Pro Bono in 1L

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

                While each school varies most tier one and two schools require between 65-75 Pro Bono hours to be completed before graduation.

For most prospective law students, volunteering is a part of life.

Throughout college you are told if you want to go to law school you need to volunteer. While I can’t confirm nor deny whether my volunteer hours contributed in the decision making process, I can confirm that volunteering is not only essential during law school, it is required.

While each school varies most tier one and two schools require between 65-75 Pro Bono hours to be completed before graduation. Additionally, most state bar examinations have a Pro Bono requirement. Your school will discuss their specific pro bono requirements during orientation, and countless times during your 1L so don’t worry about forgetting. Furthermore, your school will likely make finding pro bono opportunities easy for you by directing you to student organizations and community groups who you can volunteer with to fulfill your pro bono requirement.

Though your school will undoubtedly allow you to begin checking some of your pro bono hours off during 1L, and may even encourage you to do so, remember not to ‘bite off more then you can chew,’ it is still 1L after all. It helps if you can limit yourself by narrowing your involvement to three or four groups that most address your major interests – for me that was animal rights, women’s rights, and international human rights and development.

If you’re worried about not finding anything that interests you, don’t be! There seems to be a group for literally everything, and within those groups there are a variety of activities you can choose to participate in; for example, last week I volunteered at ‘Goats of Anarchy’, which is a goat sanctuary for injured goats!

Once you’ve narrowed your choices and joined some groups, if any at all, I would recommend getting involved early. Most groups (from my experience) offer training sessions and send out sign up sheets during the first month. It is well known that November and December are busy months for any law student, and while it may be personal preference I decided that completing some of my pro bono hours during September and October, before I’m bogged down with outlining and studying for exams, would be best for my sanity, and my calendar.

Note: I asked around, completing Pro Bono hours during your 1L year is not required, nor is expected. Employers focus is on your 1L grades for first year associate positions, not on your extra circulars; meaning you are free to decide how best to manage your time. If you feel like focusing completely on course work for the 1L year is best for you then go for it! You won’t be judged, and the choice may help you secure a job if it means your grades stay up.

To summarize, choose what works best for you. Don’t feel pressured to get involved in certain groups, or at all. Everyone handles 1L differently and at the end of the day it’s your mental health and grades that really matter, not your volunteering.