Pro Bono Scholars Program

3L Spring Semester Full-time Externship with Early Admission to the New York Bar

Spring 2024 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, which satisfy their experiential learning requirement and their pro bono hours, all in their last semester of their 3L year.

Pro Bono Scholars sit for the February 2024 Bar Examination and, upon successful passage, gain early admission to the New York Bar in the summer following graduation. CLS graduates receive their diploma/graduate certification on June 30, 2024 and so may be sworn into the bar as early as July 2024.

Approximately 12 students will be accepted into the program.

The PBSP officially begins at the start of the Spring 2024 semester, although students will begin studying for the bar exam before the Spring semester begins. Students will prepare for the bar exam during January and February, 2023. To abide by federal regulations concerning financial aid eligibility and to receive federal loan disbursements during the time students are studying for the bar, students in the PBSP are required to participate in a small number of meetings and/or assignments during the study period. After sitting for the bar exam, which is expected to be February 27-28, 2024, students will begin fulltime participation in the PBSP on March 4, 2024. Students will work and prepare for/attend class approximately 45 hours per week. Each Thursday, students will work at their placements 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. PBSP seminar is designed to support students in their professional development and identity. Course materials and experiences will be structured around the participants’ planned work settings as well as social justice issues more broadly.

Classes will likely end on May 23 and placements will likely end on May 24, 2023. Given the timing of the bar exam and the PBSP hours requirement, participants will be working through Spring Break. While the PBSP finishes just after CLS graduation, students will be entitled to participate in all graduation activities (though they receive a June degree).

Students may be able to negotiate with their placements to finish their work/hours requirements before graduation by working additional hours earlier in the placement and/or to work an additional week following graduation if they have not completed their hours.

Classes in the PBSP will create space for participants to consider the meaning of professional life and the role of professional responsibility obligations and values within that life. The classes will draw on the students’ experiences working in their public interest placements as well as build on students’ previous summer employment and experiential, doctrinal and theoretical law school courses. One of the key goals of the PBSP is to 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.

Peggy Cross-Goldenberg is the PBSP instructor and students may contact her with questions. They can also contact the Director of Externships and Field Placements, Liliana Vaamonde.

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.

There will be a zoom informational meeting for interested students on Thursday April 13 from 12:10 to 1:00 pm. It will be posted on the CLS calendar for access and a link will also be provided in several emails to rising 2L students. Students unable to attend can view a recording. Applications for the 2024 PBSP class will open on April 10, 2023 and are due by April 24.