Apply to the Pro Bono Scholars Program

Applications are open on June 11, 2021, and must be received no later than Sunday, August 1, 2021. There is a rolling admissions process that will maximize the availability of placement options; the sooner accepted, the sooner students can apply for placements.

Applications must be e-mailed as a single PDF file to Professor Spinak ([email protected]) with a cc to Michelle Ellis ([email protected] ). Each application will be acknowledged by Ms. Ellis upon receipt. If your application has not been acknowledged within 24 hours (or on the Monday after a weekend), please email Ms. Ellis to confirm receipt.

For more information, contact Professor Spinak by email ([email protected]).


Date Event

June 11—August 1

Rolling admission

July 1—September 15 Select and finalize placements

The application consists of one PDF document containing, in this order:

  1. A current resume

  2. A personal statement of no more than five double-spaced pages that includes discussion of:

    • The applicant’s reasons for wanting to participate in the PBSP, particularly around issues of professional development and identity as well as public service. This should include the applicant’s ideas about what type of externship placement the applicant would like to consider and may include a discussion of specific placements.
    • The applicant’s readiness for the PBSP, with particular attention to previous life and work experiences, law school classes and activities, and other relevant preparation; and

    • Interest in pursuing a public interest or service career or committing to substantial pro bono service while working in the private sector;

  3. A statement that the applicant (on the attached form):

    • Understands that an applicant to Columbia’s PBSP is bound to participate in the program in its entirety, for its full semester duration upon acceptance, and that no withdrawal from the program will be permitted;

    • Has had a conversation with an academic advisor to be assured that the applicant has sufficient experiential credits remaining to fulfill the ABA and Columbia requirements for graduation;
    • Has registered for (or preferably completed) the Major Writing requirement;
    • Has met with a staff member in the Financial Aid Office for applicants interested in discussing bar loan options; and
    • Has or will have completed the required Professional Responsibility credits by the end of Fall 2021 semester.
  4. A copy of the applicant’s Columbia Law School transcript (unofficial transcript from Lawnet is acceptable).


Selection will be based upon the candidate’s:

  • Statement of interest in and learning goals for the externship, including all of the components listed above for the personal statement;
  • Preparation through classes, employment or other activities or experiences for shouldering this significant obligation;
  • Skill set and demonstrated professional responsibility readiness.

Following a review of the application and, in some cases a meeting with Professor Spinak, a determination will be made whether the applicant is ready for the PBSP. Applicants must be available to consult with Professor Spinak once their application is submitted. Applying for the program alone will not guarantee acceptance. If an applicant is not accepted, Professor Spinak will discuss with the applicant recommendations for other experiences for the applicant to pursue during the 3L year.