The Harvard Law School faculty has voted to increase the school’s mandatory pro bono service requirement for students from 40 hours to 50 hours of service during the students’ three years of law school. The change goes into effect beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2015.

While the vast majority of HLS students complete many more hours of pro bono service than the mandatory minimum (averaging more than 500 hours per student), the new minimum aligns HLS with recent recommendations by the American Bar Association asking law schools to encourage students to complete 50 hours of service. It also reflects the ABA recommendation that practicing lawyers devote 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year.

“The legal profession at its core offers service in pursuit of justice, and our School has long and proudly cultivated public service opportunities for our students who in turn embrace the mission,” said Dean Martha Minow. “Most students far exceed the 40 hours of pro bono service  we have required — the average number of hours per student in recent years has been close to 600! As the challenges for those who cannot afford to pay for legal help grow, and eager new students seek to tackle issues of housing, veterans’ needs, criminal justice, environmental protection, immigration, and more, we join the American Bar Association’s recommendation in setting 50 hours as the level of pro bono work for students expecting to enter the bar.  Our own students show us how the rising generation of young lawyers will lead the way to close the terrible distance between those who need legal help and those who can obtain it.”

Harvard Law School students satisfy the pro bono requirement in a variety of ways, including through the school’s public interest clinics and student practice organizations, public interest summer positions, and term-time pro bono opportunities.

Since 2011, 99 percent of each graduating class has performed more than 40 pro bono hours during the law school years. The average number of hours per student has consistently been more than 500 hours, and the median has been more than 400 hours.