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Today, I want to talk about the importance of pro bono service, the law school's new pro bono graduation requirement, and an upcoming training opportunity.
Lawyers enjoy a privileged and influential place in American society. With the honor of a law license comes the responsibility to give back in the form of legal services without compensation for those who cannot afford to pay. This long-standing commitment to pro bono service has been adopted by the ABA and state bar associations. Many law firm and corporate employers long ago adopted expectations that their lawyers contribute 50 to 100 pro bono hours every year.
Hamline also has a strong tradition of serving underserved communities. The Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF) and other similar agencies have afforded many opportunities for our students to counsel and represent pro bono clients as part of the student's legal training.
Accordingly, beginning with the law school class that entered Hamline this fall, each student will be required to perform 24 hours of pro bono service in order to earn his or her J.D. degree. The completion of this requirement will be noted on the student's transcript.
This new requirement can be fulfilled at any time during the three or four years here. It can be satisfied in a single project, by a few hours each month, or in any other combination of service. Most Hamline students will fulfill these hours through MJF, which provides a variety of projects and clients from which students can choose. I encourage you to visit the MJF office on the lower level and talk to Sara Schwebs, the Hamline law coordinator for MJF. She has regular office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. You can send her an e-mail or visit the MJF website at http://www.mnjustice.org/
In fact, MJF is offering training next week for students looking at public interest opportunities. The training is designed to introduce public interest work to students who are thinking about volunteering for a project now or in the future. I particularly recommend the training program to first-year students as a way to remove some of the fear and mystery from pro bono work, and also as a chance to pick up a couple hours toward the pro bono requirement. The training will be offered in two sessions: first on Thursday, October 1, and then on Tuesday, October 13. Check the Connection for further details.
I should also mention that, as a "warm-up" on the night before, Wednesday, September 30, the student chapter of MJF is holding a Public Interest Career Panel in Room 103 followed by a reception in the law school atrium.
Now, pro bono is broader than public interest alone, and you don't have to work through MJF. You can design your own project to meet the pro bono requirement, subject to approval by Assistant Dean Davis. You'll need a supervisor at the work site who can review your work and certify your hours. More information and forms are available at the Registrar's Office.
Finally, I want to emphasize the educational benefits of pro bono service. At some point, you need to get away from the casebooks and see the law operate at ground level. You need to learn how to be a well-prepared lawyer in addition to being a student of the law. Pro bono opportunities give you that chance to meet and work with real clients, solve their most critical life problems, and occasionally represent them in court. The substantive experience that you gain will be with you for a lifetime, along with a passion to continue service as a responsible and giving citizen-lawyer.