Create your own Pro Bono Opportunity

Students may also initiate their own projects with any organization that qualifies under our definition of pro bono work. For help with creating your own, please make an appointment online to see a CDO adviser.

Why create your own?

Doing pro bono work is an opportunity for you to utilize the skills you’ve gained as a law student in a way that serves the community. It is also a chance to explore a section of the law in practice that you might not have been able to experience thus far. The CDO hopes that you will pursue areas that best suit your interests. These experiences can be rewarding by helping you explore your career options, develop your leadership skills and utilize your academic skills.

How to create your own

Your first step is to find a field or organization that you would like to explore or work in. Maybe you would like to work in a health related field, or in an environmental field. Remember the work needs to meet certain requirements; such as being free from pay and law related. You can search for these organizations using the resources below, such as NALP’s PSJD. If you find a position listing that interests you, you may apply as if it were a regular job using the instructions available.

If you would like to work with an organization that doesn’t have any listings you may need to put in a bit more effort. This can start by calling the main line of the organization to inquire if they already have legal pro bono opportunities, if not, try and speak with whomever runs volunteering or internships. You should inform this person about you and your interests and ask if there is any potential for volunteer opportunities. When talking to this potential employer, it may be important to be clear about how much time you’re willing to volunteer. You will also want to make sure you find out how the work gets done (whether you can work from home) and what kind of work you’ll be doing. These are things you should think about as a first step to this search. If they ask you to come in for an interview this would be a great opportunity to get a feel for the office. Many volunteer offices are thinly staffed, you don’t want to take on the workload of a full-time employee, but many of these organizations are more than willing to delegate work as much as possible.

As always feel free to contact the CDO with any questions or if you need any help with this process.

Available Resources

  • PSJD Pro Bono Provides resources for pro bono volunteers and allows the ability to search for opportunities based on industry, interest, and resource type.
  • MassProBono Provides tools to help users find many types of pro bono opportunities across Massachusetts. Resources include statewide listing of organizations and programs with pro bono opportunities, listings of pro bono cases and projects, calendar of training events (live and online), and resources to support pro bono work.
  • Public Service Law Network Worldwide Provides a comprehensive clearinghouse of public interest organizations and opportunities for lawyers and law students. Users can perform customized searches of public interest opportunities around the world, ranging from short-term volunteer and paid internships to full-time jobs, fellowships and pro bono opportunities.
  • Boston Bar Association The Boston Bar Association has sections devoted to almost every substantive area of the law.  Many of these sections have pro bono events, for example, the Pro Bono Committee of the Business Law Section grew out of a strong sense that there were significant numbers of business and transactional lawyers who were interested in using their skills to perform pro bono work but had not found sufficient opportunities to do so. The committee today provides a means for business attorneys to perform pro bono work for individuals and organizations.
  • Massachusetts Bar Association Pro Bono Opportunities Guide The Pro Bono Opportunities Guide is a comprehensive listing of statewide agencies that are in need of pro bono assistance from attorneys, law students or paralegals.
  • American Bar Association - Standing Committee on Pro Bono The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is the national source of information, resources and assistance to support, facilitate, and expand the delivery of pro bono legal assistance.
  • Idealist.org* Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.
  • VolunteerMatch* VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement. Our popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 50,000 nonprofit organizations.
  • Make an appointment to talk to a CDO Counselor

*Note: These websites are less law-related and many of the positions may not be appropriate pro bono work.

FAQs

I don’t know where I want to work, who can help me?

Spend some time reading about the different kinds of organizations which need pro bono help.  If you can narrow your interest down to a few areas, it will help you focus your search.  What appeals to you most?  Would you rather work in direct client service or on something more research and writing related?  Are you interested in litigation, or would you prefer transactional or policy work?  Finally, you are always encouraged to make an appointment to speak with a CDO counselor. 

Can I work at more than one place?

As long as you are clear about how much time you have to give an organization and what they are expecting of you, you can take on as much or as little pro bono work as you feel comfortable handling.  Be realistic – both about how much work you can commit to, as well as making it a worthwhile experience for you and the organization.

What are the requirements to count to the pro bono pledge?

Participating J.D. students pledge a minimum of 35 hours of unpaid work of meaningful law-related service to persons of limited means or to organizations that serve such persons or to other organizations dedicated to under-represented groups and/or social issues during their three years in law school. Participating LL.M. students pledge a minimum of 12 hours for the same pro bono work.

Do I have to get the position approved?

Students are encouraged to seek their own pro bono projects based upon their specific interests. However, to ensure that the pro bono work meets the specific requirements of the BU Law Pro Bono Program, please contact the Pro Bono Program before committing to any such project.

What do I need to know before I contact an organization?

First, be as familiar with the mission and structure of the organization as you can be.  This may mean reading the website or talking to other B.U. students or alumni who have worked there.

Second, decide how much time you can commit to the organization.  Are you willing to volunteer a certain number of hours a week?  Or would you rather find one discreet, short term project that will take a defined amount of time? 

Third, be prepared to explain to the organization how you believe you can be most helpful.  As much as non-profits and other service organizations are often understaffed and really rely on volunteers, supervising law students does take time and effort on their part, so you want to show that it is worth their energy to take you on.  If you come to them with some focus, the experience will be better for you and the organization. 

How will students record their pro bono service hours?

Students log their pro bono work hours using the BU Law Pro Bono time log. Once completed, students submit time sheets to the Pro Bono Program, housed in the Office of Career Development and Public Service. We ask that students submit their hours before the end of each semester.

How does the law school recognize student participation in the Pro Bono Program?

To encourage and recognize student commitment to pro bono work, the law school includes a notation on student transcripts that indicates the student has completed the pro bono pledge . We also have an annual year-end pro bono Celebration. At the Celebration, the graduating JD student who has completed the highest number of pro bono hours recieves an award.

Do clinical programs qualify as pro bono work?

No. Legal work performed in one of the BU Law clinical programs for academic credit will not qualify towards the pro bono program.

Does pro bono work performed during a paid summer job qualify under our program?

Not if the student is getting paid to do the pro bono work. Pro bono work meeting the BU Law required criteria done outside of a paying job would qualify.

Does public interest work funded by PIP or other summer grants count for pro bono work?

No. To qualify for pro bono work under the BU Law program, the work must be unpaid, from any source.

Does work performed during full-time unpaid summer internships count for pro bono work?

No. Work performed during full-time unpaid summer internships does not count as pro bono work.