Pro Bono Honors Pledge Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program?

The WCL Pro Bono Honors Pledge program recognizes the voluntary, uncompensated work undertaken by WCL students while at the law school on behalf of low-income and underrepresented populations or for the public good. The program is designed to encourage students to continue engaging in pro bono service throughout their careers.

Why should i participate?

While giving back to the community, you’ll also gain a lot of career benefits such as networking, resume enhancements, and professional development. If you complete the pledge by the time you graduate, you will be honored with distinction based on the total number of hours completed: Honors (75-124 hours), Outstanding Service Hours (125-174 hours) and Exceptional Service Honors (175+ hours) at a public service ceremony and in the graduation bulletin. There are no negative consequences for students who do not meet the pledge.

what do i have to do to complete the pledge?

Students who take the pledge commit to completing a minimum of 75 hours of pro bono and community service projects. At least 50 hours of the pro bono work completed must be with an organization engaged primarily in law-related or legal work. Students may complete up to 25 of their 75 hours by doing non-legal community service work (e.g. IMBY). All legal pro bono hours completed count towards the pledge.

what kind of work will i be doing if i participate?

Whatever interests you! You can work on issues of your choosing at organizations of your choosing, provided the project fits the pledge criteria.  Pro Bono work can give you exposure to many areas of law (criminal law; family law; landlord/tenant, etc.) and allows you to practice legal skills such as client interviews, accompanying clients to court, fact investigation, legal research and drafting documents.  Also, many organizations need students with foreign language proficiency to interpret or translate, so the pledge is an excellent way to put your language skills to good use!

what counts as legal pro bono work?

In order to qualify, the work must:

  • Be performed for a nonprofit organization, the government (federal, state, local, and tribal), a court, or a qualifying WCL program.
  • Be performed without the student’s receiving academic credit or payment
  • Be law-related
  • Be on behalf of low-income/underrepresented people or for a government agency/court
  • Be under the supervision of an attorney

If you are not sure if your placement counts, just email publicinterest@wcl.american.edu and ask!

how do i sign up for the pledge and log hours?

The WCL Pro Bono Honors Pledge uses CareerLink (Simplicity) to track hours. To sign up:

  1. Sign on to CareerLink. If you are having trouble signing onto CareerLink, please conta ct  careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu
  2. On the homepage, you will see a group of “Shortcuts” on the right-hand side of the page. Click on the one labeled “Pro Bono
  3. Once you are taken to the Pro Bono tab, you will see the Pro Bono Information page, which is the registration page for the Pro Bono Honors Pledge
    1. Complete the fields on the screen and click “Submit Application” to complete your registration for the Pledge
    2. You will now be able to report hours toward the Pledge

when can i sign up for the pledge? do i have to sign up as a 1l?

All WCL students are welcome to register for the Pro Bono Honors Pledge at any time. It is never too late to sign up and log your hours. However, OPI recommends that you sign up as soon as possible and log your hours as you do them to make it easier to meet the April 1st deadline before graduation.

I am a 2L/3L (or a transfer student) who has not yet registered for the Pledge. I have done qualifying volunteer work. If I sign up now, can the hours I have already completed count toward the Pledge?

Any qualifying pro bono or community service work carried out after the start of your first semester in law school will count toward the Pledge provided that it meets the criteria set out in the pledge materials. Work before law school does not count.

I have completed the Pledge. Should I continue to report additional pro bono and volunteer hours?

Yes! It is important to report all of the qualifying work that you have completed for several reasons:

  • to provide information for prospective students regarding the nature and culture of WCL;
  • to provide accurate information to main campus about the service completed by WCL students;
  • to provide information to Equal Justice Works, the ABA, and other law school associations and governing bodies who track such data, and, most importantly;
  • to provide the WCL community an opportunity to recognize and celebrate your commitment to public service!

Also, a special award is given to the graduating student who completed the highest number of legal service hours.

Can I count work with an externship placement if I work more than the required hours?

Yes, you may count any externship hours that are above and beyond those required for the credits that you are receiving, but may not count the hours you receive academic credit for. For a breakdown of credit/work hours, visit the Externship Program website.

If I received an Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) summer stipend, can I get pro bono hours too?

Generally, the answer is no because the grant constitutes financial remuneration for your work. However, you may report any additional unpaid hours towards your Pro Bono Honors Pledge. For example, if your EJF grant covers ten weeks of work, and you actually work for eleven weeks, you can report the additional hours outside of the period covered by the grant for pro bono credit, provided your placement meets the pledge criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions by Placement Type
 

Working for A Judge: Working for a judge counts toward the Pledge as being work for the public good, so long as you are not receiving academic credit or compensation.

Working for the Federal or State Government: All government work counts toward the pledge as being work for the public good, so long as you are not receiving credit or compensation. This includes any work for a local, state or federal government agency or office.

The WCL Clinical Program: Participating in Clinic generally does not count for the pro bono pledge because you receive academic credit. However, volunteering as a clinic language volunteer can be counted for pro bono hours.

Volunteering with VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance): Volunteering with VITA is a wonderful way to contribute hours towards the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program.

Event or Conference Planning: The answer is generally no. However, if the conference has an actual public service project component, the time spent participating in the public service component may qualify for pro bono or community service hours, depending on the nature of the project.

Volunteering for a WCL Faculty Member or Program: Yes, as long as the work is law-related, on behalf of underprivileged or underrepresented populations, and is not for pay or academic credit. For example, time spent conducting research for a brief in support of petition for asylum is eligible for pro bono pledge credit. Projects not for the benefit of an underprivileged or underrepresented population (such as research or editing for a casebook) are ineligible for pro bono pledge credit. Examples of programs students receive pro bono credit for are the War Crimes Research Office, National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project (NIWAP) and the Project for Transgender Incarcerated Survivors.

Private Firm-Pro Bono Work: Students can receive Pro Bono Honors Pledge credit for pro bono cases at private law firms only under the following circumstances: (1) neither the firm nor the student is receiving any pay for their work on the case; (2) the client is a member of an underserved population; and (3) the student is not receiving any academic credit for the work (e.g. an independent study or externship, etc.) If the student is otherwise receiving pay for working at the firm and wishes to take on pro bono work, the pro bono work will count towards the pledge only if the student works on the case outside of his or her normal working hours.

Training Required by Placement: The training time counts toward the pledge so long as you end up putting that training to use and following through by volunteering with that organization.