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Pro Bono Program

St. Mary’s University School of Law takes seriously its responsibility to develop a culture of public service in its students and alumni, and to foster a student body engaged with its communities. Our students, and our graduates, are justice-ready: tenacious, skillful, compassionate advocates, ready to create a more-just community from day one.
This past year, the Center for Legal and Social Justice (CLSJ) led the School of Law’s efforts to advance justice and meet the moment that the COVID-19 pandemic, and associated economic downturn, has created. 2019-2020 saw growth in student engagement in public service. Overall, St. Mary’s University School of Law students recorded over 10,000 pro bono and community service hours: an increase of over 5% from the previous year’s recorded total—despite the presence of a pandemic.

St. Mary’s University School of Law offers a number of pro bono opportunities for students wishing to volunteer their time and gain exposure to various practice areas.

Students participating in these programs perform important work, providing much needed help to members of their community.

In addition, students who meet certain criteria may be recognized during their graduation ceremony.

For more information on pro bono activities, and for information regarding careers in public interest law, please contact Director of Pro Bono Programs, Gregory Zlotnick.

Note: The St. Mary’s University School of Law Pro Bono Program does not provide legal representation to the general public. The Clinical Program, which accepts a limited number of cases in specific practice areas for qualified individuals, can be contacted by calling 210-431-2596. Please be advised that Clinical Program staff conducts an income and asset screening prior to providing information, advice, referral or representation.

Community Opportunities

Veterans Event

The Veterans Event was developed to address the many legal needs of our veterans. Lawyers are available from all areas of practice to answer general questions, prepare documents and provide other legal information services to pre-screened veteran clients. The event is held at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital, and law student volunteers shadow the lawyers as they advise veterans on the legal matters presented. This event is offered approximately once a month.

Family Law Event

The Family Law event provides legal assistance for uncontested family law matters. Law student volunteers will shadow lawyers during the client interview process. Judges are also present at this event for finalizing divorce proceedings. This event is offered once a quarter.

People’s Law School

People’s Law School is an annual event, co-sponsored by St. Mary’s University School of Law and the San Antonio Bar Foundation, which invites the San Antonio community to the law school to attend seminars led by lawyers from various practice areas. Law student volunteers assist with welcoming participants and operating the event. Additionally, law student volunteers will have the opportunity to attend the seminars and to aid the lawyers with their presentations. This event occurs once a year in the spring semester.

Sign up for the Pro Bono Program/Public Service on TWEN for more information on upcoming events and to register to volunteer! If you have any questions, contact Director of Pro Bono Programs, Gregory Zlotnick.

Wills Event

This event focuses on drafting wills and ancillary documents. Client attendees have been pre-qualified based on income levels. Law student volunteers will either assist with the drafting of the documents or shadow the lawyer as they prepare them. The law student volunteers will also serve as the witness to the will’s execution. This event is offered once a quarter.

Ask-A-Lawyer Event

The Ask-A-Lawyer event is a joint effort between Catholic Charities and St. Mary’s University School of Law. Law student volunteers interview individuals about various legal issues and then consult with available lawyers about the legal issues that arise. Event participants are offered legal information only, and if necessary, referred to legal aid or to other attorneys. This event is offered regularly and will be advertised as event dates become available.

St. Mary’s Sponsored Opportunities

All volunteer hours from the St. Mary’s University School of Law sponsored projects list qualify for the State Bar of Texas Law Student Pro Bono College Certificate.

ID Recovery

St. Mary’s needs volunteers to assist with the ID Recovery Project at Haven for Hope, San Antonio’s largest homeless service provider. Obtaining identification is particularly important to people experiencing homelessness, as some type of photo identification is required for employment, housing and more. Volunteers work with student attorneys and supervising attorneys at their office located in the Haven for Hope Courtyard on Friday afternoons. After training, volunteers conduct interviews with clients to assist them in acquiring the necessary documents to obtain valid identification. This project operates year-round. For more information about volunteering, please contact Director of Pro Bono Programs, Gregory Zlotnick.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

St. Mary’s needs volunteers to assist with tax preparation. Through this program, the University leverages its strengths and talents to make a substantial, positive impact on the surrounding community.

St. Mary’s VITA site is jointly supervised by the School of Law and the Greehey School of Business. Our VITA site has been recognized by the American Bar Association for its “faithful and professional execution of public service by providing tax preparation assistance to low income and underserved communities.”

The St. Mary’s VITA Site operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays from late January through mid-April, and training begins in early January.

If you are interested in volunteering or for more information, please visit the VITA page

Community Service Requirement

JD students are required to complete 30 hours of community service during law school. This requirement does not apply to M.Jur. or LL.M. students.

Students must complete at least 10 hours toward the 30 hour requirement before the end of their first year of law school and at least 20 hours before the end of their second year of law school.

Equivalent requirements will apply to evening students based on the number of credit hours of coursework they have completed. There is no maximum number of hours of community service hours permitted per year or total.

No more than 15 hours of the required hours may be general community service hours. These hours may be performed with any non-profit or public entity. The volunteer may not be paid or receive credit for the work performed.  General community service hours should fall outside of the student’s familial responsibilities.

At least 15 hours must be law school-approved, or law-related, hours. Law school-approved hours are defined as services provided by law students, without compensation or credit, performed under attorney supervision, to non-profit organizations that primarily address the needs of individuals and families of limited financial means; public agencies engaged in legal work, including courts; or services performed in connection with activities and organizations approved by Director of Pro Bono Programs.

Examples include the Community Justice Program; the Public Defender Offices; the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office; the St Mary’s University School of Law Alternative Spring Break Program; the St. Mary’s University Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program; Lone Star Legal Aid; MALDEF; and the Offices of General Counsel within federal agencies.

Other services which primarily address the needs of individuals and families of limited financial means will be accepted if the student requests and receives approval from the Pro Bono Program Director prior to the provision of law student services. The Pro Bono Program cannot guarantee law school approval of law-related service hours submitted without such prior approval.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is this a graduation requirement?


Who does this requirement affect?


How many hours do I have to complete?


When do I have to complete these hours?


Does all community service satisfy the requirement?


What are law school approved hours?


What are general community service hours?