Pro Bono Service Initiative

students in New Orlean on spring break of service

Our Mission

At UChicago, we believe that members of the legal community have a professional obligation to provide quality legal services to the underrepresented.  The Pro Bono Service Initiative puts these beliefs into action by supporting UChicago’s law students to complete 50+ hours of pro bono service before they graduate. Participants in the Pro Bono Service Initiative contribute to their legal education by gaining exposure to important legal issues, invaluable experiences, practical skill-building opportunities, and a hands-on opportunity to influence how law affects real people. 

Build Skills

  • Client Interviewing and Counseling
  • Legal Issue Spotting
  • Oral Advocacy
  • Research and Writing
  • Courtroom Procedure and Etiquette
  • Learn How to Provide Much-Needed Legal Services to the Community
  • Create Mentoring Relationships
  • Network with Devoted Attorneys in Public Interest and Private Firms


Participants in UChicago's Pro Bono Service Initiative are recognized for their important work and contribution to their legal community in a variety of ways:

  • Award of Excellence for the graduating student who has completed the most pro bono hours
  • Dean’s Certificate of Recognition for all students completing at least 50 hours of pro bono service
  • Transcript notation for all graduating students who complete at least 50 hours of pro bono service
  • Pro Bono Honors transcript notation for all graduating students who complete at least 250 hours of pro bono service

Read about the Class of 2023's pro bono work and award winners here!

Learn more about doing pro bono work while in big law here!

How do you take the Pro Bono Pledge?

The Pro Bono Pledge can be taken in Symplicity. The Pledge can be found by clicking the pro bono button on the homepage. You can find written instructions on How to Take the Pledge and Log Your Pro Bono Hours on our website. You can also watch the short video linked below which walks you through the process. 

Watch: Taking the Pro Bono Pledge and Logging Hours video

What happens when you meet the Pro Bono Pledge goal?

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.

What happens if you don't meet the Pledge goal?

Nothing. The Pledge is voluntary and there are no negative consequences for not meeting your goal.

Should first-year students participate?

If you are a 1L student, you should consult with the Assistant Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Elise Tincher, who can help you find a project with a manageable time commitment, and that does not require advanced legal research and writing skills. Don't be discouraged if you are unable to do pro bono service during your 1L year! There are ample opportunities in your 2L and 3L years to complete your service.

What work qualifies toward the Pro Bono Pledge?

Qualifying pro bono work must be:

  • Legal or policy related, and
  • Supervised by a licensed attorney or Law School faculty member

Qualifying pro bono work includes:

  • Legal research and writing, client interviewing, client counseling, oral or written advocacy, or representation of individuals in court, administrative or other hearings.
  • Lecturing on legal topics or writing informational brochures or web information on legal topics for underserved communities, and service to the legal profession or legal institutions. 
  • Assisting underserved or disadvantaged individuals with finding or obtaining needed legal information, general information about what the law says or how the court works, or legal forms.   
  • Legal research in connection with a professor's pro bono legal services.
  • Training sessions count towards the Pledge hours as long as the trainings are to prepare students for the law-related pro bono work.
  • Moot court/mock trial judging or coaching, assisting with voter registration, and participating in mentorship programs involving students interested in pursuing a legal education/career count as pro bono work, but there is a 5 hour cap on the number of hours that may be used to fulfill the Pro Bono Pledge. 
  • Hours worked in certain law school clinics that exceed your credit requirements for the Quarter count as pro bono, and so do hours that exceed your summer internship funding award. For example, if you participate in a qualifying clinic that requires 15 hours of service per week, but you work 20, those 5 additional hours are pro bono; also, if you receive guaranteed summer funding to work 8 full-time weeks, but you work ten weeks, remember to log those extra two weeks as pro bono!

Qualifying pro bono work does not include:

  • Non-legal public or community service such as volunteering for a homeless shelter, food drive, or park clean-up project. 
  • Work on political campaigns.
  • Work done for academic credit hours, including work at the University of Chicago Law School Clinics. 
  • Work done for financial compensation, including work done in the public sector arena if you received wages or any financial aid award, as well as work completed during a paid law firm summer associate position, even if the work is done on behalf of a pro bono client.
  • Legal research related to scholarship, a law journal article or other publication.
  • Pro bono work done before you started law school.

Students who find pro bono work independently or who have any questions about whether something qualifies are encouraged to check with the Assistant Director of Public Service and Pro Bono, who will make the final decisions on qualifying work.

What Counts as Pro Bono and Finding Opportunities


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.

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.

Minimum hours

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.

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.

Pro Bono Opportunities

The most current pro bono opportunities can be found on the Job Search Guide under the Public Service tab. Please contact the Assistant Director of Public Service and Pro Bono for more information, or with any questions.


UChicago Law School provides reimbursement for transportation to pro bono projects attended as a group (three or more students), but does not provide reimbursement for transportation to pro bono work or internships done on a regular basis by an individual student. Transportation reimbursement can cover rideshares, parking costs, gas costs, and/or public transit costs.  For reimbursement, please reach out to the Assistant Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Elise Tincher for a W-9 form to complete. With your completed W-9 form, please also send her your receipt or proof of payment, a brief description of the pro bono work done, the name of the students who attended, and the relevant dates. Please also reach out to Elise with any questions as to whether a cost qualifies for reimbursement.

Pro Bono in Big Law and Assessing a Law Firm’s Commitment to Pro Bono