Skills Competency Requirement

The New York Court of Appeals has identified five pathways through which applicants for admission to practice may satisfy the requirement to "demonstrate that the applicant possesses the skills and values necessary to provide effective, ethical and responsible legal services in this State."

This requirement applies to

  • J.D. students commencing their studies after August 1, 2016
  • LL.M. students commencing their studies after August 1, 2018.​

Prior to applying to the New York Bar, all students should review carefully the information provided by the New York Court of Appeals as well as the FAQs.

Pathway 1

Pathway 1 allows applicants to satisfy the skills competency requirement by submitting a certification from their law school confirming that (1) the school’s curriculum incorporates the teaching of skills and professional values required for participation in the legal profession, and (2) that the applicant has acquired sufficient competency in those skills and sufficient familiarity with those values.

Fulfillment of Requirement: Columbia Law School J.D. students are introduced to a core set of skills and professional values as part of the standard required curriculum. In order to satisfy Pathway I, students must complete the educational program described below.

Students' training begins in the first year of the J.D. program with the foundational Legal Methods course, which provides an introduction to legal institutions and processes and the skills necessary in the professional use of case law and legislation. Students learn about the sources, forms, and development of Anglo-American law, the analysis and synthesis of judicial precedents, the interpretation of statutes, the coordination of judge-made and statute law, and the uses of legal reasoning. 

Starting with the Class of 2021, Legal Methods will be divided into intensive components. Building on the extant Legal Methods course, Legal Methods II is taught over five, three-hour sessions in January, continues this methodological approach but broadens it to give students a menu of choices, reflecting methods employed by lawyers in different professional contexts. Students obtain a background in the principles, theories, and history underpinning the methods being examined. In addition, students engage in experiential work, in which they actively use and reflect upon these methods. Current offerings include Financial Methods for Lawyers, Methods of Persuasion, Methods of Statutory Drafting and Persuasion, Social Justice Advocacy, and Transnational Law and Legal Process.

In addition, students receive training in a range of professional skills and values as part of the required first-year Legal Practice Workshop. The list of skills covered includes:

  • Legal analysis
  • Legal research
  • Written communication, including
  1. organization of legal writing
  2. persuasion and legal rhetoric
  3. reflection, editing, and revision
  4. proper documentation of and citation to research sources appellate brief writing
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Oral communication and advocacy
  • Client Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Professionalism

Note: LL.M. students who plan to sit for the New York Bar are required to take a similar two-credit Legal Research and Writing course in the fall semester. The skills and professional values acquired by the LL.M. students in the Legal Research and Writing course are equivalent to those acquired by the J.D. students in the fall component of the Legal Practice Workshop.

Finally, students acquire the following analytical skills in their other required first-year Foundation courses (Contracts, Civil Procedure, Torts, Criminal Law, Property, and Constitutional Law):

  1. Understanding of and facility in the influences of political institutions in law
  2. Understanding of and facility in a specific body of law, including major policy concerns
  3. Understanding of and facility in doctrinal analysis, including close reading of cases and precedents, and application to facts

In their upper years, students must satisfy the following additional requirements:

  • at least one course in legal ethics and professional responsibility, selecting from a menu of general offerings or courses set in different practice contexts;
  • two faculty-supervised writing and research projects;
  • enough experiential courses to ensure they complete by graduation no fewer than six credits of experiential learning as defined in revised ABA Standard 303(a)(3), which may be earned in a combination of clinics, externships, simulations, practica, policy labs, and moot court offerings. For specific information about experiential offerings, see law.columbia.edu/experiential-learning;
  • the Class of 2021 and thereafter will also complete a course in Legislation and Regulation.

