Law Class Of 2017 Contributed $81M Worth Of Pro Bono Legal Services

Maine Law students provided legal aid to women held at a Texas immigration detention center. Columbia Law students contributed to an Alabama death row case. Florida State University Law students advocated for state constitutional revisions related to juvenile justice.

These are just a few examples of the amazing work that law students performed in 2017. In fact, thousands of law students from around the U.S. contributed millions of hours of pro bono legal services last year.  

The Association of American Law Schools measured the value of law school contributions to the delivery of legal services through clinics, experiential courses and pro bono activities of law students, and the numbers are astounding.

In November 2017, 94 law schools reported that more than 18,000 law students from the Class of 2017 contributed 3.39 million hours in legal services as part of their legal education. That’s a whopping 184 hours per student.

Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization, estimated the value of volunteer time to be $24.14 an hour. Using their calculations, AALS valued the students’ work at $81.8 million. The responding schools represent about 53 percent of students in American Bar Association accredited law schools in the class of 2017.


The aspiration of ‘equal justice under law’ is one of our country’s greatest values and law students across the nation are working toward this ideal.


“The aspiration of ‘equal justice under law’ is one of our country’s greatest values and law students across the nation are working toward this ideal while laying the foundations for success in their future careers,” said Wendy Perdue, 2018 AALS President and Dean of University of Richmond School of Law “These efforts represent some of the ways law schools and students can build bridges with the communities where they live and we are tremendously proud of their efforts.”

In the same survey, 87 schools reported that 50,873 law students in all class years during the academic year 2016-2017 contributed 3.8 million hours in legal services, an average of approximately 74.9 hours per student. Using the Independent Sector value of volunteer time, the value of these services is estimated to be more than $92 million.

Many schools indicated that some pro bono hours go uncounted or are difficult to track. AALS reported that actual contributions might be higher. The report also did not track hours contributed by students participating in law school master’s degree programs such as an LL.M.

Law students contributed legal services through externships at legal aid and community organizations, law school clinics and student led projects. Not only did students provide for the needs of their communities, but they also reinforced legal doctrine learned in the classroom.

Law students contributed hours to hundreds of efforts serving thousands of clients, including the following examples:

American University Washington College of Law – The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project

University of Arkansas School of Law – Immigration Clinic

Baylor University School of Law – Texas Legal Answers

Boston College Law School – BC Innocence Program

University of California, Berkeley School of Law – Policy Advocacy Clinic

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law – Veteran Family Wellness Center & Veterans Legal Clinic

Columbia Law School – Legal Corps for Puerto Rico

Georgetown University Law Center – Health Justice Alliance

Harvard Law School – Federal Tax Clinic

New York University School of Law – Policing Project

University of Mississippi School of Law – MacArthur Justice Center

The University of Nebraska College of Law – The Children’s Justice Clinic

University of Pennsylvania Law School – Toll Public Interest Center

University of Richmond – Poverty Law Course

South Texas College of Law – Houston – Animal Law Clinic

University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law – Public Policy Clinic

West Virginia University College of Law – Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic

William & Mary Law School – Election Day VOTEline


The Association of American Law Schools (AALS), founded in 1900, is a nonprofit association of 179 law schools with a mission to uphold and advance excellence in legal education.


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Tyler Roberts is an editor for The National Jurist. You can follow him on Twitter at @wtylrroberts