This fall, over 200 first-year University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students chose to voluntarily cut short their summer breaks to participate in “Pro Bono Day.”
Organized by the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC), Pro Bono Day is designed to orient incoming students to what it means to engage in public service during law school and connect them with some of TPIC’s community partners.
The Law School’s pro bono requirement
The annual event introduces students to pro bono service and explains why the 70-hour pro bono requirement is such an important part of Law School’s culture.
This year, the day began with a panel of 2L and 3L student pro bono project leaders discussing the ways in which doing pro bono has been an important part of their legal education. During the panel and throughout the day, the student pro bono project leaders engaged with the incoming 1Ls, providing insight as to how to choose pro bono opportunities, what to expect when the projects get underway, and how to balance pro bono work alongside curricular responsibilities.
“Even as someone not entering a public interest career, I have found pro bono to be one of the most important aspects of my legal education at Penn,” said Audrey Youn L’22, one of the student leaders of the Financial Literacy Project. “I have been able to lead a pro bono project, advocate for clients, participate in ad hoc research projects, become a certified legal intern, and more. I was very glad to participate in Pro Bono Day because I started pro bono after my 1L year during the pandemic and wasn’t fully aware of the endless types of opportunities that expand farther than the established student-led projects.”
TPIC’s partnerships with community organizations
Traditionally, TPIC uses Pro Bono Day to introduce incoming students to some of the school’s many community partners that make pro bono service possible. In years past, students visited partner organizations located throughout Philadelphia.
This year, because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, five partner organizations – Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project, Nationalities Service Centers, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, SeniorLAW Center, and Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project – visited the Law School. Supervising attorneys from each organization spoke about their work and described how students can get involved.
“Pro bono is such an important part of the culture here at Penn Law,” said Emily R. Sutcliffe, who oversees TPIC. “It galvanizes and unifies all students, regardless of which legal sector they will pursue and deepens their law school experience while, most importantly, providing essential legal services to the individuals and the communities that need them most.”