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Pro Bono

Villanova Law hosts a number of exciting public service and pro bono opportunities for students. These and other programs enable you to serve those in need, while developing your own lawyering skills.

Pro Bono Spring Break Service Trip to New Orleans

You can make a difference by providing desperately needed legal services to people who cannot afford them. Doing pro bono work enables you to touch and change the lives of others. You may have come to law school with the goal of helping people; doing pro bono work can help you connect to the motivation that brought you here.

Pro bono legal work can also advance your professional development and career planning goals. For example, performing pro bono legal work can help you better understand the substantive issues you are studying in your courses. By using the law to help clients achieve their goals, pro bono volunteers learn about the power--and the limits--of the law and the lawyer’s role in resolving complex problems associated with poverty and powerlessness.

In addition, pro bono legal work can enhance marketable skills that you will need as practicing lawyers. For instance, pro bono programs offer great “hands on” experiences – such as interviewing and counseling clients, drafting pleadings, negotiating deals, or appearing in court – that are very attractive to prospective employers. Pro bono legal work can also help you identify areas of practice you may (or may not) wish to pursue when you graduate. Finally, as a pro bono legal volunteer, you will meet practicing lawyers who may be helpful to you as you consider and search for employment opportunities.

Getting Involved

We have a number of pro bono opportunities listed here in the Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunities section of this page. We can also give you information about pro bono and public interest organizations that are eager to recruit volunteer law students. In addition to our established programs, we can work with you to develop an individual pro bono project. You may speak to your faculty adviser for more information.

In addition, see if there is any organization that is doing the kind of work you think you may want to do.

That organization may be at Villanova or in the Philadelphia area. Check out the resources on the Career Strategy website and on the Public Service Job  PSJD is a database of pro bono and public interest / public service opportunities linked to the Career Strategy website and available on the Internet, it contains extensive information about volunteer projects and resources for getting involved.

Villanova Law Dorothy Day Pro Bono Award

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.

The award is named for Dorothy Day (1895-1980), a Catholic journalist and peace and justice activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker and established Houses of Hospitality to help feed, clothe, and comfort the poor.


Qualifying Pro Bono Work

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. 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.


Temporary Amendment to the Definition of Qualifying Pro Bono Work due to the COVID-19 pandemic:

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.


Qualifying Organizations

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 Sharon Buckingham if you have any question as to whether your project qualifies.


Hour Requirement

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).


Reporting Pro Bono Hours

To report pro bono hours, students may use the new online reporting system, which can be found here.

To report hours, follow these steps: 

  1. Open the link
  2. Click on the plus sign
  3. Fill out the form
  4. The system will automatically email your supervisor to confirm your hours.
  5. Once your supervisor confirms your hours, the hours will show in your report
  6. Your hours will be shown with the status of pending, until your supervisor approves them. Then the status will update to Approved.
  7. Follow these same instructions each week that you have new hours to add.

Students may still use the old forms for hours completed before February 1, 2020. 

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.

2018-2019 Pro Bono Hours Form

2019 -2020 Pro Bono Hours Form

Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunities:

A "Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunity" is one that has the following features:

1) Villanova will advertise the opportunity to our students through Simplicity;

2) A student liaison from the Pro Bono Society will be assigned to that opportunity;

3) A faculty liaison will be assigned to that opportunity;

4) Information regarding the opportunity (including brief description, contact person at the organization, name/email of student and faculty liaison) will be provided on our website;

5) Villanova students will have the opportunity to express interest in working with the opportunity by completing a webform linked to our website (see Program Descriptions below).

Pro Bono Society 

Program Descriptions

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia

Student Coordinator - Hannah Schroer

Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson

Placement Contact - Jaimee L. Moore, Esq, LLM, Legal Director at Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia

CLC is an urban legal ministry that seeks to address injustice and poverty in partnership with existing inner city host ministries by bringing volunteer attorneys into neighborhoods where their services are most needed. Students will work with volunteer attorneys on clinic days to provide a wide range of legal services.

Please click here if you are interested in doing pro bono work with Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia.

Face to Face: Bridging the Justice Gap

Student Liaisons - Yuliya Khromyak (3L)  & Catherine Kapples (3L)

Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson

Placement Contact: Anna Brickman

The Face to Face Legal Center protects the human, civil and legal rights of low income and homeless individuals. It bridges the “justice gap” by offering free legal services to individuals who live below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. The center is staffed by volunteer attorneys and law students; it provides a full range of legal services from consumer to family law.  Our Legal Center’s nationally recognized birth certificate clinic helps countless people secure legal identification without which they are prevented from full participation in society. 

