FAQ for Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Pro Bono Program honors the law school’s mission to prepare highly skilled, ethical, and professional lawyers who possess a strong social conscience and commitment to serving historically underserved communities.

 What is the Pro Bono Program?

The Pro Bono Program provides students with opportunities to deliver law-related services to community members of limited financial means. The goals of the Pro Bono Program are to provide needed services to the community, instill in students a sense of professional responsibility, help students learn about representing the underrepresented, provide students with practical experiences and the opportunity to interact with community attorneys and organizations, and build a positive identity that strengthens the law school’s community ties. The Office of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs helps students find qualifying pro bono placements in private and nonprofit law firms, legal aid groups, and other organizations.

 Why Provide Pro Bono Services?

Through providing pro bono services students develop legal and professional skills, gain practical, hands-on experience in real work environments and explore their ethical responsibility to provide pro bono service. In addition, students who perform fifty or more hours of pro bono credit will be eligible for one or more pro bono awards.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for Receiving Pro Bono Awards?

Students who complete a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono service will be inducted into the Pro Bono Honor Society, while students who complete at least 75 hours of pro bono service will graduate with pro bono distinction.  The student whose pro bono service has the greatest impact on the community will be awarded the prestigious Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears Pro Bono Award.

What Qualifies for Pro Bono Credit?

To receive pro bono credit for service performed, the service must meet the following requirements:

  1. It must be law-related. The service must be law-related.
  2. It must be uncompensated. The service must be performed in a volunteer capacity and the student may not receive any compensation, including stipends, academic credit, or fulfillment of academic or clinical requirements.
  3. It must be performed under the supervision of an attorney. The service must be supervised by an attorney, law school faculty or staff member, or other licensed professional and the student must receive training from one of these respective parties.
  4. It must be provided to eligible clients. The service must serve people of limited financial means or charitable or not-for-profit organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited financial means.

What is the difference between pro bono service and community service?

Pro Bono service meets the requirements for pro bono credit listed above and includes performing legal work for the public defender’s office, the Legal Aid Society, or a private law office serving those with limited financial means. Any volunteer work that is intended to be of social use qualifies as community service.  Community service includes services such as volunteering to serve food to the homeless, raising money for a charity, or building a home for those in need.

How do I log and track my service hours?

You must log and track your service hours via Symplicity to earn credit. Log into Symplicity and navigate to your “My Account” page. Then select the “Pro Bono” tab. In the lower-left corner of the “Pro Bono” window is a button labeled “Add New.” Click on that button to bring up the form for creating a new record. You should create one record for each organization with which you’re involved each semester. Use the same record to record all hours over the course of that semester. Select “Pro Bono,” “Community Service,” or “Public Interest.” The specific fields related to that type of volunteer work will appear. Once you have created a record of the organization, you can later add additional hours to the existing record. Log into Symplicity and navigate to your “My Account” page. Then select the “Pro Bono” tab. Open an existing record by clicking the “Edit” button to the left of its name. Click the “Add Hours” button (near the middle of the form). A new table will appear with a line for the current day. Ideally, students will enter their hours regularly over the course of the semester and there will be a separate record for each day of work with the organization. If you find yourself reporting all of your hours at the end of the semester, then you may enter them as a lump sum under a single date. Be sure to click “Submit” after creating a new record or adding hours to an existing record. Once you hit submit, the screen will stay the same and you will not receive a confirmation page; however, your submission has been received by Dean Jamison, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs.  All submissions must be submitted by the conclusion of the semester in which the pro bono hours are earned. You are encouraged to submit your hours as you complete them. When submitting hours, be sure to fill out the form in its entirety or the system will not allow the submission to be approved. This will include, but is not limited to, the date the hours were performed, where they were performed, the number of hours performed, a brief description of the work, a brief statement describing the impact of the work, and the name and phone number of someone we may call to verify the hours.  Should you need additional assistance, please contact Assistant Dean Hope Jamison at hjamison@johnmarshall.edu.

How many hours per week can students volunteer?

That depends on the student and his/her other obligations, but we ask full-time students not to work more than twenty hours per week. Most of our pro bono partners work with student volunteers to create a schedule for the student that meets the needs of the organization and the student.

What kinds of services can Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School students provide to an organization?

Our students can assist an organization with investigations, pleadings and other legal documents, client interviews, legal research, and much more. In addition, under the Georgia Student Practice Rule (Rules 91-95 of the Georgia Supreme Court), students, when under the supervision of a licensed attorney, can carry out an array of tasks including drafting legal instruments, appearing before courts and administrative agencies and taking action on behalf of any non-profit organization that assists low or moderate income persons.

What are the community service requirements for first-year students?

All first-year students are required to complete four (4) hours of community service by the conclusion of the first year of law school. Full-time students should complete the requirement by May 31, 2017. Part-time students must complete their community service requirements by July 31, 2017.

If you have additional questions about the Pro Bono Programs at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, please contact Dean Sheryl Harrison Mercer at sharrisonmercer@johnmarshall.edu or Assistant Dean Hope Jamison at hjamison@johnmarshall.edu.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing to serve others?’”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.