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.”
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, Valerie McConnell, JD'10 took the time to write the Levin Center: “My fondest memories at Stanford Law School are from my pro bono work. I can think of no better way to have spent my time in law school.”
Valerie was not alone. Typically a third or more of the members of each class graduate with Pro Bono Distinction, meaning they spent at least 50 hours using their legal skills in unpaid public service during law school. Some, like Valerie, worked at the Opportunity Center -- advocating for homeless clients seeking Social Security Disability benefits -- or elsewhere in the Stanford Law School neighborhood, offering legal assistance to at-risk youth in the Streetlaw program. Others reached out to the world: Fashioning a new legal system through the Afghanistan Legal Project; 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 2012 Pro Bono Distinction Twitter Project.