JD Program Guidelines
If you’re similar to approximately 92% of recent Penn Law grads, you are likely to exceed the 70 hour pro bono requirement!
At Penn Law, we define public service both broadly and non-ideologically. Students can earn pro bono credit for satisfactory performance of uncompensated, attorney-supervised, law-related public service at an eligible placement.
All students at the Law School must perform 70 hours of pro bono legal work by the end of the 3L year, a minimum of 35 of these hours must be completed by the end of the 2L year. You can get a head start on your pro bono service during your first year at Penn Law by earning a maximum of 35 hours of public service credit for work in approved placements.
You must document your service hours on the log form, verified by your supervisor, and submit them to the Toll Public Interest Center on or before the last day of classes each semester.
Pro Bono Service Recognition
All students who perform more than 80 hours receive special recognition.
- Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award: 80+ hours
- Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award: 120+ hours
- Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award : 200+ hours
- NEW! Exemplary Pro Bono Service Award : 400+ hours
- NEW! Extraordinary Pro Bono Service Award: 600+ hours
- Edward C. Baker Award: Student with most pro bono hours of their class
Pro Bono Work Over Breaks
All pro bono hours must be completed during the academic year unless you receive prior written approval from the Toll Public Interest Center. Permission for completing the requirement during the summer may be granted by the Faculty Public Service Committee only in exceptional circumstances.
You Decide What Interests You …
Here’s a sample of the wide range of legal projects and issues that have involved Penn Law students:
- Representing clients seeking asylum from political persecution in their home countries with the Nationalities Service Center
- Providing legal assistance to homeless and low income individuals in West Philadelphia with the Homeless Advocacy Project
- Providing legal advice to indigent clients with family law issues including divorce, custody, support, and domestic violence through the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic
- Conducting research, document review, and faculty investigation for a high profile class action lawsuit involving prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib with the Center for Constitutional Rights
- Creating a nationwide directory of resources of legal issues of senior citizens for the Senior Law Center
- Conducting research for the Southern Poverty Law Center on a wide range of litigation in prisoners’ rights, death penalty, and workers’ rights
- Drafting appellate briefs and legislative proposals for the US Department of Justice, Criminal Division Counterterrorism Section
- Conducting a study on the efficacy of pre-hearing conferences for the Field Center for Children’s Policy Practice and Research
- Developing and teaching a constitutional literacy curriculum in inner-city Philadelphia schools through the Street Law Project
… And Then Find an Eligible Placement
- Any of TPIC’s student-led pro bono projects
- A TPIC-circulated ad hoc opportunity
- A TPIC-approved self-initiated placement
Four (4) hours of training time can be counted towards the pro bono requirement as long as the training is connected to service actually performed. Any eligible training hours exceeding four will be used toward pro bono recognition once the 70 hour requirement is met.
Travel to and from the placement site is not counted toward the 70 hour requirement, unless exceptional circumstances warrant approval by TPIC.
Non Service Incidentals
Time spent completing administrative tasks will not be counted towards the 70 hour requirement. Administrative tasks include the following: filling out paperwork, background checks or clearances, or any task that is considered a prerequisite to performing service.
Penn Law Clinical/Externship Credit Exchange
If you are enrolled in a Clinic* or externship for academic credit, you may receive 35 pro bono hours in exchange for 1 clinic/externship credit. Students interested in receiving pro bono credit in this manner must complete this form and submit it to TPIC.
This is the only way that students may obtain pro bono hours in conjunction with their enrollment in a Clinic or an externship.
*Please note: Credit transfers for students enrolled in the Entrepreneurship and/or Intellectual Property clinics will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as not all work performed in these clinics is pro bono eligible.
When students are not enrolled in clinics, they may obtain pro bono credit for qualifying work supervised by a Clinic or externship instructor, but only if they are not receiving academic credit in connection with this work.
If you have any questions about this policy, please contact the Clinical Director or TPIC.
Unfortunately, students need to be aware that there are consequences for non-compliance.
3Ls who do not submit documentation of an accumulation of at least 70 hours by the last day of spring semester classes will not be permitted to graduate.
2Ls who do not submit documentation of 35 hours of service by the last day of spring semester classes will have hold a placed on their fall registration. In order to register, they must complete their required 35 hours over the summer, plus an additional 20 hour penalty, for a total of 55 hours. These additional 20 hours will not count towards special recognition at the end of the 3L year. Any student who is required to perform public service hours over the summer must meet with the TPIC staff for approval before they begin their service hours.
Please do not wait until the end of the semester to report problems with your pro bono work. Be sure to speak to or email a TPIC staff member if you are having an issue.