The Pro Bono Pledge is Berkeley Law’s voluntary pro bono recognition program. The “pledge” is a personal commitment students make to contribute a certain number of pro bono hours during their time at Berkeley Law. Students who complete the pledge and meet the hour requirement will receive a gold cord to wear with their robe at Commencement and a special notation in the Commencement program. Students will also be honored at the Public Interest and Pro Bono Graduation and receive a letter of commendation from the Dean. The deadline to record your hours is April 1 of the year you will graduate.
Please see the definition of “pro bono” below to determine whether your work qualifies. Any work for which you received academic credit (e.g., field placements and clinics) does not qualify. The work must be performed during the academic year; summer work, even if unpaid, does not qualify. Please note that the definition of “pro bono” used here is different from the definitions used for the Berkeley Law Public Interest/Public Sector Summer Fellowship eligibility (“Dean’s Grants”) and the New York State Bar Pro Bono Requirement.
Pro Bono Pledge Hour Requirements for Each Level of Recognition
Pro Bono Honors: 75 hours
Pro Bono Honors with Highest Distinction: 200 hours
Pro Bono Honors: 50 hours
Pro Bono Honors with Highest Distinction: 133
(two-thirds of the JD hour requirements)
Pro Bono Honors: 25 hours
Pro Bono Honors with Highest Distinction: 66 hours
(one-third of the JD hour requirements)
Record Your Hours
Eleanor Swift Award
Students may nominate themselves or others for the Eleanor Swift Award for Public Service. Each year, the award is given to an exceptional member of the Berkeley Law community (students, staff or faculty) who—like Professor Eleanor Swift—has performed outstanding work to strengthen Berkeley Law’s commitment to public service. Eligible candidates will have increased the law school’s commitment to public service through any or several of the following activities that enable Berkeley Law students to engage in public service legal work during law school or in their careers either as public interest and social justice lawyers or on a pro bono basis: exceptional leadership, administration and support, innovation, outreach, teaching, professional or public writing, mentoring, advocacy, advising, and/or participation in Berkeley Law’s public service programs and activities. Nomination Process: Anyone in the Berkeley Law community may nominate anyone else in the community. Nominations shall be made in the form of a memo of up to two pages on why the nominee should receive the award. Nominees will be asked for consent to be considered, and must submit a bio, CV or resume. Nominations will be accepted each year beginning February 1.
Pro Bono Champion Award
Students may nominate themselves or other students for the Pro Bono Champion Award. Each year, the award is given to the graduating student who best exemplifies a commitment to and the values of pro bono work. Factors that will be considered include but are not limited to hours spent on pro bono work during the academic year, leadership, and support for the Berkeley Law Pro Bono Program and Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects more generally. Nomination Process: Anyone in the Berkeley Law community may nominate any Berkeley Law student. Nominations shall be made in the form of a memo of up to two pages on why the nominee should receive the award. Nominees will be asked for consent to be considered, and must submit a bio, CV or resume. Nominations will be accepted beginning February 1, 2019.
For purposes of the Pro Bono Pledge only, we define pro bono work as:
- law-related work;
- performed under the supervision of an attorney; and
- to assist low-income persons or others who do not have access to legal services, or to otherwise advance the public interest, public service, or social justice.
Note and comments:
- “Uncompensated” means that the student will not receive academic credit, money, or any other type of compensation. Hours in excess of those required for Clinic or Field Placement credit units will qualify, however, so long as the other criteria are met. Receipt of a Dean’s Grant for summer public interest work does not constitute “compensation” for pro bono work performed during the academic year; the grant is compensation for the summer work.
- “Law-related work” is broadly construed.
- “Supervision of an attorney” is defined as followed: A licensed attorney must ensure that students receive appropriate training, guidance, and evaluation, as well as review all student work product before it is provided to clients or presented to the community, whether orally or in writing. While constant, physical presence may not be necessary, the supervisor should be readily accessible to answer questions that may arise in the course of the students’ work. Finally, the supervisor must ensure compliance with all applicable ethics rules and laws.
- Government work will qualify so long as it is uncompensated (as defined above) and the other criteria are met.
- Up to ten hours of training time (total over the course of the students’ time at Berkeley Law) will qualify; training in excess of ten hours does not qualify.
- Travel time does not qualify.
- Examples of other work that does not qualify: work for non-SLPS student organizations and journals (including but not limited to the Berkeley Law Foundation), fundraising, partisan political activities, and community service that is not related to the law (e.g., volunteering at a homeless shelter).
- The work must be performed during the academic year (first day of the Fall Term through the last day of the Spring Term, including Winter and Spring breaks). Summer work, even if unpaid or for a Berkeley Law Student-Initiated Legal Services Project, does not qualify.
- During students’ first year, a maximum of 50 hours will qualify for purposes of the Pro Bono Pledge. Hours in excess of 50 hours performed during the students’ first year do not qualify.
- Work performed prior to matriculation at Berkeley Law does not qualify. We have adjusted the hour requirement for Transfer and LL.M. students accordingly.
Again, the foregoing definition is for purposes of the Berkeley Law Pro Bono Pledge only and differs from the definitions of pro bono used for other pro bono requirements, including Dean’s Grants and the New York State Bar.
Summer Public Interest Fellowships (“Dean’s Grants”)
Every Berkeley Law JD student is guaranteed funding to pursue public interest or public sector summer work. These Summer Public Interest Fellowships (often called “Dean’s Grants”) are separate from the Pro Bono Pledge and administered by the Career Development Office, not the Pro Bono Program. Please visit the Finance Your Public Interest Career webpage or contact the Career Development Office for more information.
Questions about the Pro Bono Pledge? Please contact the Pro Bono Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.