Priming for Pro Bono Publico: Inculcating a Norm of Public Service in New Lawyers

27 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2007

Date Written: March 2007


The paper explores pro bono by new lawyers as a form of professional volunteerism, relying on data gathered from 1,000 law students and lawyers. The paper first presents social science insights into volunteerism outside the law, including the psychology of helping, sociologists' insights into the social context of volunteering, and economists' analysis of conscience goods. The paper then presents data from two major surveys: recent law school graduates and students in Professional Responsibility courses. The study includes (1) individual attitudes, including approaches to moral reasoning, attributions related to poverty, and community orientation; (2) the impact of law school, including skill building and comparisons to family and religious influences; and (3) the role of the profession, including the impact of professional responsibility rules and invitations to participate.

Keywords: pro bono, professional responsibility, legal education, volunteering, legal practice skills, public interest, moral reasoning

Suggested Citation

Schmedemann, Deborah A., Priming for Pro Bono Publico: Inculcating a Norm of Public Service in New Lawyers (March 2007). William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 64, Available at SSRN: or

Deborah A. Schmedemann (Contact Author)

William Mitchell College of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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