Through implementation of its pro bono requirement, the Law School expresses its conviction that service pro bono publico (“for the public good”) is a cornerstone of every attorney’s professional responsibilities.
Columbia Law School is one of a small group of law schools nationwide that requires all J.D. students to do pro bono legal work during law school. By doing pro bono legal work while in law school, students prepare to join lawyers, in all practice areas, who provide free legal services to individuals and groups who cannot afford these services or whose needs are underrepresented. Students find that their pro bono service is among the most satisfying experiences they have at law school, whether they plan to work at a large or small law firm, a public interest organization, a government agency, or as a solo practitioner. Pro bono lets students work with others to make a meaningful contribution for people seeking access to justice, the rule of law, and solutions to critical community concerns. Students also can learn what practice areas and techniques appeal to them.
Columbia's “mandatory pro bono program,” which requires that students perform at least 40 hours of uncompensated public interest work in order to graduate, is nonideological and is shaped by student interests and needs as well as requests by public interest lawyers and organizations. Social Justice Initiatives has developed a variety of In-House Projects and Spring Break Caravans and maintains a database of more than 1,000 distinct placements that can qualify for the pro bono requirement. Students also may design and receive credit for pro bono projects that suit their individual interests.
Work that counts towards the mandatory pro bono requirement must be completed after the first year of law school and before April 1 of the third year.
Watch our a short introductory video Pro Bono 101.
If you are an attorney seeking pro bono help for a public interest matter from one of our students, please visit our Employers page.
Our office does not offer legal advice to individuals or organizations.
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