The Dorothy Day Award for Pro Bono Service acknowledges students who have volunteered at the inception of their careers to take on the added responsibility of pro bono service by providing direct representation to the poor or disenfranchised.

Pro bono service to the poor is a central aspect of Villanova Law’s mission as a Catholic and Augustinian institution. To be eligible for the award, Villanova Law students must complete a minimum of 60 hours of pro bono service during their three years of law school (not including summers). Award winners are acknowledged during Commencement festivities of their graduating year.

If you are a current student looking for information on volunteer opportunities, please see the pro bono opportunities section

Dorothy Day Award

For purposes of the Dorothy Day Award, pro bono service is defined as unpaid, not-for-credit legal work for the poor or disenfranchised, performed at a public interest/non-profit agency or with a private attorney working on a pro bono case. This definition is intentionally narrow, as the intent of the award is to recognize students who provide direct legal services to the poor or disenfranchised. (Please see below for an expanded definition of qualifying work that is temporarily in place due to the pandemic.) Hours must be completed during the academic year, and work for which a student has received academic credit is not considered pro bono for the purposes of the award.

Due to the international pandemic, Villanova students have fewer opportunities to engage in the kinds of pro bono service that qualifies for the Dorothy Day Award. In light of this, the Public Interest Committee has voted to temporarily amend the definition of qualifying work for the Dorothy Day Award.

Under this amendment, for purposes of the Dorothy Day Award, “pro bono service” is expanded beyond the current definition to also include any community lawyering or educational work for the primary benefit of poor or disenfranchised individuals performed under the auspices of any non-profit, public service, or community-based organization with a mission to serve those individuals.

Students may not be paid and may not receive academic credit for this work. Hours may be completed any time during the summer or during the academic year.

These amendments are effective for work done since March 15, 2020, and continue in effect until revoked by the Public Interest Committee.

Work completed on behalf of the following organizations qualifies towards the Dorothy Day Award: Face to Face Legal Clinic, PA Innocence Project, STAR Federal Prisoner Reentry Project, VITA, Federal Defender’s Capital Habeas Unit, Senior Law Center, Pennsylvania Volunteers for the Indigent Program, Support Center for Child Advocates, Wills for Heroes, Medical-Legal-Community Partnership (MLCP), Homeless Advocacy Project, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and Villanova Law-sponsored pro bono service spring break trips. This is not an exhaustive list; work performed on behalf of other organizations that provide direct legal services to the poor or disenfranchised is also eligible for credit, provided all award criteria is met.

Please Note: Work at most government agencies and offices (including District Attorney and Attorney General offices) typically does NOT qualify toward the Dorothy Day Award. In addition, participation in the following activities does not qualify: Street Law, VLS Days of Service (unless legal work is completed on behalf of the poor or disenfranchised), tutoring, and coaching and/or judging mock trial competitions.

Please contact Janine Dunlap Kiah if you have any question as to whether your project qualifies.

To be eligible for the award, students must have completed 60 hours of pro bono service during their three years of law school (not including summers).

Students should report hours as they are earned but no later than the end of the academic year during which the work was completed. During 3L spring semester, all hours must be submitted prior to March 31.


Note: for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, in cases where student hours are not directly supervised by an attorney or faculty member, students are still required to submit the applicable form(s), signed by the student organizer/officer of the Pro Bono Society who can verify the hours. Also, students may submit a signed NY Affidavit of Compliance in place of the VLS pro bono reporting form, if the hours reflect work that satisfies the definition of pro bono indicated above.


About Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day (1895-1980) was a Catholic American journalist and social activist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. She also established Houses of Hopitality to help feed, clothe and comfort the poor. She became known for her social justice campaigns in defense of the forsaken, hungry and homeless. She espoused nonviolence, and hospitality for the impoverished and downtrodden. Her commitment to social justice spanned most of the 20th century.