Please click here if you are interested in doing pro bono work with Face to Face: Birth Certificate Clinic.

Montgomery County Public Defenders Office Expungement Clinic

Student Liaison – Ronald Avila (3L) & Mary Jacob (2L)

Faculty Liaison – Prof. Steve Chanenson

Placement Contact – Keisha Hudson (Deputy Chief, Montgomery County Public Defenders Office)

Since 2013, the Montgomery County Public Defender Office has offered free criminal record expungements for eligible clients. The Montgomery County Expungement Clinic is staffed by law student volunteers who are supervised by the Policy Director and Chief Public Defender. For first year law students, the clinic presents an excellent opportunity for direct, one on one contact with adult and juvenile clients by conducting intake interviews and follow up calls. Certified law students who volunteer for the clinic may also represent clients in contested hearings. In addition to working directly with clients, clinic volunteers get valuable experience drafting legal petitions and orders to file in the Criminal Clerk’s Office.

Please click here if you are interested in doing pro bono work with the Montgomery County Public Defenders Office Expungement Clinic.

PA Innocence Project

Student Liaison - Lauren Ferguson (3L)

Faculty Liaison - Doris Brogan

Placement Contact - Contact Nilam Sanghvi, Staff Attorney at PA Innocence Project

The Innocence Project has two student volunteer opportunities:

1: Stage 2 reviews: This is a high-level review of some information provided by an inmate and documents from the inmate’s appeal to determine whether there is a plausible case of innocence that should be moved forward to a more in-depth review. The student will draft a 2-4 page memo with his/her recommendation for review. A Stage 2 review takes between 6-12 hours, and they ask that a student complete the review in 4 weeks or less. This is the only volunteer opportunity available to 1Ls, who must be in their second semester of law school. (2Ls and 3Ls are also welcome to do Stage 2 reviews.)


2: Stage 3 reviews: This is a much more in-depth review to determine whether an inmate presents a compelling case of innocence that might be appropriate for the PA Innocence Project to investigate and potentially litigate.  Students working on Stage 3 reviews are required to work for four hours a week for at least one semester.  The students will draft 25-50 page memos about the case they are working on for review with the attorneys and investigator.

Because PA Innocence Project deals with inmates’ original documents, they require that all students do their volunteer work at the office, located in center city. The office is easily accessible from Villanova by regional rail.

Please click here if you are interested in doing pro bono work with the PA Innocence Project.

SeniorLAW Center

Student Liaison - Gabi Lipschitz

Faculty Liaison - Mary Ann Robinson

Placement Contact - Wendy Bookler, Legal Director

Wills for Heroes

Student Coordinator - Gabi Lipschitz (2L) and Christopher Mdeway (2L)

Faculty Liaison – Prof. Mary Ann Robinson

Placement Contact – Sandra A. Romasewski, Attorney at Fox Rothschild LLP  

‪A program co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division, "Wills for Heroes" provides free basic estate planning documents to first responders in Pennsylvania. "Wills for Heroes" provides police, fire and emergency medical personnel - those on the front lines for our personal safety - the tools they need to prepare adequately for the future. Programs are staffed by lawyer volunteers, paralegals, and law students and are conveniently offered to first responders at meeting halls and police and fire stations.

Please click here if you are interested in doing pro bono work with Wills for Heroes.

Villanova Pro Bono Programs

Villanova Law hosts a number of exciting Pro Bono programs. These and other programs offer tremendous opportunities to serve those in need, while developing your own lawyering skills.

Student Coordinator:  (pending) Tax Law Society

Faculty Liaison: Les Book

Villanova operates a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, assisting low-income taxpayers in the Philadelphia area to prepare their returns. Additionally, Tax Law Society students offer “Know Your Rights” presentations to indigent taxpayers.

In addition, other pro bono programs are offered through student organizations at the law school, including the Pro Bono Society, the Tax Law Society and other student groups. The Pro Bono Society, for example, offers law students short-term and long-term pro bono and community services opportunities. Through the Pro Bono Society and other student groups, students have given "Know Your Rights" presentations to audiences ranging from immigrant detainees, migrant workers, people on the verge of homelessness. In addition, through the Tax Law Society, students have volunteered at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites at which they assist low-income taxpayers.

In addition to reviewing the programs on this page, please also take a look at the "Facilitated Pro Bono Opportunities" tab or contact the Pro Bono Society for more information.

Pro Bono Student Groups

Pro bono programs are offered through student organizations at the law school, including the Pro Bono Society, National Lawyer's Guild and the Tax Law Society.  The Pro Bono Society, for example, offers law students short-term and long-term pro bono and community services opportunities.