Pro Bono Scholars Program Approved, Early Bar Exam and Pro Bono Work

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on February 19, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

One would be hard-pressed to argue that pro bono is not a good idea; it's one of the most noble things an attorney can do, and is a service to society. New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has long been a proponent of attorneys volunteering for pro bono work, going so far as to make it a requirement that aspiring attorneys in New York perform 50 hours of pro bono work before they can be admitted to the New York State Bar Association.

Pro Bono Scholars Program

Last week, Judge Lippman went a step further and announced the Pro Bono Scholars Program, in his State of the Judiciary speech. In the program, third-year law students would devote their last semester doing pro bono work, receiving law school credit for the work they do. In addition, students in the Pro Bono Scholars Program would be allowed to take the February bar exam, reports The New York Times.

Citing the decreasing trend of law school admissions, and the call for elimination of the third year of law school by some, including President Obama, Judge Lippman stated, "rather than discarding the third year of law school, why not give law students choices that can make all three years of law school more meaningful and worthwhile?"

Thoughts on Third Year

The third year of law school has definitely lost a lot of popularity recently, and the Pro Bono Scholars Program has its share of supporters. Cardozo School of Law Dean Mathew Diller stated, "What I really like about it is he's simultaneously tackling two major problems with this initiative ... There are smart, talented young lawyers coming out of law school who can contribute," according to The New York Times. This kind of program makes sense in light of the growing popularity of clinics.

Others were more hesitant and expressed "cautious enthusiasm" like Law Professor Brian Tamanaha who stated, "Making these changes won't necessarily chance the economic situation [law students] are facing," reports the Times.

What are your thoughts on the third year of law school? If you had the option, would you enroll in the Pro Bono Scholars Program? Tweet us @FindLawLP.

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