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Pro Bono Program


“It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect...If we are able to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment:
Thou shalt not ration justice.”

-Learned Hand

Address at the 75th anniversary celebration of the Legal Aid Society of New York

Why Pro Bono?

The goals of the Stanford Law School (SLS) Pro Bono Program are many. SLS views the Pro Bono Program as integral to its commitment to excellence in legal education. Equally important, SLS seeks to advance the ethical standards of the American Bar Association, which urge lawyers to aspire to provide significant pro bono publico legal services. But to best understand the reasons for SLS's vibrant public service programs, one need only consider the words of the students themselves:

In the rush of finals, research papers and cramming for the bar exam, Rachel McDaniel, JD '14 took the time to write the Levin Center: “Participating in many of the pro bono programs at SLS has given me a sense of purpose (especially in those dark times as a 1L). Doing pro bono work has enabled me to see the community outside of the Stanford bubble in addition to providing me with some of my favorite experiences these past three years.”

Rachel was not alone. In 2014, more than 2/3 of the graduating class earned Pro Bono Distinction, meaning they spent at least 50 hours using their legal skills in unpaid public service during law school. Some, like Rachel, informed incarcerated youth of their rights and responsibilities, developed their advocacy skills, and promoted critical thinking about our justice system in the StreetLaw program.  Others worked at the Opportunity Center advocating for homeless clients seeking Social Security Disability benefits; at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto representing clients with housing, employment, family law, or other civil needs; or with Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyers working on projects ranging from animal cruelty and industrialized farming practices to consumer protection and wildlife preservation. Others reached out to the world: promoting international development through legal education initiatives with one of the Rule of Law Program's projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Timor Leste and Rwanda; researching best practices for international businesses through the International Business Pro Bono Colloquium or finding legal referrals for asylum seekers.

Why do so many students volunteer? Certainly, their reasons are as complex and unique as the students themselves, but there are common motivations: The need is dire; they learn a lot; it's fulfilling; and it's fun. Everyone, regardless of their career goals, can participate.

If you want to find out more, check out the Pro Bono Program Student Handbook.

If you want to read what other students say about Pro Bono, check out the Class of 2015 Pro Bono Distinction Twitter Project.


If you are a current or prospective student and have questions, please contact Jory Steele, Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs, at