Tulane Law Marks Pro Bono Week and 30 Years of Legal Service

Perhaps there is no nobler aspect of a Tulane Law School education than the tradition of providing pro bono community service to indigent clients and the public.

Since the Pro Bono program began 30 years ago, Tulane students have donated more than 600,000 hours of legal assistance to the New Orleans community and around the globe, when counting both pro bono and academic programs like public-service externships and clinics.

Next week, the law school celebrates National Pro Bono Week, and at the same time, kicks off a series of events celebrating its inception 30 years ago as the first law school to require law-related service in the public interest.

“Tulane’s leadership in pro bono service has changed the landscape of legal education and touched countless lives and communities over the past three decades,” said Dean David Meyer.  “The public service mission is central to Tulane’s identity and a source of pride for our students, alumni, staff and faculty.”

More than 30 law schools now follow Tulane’s example by requiring pro bono service of their students, and some state bars, including New York’s, have recently moved to require pro bono service as a requirement for admission to practice.  Tulane’s faculty last year increased the pro bono service commitment required for graduation to 50 hours, though many students vastly exceed that minimum expectation.

“Tulane Law students understand that pro bono service is about cultivating a lifelong habit, not merely satisfying a short-term obligation,” said Stacy Seicshnaydre, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Public Interest Programs.  “Our graduates have become leaders in the effort to bridge the gap in access to justice; many of our students are performing pro bono work under the guidance and mentorship of alumni.”

The celebrations on Oct. 22-28 also kick off a year-long campaign to encourage and recognize students who are giving so much of their time for the good of others. National Pro Bono Week is sponsored by the American Bar Association and is a coordinated effort to highlight the work that lawyers perform without charge and the impact of that representation on the most vulnerable.

At Tulane, the pro bono program is coordinated through the Department of Experiential Learning and overseen by Tonya Jupiter L‘93. There are no geographical limits, though students tend to do much of the work in the greater New Orleans area, Jupiter said.  The type of legal assistance provided has included everything from helping homeless and disabled persons, serving disaster-affected communities, assisting the New Orleans arts and entertainment community, working alongside public defenders, and working with private practice attorneys on a variety of criminal and civil cases.

The program’s 30th anniversary is a reminder of the need for law schools and lawyers to prioritize public service, Seicshnaydre said. Students can participate in this celebration in a number of ways:

Experiential Learning Office invites students during Pro Bono Week to share their pro bono stories on social media, using the hashtag #TUProBono30. They may send copies of social media posts to probonolaw@tulane.edu.

Students may stop by the MPR Wed., Oct. 25 and Fri., Oct. 27 between noon and 1 p.m. and pick up an anniversary button and treat. 

Join our 30 for 30 efforts. Students who record 30 hours of pro bono service this anniversary year (by the 30th of March) will receive special acknowledgment.