2L: Pro Bono
With the whirlwind of 1L year now behind them, second year students are in a great position to focus on pro bono. Given that all 2Ls must complete at least 35 hours of pro bono (failure to do so bars registration for 3L classes), it is extremely important that students “hit the ground running” in the fall of their second year. Like any other academic requirement, students should carefully and strategically plan their 2L pro bono involvement to ensure best outcomes.
What students need to know about pro bono in the 2L year:
By 2L year, many students will be familiar with the pro bono program and several will be stepping into leadership roles within pro bono projects. However, it is important that all 2Ls begin pro bono work as early in the second year as possible. Pro bono should not be pushed aside until the spring semester. Not only is it useful for students to integrate pro bono into all aspects of their legal education, waiting until the last minute to perform pro bono could result in students facing significant challenges with 2L compliance. Many internal pro bono projects only accept new members in the fall, and those that do have spring enrollment may not have the capacity to provide each incoming member with 35 hours of pro bono in a single semester. While ad hoc and self-initiated placements are possible throughout the academic year, they are in high demand and also do not guarantee 35 hours. Students should also be aware that pro bono hours are due on the last day of classes, not the last day of exams. This ensures students are able to focus their end-of-semester efforts on exam preparation.
TPIC is always available to assist students in charting a pro bono path that is right for their individual needs and interests. 2Ls who, in early fall, have not secured pro bono work, should contact TPIC. The earlier a student asks for guidance, the better equipped TPIC will be in assisting them. While the 1L hurdle has been surmounted, 2Ls are often unexpectedly busy with a wide range of commitments (journal work, clinical work, externships, etc.), making it all the more vital to create a strategy which infuses pro bono into fall and spring semesters.
It is also important to note that while clinic credit exchanges are possible in 3L year (see here), there is absolutely no guarantee that a student will get enrolled in a clinic or that they will have the surplus of credits needed for the exchange. A clinic credit exchange is something that should be thought of in addition to a student’s pro bono plan, not as part of it.
How 2L students can get involved in pro bono work:
Some 2Ls will already be members of pro bono projects from 1L year and may wish to continue with that work – many in project leadership roles. For those who are not already members of pro bono projects, or students interested in switching to new projects, each fall a pro bono sign-up fair is held. At this event, all students have an opportunity to learn about the many student pro bono projects available at Penn Law, to sign up for information sessions, and to meet the students who lead these pro bono projects. Most pro bono projects recruit only once a year, so attending the fall fair is important. Additionally, many ad hoc and student-initiated opportunities are available. TPIC regularly sends out ad hoc project announcements to students, so it is important to read these emails and check the external offerings webpage. Those interested in doing self-initiated pro bono must fill out this form and must wait for TPIC’s approval before beginning the pro bono work. More information on the requirements of self-initiated placements can be found here. Once students are familiar with all of the options within the pro bono landscape, they will make informed, rewarding decisions. Any 2L with questions about pro bono should visit or email TPIC.