in their third year to participate in a year-long colloquium in which students will present their independent research. Students in the program will be paired with a faculty mentor with expertise in the substantive area of interest to the participant. The faculty mentors will help students map out their courses, serve as sounding boards for summer and permanent employment, and will oversee an independent study.
PI Career Support Center
Our mission at the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center is to guide and support the next generation of UVA Law’s public service attorneys. We do this through highly individualized counseling, programs that expose students to public service practice, and an unparalleled level of financial resources to launch public service careers. Mortimer Caplin Mortimer Caplin taught tax law for 33 years at Virginia, founded the Washington, D.C., law firm Caplin & Drysdale, and served as U.S. commissioner of internal revenue from 1961-64. Between our three counselors, we bring experience in legal aid, capital appeals and government work, as well as a deep knowledge of the public-sector market. We also direct a broad portfolio of fellowship and scholarship programs, including UVA Law Public Service Summer Grants, the Powell Fellowship in Legal Services, the Robert F. Kennedy ’51 Public Service Fellowships, the Virginia Public Service Scholarships, and the Virginia Public Interest Interviewing Program.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
The Law School is committed to making public service a viable career option for graduates who work in the public interest anywhere in the world. As a public institution of the Commonwealth, the Law School is also committed to enabling graduates to practice in underserved parts of Virginia, including in private practice. Graduates who enter qualifying employment within two years of graduation or within two years of completing a judicial clerkship are eligible to receive loan repayment assistance from the Law School.
Virginia's loan forgiveness programs are funded primarily by generous donations from graduates of the Law School. Starting in 2023, the program will help repay the loans of graduates who earn less than $100,000 annually. Participants in the program who earn less than $80,000 annually will receive benefits covering 100% of their qualifying law school loans. Those earning between $80,000 and $100,000 will receive benefits prorated based on income. In addition, all graduates working in paid positions necessitating the use of legal skills will be eligible for benefits. More details will be posted on the site soon.
For the Classes of 2013 and later, the Law School’s revised loan forgiveness program (VLFP II) helps repay the loans of graduates who earn less than $85,000 annually in public service positions. Participants in the program who earn less than $65,000 annually receive benefits covering 100 percent of their qualifying law school loans. In short, these participants pay nothing out of pocket toward loan repayment while in VLFP II. Those earning between $65,000 and $85,000 receive benefits prorated based on income. For the Classes of 2012 and earlier, the Law School maintains its original loan forgiveness program (VLFP I).