Pro Bono Requirement
Beginning with the graduating Class of 2017, students at the Southern Illinois University School of Law are required to complete 35 hours of pro bono work prior to graduation. While many schools encourage, support, or recognize pro bono work, this requirement is the first of its kind for a law school in Illinois.
Although the requirement of pro bono service is new to the law students of SIU, pro bono work is not. SIU Law students have a history of public and community service, including pro bono work. In 2014-15, students completed more than 5,000 hours of pro bono work.
Students have until graduation to complete their pro bono requirement by submitting their hours through Symplicity CSM. Under the rules passed by the faculty, the work must be “law-related, uncompensated, supervised by an attorney, and not for academic credit.” This means that work in a legal clinic or externship setting will only apply if it exceeds the amount needed for academic credit. Also, not all public, volunteer, or community service work will necessarily meet the pro bono requirement. The work must be law-related to qualify.
Students learn more about the pro bono requirement and pro bono opportunities during Pro Bono Week. Timed to coincide with the annual celebration of pro bono by the American Bar Association in October of each year, Pro Bono Week exposes students to the steps needed to meet the pro bono requirement; the opportunities for pro bono work both inside and outside the School of Law; and the benefits of doing pro bono work to their career and the profession.
Pro bono work has long been thought to improve the law student experience. According to Illinoisprobono.org, the state-wide pro bono website for Illinois, in addition to providing services to people of limited means, law students benefit from performing pro bono work “through exposure to many personal and professional benefits that ultimately will help them become better lawyers, including … development or enhancement of many legal practice skills, including interviewing, research, writing, trial preparation, case management and interpersonal skills.” Students who do pro bono work can also improve their career prospects by “gaining professional experience, enhancing resumes and building relationships with practicing attorneys who may be important contacts for future employment.”