Completing Your Public Service Graduation Requirement

Public Service Deadlines

  • Summer 2023 JD Graduates - July 6, 2023
  • December 2023 JD Graduates - November 21, 2023
  • May 2024 JD Graduates - April 19, 2024

Developing Valuable Skills While Giving Back to the Community

SMU Dedman School of Law was the first law school in the state of Texas to implement a mandatory Public Service Graduation Requirement. Since 1996, all J.D. students at SMU Dedman School of Law have been required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of law-related public service to be eligible to graduate. These hours must be uncompensated and not for academic credit.

The goal of the public service graduation requirement is to enhance the legal profession and the law school curriculum by exposing lawyers-to-be to the importance of and need for a life-long commitment to public service. The program allows students to gain legal experience, learn and develop practical lawyering skills in a hands-on setting, explore different areas of law, cultivate professional contacts in the legal community, and provides early exposure to the need for legal assistance in the community.

Pro Bono Honor Roll

From the program’s inception, SMU Dedman School of Law students have displayed their passion for public service. Each year, the students substantially exceed the minimum 30-hour requirement. For example, the class of 2023 performed 18,564 hours of public service, for an average of over 84 hours per student. We are thrilled to report that over the last 27 years, SMU Dedman law students have volunteered more than 374,568 hours in law-related efforts to assist the under-served in our community. We were so impressed by the outstanding display of dedication to service that we established a Pro Bono Honor Roll in 2015 to recognize those students at Graduation who donated over 200 hours of law-related public service during law school. We are ecstatic that 31 graduates in the class of 2023 were listed on the Pro Bono Honor Roll for having donated 200 or more hours of public service and of that group, and 6 of these graduates each volunteered more than 420 hours!

Diverse Opportunities to Learn and Assist

We are just as proud of the diversity of assistance our students have provided while completing the requirement as we are of the number of hours donated. Our students have been privileged to help provide legal assistance in our community for a remarkable variety of needy individuals and nonprofit agencies. Examples of this range from helping prosecute offenders in child abuse cases in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, to carefully reviewing the court records of an incarcerated person seeking help from the Innocence Project of Texas. Our students have helped with such matters as landlord/tenant disputes at Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, and provided asylum representation for clients at Human Rights Initiative, immigration assistance to victims of human trafficking at Mosaic Family Services. They have worked on intellectual property matters at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and they have helped protect consumer rights at the Federal Trade Commission. They have helped mount solid defense cases with the Dallas Public Defender’s Office and have acted as guardian ad litem for children with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Through these activities, our students have had the opportunity to employ their litigation and drafting skills; to develop expertise using laws, statutes, and regulations; to apply substantive law from the classroom to real-life settings; and come face-to-face with the experiences and realities of the needs of the community.

How to Complete Your Hours