Pro Bono Program Guidelines

  1. Except for transfer students, law students who enroll in the William S. Richardson School of Law must complete 60 hours of law-related pro bono service as a graduation requirement. Transfer students must complete a total of 10 hours of pro bono service for every semester enrolled in the William S. Richardson School of Law.
  2. Law students are solely responsible for locating pro bono work and qualified supervisors and for the timely submission of required documentation, including registration forms, time sheets, student evaluations and supervisor evaluations. Students are required to maintain their own copies of all paperwork submitted. The deadline for graduating students for completion of their pro bono requirements, including submission of all required documentation, is the last scheduled day of classes of the semester of graduation. Due to past student abuses, effective with the 2004-2005 school year, students are required to file a petition to the faculty to request any extension of the deadline, based on extraordinary circumstances
  3. Except for certain restrictions on the first year law student and Ulu Lehua Scholars pro bono activity, the 60-hour requirement may be fulfilled during one or more semesters and during the winter, spring, and summer recesses. First year law students may only perform approved pro bono service starting with the winter recess of their first year after completion of examinations for the first semester. Non-matriculated Ulu Lehua Scholars are authorized to perform up to 12 hours pro bono service during the spring semester and up to 20 hours during the summer recess, and only with the pre-approval of the Ulu Lehua Program Director.
  4. The 60-hour pro bono work requirement may be fulfilled with one or more approved agencies, individuals, organizations, or projects. Students are encouraged to perform at least 20 hours of pro bono service with an organization receiving funding from the State of Hawai‘i Judiciary's Indigent Legal Assistance Fund or with an attorney or organization providing similar legal services to indigent clients in Hawai‘i or in another jurisdiction.
  5. Pro bono work must be approved by the Pro Bono Program Administrator. To confirm that the placement will be approved, students are encouraged to seek approval in advance of commencement of their pro bono work. For Ulu Lehua Scholars, pro bono work must be approved in advance by the Ulu Lehua Program Director prior to submission to the Pro Bono Program Administrator. Students are required to maintain their own copies of all paperwork submitted.

Pro Bono Work Criteria

1. Law-related pro bono work must conform to one of the following criteria:

a. Indigent Legal Assistance--Poverty Law: Legal services in civil and criminal matters of importance to a client who does not have the financial resources to compensate counsel, including legal services with state and federal public defenders offices; Legal services provided to organizations receiving funding from the State of Hawai‘i Judiciary's Indigent Legal Assistance Fund (ILAF) meet this definition. Examples of ILAF providers are: Domestic Violence Action Center and Legal Hotline, Hawai‘i Disability Rights Center, Kōkua Legal Services, Inc., Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi, Hawai‘i Immigrant Justice Center at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Senior's Law Program (Kaua'i), University of Hawai‘i Elder Law Program, Volunteer Legal Services Hawaiʻi.

b. Civil and Public Rights Law: Legal representation involving important interests belonging to every citizen or to a significant segment of the public;

c. Non-Profit/Public Organization Representation: Legal service to charitable, religious, civic, and educational institutions in matters in furtherance of their organizational purpose.

d. Government Legal Services: Legal service in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government.

e. Administration of Justice: Activity, whether under bar auspices or otherwise, which is designed to increase the availability of legal service, or otherwise improve the administration of justice;

f. Legal Education: Activity under the auspices of a law faculty member or dean which is designed to improve or enhance teaching skills, or assist students with their legal education.

g. Environmental Law: Legal representation of environmental organizations dedicated to the protection, preservation, and wise use of the environment;

h. Native Rights Law: Rights that emanate from the status of native people including Hawaiians as an aboriginal people and from the political status of the Hawaiian Kingdom prior to 1893.

2. Pro bono work must be uncompensated and must not be work done in fulfillment of a requirement for any other academic credit and must be work for which the supervisor does not charge a fee, or charges a substantially reduced fee or is working on behalf of a non-profit, public interest, or governmental organization or law school.

3. Pro bono work must be law related, must be supervised by an attorney, a law school faculty member, law school dean or other qualified supervisor and should be approved in advance by the Pro Bono Program Administrator. Law students are not authorized to act as supervisors.

Pro Bono Program Administrator

1. The Dean of the Law School designates a staff member to serve as the Law School Pro Bono Program Administrator.

2. The Pro Bono Program Administrator:

a. Provides guidance, counseling and assistance to law students and authorized supervisors concerning placement as well as questions about and/or problems with the Pro Bono Program;

b. Supervises pro bono program staff, maintains records of the progress of each law student and submits pro bono completion notices to students and to the Associate Dean;

c. Maintains a list of agencies, individuals, organizations, and projects that qualify for placement under the pro bono criteria and distributes information about the Pro Bono Program and possible pro bono opportunities to law students;

d. Is the approval authority for law student pro bono work that satisfies the pro bono criteria. Note that only the faculty may grant extensions to the pro bono service completion deadline for graduation. Such extensions are only granted for extraordinary circumstances upon petition by the student to the faculty.

Pro Bono Program Committee

1. The Dean of the Law School appoints at least three persons from the law school community to serve on the Law School Pro Bono Program Committee. One of the members is the Pro Bono Program Administrator.

2. The Pro Bono Program Committee:

a. Rules upon law student appeals concerning law student proposals for pro bono work projects or concerning credit for service provided;

b. Make general policy decisions to assist the efficient administration of the program;

c. Amend provisions of pro bono service policies, without reducing any requirements, for the purpose of enhancing the efficient operation of the Law Student Public Service Program.

Pro Bono Program Office and Administration

The Pro Bono Program has its office in the law school building and employs administrative staff under the supervision of the Pro Bono Program Administrator. The program is currently housed in the Career Services Office. The program record keeping system utilizes both electronic records and paper files. It is the student's individual responsibility to provide required registration forms, time sheets, and student and supervisor evaluation forms. Students are required to maintain their own copies of all paperwork submitted. Students are reminded of their obligation through their initial welcome packets, formal orientation presentations and periodically through email.

Although law students are required to secure their own placements, the Pro Bono Program Administrator provides guidance and counseling to law students, maintains a list of potential pro bono placements in binders of agencies for student review and post requests for services electronically to all law students. Potential supervisors should note that the program has been well received by the community and requests for services sometimes out-pace student supply.

Ground Rules/Professional Responsibility/Confidentiality

Students participating in the William S. Richardson School of Law Pro Bono Program are not covered by the so called "student practice rule" of the Rules of the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court, thus they may not give legal advice, or make formal appearances in court or otherwise engage in the practice of law. Nevertheless, many of the students during the course of a pro bono placement work on actual cases involving real clients. Law students should be aware that, even though they are still students and not licensed attorneys, the Code of Professional Responsibility still applies because they are working under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Hawaiʻi's Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 expressly states that a lawyer and those working for the lawyer may not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client consents or the disclosure is otherwise permitted. Finally, law students are warned that an attorney violating this rule risks revocation of his or her license to practice law. A law student violating this rule risks not being licensed.


Dale W. Lee

Director of Professional Development
(808) 956-8636

Faculty Advisor

James H. Pietsch

Professor of Law
(808) 956-6785