About the Directory
The legal profession is, at its foundation, about service: service to individuals, to organizations, and to private and public entities. "Public service," however, has a special meaning for the legal profession. This meaning may be debatable around the edges, but at its core is the responsibility of the profession to insure access to justice for all by meeting not only the legal needs of those who can afford a lawyer but also the legal needs of those individuals and communities that cannot. 1
This responsibility is met both by lawyers working fulltime in the public sector and by lawyers in the private sector who provide pro bono service. Pro bono comes from the Latin "pro bono publico" and means "for the public good." In a law school setting, pro bono may have many meanings. For the practice setting, the American Bar Association (ABA) has set forth a lawyer's pro bono responsibility in Model Rule 6.1, which encourages lawyers to aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year without fee or expectation of fee to persons of limited means or to organizations designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.
With the legal profession's core value of access to justice for all as a backdrop, the ABA, representing the bar, and the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), representing the law school community, have taken the position that law schools should encourage and enable all law students to engage in pro bono and public service.
In 2005, the ABA revised its Accreditation Standards by adopting Standard 302(b)(2), which provides:
(b) A law shall offer substantial opportunities for:
(2) student participation in pro bono activities . . .
This revision amended former Standard 302(e) which provided only that a law school "should" provide opportunities for student participation in pro bono activities.
In August 2007 and 2014, the ABA provided further clarification of this Standard when it adopted Interpretation 303-3 which provides the following:
Rule 6.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct encourages lawyers to provide pro bono legal services primarily to persons of limited means or to organizations that serve such persons. In addition, lawyers are encouraged to provide pro bono law-related public service. In meeting the requirement of Standard 303(b)(2), law schools are encouraged to promote opportunities for law student pro bono service that incorporate the priorities established in Model Rule 6.1. In addition, law schools are encouraged to promote opportunities for law students to provide over their law school career at least 50 hours of pro bono service that complies with Standard 303(b)(2). Pro bono and public service opportunities need not be structured to accomplish any of the outcomes required by Standard 302. Standard 303(b)(2) does not preclude the inclusion of credit-granting activities within a law school’s overall program of law-related pro bono opportunities so long as law-related non-credit bearing initiatives are also part of that program.
In its 1999 report Learning to Serve: The Findings and Proposals of the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities, the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities recommended "that law schools make available to all law students at least once during their law school careers a well-supervised law-related pro bono opportunity and either require the students' participation or find ways to attract the great majority of students to volunteer."
Law school programs that promote public service are important for the support and training they give students interested in pursuing careers in the public interest. These programs are equally important for teaching every law student that all lawyers in this country must play a role in achieving justice for all. These programs also help students to understand and learn how they can personally contribute their time and talent.
This Directory of Law School Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs is intended to help individual law schools meet the expectations of the ABA and the AALS and to develop strong pro bono and public interest programs. It is also designed to assist prospective law students interested in public interest and pro bono programs find the law school that best matches their interests.
The Directory builds upon the efforts of projects of the ABA and the AALS that have, over several years, collected and disseminated information about the pro bono and public interest programs of individual law schools. These efforts were carried forth by the ABA Division for Public Services and The Center for Pro Bono, a project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The AALS's efforts were led first by its Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities and then by the AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities.
The ABA published two editions of the Directory of Law School Public Interest Law Support Programs, with the second edition being published in the fall of 1999. The Directory catalogued for the first time the array of public interest/public service programs in law schools and described the programs at individual law schools.
In 2001, the AALS Pro Bono Project published a Handbook on Law School Pro Bono Programs, which provided a history and overview of pro bono programs in law schools and included a detailed directory of these programs with selected documents from the programs. The Handbook, built upon the report of the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities published in 1999 entitled Learning to Serve: The Findings and Proposals of the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities. This report described the development of pro bono programs in law schools, urged law schools to provide pro bono opportunities for every student and described some of the programs of individual law schools.
The ABA and the AALS have joined forces to publish this directory to provide current information, in a centralized and web-accessible format, on law school public interest and pro bono programs and curricula. Starting in 2002, law schools were surveyed for information on relevant programs. The information in this Directory has been collected from the returned surveys, follow-up contact, content provided previously and public information.
1In 1994, an ABA study found that the combined efforts of the private bar, individual lawyers and publicly funded legal services programs can serve only a small portion - about 20 percent - of the civil legal needs reported by low-income households.