2017’s Graduating Law Class Set Pro Bono Record
2017 law school graduates contributed more than 3.39 million hours of pro bono work, or $82 million in free legal services, last year.
Recent law grads logged 184 hours of pro bono service in law school clinics, externships, and student organizations, according to a recent survey by the Association of American Law Schools.
“The numbers are really impressive,” Wendy Perdue, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law and the incoming president of the Association of American Law Schools, tells Law.com. “It’s a story I think many communities don’t fully appreciate. I’m not sure university boards and presidents appreciate the services that their law students are providing. I’m enormously proud of my school and my fellow schools for adding to access to justice.”
The Association of American Law Schools survey was based on responses from 94 out of 205 ABA-accredited law schools, illustrating that the actual number of pro bono hours performed would be much larger. The survey also excludes pro bono work performed by LL.M students, according to Law.com.
Rise in pro bono service
Pro bono service performed by students has been on the rise. The class of 2017’s average of 184 hours is a 60-hour increase compared to class of 2016.
The rise in hours could be attributed to the substantial amount of pro bono opportunities that are now available for current law students and recent grads. The College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law’s Election Day VOTEline is a voter assistance hotline that launched last year. The hotline is aimed at responding to questions local citizens have about voting, according to the William & Mary website. At New York University School of Law, a policing project has been launched to improving policing through greater accountability. Baylor School of Law’s Texas Legal Answers project lets low-income residents ask law students legal questions.
2017’s hurricane season, particularly in areas like Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, has also prompted law students to offer assistance. Columbia Law’s Legal Corps for Puerto Rico lets volunteer attorneys assist hurricane affected residents in filing for unemployment or housing assistance.
Perdue tells the National Jurist that students’ pro bono work is building stronger connections with communities, while laying the building blocks for success.
“The aspiration of ‘equal justice under law’ is one of our country’s greatest values and law students across the nation are working toward this ideal while laying the foundations for success in their future careers,” Perdue says. “These efforts represent some of the ways law schools and students can build bridges with the communities where they live and we are tremendously proud of their efforts.”