University of Wisconsin–Madison

Pro Bono Program

Enhancing legal education through commitment to community

The Pro Bono Program provides students with opportunities to deliver law-related services to community members of limited financial means.  Students are assisted and supported by Pro Bono Program staff with placements in private and nonprofit law firms, legal aid groups, in-house programs and other organizations. Pro bono work is performed under appropriate supervision. 

Engage in meaningful client service as early as the first semester of law school

In keeping with the law school's law-in-action tradition, students develop legal and professional skills, gain practical, hands-on experience in real work environments and explore their ethical responsibility to provide pro bono service.

Participate in a breadth of opportunities

From Wills for Heroes to Legal Assistance for Disaster Relief, students have pro bono opportunities in a wide range of practice areas. Under the supervision of a practicing attorney, students have supported over twenty-five organizations. Review current projects or learn how you can create your own pro bono project.

Become part of the Pro Bono Society

The Pro Bono Society was formed in September 2011 to recognize the outstanding efforts of law students engaged in pro bono during their tenure at UW Law School. Learn more about the Pro Bono Society.

What is Pro Bono?

The term Pro Bono comes from the Latin "Pro Bono Publico," which means "for the public good."

The Pro Bono Program provides students with opportunities to deliver law-related services to community members of limited financial means.  Students are assisted and supported by Pro Bono Program staff with placements in private and nonprofit law firms, legal aid groups, in-house programs and other organizations, where their pro bono work is performed under appropriate supervision. In keeping with the law school's law-in-action tradition, students develop legal and professional skills, gain practical, hands-on experience in real work environments and explore their ethical responsibility to provide pro bono service. 

Students who graduate in 2014 or later and complete a minimum of fifty hours of pro bono services will be inducted into the Pro Bono Society and graduate with pro bono distinction. 

Project Guidelines

  1. Law-related: To receive recognition for their pro bono work, students at the University of Wisconsin Law School must perform work that is law-related.
  2. Uncompensated: Students must work in a volunteer capacity and may not receive any compensation, including stipends, for pro bono work counted towards the Pro Bono Program benchmarks.  
  3. No Academic Credit: Any work performed to fulfill requirements of a clinic or directed study project, or to otherwise obtain academic credit will not be counted towards recognized pro bono hours
  4. Supervision/Training: Students must be trained and supervised by an attorney, law school faculty or staff member, or other licensed professional. 
  5. Eligible Clients: To receive credit towards the Pro Bono Program service requirements, the work must serve:
    • People of limited financial means or
    • Charitable or not-for-profit organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited financial means. 

These guidelines are adapted from ABA Model Rule 6.1.

History

The Pro Bono Program (formerly the University of Wisconsin Law School Pro Bono Partnership Project) began as a pilot project in 2007. Its basic structure involved pairing law students with local Dane County attorneys to provide legal assistance in civil matters to persons otherwise unable to secure legal representation.

Today, our students participate in 25 different projects and can also create their own project subject to approval by the Pro Bono Program Director.

Questions?

If you have any questions please contact Megan Heneke at megan.heneke@wisc.edu.

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