Public Service Programs

Southwestern Law School aerial view of Bullocks Wilshire building and Los Angeles city skyline

Since its founding, Southwestern has inspired a commitment to public service through a rich selection of programs, courses, activities and individual pursuits. Being in the heart of Los Angeles’ “Public Interest Corridor,” Southwestern provides students opportunities to serve the community that few law schools can match.

Through service and pro bono initiatives sponsored by the Public Service Program, students will learn more about how they can provide meaningful service to the public and how to apply practical lawyering skills in a wide variety of settings almost immediately after joining Southwestern.

Public Service Policy and Pledge

The provision of pro bono legal services is an integral component of a legal education and to the practice of law.  Per the California Bar resolution and American Bar Association Model Rules, which calls for fifty hours of pro bono service annually, Southwestern encourages pro bono participation by all members of the Southwestern community in the collective effort to defend equal access to our judicial system for persons of limited-means and in advancing the public interest.

Following economic, political, and social events, unmet legal needs in our communities continue to increase in complexity as well as scope with legal service organizations more challenged than ever to meet enormous demand for no-cost services and representation in protecting the legal rights and needs of indigent clients.

The Public Service Program (PSP) recognizes the efforts of students addressing systemic and poverty-related needs through their pro bono service. For PSP purposes, “public interest” is broadly defined to encompass interests underrepresented by the private sector, including the interests of the poor, ethnic minorities, and broad-ranging advocacy interests of public concern, such as the environment, animal welfare and the welfare of future generations.

Public service is law-related work in the broader category of the public sector, which does not otherwise meet the definition of pro bono.

Graduating students who have completed a minimum of 75-hours of law-related service by the April deadline in their final year of study will be recognized at commencement ceremonies and a notation of Public Service Program distinction placed on their academic transcripts.

  1. Public Service Program Recognition

    To qualify for PSP recognition, a student’s pro bono or public service work:

    • Must be performed under the supervision of a licensed attorney
    • Must be performed without receiving any form of compensation
    • Must be public interest / public service-related


  2. Examples of Pro Bono and Public Service

    Student-led Projects: working with student-led projects and service initiatives will count for PSP recognition. Examples of Southwestern’s student groups with law-related service platforms or requirements for their membership include:

    • Advocates for Children’s Rights
    • American Constitution Society – SW Chapter
    • Homelessness Prevention Law Project
    • Immigration Law Student Association
    • International Law Society
    • Labor and Employment Law Association
    • Mass Incarceration Awareness Law Society
    • National Lawyers Guild – SW Chapter
    • OUTLaw
    • Public Interest Law Committee
    • Women’s Law Association

    Direct Legal Services: under the supervision of an attorney, students providing legal assistance and services in conducting client interviews, factual investigation, legal research and writing, etc. will count for PSP recognition.

    Legal Education: under the supervision of an attorney, staffing legal information hotlines, California Superior Court Self-Help Centers, or assisting in development of legal education materials for underserved groups will count for PSP recognition.

  3. Exceptions to Pro Bono and Public Service

    Summer Law Clerk Programs: work performed in full-time summer job programs with eligible agencies, up to 300 hours will not count for PSP recognition. However, if a student opts to work more than 300 hours, up to 40 hours can be credited for PSP recognition.

    Externship / Field Placements: work performed in field placements with eligible agencies that students are receiving academic credit for, hours will not count for PSP recognition. However, if a student opts to work over their academic unit-to-hour requirements, up to 40 hours can be credited for PSP recognition.

    Clinical Education Programs and Practicums: work performed in Southwestern’s faculty-led clinical programs and practicums through which students are receiving academic credit for, hours do not count for PSP recognition.

    Community Service: volunteer work that does not provide law-related services does not count for PSP recognition. Examples include volunteering for beach clean-ups, serving meals in food pantry locations, etc.  In addition, no more than 25 hours of volunteer work in education enrichment programs will count for PSP recognition. Examples include elementary and high school mock trial programs, legal pipeline recruitment programs, etc.

    Training: students who participate in substantive or skills training without the actual provision of legal assistance or services cannot count training time for PSP recognition.