Pro Bono Scholars Program

3L Spring Semester Full-time Externship

Early Admission to the New York Bar

Spring 2020 Notice and Application

Columbia Law School participates in New York State’s Pro Bono Scholars Program (PBSP). PBSP gives students the opportunity to combine full-time work in a public interest legal office with an innovative course focusing on the development of professional identity and values. Pro Bono Scholars earn 12 credits and satisfy their experiential learning requirement and their pro bono hours all in the last semester of their 3L year. They may also satisfy their minor writing credit requirement. Pro Bono Scholars sit for the February 2020 Bar Examination and, upon successful passage, gain early admission to the New York Bar in the summer following graduation.

Students will prepare for the exam during January and February.  After the exam on February 25 and 26, 2020, students will have a short break and will then begin the program on March 2, 2020. The Spring 2020 PBSP course will have several new components. The course will begin with a 10-day intensive introduction to professional development and identity accompanied by an immersion into the areas of practice that the students will experience in their externships. Course materials and experiences will be structured around the participants’ planned work settings.

Following the 10-day immersion course, students will begin working four and a half days per week at their placements. Each Thursday, students will work in the morning only. In the afternoon they will meet at CLS to prepare for class discussion and activities and then attend the class itself. The PBSP requires students to work and attend class 45 hours per week, for a total of 540 hours. Placements and classes will end on May 22, 2020. While the PBSP finishes just after CLS graduation, students will be entitled to participate in all graduation activities.

In the classroom, using students’ own experiences working in public interest externships, the PBSP will help participants consider the meaning of professional life and the role of professional responsibility obligations and values within that life. Building on students’ previous summer employment experiences as well as previous experiential, doctrinal, and theoretical law school courses, the PBSP will help students begin to create a meaningful professional identity as they enter fully into their careers. Work in public interest settings provides not only a significant opportunity for service but also a unique opportunity to explore the challenges and rewards of providing effective and ethical legal representation to low-income individuals and communities.

The Spring 2020 PBSP will be taught by Professor Jane M. Spinak.  Professor Spinak encourages all eligible students to apply, hoping to enroll a group of students with a variety of postgraduate career plans. The PBSP is also dedicated to facilitating equal access for students with disabilities and to cultivating a culture that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of students. 

The deadline for applications is Friday, August 16, 2019, but students are strongly encouraged to communicate with Professor Spinak during the summer and to apply as early as possible. All applicants will meet with Professor Spinak and, in some cases, Susan Kraham, Director of Externships and Field-Based Learning, prior to acceptance.  Students will have a chance to discuss potential placements during these conversations as well. Decisions will be made by early September. There will likely be a limit of between 10 to 12 students. More detailed information follows.