Chief Judge Johnathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals has announced a new program designed to allow third-year law students to sit for the bar exam in February, so long as they devote their final semester to pro bono work. As part of the program, students would begin studying for the bar after completing fall semester, and start their pro bono work after the exam in February. Chief Justice Lippman announced his approval of the Pro Bono Scholars Program in his annual speech on the state of the judiciary.
Ideally, the program will give indigent clients more access to legal representation, while also helping students gain the practical legal experience needed upon graduation from law school. The program is one of many in the recent movement toward making law school curriculum more experiential. Critics of the program, however, have raised concerns about the short study period for the bar exam, whether the skills learned through the pro bono work would be beneficial to students who seek large firm or corporate jobs, and whether the legal services third-year students can offer are adequate.
Katherine Kirk is a third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to firstname.lastname@example.org.