Law schools and students rack up serious volunteer hours

Law schools have gotten their share of grief over the past few years, given how a good number have been charged with being too expensive and too ineffectual when it comes to educating tomorrow's attorneys. 

Yet the schools and their students do indeed give back. To the tune of millions of hours in free legal services, most of it directed to the needy.  

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) again measured how much law schools contribute to the delivery of much-needed legal services through clinics, other experiential courses and pro bono activities of law students.



In December 2018, 84 law schools reported that 16,502 law students in the class of 2018 contributed more than 3.48 million hours in legal services as part of their legal education, an average of about 211 hours per student. Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization coalition, estimates the value of volunteer time to be $24.69 an hour. Using this number, the total value of the students’ time at these schools is estimated to be in excess of $85.9 million. The schools represent nearly half of the students in American Bar Association accredited law schools in the class of 2018.


Many schools reported that some hours go uncounted or are difficult to track so actual contributions were likely higher. The project also did not include hours contributed by students in law school master’s degree programs such as an LL.M.



Law students contributed hours through a variety of efforts, including externships at legal aid and community organizations, law school clinics, and law student organization led projects. These hands-on or experiential learning opportunities enabled students to apply classroom teachings to legal problems under the supervision of lawyers and professors. Students received practical experience in law and communities received critical legal services.


“In order for law to serve our constitutional democracy, it must be genuinely open to all,” said Vicki Jackson, 2019 AALS President and Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. “Without lawyers, many cannot understand their rights or protect their jobs, children, credit, homes, or neighborhoods. The significant pro bono work by law students, reported today, bodes well for the future of law and lawyers achieving the ideals of equal justice in our democracy.”
 
Law students contributed hours to hundreds of efforts serving thousands of clients, including the following examples:

- Boston University School of Law – Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program

- Brooklyn Law School – Disability and Civil Rights Clinic

- Columbia Law School – Spring Break Pro Bono Caravans

- Duke University School of Law – Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

- Harvard Law School – Puerto Rico Hurricane Assistance

- Indiana University, Maurer School of Law – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

- University of Maine School of Law – Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic

- University of Maryland Carey School of Law – Transnational Environmental Accountability 

- The University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law – Children’s Defense Clinic

- North Carolina Central University School of Law – Virtual Justice Project

- The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law – Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic 

- University of Pennsylvania Law School – Student Pro Bono Projects

- University of Pittsburgh School of Law – Elder Law Clinic

- St. Thomas University School of Law – Bankruptcy Externship

- Seattle University School of Law – Access to Justice Institute

- Stanford Law School – Social Security Disability Project

- Texas A&M University School of Law – Family Law and Benefits Clinic Veterans Project

- University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law – Pro Bono Week

- University of Virginia School of Law – Health Law Clinic

- University of Wisconsin Law School – Restraining Order Clinic

A full report on the survey is available on the AALS website.

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