Pursuant to the Pro Bono Scholar Program rules, the program begins the week of March 4, 2024 (the week following the bar exam) and continues until May 24, 2024. Scholars will be able to participate in the Law School’s graduation ceremonies but will not graduate until June 30, 2024.
Students may have a small number of meetings/assignments for the program during the period they are studying for the bar to meet federal requirements for financial aid disbursements.
During this time, students will identify more fully their learning goals for the semester and begin to consider how they will accomplish those goals. Students will consider a wide variety of professional competencies and values that will inform the direction of their work during the semester as well their broader career paths. Students will also engage in activities and review materials that identify a range of systemic issues that they will encounter during the semester and into their careers including structural and other barriers to access to justice; interdisciplinary approaches to developing effective relationships with clients in a range of settings; innovative strategies for providing effective representation; and understanding the larger systemic context of social justice.
Students will be introduced to methodologies for developing professional competence, diligence and ethical values including initiative, judgment and leadership. Specific professional responsibility issues such as the use of technology and confidentiality and being a member of a law office may be explored as students prepare to begin their externships.
Once externship placements begin, students will spend one afternoon a week at CLS preparing for and participating in a class that will build on the issues introduced in the immersion week and that begin to arise in their placement work. Some classes will include case or work rounds (with the necessary confidentiality constraints), presentations by students individually or in teams, discussions with practitioners or other experts, and classes built around issues that students have identified as key to enhancing their understanding of their externship work or broader professional goals. On occasion, class may be held in another location as part of a field trip.
During the semester, students will provide periodic reflections grounded in both class and work experiences. Other short written assignments may be required. Each student will be responsible for a final paper and presentation.
Students will receive a letter grade for coursework and credit/no credit for field work.
The field component will be the central focus on the semester. Students working four and half days per week will be engaged in legal work expected of lawyers entering their first jobs.
Students may choose placement with legal organizations that satisfy the PBSP’s requirements, such as civil, criminal and family defense offices. LawHelp-NY has a directory of legal aid and services origanizations that can be found at lawhelpny.org/find-legal-help. In past years, students have had placements at the Advocates for Children, the Bronx Defenders, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the Legal Aid Society, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Sanctuary for Families, Start Small/Think Big, Urban Justice Center, and Volunteers for Legal Services among others. The Office of Court Administration’s (OCA) PBS Coordinator maintains a list of placements that is updated each year.
Students accepted into PBSP will work with Professor Cross- Goldenberg to identify and apply to placements likely to provide an opportunity to work on issues and explore advocacy methodologies of interest to them. Students are strongly encouraged to identify their own preferred placements based on their interests and experience. Students will be expected to take all the formal steps necessary to apply for their positions, including writing cover letters and participating in interviews.
These efforts can begin as soon as the student has completed all of the screening requirements listed above and is accepted into the program.
Depending on the practice of their field placements, the students will have a variety of the following opportunities, among others:
- to gain exposure to and/or experience in interdisciplinary social justice advocacy, including community organizing, policy advocacy, and communications;
- to engage with and learn about low-income individuals, communities; community-based organizations as well as government agencies and structures;
- to observe and reflect about advocating for social justice, professionalism, ethics, professional goals and lawyering roles;
- to develop and practice professional judgment in the context of solving legal problems;
- to engage in legal research and analysis;
- to draft descriptive, predictive, persuasive and/or dispositional legal writing;
- to develop other professional skills, such as fact investigation including drafting of discovery documents, client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, oral advocacy, organization and management, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas;
- to build a professional network of lawyers, other professionals and advocates and community members for future professional development.