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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Law Students Performed 2.2 Million Pro Bono Hours Worth $52 Million In 2016

Pro BonoNational Law Journal, Law Students Performed 2.2 Million Pro Bono Hours Last Year:

In between reading cases and studying for exams, law students found time in 2016 to take on volunteer legal work — a lot of it.

The law class of 2016 performed more than 2.2 million hours of pro bono work while on campus, which is valued at more than $52 million.

That’s according to new figures compiled by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), which polled all American Bar Association-accredited law schools in November to find out how much pro bono work their recent graduates did. It’s the first time a nationwide student pro bono survey has been conducted, according to AALS Director of Communications James Greif. ...

The actual number of law student pro bono hours is likely much larger than the 2.2 million reported by the AALS. Its figure is based on responses from only 80 of the 205 ABA-accredited schools, and represents just 45 percent of the law student population. The comprehensive number could be more than double what was reported. Some law schools said they don’t currently track student pro bono hours, but will do so in the future, Greif said. The AALS plans to conduct the pro bono survey annually. ...

The AALS used $23.56 as the value for each law student pro bono hour when calculating the total value of services rendered. That figure was established as the standard value of volunteer work by Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofit organizations.

“Access to justice regardless of means is a guiding principle of the legal profession and legal education,” said Paul Marcus, a professor at the College of William & Mary Marshall-Wythe Law School and the 2017 AALS president. “We are pleased to report these significant contributions by law students toward equal justice for all.”

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Pro bono suggests that there is no exchange of money in either direction. Law students, of course, pay tuition. A lot of tuition. It's not really comparable to the hoi polloi taking an unpaid board seat at the local cultural institution. Perhaps a term like "voluntary indentured servitude" would be more apropos.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 7, 2017 7:33:15 AM

The value of services in a market economy is what a person is willing to pay for them, which may well be zero in this case. And even if you accepted using the "standard value of volunteer work" as the value, wouldn't it be helpful to estimate what the cost of performing the work was, and disclose that also? Professors love to use students for pet ideological projects and call it "public service" or "pro bono." This is one of the greatest impediments to affordable and rigorous law school education.

Posted by: Rob Anderson | Jan 7, 2017 12:15:47 PM

Only 80 schools reported. Numbers seem a bit unrealistic. . . Oh, never mind . . .

Posted by: Old Ruster from the former JD Junkyard | Jan 8, 2017 5:36:24 AM