Larry Cunningham on Launching Pro Bono Scholars Program at St. John's Law
Courts, Law Schools Gear Up for Pro Bono Scholar Program
By Tania Karas
New York Law Journal
New York's 15 law schools and the state court system are laying the groundwork for a new Pro Bono Scholars program, where students can dedicate their final semester to pro bono work on behalf of low-income clients in exchange for early bar admission.
Starting next spring, about 150 students will spend 12 weeks working full-time for a law school clinic, legal services nonprofit, government agency or law firm. Placements will begin March 2, after participants take the February bar exam.
The inaugural class of scholars is also small due to timing. The program was rolled out late in the spring, so most rising third-years had already set their academic schedules.
Some schools have not selected their students yet, while others are still adding more.
"The students we picked had to adjust their class schedules so they can complete their degree requirements in time," said Larry Cunningham, associate academic dean at St. John's Law. "I anticipate we'll have more students next year."
Schools seeking external placements for their students may get help through the task force's matching program, which is building partnerships with legal nonprofits, government agencies and law firms.
Each school has set up its Pro Bono Scholars offerings differently. At St. John's, students will work full-time in the school's existing legal clinics. All are required to have taken the clinic as a class in a prior semester, Cunningham said, so that they already would be familiar with the law and procedures at the start of their 12 weeks in the Pro Bono Scholars program.