Law Schools Track Student Pro Bono Hours | Track It Forward

Law Schools Track Student Pro Bono Hours

Reporting

Evaluate and assess pro bono projects

Award Achievement

Know which students qualify for which Pro Bono Distinction

Self Service

Students access their own profiles to keep track of their time

Stanford Law School Saves Money by Omitting their Outdated Spreadsheet System

Michael Winn is the Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs at Stanford Law School in California. When he arrived at the school a couple years ago, his office was using an old, outdated system to track their students’ pro bono hours. Students would submit their entries into an online form after each event, which would then populate a Excel spreadsheet. But, “it was like a black box,” he says. They were always re-submitting the same contact information over and over again, and then the worst part was that once it was submitted, they never saw it again.

This resulted in the need to hire a paid student coordinator to maintain this data, including managing documents, responding to student inquiries, running reports, etc. As graduation would approach, students were bombarding the coordinator with questions trying to see if they’ve met their threshold for graduating with Pro Bono Distinction.

However, when graduation came for the paid student coordinator, they were left with no one to replace him. “That’s when I realized how rinkety our system was and how un-user friendly it had been!” Quickly, Mike realized that there must be a system out there that’s cloud-based, allows students to enter and access their data, as well as process and analyze reports for the organizer. So he embarked on an internet search and asked his fellow colleagues at other law schools what they were using, and that’s where Track it Forward came along.

When Mike decided to move forward with this system, all he had to do to get started was set up the site and import everyone in. “Once it was finished, it was over! After we archived our old spreadsheets, we never had to look at them again, which was such a relief. Now, when new students join the program, all Mike has to do is send them an invite to join and that’s all. However, like with volunteers at every other organization, he finds that sending quarterly reminders always produces a larger burst of participation.

“I find it user friendly on both ends, which is quite rare,” he say, “It’s intuitive for them and for me, which makes it a great tool for us.”

In Stanford’s Pro Bono Program, students are encouraged to perform at least 50 law-related hours of pro bono service to graduate with Pro Bono Distinction. They can surpass that by performing 150 hours for High Pro Bono Distinction and 300 hours for Highest Pro Bono Distinction. With hundreds of students logging their hours, Mike says, “the Track it Forward Milestone summary is breathtakingly helpful for us. We use it to track each level, and I really love that, plus the reports are super helpful. When I try to assess certain project participation, I’m able to easily pull a report on that specific project and it’s amazingly helpful.”

So why does Stanford Law School continue to use Track it Forward for tracking their student service hours? “It works for us,” says Mike, “It feels so easy and intuitive, plus it’s free of human error.”

If you could transition from a “black box” system, like Google Docs, to a digital platform where students can control their profiles and check their hour submissions, would you do it? According to Mike, if you consider the staff time and money to pay the salary of someone managing an old system, you’ll see the savings you’re making by transitioning over.

They did.