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Pro Bono Scholars Program

We are pleased to announce the Pro Bono Scholars Program at St. John’s Law, which permits eligible students to take the New York bar exam in February of their senior year in exchange for completing 12 weeks of full-time, supervised, pro bono work from March through May of their final semester.

Overview of the Program

The New York Court of Appeals announced of the Pro Bono Scholars Program, which will enable students in their final year of law school to sit for the bar exam in February, rather than July, in exchange for working full-time in a qualified pro bono placement from March through the end of May. Participants will graduate in June and become licensed to practice law shortly thereafter. The character-and-fitness process will be fast-tracked for students in the program.  Students are selected by their respective law schools, with final determinations made by the Office of Court Administration.

Available Placements

Most of the placements in SJU’s implementation of the Pro Bono Scholars Program will be with our in-house and partner clinics that meet the definition of “pro bono” under the program, which are:

  • Bankruptcy Advocacy Clinic
  • Child Advocacy Clinic
  • Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic
  • Criminal Defense Clinic
  • Domestic Violence Litigation Clinic
  • Economic Justice Clinic
  • Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic
  • Tenants’ Rights Advocacy Clinic

Credit Hours and Requirements

Participating SJU students are awarded 16 credits total during their PBSP semester. There are two placement components (6 and 4 credits). The first is graded pass-fail, while the second is assigned a letter grade by the placement supervisor. Students also participate in a second semester of a clinic (4 credits). Finally, there is a practice-writing component in which students build, edit, and revise a portfolio of documents based on their experience; this earns 2 graded credits.

514 hours are required at the placement, which is approximately 43 hours per week exclusive of time in the seminar.

Enrollment

Limited to 30 students.

Eligibility

  1. A student’s class rank after the third semester (full-time students) or fifth semester (part-time students) must be in the top 60% of the class, which must be maintained through the fourth (full-time) or sixth (part-time) semester;
  2. Students selected for the program may not serve on executive boards of co-curricular activities; and
  3. Students who have registered for, or completed, a practicum are ineligible to participate in this program.

Pre-Requisites

Required: Successful completion, by the end of the second-to-last semester, of all degree requirements except for total degree credits. Selected candidates will also need to take a Clinic during both the Fall and Spring semesters of their 3L year, and so must demonstrate acceptance to (or a pending application with) a Clinic at the time of application.

Application

Download the application: Pro Bono Scholars Program Application 2021-2022. For 2021-22, the application deadline is April 9, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Additional Information

Watch Dean Cunningham’s video podcast, which describes the program, rules, requirements, eligibility, and application procedure:

In addition, please review Chief Judge Lippman’s program guide and other information on the Pro Bono Scholars website.

Questions?

Please contact Professor Ann Goldweber.


Catalogue Descriptions of the PBSP Courses

PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT I (6 Credits) – The New York Court of Appeals’ Pro Bono Scholars Program allows selected students to sit for the bar exam in their final semester and then undertake 12 weeks of full-time pro bono service at an eligible, approved clinic or placement. Students receive a total of 10 credits for their work in the clinic or placement. 6 credits are pass/fail; they are taken as this course, PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT I.   4 credits are graded by the clinic/site supervisor; they are taken as the co-requisite course, PBSP PLACEMENT II. A total of 514 hours at the clinic or placement is required (approximately 43 hours per week). Applications are accepted in the Spring semester preceding a student’s final year. Applications for this competitive program are then reviewed by a committee of faculty and administrators. Enrollment is limited. Pre-requisite – successful completion, by the end of the second-to-last semester, of all degree requirements except for total degree credits and/or the Advanced Practice Writing Requirement. Eligibility – (1) A student’s class rank after the third semester (full-time students) or fifth semester (part-time students) must be in the top 60% of the class, which must be maintained through the fourth semester; (2) students selected for the program may not serve on executive boards of co-curricular activities, except that in the first year of the program [2014-15] the committee may waive this prohibition, since elections have long ago occurred; (3) students who, prior to the final semester, will have had more than four credits of clinical or externship coursework are not eligible to participate, except that during the first two years of the program (2014-15 and 2015-16), the selection committee may waive this limitation to accommodate current students who may have registered for, or completed, up to eight credits of such coursework; and (4) students who have registered for, or completed, a practicum are ineligible to participate in this program. If the student will be participating as a Pro Bono Scholar in one of our clinics, it is recommended that the student have been in the same clinic during a prior semester. This will be taken into account during the application review phase of the program. Co-requisites – PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART II; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM SEMINAR; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PRACTICE WRITING TUTORIAL.

PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT II (4 Credits) – The New York Court of Appeals’ Pro Bono Scholars Program allows selected students to sit for the bar exam in their final semester and then undertake 12 weeks of full-time pro bono service at an eligible, approved clinic or placement. Students receive a total of 10 credits for their work in the clinic or placement. 6 credits are pass/fail; they are taken as the co-requisite course, PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT I.   4 credits are graded by the clinic/site supervisor; they are taken as this course, PBSP PLACEMENT II. For pre-requisites and eligibility, see PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT I. Co-requisites – PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART I; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM SEMINAR; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PRACTICE WRITING TUTORIAL.

PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM SEMINAR (2 Credits) – For students who are selected for the New York Court of Appeals’ Pro Bono Scholars Program. Students in the seminar build upon the skills and professional values they learned up until that point in law school, including the skills most relevant to their pro bono experience: identifying and resolving ethical issues, client/witness interviewing, client counseling, legal research, writing, advocacy, negotiation, mediation, case/project management, and working with teams and supervisors. They will also reflect upon their clinical or field experience, with special consideration of access to justice issues.   Grades are based on in-class exercises, weekly reflection papers, class participation, and an oral presentation on a relevant legal, professional, or justice issue. Co-requisites – PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART I; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART II; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PRACTICE WRITING TUTORIAL.

PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PRACTICE WRITING TUTORIAL (2 credits) – For students who are selected for the New York Court of Appeals’ Pro Bono Scholars Program. Students in the program will build and refine a portfolio of documents, properly redacted, that they created during their clinical or field experience. Midway through the program, an individual conference will be held with a faculty member to review the students’ written work and to provide feedback. The final portfolio is due at the end of the program. Grades are based on the quality of the student’s portfolio. Satisfies the Advanced Practice Writing Requirement. Co-requisites – PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART I; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM PLACEMENT PART II; PRO BONO SCHOLARS PROGRAM SEMINAR.

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