Photograph: Eagle statue outside law school.

Pro Bono Program Handbook

Mission

The Washburn Law Pro Bono Program encourages students to understand and embrace their future professional obligation to provide legal services to individuals of limited means. The Pro Bono Program, through the Director of Pro Bono and the Pro Bono Advisory Council, promotes the importance of law-related public service through the administration of several pro bono initiatives within the law school. These initiatives include the Pro Bono Honors Pledge and Recognition, a speaker series, and efforts to recognize and support pro bono activities in the law school and greater legal communities.

About the Program

The mission of the Washburn University School of Law is to prepare students to be "effective lawyers with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to serve their clients, our profession, and society at large." In keeping with this mission, an emphasis on providing legal services to individuals of limited means has always been a priority at the school. Washburn Law has a rich tradition of clinical education, establishing one of the nation's first in-house, live-client law clinics in 1970. Before opening the Washburn Law Clinic, Washburn Law students and faculty participated in pro bono projects by assisting patients at the Winter V.A. Hospital, serving as juvenile probation officers for the local court, and working in the Topeka Bar Association's legal aid program. Students, faculty and alumni were deeply involved with the initial Brown v. Board of Education litigation and worked on a pro bono basis when it was re-opened in the 1970's to determine whether Topeka schools had been desegregated. Additionally, pro bono or community service hours are required to attain five of the school's seven academic certificate programs.

The Pro Bono Program is administered by the Director of Pro Bono with assistance from the Pro Bono Advisory Council. The Council includes students, alumni, and area professionals involved in promoting or providing pro bono legal services. The Program is housed in the Professional Development Office.

The Washburn Law Pro Bono Program illustrates the law school's commitment to law-related public service and includes Pro Bono Honors Recognition to students who satisfy the terms of the voluntary Pro Bono Honors Pledge. The Director of Pro Bono, working with the Pro Bono Advisory Council, identifies and facilitates opportunities within the community for students to satisfy the hourly goal. Students also are encouraged to identify projects that meet their own interests. All students who meet the requirements of the Pro Bono Honors Pledge are recognized at graduation and a notation is made on their transcripts.

The Director of Pro Bono and the Pro Bono Advisory Council also invite speakers to campus to promote the importance of and fulfillment received from conducting pro bono service. The Director promotes pro bono activities by regularly recognizing pro bono efforts by law students, faculty, and area attorneys and organizations. The Program works with other departments within the law school that provide law-related service to individuals with limited means, such as certain externships and the Washburn Law Clinic.

Pro Bono Honors Pledge & Recognition

Students are encouraged but not required to sign the Law Student Pro Bono Pledge and deliver it to the Director of Pro Bono at any time during their academic careers. After receiving the Pledge, the Director will register the student in the program, begin notifying the student of Pro Bono Service opportunities, and track the student's participation.

All students who complete at least 50 hours of Pro Bono Service will be recognized in the Washburn Law graduation bulletin. Students who complete 50 hours of Pro Bono Service may state on their resumes they received "Pro Bono Honors", those who complete 100 hours of Pro Bono Service may state they received "Distinguished Pro Bono Honors." The same designations will be noted on the student's transcript.

For a student's hours to count toward Pro Bono Honors Recognition, students must complete the Pro Bono Service Commitment prior to participating in any Pro Bono Service project. Students also must submit Pro Bono Time Sheets verifying the hours they complete. Pro Bono Time Sheets must be signed by both the student and the attorney who supervised his or her pro bono work and be submitted to the Director of Pro Bono at the end of each month in which a student participates in a service project. The time sheets must be submitted to the Director of Pro Bono no later than April 15 for May and summer graduates and November 15 for December graduates.

Upon completing a Pro Bono Service project, students are required to complete the Student Evaluation of Pro Bono Service and submit it to the Director of Pro Bono. Feedback from the evaluations will be used to determine whether the project should be continued and whether adjustments should be made with respect to student responsibilities. Hours will not be credited toward Pro Bono Recognition until the evaluation is received.

Definition of Pro Bono Service

Pro Bono Service includes

  • work which is law related and benefits individuals of limited means;
  • work which is law related and benefits organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in furtherance of their organizational purposes;
  • work on projects which improve the law, the legal system, or the legal profession; and
  • up to 6 hours spent in training for pro bono service projects.

All legal activities must be performed under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

Students may not receive academic credit or compensation for Pro Bono Service, nor may it be counted toward any other academic goal or program (ex. certificate programs).

Pro Bono Service generally does not include volunteer work for government agencies; however, the Director of Pro Bono will consider for approval opportunities that exist within government agencies which benefit individuals of limited means.

Pro Bono Projects

The Pro Bono Director and Pro Bono Advisory Council will work together to identify and make available a number of Pro Bono Service projects throughout the year. A list of pre-approved projects will be advertised through the Pro Bono Program website and the Professional Development Office. In addition to participating in pre-approved projects, students and student groups are encouraged to investigate and submit for approval projects which meet their own interests. For hours in such student-generated projects to be counted toward Pro Bono Honors Recognition, the projects must be approved by the Director of Pro Bono prior to the student beginning work. Students or student groups planning to submit a student-generated pro bono project should submit the Student-Generated Pro Bono Project Request to the Director of Pro Bono.

Pro Bono Advisory Council

The Pro Bono Advisory Council exists to assist the Director of Pro Bono in administering the Pro Bono Program. Members of the Council include:

  • 2 Students (selected by application)
  • 1 Community Representative
  • 1 Graduate of Washburn University School of Law
  • 1 Member of the Judiciary
  • President of the Equal Justice Works student organization (or his/her designee)
  • Director of Pro Bono

Council members will be selected by the Faculty Pro Bono Committee.

All terms, including those of students, are for two years, with the exception that three of the selected Council members will serve one-year terms in the initial year. Student members may serve the second year of their two-year terms the year following graduation and will be counted as a "student" for the counts above. Student members may not serve more than one consecutive term. Non-student members may not serve more than two consecutive terms. Prior Council members may return to the Council after one year of non-service to the Council.

The President of the Equal Justice Works student organization (or his/her designee) shall serve only for the duration of his/her term of office as set forth by Equal Justice Works.

The Director of Pro Bono is a permanent member of the Board.