Going Publico on Faculty Pro Bono

In October 1999, the AALS Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities issued its report Learning to Serve.  The Commission strongly emphasized the importance of faculty pro bono: 

“…active faculty participation in pro bono work is highly important for the sake of their students.  Law teachers teach as much about professional responsibility by what they do as by what they say.  If our conduct and actions are inconsistent with the principles and rules that we teach, we undermine both our credibility as teachers and the legitimacy of the ethical principles and rules themselves.”  

The Commission recommended “that all law schools adopt a formal policy to encourage and support faculty members to perform pro bono work.”  Unfortunately, nearly ten years later, few law schools have acted on this recommendation.

The Commission recommended six elements be included in pro bono policies:  

  1. an annual expectation that all faculty members will do some pro bono service each year; 
  2. a universal policy that applies to all full-time law teachers including all deans and faculty (with or without an active license since that affects only the nature of the pro bono work); 
  3. require pro bono services beyond what is expected for teaching and institutional service; 
  4. institutional support such as secretarial support, research assistants, leaves and summer and other faculty research grants; 
  5. faculty member discretion in choosing  the pro bono work they perform; and 
  6. annual reporting by faculty members to the dean who should make such information available to faculty, staff and students.

As of 2007, according to The E-Guide to Public Service at America’s Law Schools http://ejwguide.newsweek.com/guide/Search.aspx?aspxerrorpath=/search.aspx out of  157 schools, 127 schools report having NO FORMAL POLICY on faculty pro bono.  Twenty-three schools report having a voluntary policy, and 10 report a mandatory policy.

Although the majority of law schools do not have a formal pro bono policy, 48 schools collect data on the number of faculty who do pro bono and 33 schools had 10 or more faculty known to be doing pro bono.  Additionally, 121 schools provide some resources for faculty pro bono, the most common of which were: secretarial and other human resources, office equipment such as copiers, and research assistants.

But no matter how we slice and dice these self-reported numbers, they fall far short of the Commission’s goals.

Equal Justice Works is preparing a mini-report on “Effective Practices for Faculty Pro Bono” based on input from schools with a formal faculty pro bono policy.  Please post information on your school’s pro bono policy (or musings about the lack thereof).  We will incorporate them into the report.  Ideas about how to encourage faculty pro bono consistent with the AALS Commission’s recommendation are encouraged.  Private feedback can be sent to klash@equaljusticeworks.org

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