Pro Bono Scholars Program

3L Spring Semester Full-time Externship

Early Admission to the New York Bar

Spring 2021 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. They may also satisfy their minor writing credit requirement. Pro Bono Scholars sit for the February 2021 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, 2021 and so can be sworn into the bar as early as July 2021.

The PBS program officially begins at the start of the Spring 2021 semester. Assuming no changes due to Covid-19, students will prepare for the bar exam during January and February, 2021. 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 PBS 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 23-24, 2021, students will begin full-time participation in the PBS program on March 1, 2021. In Spring 2021, the PBS course will begin with a 5-day intensive introduction to professional development and identity at CLS. Course materials and experiences will be structured around the participants’ planned work settings as well as social justice issues more broadly.

Following the 5-day immersion course, students will begin working four and a half days per week at their placements. 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. The PBSP requires students to work and to prepare for/attend class 45 hours per week. The exact number of required hours will be established prior to the beginning of the program, as it may again be affected by Covid-19. Classes will end on May 13. Placements officially end on May 22, 2021. While the PBSP finishes just after CLS graduation, students will be entitled to participate in all graduation activities. Students may be able to negotiate with their placements to finish their work/hours requirements by May 14 by working additional hours earlier in the placement and/or to work the week following graduation if they have not completed their hours.

Classes in the PBSP will focus 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.

The Spring 2021 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.