Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What kind of work counts toward the pledge?
A: To count toward the Pledge, work must be law-related, must not be done for academic credit or other compensation, and must be supervised by an attorney or a Law School faculty member.
Q: Do I have to be supervised by an attorney?
A: Yes. Because law students are not licensed to practice law, they must work under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Law school faculty members may also supervise student pro bono work.
Q: Should first-year students participate in pro bono work?
A: If you are a 1L student, you should consult with the Pro Bono Service Initiative Manager, who can help guide you to a placement that requires a minimal time commitment or tasks that do not require advanced legal research and writing skills. Students that are unable to perform pro bono service during their 1L year should not be discouraged. There are ample opportunities in your 2L and 3L years to complete your service.
Q: May students take on legal research or matters on their own, or respond to requests from the general public?
A: No. Students may not engage in legal work on their own; this would be an unauthorized practice of law. Students cannot accept cases from the public and cannot give legal advice and assistance without the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Q: Are students limited to projects that only require 50 hours of work?
No. 50 hours is the minimum number of hours necessary for students to serve in order to fulfill the pledge. Students are welcome and encouraged to complete more than 50 hours.
Q: Must individual projects require a minimum number of hours' worth of work?
No. There is no minimum number of hours of work that a single project must require. Employers often need pro bono assistance for just a few hours on a single project. To achieve the 50-hour pledge, students may handle a number of these smaller, discrete projects or may choose to take on only one larger pro bono project.
Q: What types of work qualify?
A: Qualified activities include those that require lawyering skills (such as legal research and writing, interviewing, counseling, oral or written advocacy, or representation of individuals in court, administrative, or other hearings), public education activities (such as preparing for and delivering lectures on legal topics or writing informational brochures or web information on legal topics for under-served communities), and service to the legal profession or legal institutions. Interpreting or translating on otherwise qualifying matters is also considered qualifying work.
Q: Is there work that does not qualify?
A: Work that does not qualify includes non-legal public service such as community service. While critically important, this does not involve service to the legal profession. Examples include: volunteering for a homeless shelter or food drive, or a park clean-up project. Also excluded is assisting in political campaigns.
Q: If training is required for the student to volunteer, will this training count?
A: Yes. Training sessions do count towards the pledge hours as long as the trainings are to prepare students for the law-related pro bono work.
Q: Will the hours I work at one of University of Chicago Law School Clinics count?
A: No, not if you are receiving credit for the clinical work and opportunity.
Q: What happens if I meet the Pledge goal?
A: Students who fulfill their pledge and log their hours will receive a Dean's Certificate of Recognition, receive special recognition at graduation and receive a special notation on their transcript indicating that they completed the Pro Bono Service Initiative. The graduating student completing and recording the most hours will also receive a special Award of Excellence.
Q: What happens if I do not meet my Pledge?
A: Nothing. The Pledge is voluntary and there are no negative consequences for not meeting your goal.