Survey finds law class of 2019 contributed more than $111M worth of pro bono legal services

For the fourth consecutive year, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) measured how much law schools contribute to the delivery of much-needed legal services through clinics, other experiential courses, and pro bono activities of graduating law students.

In November, 105 law schools reported that 19,885 law students in the class of 2019 contributed more than 4.38 million hours in legal services as part of their legal education, an average of about 220 hours per student. Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization coalition, estimates the value of volunteer time to be $25.43 an hour.

Using this number, the total value of the students’ time at these schools is estimated to be in excess of $111.5 million. The schools represent more than half of the students in American Bar Association accredited law schools in the class of 2019. AALS made the announcement in advance of its annual meeting taking place in Washington, D.C., January 2-5.

Many schools reported that some hours go uncounted or are difficult to track so actual contributions were likely higher. The project also did not include hours contributed by students in law school master’s degree programs such as an LL.M. program.

Law students contributed hours through a variety of efforts, including externships at legal aid and community organizations, law school clinics, and student organization projects. These hands-on or experiential learning opportunities enable students to apply classroom teachings to legal problems under the guidance of lawyers and professors. Through these efforts, students received practical experience in law and communities received critical legal services.

“Access to justice is a cornerstone of legal education and the legal profession,” said Darby Dickerson, 2020 AALS president and dean at UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago. “The pro bono opportunities represented in this project provide valuable and unique experiences for students as they prepare for their careers while helping to meet the legal needs in often-underserved communities across the country. The AALS applauds these graduates for their dedication to serving those in need.’

A full report on the survey is available on the AALS website, www.aals.org.

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