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Pro Bono Pledge

Pro Bono Pledge Introduction and General Information

The Vanderbilt Pro Bono Pledge is a commitment made by individual Vanderbilt Law students to dedicate a portion of their time to pro bono legal work and community service during their law school career. The purpose of the Pledge is to recognize all students who engage in pro bono, public interest, and community service activities while enrolled at Vanderbilt Law and to encourage greater student participation in such work. Students may elect to sign the pledge at any point during their law school career but must complete 75 hours of community service work throughout their three years school. Two-thirds of this time must be served in law-related activities and ten hours of the Pledge must be performed in the Nashville metropolitan area. Various student groups offer opportunities that count towards completion of the Pledge and students are additionally free to set up their own opportunities outside of those formally offered at the law school. Some examples of community service work frequently performed by students are as follows:

  • Performing client intake interviews at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee
  • Educating community members about pertinent legal rights and responsibilities through the Street Law program
  • Serving the Nashville Iraqi refugee community through the LIST Project
  • Volunteering or serving as an unpaid intern with various judges or government agencies

Students who complete the pledge are honored at a school-wide, end-of-year ceremony and receive a Pro Bono Pledge pin that they can wear on their robes during law school graduation. Awards are additionally given to students with the highest number of logged hours in each academic year.

The Pledge, which began at Vanderbilt in 2009, is still relatively new. However, it is rapidly expanding. Last year, 23 3Ls and 11 2Ls completed the Pledge and Vanderbilt students collectively completed more than 12,600 hours of community service work. In addition, over 30 members of the class of 2011, 75 members of the class of 2012, and 32 members of the class of 2013 have currently signed the Pledge!

Please look below to view the specific Pledge requirements. The requirements vary slightly for transfer students, LL.M. students and for members of the class of 2011. If you have any questions about the Pledge, feel free to contact Vance Berry at vance.berry@vanderbilt.edu.

The Pledge

For Three-Year J.D. Students: 75 hours of service*

  • At least one-third, or 25, of these hours must come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives neither monetary compensation nor academic credit.
  • Up to one-third, or 25, of these hours may come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives no monetary compensation but does receive academic credit through participating in a clinic or the extra-curricular Legal Aid Society course.
  • Up to one-third, or 25, of these hours may come from Community Service Work.
  • At least 10 hours must be completed in the Nashville Metropolitan area.
  • NOTE: Summer work can be counted toward the pledge if it was both unpaid and not for credit. Receipt of either a VULS stipend or the PISF stipend does not preclude receipt of credit towards completing the pledge (i.e. if you received a stipend, you can still count your summer work hours towards the pledge).

For Transfer Students: 50 hours of service

  • At least one-third, or 17, of these hours must come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives neither monetary compensation nor academic credit.
  • Up to one-third, or 16, of these hours may come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives no monetary compensation but does receive academic credit.
  • Up to one-third, or 17, of these hours may come from Community Service Work.
  • At least 10 hours must be completed in the Nashville Metropolitan area.

For LL.M. Students: 25 hours of service

  • At least one-third, or 9, of these hours must come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives neither monetary compensation nor academic credit.
  • Up to one-third, or 8, of these hours may come from Pro Bono Work for which the student receives no monetary compensation but does receive academic credit.
  • Up to one-third, or 8, of these hours may come from Community Service Work.
  • At least 10 hours must be completed in the Nashville Metropolitan area.

The Work

Pro Bono Work: Uncompensated volunteer activities requiring legal skill. The work must be supervised by a licensed attorney or a faculty member. A limited number of hours may be satisfied by work for which a student receives academic credit, such as participation in a legal clinic or assisting a faculty member on a pro bono research project.

Community Service Work: Volunteer service performed, not for credit or compensation, on behalf of a non-profit organization, government agency, or organized program that serves the disadvantaged, disenfranchised, or benefits the general public, or on behalf of any Vanderbilt University Law School student organization or organized effort that serves underserved or otherwise disadvantaged individuals or communities.

Sign The Pledge