Students in the upper years can choose among a variety of experiential offerings that range across the varieties of legal practice and that build upon the skills introduced in the first-year and immerse students in an additional set of core skills and professional values. Students select from a menu of clinics, externships, simulations, policy and social justice labs, and faculty supervised independent experiential projects. Columbia’s experiential offerings provide instruction in one or more of the following core skills and values:

  • Effective approaches to problem solving: gathering facts, developing options, assessing the range of possible outcomes, and making decisions
  • Collaborating in teams
  • Critiquing one's own professional performance
  • Professionalism in the representation of clients, identification of personal goals related to development as a lawyer and ability to take advantage of opportunities to make progress on them
  • Drafting legal documents and professional correspondence
  • Continued development of basic skills and values acquired in the first year, including:

o Research skills and strategies; document review and analysis

o Analytical thinking; time management; information management o Interviewing and counseling

o Oral presentation

In addition, students are provided with myriad opportunities and guidance from counselors to help them define their particular intellectual and professional goals and choose courses that will provide them with opportunities to acquire additional skills and values tailored to these aspirations. Depending on the specific courses the students select, the skills and values they acquire will include some or all of the following:

  • Litigation skills, including crafting a theory of the case, communicating a client's goals effectively to a judicial or administrative tribunal, and use of important litigation tools, such as interviewing, motions practice, examination of lay and expert witnesses, oral argument, and briefing
  • Negotiation
  • Using information transfer and technologies in law and the legal profession
  • Applying other disciplines in the analysis and solution of legal problems and in institutional design, including cultural studies, economics, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology
  • Applying values-based considerations in law-making and legal problem-solving
  • Understanding the dynamics and strategies of multi-level systems change
  • Developing strategies for addressing structural inequality
  • Addressing differences between lawyers' and clients' cultural and economic backgrounds in the process of forming effective attorney-client relationships
  • Public administrative skills, including the structuring and restructuring of local, state, federal, and international institutions
  • Transactional lawyering, including
  1. Value creation, transactional procedures, and design of strategy for deals
  2. Analyzing, negotiating, and drafting deal terms
  3. Drafting and interpreting important documents used by practitioners in key substantive practice areas
  4. Communicating with and counseling individual and organizational clients on strategy and deal terms
  • Understanding principles of accounting and business finance
  1. Statistical reasoning
  2. Working effectively in cross-professional teams to solve multi-dimensional problems
  3. Written, oral, digital, and public communication and data display
  • Leadership and management

Pathway 2

Pathway 2 allows applicants to satisfy the requirement through certification of credit acquisition which confirms that the applicant enrolled in and successfully completed 15 credit hours, as defined by American Bar Association Standards for the Approval of Law Schools, of practice-based experiential coursework designed to foster the development of professional competencies.

Fulfillment of Requirement: J.D. candidates who have successfully completed 15 points of experiential credit can demonstrate satisfaction of the requirement through Pathway 2, in addition to Pathway 1.

Pathway 5

Pathway 5 allows an applicant who has been authorized to practice law in another state, or in a commonwealth, territory or country outside the United States, to meet the skills competency requirement by establishing that the applicant has been in good standing and practiced law full-time for one year or part-time for two years.

Fulfillment of Requirement: The majority of LLM students will fulfill the skills requirement through Pathway 5. 

Pathway 3

Pathway 3 provides that any applicant who has successfully completed the Pro Bono Scholars Program (“PBSP”) will be deemed to have satisfied the skills competency requirement. The Pro Bono Scholars Program, implemented in New York in 2014, gives law students the option to take the bar examination early and spend their final semester of study performing pro bono work.

Fulfillment of Requirement: Students who elect to follow the Pro Bono Scholars program will be able to demonstrate the necessary skills and values required for legal practice and qualify for admission to the New York Bar under Pathway 3 in addition to Pathway 1.

Pathway 4

Pathway 4 allows applicants to complete a post-graduation six-month apprenticeship in the United States, or in a commonwealth, territory or country outside the United States, under the supervision of an attorney authorized to practice and in good standing in the jurisdiction where the work is performed. The apprenticeship can be paid or unpaid. 

Fulfillment of Requirement: Students who participate in the Social Justice Pathways Fellowship, which enables JD graduates obtain positions in public interest organizations under the supervision of licensed attorneys, will be able to demonstrate their skills and values competency through Pathway 4, as well as Pathway 1.