Columbia is one of a select group of law schools nationwide that require all students to undertake pro bono work during law school. The "mandatory pro bono program" grew out of a student initiative and continues to be shaped by student interests and needs as well as requests by public interest lawyers and organizations. As a result, many students, including first-years, find that the pro bono offerings enrich their law school experience and add relevance to their coursework. Most students perform more than the required 40 hours of service. The Center for Public Interest Law, working with Law School faculty, students, graduates, and public interest lawyers throughout the world, has developed a variety of In-House Projects and Spring Break Caravans and has identified hundreds of other projects that meet the requirement. Students may also design and receive credit for public interest projects that suit their individual interests. Current pro bono projects send students into the city, and the rest of the world in an effort to make a meaningful contribution for people seeking access to justice, the rule of law, and affordable solutions to critical community issues.
Columbia Law School has a large selection of In-House Pro Bono Projects, as well as relationships with a wide variety of organizations, governmental offices, and law firms who host students to do pro bono work.
The document below shows a sample of the projects available for the 2011-2012 year. This list is not exhaustive, so continue to check your email or visit Social Justice Initiatives to learn about new projects!
For all those who are interested in applying to a Spring Break Caravan, please see the application below. If you have questions about a particular caravan, please contact the student listed for each. If you have questions about the caravans, or pro bono at Columbia in general, please contact Stephanie Samaha.
Applications are due to Social Justice Initiatives by 4:00 on February 3rd (for the Public Defender Services of DC, the your entire application is due by 5:00 on February 2nd). They may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off on the 9th floor of Little Warren (410 W. 116th St.) Late applications will not be accepted.
Students will be notified by February 7th if they have been selected for a caravan, or if they are on a waiting list.
If you are applying for financial assistance, you must indicate this on your application.
Spring Break Caravans are all eligible for pro bono credit. This will count towards the mandatory pro bono requirement of 2Ls and 3Ls who have not yet completed their 40 hours; for 2Ls and 3Ls who have already completed the requirement, or for all 1Ls, the caravans count as voluntary credit and will be noted as such on your transcript. An Exit Questionnaire and Supervisor's Report must be filed for each student in order for the credit to be logged.
1. Columbia’s Public Interest Database
Log on to Columbia’s Public Interest Database to search for pro bono placements and other public interest opportunities. Pro Bono entries include a description of the projects Columbia students have worked on in the past as well as student evaluations. Students can search by topical area, location, or “In-House” status and can find out what organizations are in need of immediate assistance. Log on to Lawnet (http://www.law.columbia.edu/lawnet), click on “student services,” and click “search for pro bono projects.”
2. PSLawNet’s Database
PSLawNet is a global network of more than 120 law schools and over 12,000 public service organizations working to foster law student community service and public interest work. PSLawNet’s database contains information about thousands of domestic and international organizations and pro bono opportunities. Students can go to http://pslawnet.org and open a free student account to search for projects in a particular practice area or location.
3. The New York State Pro Bono Opportunities Guide
The New York State Pro Bono Opportunities Guide is a joint project of The City Bar Fund, The New York State Bar Association, Pro Bono Net, and Volunteers of Legal Service. Students can go to http://www.probono.net/ny/oppsguide.cfm to search for pro bono opportunities in New York City and State. Opportunities are searchable by location (including borough), as well as topical area and population served.
For additional information about pro bono projects, contact the SJI pro bono staff at (212) 854-3535 or email email@example.com