Announced by then-Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in his 2014 State of the Judiciary address, the Pro Bono Scholars Program (PBSP) allows students in their final year of law school to devote their last semester of study to performing pro bono service for the poor through an approved externship program, law school clinic, legal services provider, law firm or corporation.
The Pro Bono Scholars Program represents a partnership among the Judiciary, the law schools and the profession with the goal of revitalizing legal education to adapt to society’s changing needs. This new option in legal education will simultaneously better assist students in preparing for the actual practice of law, impress upon them the value of public service at the start of their careers, and provide much-needed assistance to those of limited means in our state.
Students who are accepted into the Pro Bono Scholars Program will spend 12 weeks working full time in a pro bono placement, while also completing an academic component at their law school. Students will have the opportunity to develop quality mentoring relationships and receive invaluable practical training under the supervision of both a practicing lawyer and a faculty member. As an additional benefit for participating in the program, students will be permitted to take the New York bar examination in February of their final year of study, before they graduate. Upon successful completion of the program and any other graduation requirements, students will be awarded their Juris Doctor degree and be admitted to practice as soon as practicable after graduation. Therefore, by participating in the program, students can accelerate the pace at which they can enter the legal market as licensed attorneys.
The first of its kind in the country, the program is designed to reinforce the legal profession’s commitment to a culture of service while generating countless hours of pro bono work each year on behalf of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.