Pro Bono Service
Pro bono publico service is not just something you do in your spare time -- it's an essential part of every lawyer's professional identity, and it can also be a key to your professional development.
You can get out there now and use your skills to help people in need Ė all the while building skills and developing relationships with practicing attorneys.
You donít need to have taken a class in the subject, and you wonít be expected to automatically know what to do: there are often opportunities for group trainings, and even if not, you will be mentored by an attorney who will help you learn what you need to know for the task at hand.
Pro Bono Intake Project
The Pro Bono Intake Project, a partnership between Emory Law and Atlanta Legal Aid, offers volunteer training for the Domestic Relations Intake at ALAS' Decatur office.
Next Session: Saturday, September 28, 10 am - 12 pm in Gambrell 5A. Registration deadline September 25.
Atlanta Legal Aid staff trains volunteers:
- Basic domestic relations
- Client interviewing skills
- Legal Aid's online intake questionnaire, a tool that guides you through the process of collecting required information from prospective clients.
- Go to Symplicity and click on the Events tab (far upper right). Then click on Pro Bono Events, and select the Domestic Relations Intake Training. Scroll to the bottom to RSVP.
- 1Ls: Email Sarah Shalf or Sherry McPeeks for access to the Pro Bono and Events modules in Symplicity.
Trained volunteers sign up via Symplicity for 3-hour shifts at the Legal Aid office in Decatur.
Legal Aid attorneys use the information volunteers collect through calls to prospective clients to determine whether ALAS can take their cases. Attorneys are available on site for questions or more complicated situations.
Shift times are based on volunteer preferences and Legal Aid's schedule. Each shift is available first come, first served. Minimum commitment is at least 2-3 shifts during the semester.
Parking is free.
Are You Seeking Pro Bono Assistance?
Georgia law prohibits law students (or any other individual who is not a member of the bar) from giving legal advice without the supervision of an attorney. This includes researching cases for other nonlawyers' use and drafting documents or pleadings.
If you need legal assistance and cannot afford to hire an attorney, we recommend the following nonprofit and student organizations, with whom Emory students work in our pro bono and field placement programs under the supervision of an attorney. Please contact the organization directly for intake.
General Legal Services
- For members of the Emory community (students and employees): Student Legal Services
- For residents of the Atlanta 5-county metro area: Atlanta Legal Aid, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
- For residents of Georgia outside the metro area: Georgia Legal Services
Organizations Providing Specialized Legal Services
- ACLU of Georgia
- ACLU National Security/Immigrants Rights Project
- Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Project (United States Supreme Court, certiorari or amicus briefs)
- Georgia Asylum & Immigration Network
- Georgia Bar Military Legal Assistance Program
- Georgia Law Center for the Homeless
- Georgia Lawyers for the Arts
- Gwinnett Sexual Assault and Children's Advocacy Center
- Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (for nonprofit organizations)
Atlanta Legal Aid also maintains a list of other organizations in Georgia that provide legal assistance or information.
Recognition of Students' Pro Bono Service
Students receive special recognition for completing a minimum number of pro bono hours while in law school. In addition, a special award is given annually to the third-year student who has most demonstrated commitment to public interest/pro bono work.
Hourly Thresholds for Recognition
All students who work a minimum of 25 pro bono hours during the academic year receive certificates and invitations to the annual celebration of pro bono work during Celebrate Pro Bono Week.
Graduating students who work a minimum of 75 hours (for JD students) or 50 hours (for LLM and exchange students) during the school year at Emory Law are eligible to receive medals and special recognition in the graduation program.
Students having specific questions about recognition for pro bono activities should send their questions by email to the Chair of the Public Interest Committee, Professor Sarah Shalf, sarah.shalf(at)emory.edu. (Pre-approval, however, is not required.)
Details of the Emory Program
- Students must register and report hours using Symplicity.
- Only qualifying pro bono hours accrued during the law school's academic year (first day of class through graduation date of the academic year -- inclusive of holiday breaks) should be reported.
- To qualify as a pro bono activity for this program, the work must be
- law-related work,
- supervised by a judge or attorney, that
- assist in the provision of legal services without charge
- for persons of limited means who cannot afford counsel and whose unmet legal needs prevent their access to justice, or
- for not-for-profit, nonpartisan (501(c)(3)) organizations, or
- for other individuals, groups or organizations seeking to promote or secure access to justice, including, but not limited to, the protection of civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights (including community legal education), or
- under the Georgia Third-Year Practice Rules.
- Pro bono work does not include non-legal public service (however worthwhile) or volunteer non-legal work for a student organization. It also does not include political campaign-related activity (even if the work includes some election-related work). Additionally, time spent mentoring students in mock trial or organizing moot court competitions do not qualify, and travel or commuting time does not qualify.
- Students who participate in any clinic, the Capital Defender Workshop, or public interest field placements where the work otherwise qualifies as pro bono work above (or for the Fulton County Landlord-Tenant Mediation Project) may count their hours exceeding the course requirements. However, the only hours that qualify are those for law-related work, and not any instructional time, commuting time, or other time that does not involve using legal skills. (Note that the NY Bar allows you to count all hours for externships or clinics, not just the overage hours.)
- Pro bono work opportunities may be posted on the website or in Symplicity. Individual students and student organizations are also encouraged to find their own pro bono opportunities.
- Hours should be submitted as they are accrued, and reported for each day that they are accrued, with a sufficiently specific description to allow us to determine whether the hours qualify as pro bono work.
- Hours must be submitted by the end of the day May 1 to count toward the current year's totals, and for graduating students to receive medals/certificates. However, hours must be submitted by March 31 for those students who also wish to be recognized in the law school program at graduation.
- All hours are subject to verification. As in all activities, students undertaking pro bono work are subject to the Emory University School of Law Professional Conduct Code.
Sign Up and Report Hours
Go to Symplicity, and click on the "Pro Bono" shortcut. Click on the Pro Bono tab to register your interests and sign the Pro Bono Pledge. You can update your interests at any time by clicking the Pro Bono tab under your Profile page. Click here to report your pro bono hours >>
New York Bar Requirements
Under New York Bar Rule 520.16, every applicant admitted to the New York Bar on or after January 1, 2015 must complete at least 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service between starting law school and filing their application for admission to the bar. (This means that students who are 1Ls or 2Ls in the 2012-13 school year should complete this requirement.)
Our program is more limited than the New York Bar's requirement. Specifically, as of October 20, 2012, work that qualifies for our program also satisfies the New York Bar definition of "qualifying pro bono service"; conversely, work that is rejected as pro bono by the New York Bar is not considered pro bono in our program. However, some types of work that we do not consider pro bono may count for New York Bar purposes. In particular, we exclude the following categories that the New York Bar includes as satisfying its pro bono requirement:
- work for a government agency;
- any work for which you are paid;
- work for a class, clinic or field placement that satisfies your course requirements (though we do count overage hours);
- any work outside of the school year.
Review this document and/or these FAQs to learn more about the New York Bar's definition of pro bono, which helps to inform our program requirements, as well as to review the details about fulfilling the New York Bar's requirements in particular.
To certify your hours to the New York Bar, you will need to have an Affidavit of Compliance completed by each attorney who has supervised your pro bono work. (Note: neither Prof. Shalf nor another student can complete this affidavit; it must be completed by the attorney or judge who directly supervised your work.)