Shaped by Educational, Professional and Social Crises: The History of Law Student Pro Bono Service
1 Access to Justice J. 1 (Fall 2013)
This Article was previously published in substantially the same form in a collection of essays entitled PRIVATE LAWYERS & THE PUBLIC INTEREST: THE EVOLVING ROLE OF PRO BONO IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION (Robert Granfield & Lynn Mather eds., 2009).
43 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2014 Last revised: 10 Mar 2018
Date Written: August 11, 2013
This article examines the history of student pro bono service in legal education. It reveals that the flow of expressed concern for the poor within the legal academy has been directly tied to the existence of a real or perceived crisis -- a crisis of pedagogical need, of social unrest, and of public confidence in lawyers. Law student pro bono service has been perceived as the solution to these crises. The structure varied, entangling the development of pro bono programs with the development of the regulation of the profession and of clinical legal education.
The history of law student pro bono service is divided into three distinct eras, which form the structure of this essay: 1) community-based service (pre-WWII) in response to the “crisis” of legal education moving from the law office to the university and to the rise of urban poverty; 2) cause-based service (1960’s and 70’s), shaped by federal funding, in response to the crisis of social unrest; and 3) ethics-based service (1980 – 2005) in response to the crisis of eroding public confidence in the ethics of lawyers.
This article ends with an exploration of recent research that suggests that curriculum-based pro bono is the most effective at producing graduates who engage in pro bono. It offers a directive for the current era of pro bono service in legal education: an integrated pro bono curriculum.
Keywords: pro bono, access to justice, legal education
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