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August 03, 2023

Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Law School Pro Bono Programs

Contact Information

Lee Meredith Mestre
Associate Director, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Category or Type of Program

Public Service Graduation Requirement Program

Description of Programs

Students must perform at least 50 hours of uncompensated, law-related public interest work on behalf of people who cannot afford (in whole or in part) to pay for legal services, or; for the government, or; at a non-profit organization as defined under IRS sections 501(c)(3) & (4) protecting rights of marginalized individuals/groups or working in the broader public interest, or; in a law firm working on a pro bono basis. The work may also be performed in a setting in which clinical credit is given, in conjunction with a faculty pro bono project, in student-initiated projects, or in many HLS volunteer student organizations. Student's work should involve the application or interpretation of law, the formulation of legal policy, or the drafting of legislation or regulations. Work should have an advocacy or representational component. It should not be primarily clerical or academic in nature. Eligible tasks include: assisting an attorney at trial, client and witness interviewing and investigation, drafting documents, preparing a case for trial, assisting pro se litigants in court, community legal education, and research and writing. All work must be supervised by a licensed attorney. On average, students at HLS perform over 600 hours of pro bono work each.

Location of Programs

The program is located within the clinical/externship program. 

Staffing/Management Oversight

The program is administered by the Associate Director of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Administrative assistance is also provided.


Funding is provided through the law school budget and individual donor gifts.

Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono

It is expected that all members of the regular, full-time teaching faculty will perform, on the average, at least a similar amount of pro bono activity to what is required of students (50 hours). Since all members of the faculty are not practicing lawyers, the qualifying services for faculty members should be rendered to the listed organizations in the fields of their respective expertness. The aspirational goal with respect to faculty service is included to stress the importance of the professional value of pro bono service. Since there are no sanctions or reporting requirements, faculty members seeking to comply are expected to follow their own common sense in deciding to their own satisfaction whether they had met the guidelines.


The day before graduation, at "Class Day" which also features a keynote speaker, students are presented with awards for community service and leadership. Students who do over 1000 hours of pro bono service are recognized in the graduation program. Particular clinical and pro bono awards:

David Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs recognizes a graduating student who embodies the spirit of the late Clinical Professor David Grossman and exemplifies putting theory into practice through clinical work. The student winner has demonstrated excellence in representing individual clients and/or undertaking group advocacy or policy reform projects. In addition, in keeping with the clinical teaching model, the student has been self-reflective and shown thoughtfulness and compassion in their practice and has contributed to the clinical community at HLS in a meaningful way. The award is presented at Class Day and comes with an honorarium.

Andrew L. Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award The award is given to the J.D. student(s) in the graduating class who exemplifies the pro bono public spirit and an extraordinary commitment to improving and delivering high quality volunteer legal services to disadvantaged communities. Selection is based on the documented clinical, SPO, and extracurricular service to law-related public service projects or organizations; the quality of work they performed; and the impact of their work on the community. The award is presented at Class Day and comes with an honorarium.

Gants Access to Justice Award The Gants Access to Justice Award honors the late Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants in recognizing a graduating student dedicated to advancing access to justice, racial equity and/or criminal justice reform. The recipient has performed outstanding clinical work, summer and/or other employment, and volunteer service in these areas, and has demonstrated leadership in helping to eliminate systemic barriers to justice. The award is presented at Class Day and comes with an honorarium.

Alternative Winter or Spring Break Projects

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) offers students the opportunity to conduct pro bono work during spring break through organized group trips and projects with legal organizations in the Boston area and across the United States. Typically students engage in pro bono legal work for a minimum of five days over the break in addition to other cultural activities. Legal work time is eligible for HLS pro bono credit. A majority of travel expenses are covered.

Law School Public Interest Programs

Contact Information

Catherine Pattanayak
Assistant Dean for Public Service

Certificate/Curriculum Programs

While HLS does not have a public interest specialization, roughly 2/3 of students take clinical courses with placements working on public interest cases. Unlike some schools, HLS clinics are not selective and many students choose to do a clinic every semester.

Public Interest Centers


PI Career Support Center

The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA), Harvard Law School’s career services office specializing in public interest law, offers advising appointments for HLS students and alumni with our experienced attorney advisors, a wealth of resources for planning a public interest career and landing a job, and a welcoming public interest community. We work with our sister office, Office of Career Services (OCS), to help students and alumni find a vision for the type of work they want to do that will fit their unique values, interests, and personalities.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)

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