The Public Service Requirement
Ethical rules governing an attorney’s professional obligations have recognized that a responsible practitioner should devote a portion of her or his work time to unpaid public service activities. The goal of the Public Service Program is to introduce students to the vast array of public service opportunities available to prospective attorneys. It is hoped that students will learn about citizens’ access to legal decisionmaking and the contribution attorneys make to that process. In addition, students can be exposed to a variety of areas of substantive law and modes of practice.
a) All second and third year law students are required to fulfill 35 hours of approved public service work in each year of attendance, for a total of 70 hours.
b) The work must be done during the academic year.
c) Those students not completing 35 hours in their second year are required to work 55 hours over the summer after their second year before they will be permitted to register.
d) The work must be professional, non-clerical law-related work and carried on under the supervision of an attorney or faculty member. In exceptional cases, the Director of the Public Service Committee, which oversees the requirements, may approve other arrangements.
e) Up to, but no more than, 4 hours of training can be credited toward the 35 hour requirement. Students are encouraged not to base their placement decision solely on the amount of training required and should consider the long term impact such training may have on their educational and professional growth.
f) Travel time is not included as part of the requirement. In extraordinary cases, the Director can take travel time into account if approval is sought in advance.
Public Service Definition
Public service work is broadly defined and encompasses unpaid work in the public sector (i.e., governmental and quasi-governmental entities); in public interest or pro bono organizations, or any other non-profit group (other than trade associations), regardless of the political priorities of the organization; and with private practitioners or firms where the work is performed at no cost or reduced fee on behalf of underrepresented clients.
The Director identifies eligible placements and enters their description into a computer data base, accessible to students during two designated “sign-up” periods during the fall and spring semesters. Students may initiate individual placements, but must have them approved in advance by the Director. In certain cases, groups of students have worked with the Program to develop projects for public service credit.
Beginning second-year students receive information about some of the placements available for the following academic year in July with registration materials. Students cannot sign up for a placement over the summer, but must wait until they return to the Law School. During the summer students can review the placement descriptions and think about a situation consistent with their interests and availability.
Students take the main responsibility in “matching” themselves to a placement of their choice. All approved placements are entered into a computer data base available to the student body. Students can access placements by name, subject area, type of work and type of client. After the student determines which placement is of interest, s/he completes a sign-up form, “reserving” the placement. Students generally have 5 working days after the date of signing up to submit a Confirmation Form showing they have met with the placement liaison and scheduling arrangements have been made.
Students have differing reasons for selecting particular placements. Some students want to work in an area they intend to pursue academically; other students want to have live client experiences; some students want to do something entirely different from their planned career focus. A placement is entirely the student’s decision.
The Public Service Office maintains student evaluations of prior placements which is open for any student to review. The Director is also available to counsel students with respect to placement choice.
A student who believes the requirement would prove an extraordinary hardship may petition the Associate Dean for Student Affairs for a modification. This modification must be approved by the Faculty Public Service Committee.