Throughout his three years at St. John’s, Rashad Moore says, he was intentional about crafting an experience that would give him the skills he needs to be an impactful lawyer. So, naturally, he jumped at the opportunity to spend 12 weeks immersed in hands-on legal practice as a Pro Bono Scholar.
Established in 2014, New York’s Pro Bono Scholars Program allows students to devote the last semester of their 3L year to performing pro bono service for underserved and marginalized individuals and communities. St. John’s Pro Bono Scholars work full time in approved law school clinic, legal services, government, or nonprofit placements while completing companion coursework at their law school. As an added benefit, they can take the February New York bar exam and fast track their legal career.
“The Pro Bono Scholars Program was a perfect capstone to my studies at St. Johns Law,” Moore says of his placement in the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Appeals Bureau, Domestic Violence Survivor Justice Act Unit, under the supervision of Professor Martin J. LaFalce. “I got to spend 12 weeks helping individuals and learning what kind of lawyer I want to be—something you can’t learn in the classroom.”
Over the course of the semester, Moore worked on resentencing matters. He visited incarcerated clients, conducted research, and drafted memos, among other assignments. “I was empowered to work up actual cases and develop themes to support Legal Aid’s position on resentencing,” he shares. “It was a formative experience.”
That experience was only enhanced when Moore took and passed the February bar exam. “Passing the bar means the world to me,” he says of the milestone achievement. “It’s great for non-legal reasons, like graduation becoming the culmination of everything I’ve done over the past three years. But it also allows me to take this summer to rest and then begin my full-time work as an appellate public defender at the Center for Appellate Litigation fully refreshed.”
As he looks forward to starting his legal career, Moore is grateful for the Pro Bono Scholars Program and the practical foundation it helped him set. “I’m ready for the work ahead,” he says. “What excites me most about my new role is that I’ll be able to give a voice to the voiceless. I’ll be able to champion the stories of those who have been forgotten about by the criminal legal system. It’s a privilege and an honor to use my St. John’s law degree in service to others.”