A practical good

Requirement connects law students to the practice of public service

Harvard law students have always felt the pressure to do well, but the Class of '05 is the first that has to do good.

The 557 J.D. candidates are the first to be subject to the school's pro bono requirement: 40 hours of law-related, uncompensated work. Developed four years ago by the faculty as part of the strategic planning process, the requirement is intended to provide all students with applied legal experience and to encourage them to incorporate public service into their professional lives.

HLS is now among 29 law schools around the country with mandatory pro bono programs. Professor Andrew Kaufman '54, who chaired the committee that developed HLS's, said it's one of the things over the course of his 40 years at the school he feels best about: "It represents such an important professional ideal."

Lisa Dealy, who heads the law school's Pro Bono Service Program, has made it her mission to offer students a wide array of placements, in nonprofits and government as well as pro bono projects through firms. Her office also keeps track of the hours students work. Most are putting in many more than 40, and she estimates the average is as high as 400.

By the end of the first-year summer, more than half the Class of '05 had fulfilled the requirement, mostly through summer internships in government or nonprofit agencies. (Although the school provides funding for the summer placements, it's considered a living stipend rather than a salary, so they still qualify, Dealy explains.) A sizable number of class members participated in student organizations, such as the Prison Legal Assistance Project or HLS Tax Help, and many fulfilled the requirement through clinical work. These are the students--about two-thirds of the class--Dealy says, who most likely would have done pro bono work without a requirement.

But at the heart of Dealy's job are the other 30 percent. "These students are the challenge," she said. "And if they get something out of it, it means even more than for the students who would have done it anyway."

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