Forms & Guidelines
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What Counts for Columbia Pro Bono Credit?
These tips are governed by the formal Guidelines for Pro Bono at Columbia Law School. We encourage all students to review the complete Guidelines.
NOTE: There are key differences between what counts for Columbia Pro Bono Credit and what counts under the 50 Hour Pro Bono Requirement for the New York State Bar. Please read details of the New York rule here.
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.
To qualify for credit, pro bono projects must be:
1. Law-related. The project requires knowledge of the law for completion.
2. Supervised by an attorney (either directly or indirectly). The supervisor will sign off on the final work product (and/or a Student-Initiated Petition, if applicable).
3. In the public interest. Public interest work includes legal services to those without the financial resources to pay counsel or aimed at securing or protecting civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights, improving the legal profession, the judicial system, or the public's understanding of public interest law. See below for more specific projects.
4. Uncompensated. Students may not receive any form of financial remuneration (salary, stipend, or grant) or academic credit (writing or other) for their work.
Established Pro Bono Placements (those which do not need a Student-Initiated Petition) include:
- Columbia Law School’s In-House Pro Bono Projects, including student-run and firm collaborations. Descriptions of individual projects and contact information can be found on this document.
- Additional, uncompensated weeks worked at a Guaranteed Summer Funding or Human Rights Internship Program summer placement.
- Uncompensated, law-related work at legal services, legal aid, or advocacy 501(c)(3) organizations, or public defender offices (such as American Civil Liberties Union, Legal Aid Society, New York Legal Assistance Group, Legal Services NYC, Bronx Defenders, AALDEF, etc.)
- Uncompensated, law-related work at government agencies and offices (at the local, state, or national level, such as District Attorney’s offices, U.S. Department of Justice, New York City Council, etc.)
- Columbia Law School D.C. Externship placements, during a semester in which the student is not enrolled in the Externship and/or during weeks beyond the time that a student is required to work for academic credit.
- Judicial Clerkships that are unpaid and not used as the basis of academic credit. For inquiries related to Clerkships that are a part of Columbia’s Judicial Externship, see externship requirements below.
- Spring Break Caravans, sponsored by SJI and led by student groups and individuals. For more information on Caravans, visit our Caravans page.
Placements that may qualify for pro bono credit with the pre-approval of a Student-Initiated Petition include:
- A law firm’s pro bono, public interest work, for which the firm is not compensated and during a week in which the student is not being paid for his/her work
- Columbia Law School clinics, during a semester in which the student is not enrolled in the clinic
- Columbia Law School externship placements (including the Judicial Externship), during a semester in which the student is not enrolled in the externship
- Nonprofit [501(c)(3)] organization whose primary purpose may not be legal, as long as the work itself is law-related and supervised by an attorney
Please note that this outline is neither exhaustive nor all-inclusive. If you have a potential pro bono project but you are unsure whether or not it will qualify for pro bono credit, please contact Laren Spirer.
In order to claim Columbia pro bono credit, whether mandatory or voluntary, students must complete and submit at least two forms within 30 days of completing each placement:
- An Exit Questionnaire, to be completed by the student (for instructions, see below), and
- A Supervisor’s Report, to be completed by the supervising attorney (for instructions, see below).
- Some projects also may require a student to complete a Student-Initiated Petition prior to beginning the work.
The Exit Questionnaire and Supervisor’s Report are completed via LawNet. To fill out an Exit Questionnaire, go to My Services, select "Pro Bono Status" under SJI and click "Fill out Exit Questionnaire" to complete this form electronically. Once you have completed your Exit Questionnaire, you will receive a prompt to send a Supervisor’s Report to your supervisor for completion. You may also request a Supervisor’s Report by clicking on the “Action” button next to the relevant placement and selecting “Request Supervisor’s Report.”
NOTE: Pro bono hours will not be credited until both mandatory forms (Exit Questionnaire and Supervisor’s Report) have been submitted and approved by SJI. Each form must be submitted within 30 days of project completion, whether for mandatory or voluntary credit.
This form is required for pro bono work completed at non-established placements (see the guidelines above for more information regarding projects that require a Student-Initiated Petition).