Pro Bono Pledge Program
Seattle University School of Law and the Access to Justice Institute (ATJI) are committed to preparing its graduates for a lifetime in law at the service of justice. In furtherance of our mission and aligned with the American Bar Association's and Washington State Bar Association's goals for professional attorneys, the Pro Bono Pledge Program is designed to encourage law students to build their legal and leadership skills in service to the community.
We invite all law students to pledge to complete at least 100 hours* of legal pro bono and community volunteer work before they graduate.
*Part-time students may complete 50 hours.
The Pro Bono Pledge helps connect students with opportunities while also helping the law school recognize and support those students who are engaged in the community. The program is voluntary, but those students who meet their pledge goals are recognized for their contributions at the end of each school year and at graduation.
How to Participate
STEP 1: PLEDGE
Interested students, at any point between their start date and the end of their final semester, may pledge online.
- By signing the Pledge, you commit to contribute at least 100 hours of pro bono legal and volunteer services during your enrollment at Seattle University School of Law or 50 hours for part-time students.
- By signing the Pledge you also acknowledge that you have reviewed the relevant rules of professional responsibility.
- 75 of the 100 hours must be considered legal pro bono activity, as described here. The remaining hours may include a broader range of community volunteer (public service) activity.
- To stay on track and to be considered for yearly recognition by ATJI at the Celebration of Social Justice, we suggests target goals for each year:
- 20 hours during 1L Year (starting with your first day of classes)
- 40 hours during 2L year (including the summer before 2L year)
- 40 hours during 3L year (including the summer before 3L year)
- Part-time students are asked to pledge about 1/2 the hours of their full-time counterparts.
- Even if you are not ready to start pro bono work, we encourage all students who would like to participate to sign the Pledge to stay connected to opportunities and information. You will still be able to include eligible activity completed before you signed the Pledge.
- Although we encourage all students to participate, the Pledge Program is voluntary and there are no penalties for not enrolling or for enrolling and later not completing your pledged goals.
STEP 2: DO
There is a wide range of pro bono and volunteer activity out there, and we can help you find the right opportunity.
- General Eligibility: Most broadly speaking, to be eligible your work must be for a nonprofit or public entity, must be on behalf of individuals or groups who are underserved or of limited means (or for organizations that serve those individuals or groups), must be uncompensated and not for academic credit (with the exception of certain work as outlined here), and must be completed while you are a law student here (or during summers). In addition, to be considered "legal pro bono" work you must be supervised by an attorney or law faculty member (certain exceptions described here). For more definitions and details about what activity is eligible, please visit our FAQs.
- Finding an Opportunity: For a list of resources that can help you locate an opportunity, please click here.
- Already Volunteering? Thank you for your service! You do not need to obtain advance approval for participation, though ATJI is happy to talk with you if you have questions about whether your activity is eligible. Please contact Jennifer Werdell, ATJI Associate Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.398.4455, with any questions.
Additional items to keep in mind while engaging in pro bono or volunteer work:
- While first year students are encouraged to participate in the Pro Bono Program, we recognize the time constraints and pressures of the first year of law school, and encourage all first year students to be thoughtful about taking on additional responsibilities and identifying placements that do not necessarily require advanced research, writing, or client skills.
- Since the Pledge is voluntary, there are no penalties if you pledge but then later do not meet your pledge goals. However, please note that it is extremely important to fulfill any obligations you have made with an external organization, supervisor, or client, and to be communicative and professional if you are unable to meet those commitments. Volunteer positions should be treated with the same level of professionalism and preparedness that you would bring to a job. If you are struggling to meet the obligations of your volunteer placement, please talk to your supervisors and/or to an ATJI staff member who would be happy to advise you. Please email ATJI Program Assistant Kerri Kline at email@example.com if you would like to make an appointment at ATJI.
- In addition, we strongly encourage all students to take advantage of the volunteer and pro bono resources that are available at your host entity and the law school. Please be mindful of the relevant rules of professional responsibility and consider trainings that can help you to effectively work with the constituents or communities impacted by your work. Through its blog and weekly newsletter, The Link, ATJI lists many relevant trainings and resources on these items as well as trainings on substantive areas of law. Other sources include:
- The Washington State Bar Association Advocate Resource Center
- The ABA's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service
- The King County Bar Association's guidelines for professional courtesy
STEP 3: REPORT!
Once you complete an eligible activity, you must then briefly record your hours online in order to fulfill your Pledge.
- To count toward a student's pledged commitment, all hours must be reported through the Access to Justice Institute's online system, which collects brief information about dates, total hours completed (training and traveling time are not eligible), host organization contact info, and the type of activity completed.
- You may only submit activity after it has been completed and it must be completed after you start law school.
- All submissions are reviewed by ATJI, which will make a final determination of eligibility and contact you within 30 days if any hours are ultimately determined to be inelgible. Please note that all reported activity may be subject to verification by a supervisor.
- To help ensure the quality of pro bono opportunities and ease of the Pledge program, students may be invited to complete placement and program evaluations at the end of the year.
STEP 4: CELEBRATE!
- Students who meet their Pledge goals before they graduate will be recognized at graduation by the School of Law. In addition, students who meet their yearly Pledge targets will be recognized by the Access to Justice Institute at our year-end Celebration of Social Justice.
- In addition to the 100 hour primary Pledge goal, students who complete and report 250 hours or more of eligible activity will be given a special designation in the graduation program (50 hours/125 hours for part-time students).
- You do have the option to opt out of receiving recognition. However, we hope you still consider engaging in pro bono and volunteer service, and that you will share your information with us. Your submissions remain confidential unless you give permission for ATJI to share your information, and this information is extremely valuable to us so we can better understand how our students are spending their time and how we can best support your work in the community.
- We encourage students to report their hours once a month, but regardless of frequency you must meet your Pledge goal (including submitting all outstanding hours) by April 18, 2014, to be considered for recognition at graduation.
- To be considered for recognition by the Access to Justice Institute at the Celebration of Social Justice you must complete your yearly target goal (e.g. 20 hours for 1Ls; 40 hours for 2Ls and 3Ls) for this year by March 28, 2014.
If you have any questions regarding the Pro Bono Pledge Program, please contact Jennifer Werdell, ATJI Associate Director, at 206.398.4455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that The Access to Justice Institute is not a direct legal services provider. If you are working with someone who is in need of an attorney, please visit Washingtonlawhelp.org or call 2-1-1 if you are inside of King County. If you are outside of King County, call Coordinated Legal Educational Advice Referral (CLEAR) at 1-888-201-1014.
Pro Bono Pledge Program Recognition
Our deepest thanks and congratulations to the 274 students who took the Pro Bono Pledge this year! In 2014-15 alone, students reported over 16,200 hours of legal pro bono and community volunteer activity.
Participants are invited to reach 20 hours by the end of 1L year; 60 hours by the end of 2L year, and 100 hours by graduation; part-time students complete half of those totals. We are pleased to acknowledge and thank the following students who have met their yearly Pro Bono Pledge goals and are on track for recognition at graduation, including 78 2014-15 graduates who were listed in the commencement program as Pro Bono Pledge Awardees: