Pro Bono Scholars Program

Our Pro Bono Scholars present their research at a conference, "Access to Justice in Buffalo and Beyond: How Pro Bono Scholars and Other Volunteers Transform Lives."

A win-win arrangement, our highly-competitive Pro Bono Scholars Program gives students an opportunity to jumpstart their careers and fulfil their pro bono service requirement.

The School of Law's Pro Bono Scholars Program gives third-year law students the opportunity to take the February New York State Bar before they graduate, then work full-time in a pro bono placement while taking one course for their final semester of law school. The course, taught partially via distance, explores access to justice issues and lawyering skills, and includes a short paper and presentation at a local conference.

This program was initiated by the NY Court of Appeals in 2015, and in its inaugural year, the School of Law had the largest number of Pro Bono Scholars of any law school in the state. Applications for its second year were also very competitive - only half of UB applicants were admitted to the program. In 2016, one third of the placements were with community partners in Rochester.

Over the past two years, Pro Bono Scholars have served in the following placements: 

  • Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.;
  • The Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer’s Project;
  • Center for Elder Law and Justice;
  • Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc.;
  • Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Inc.;
  • Legal Aid of Rochester;
  • Empire Justice; and
  • Volunteer Legal Services Project (Rochester)
Additional or different placements may be available for 2017 Scholars.

Although we will check with approved Scholars as to preferences, students may not choose a particular placement - final placements will be made by the Court in consultation with the law school.

To Participate

To Participate

How can I become a Pro Bono Scholar?

Acceptance into the program is a four-step process: 

  • first a law school committee will review applications and select Pro Bono Scholar Candidates,
  • then the Pro Bono Scholars Program Office in Court of Appeals for the State of New York will review the selected candidates and issue final approval. 
  • Pro Bono Scholars are then matched with an approved placement based on their interest and placement availability.
  • and finally, the Pro Bono Scholar Program Office approves the placement and the assurance from the Law School that the Pro Bono Scholars will graduate if they successfully complete the Program.

Law students apply online. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 21, 2017. Students should be notified of selections by the end of May.

Along with your application, please submit the following materials to

  • Your resume
  • An unofficial transcript
  • A writing sample

What does this mean for me taking the bar and when do the placements start?

If you are selected, you will be eligible to take the February bar examination. The Monday after the exam, you will serve full time for 12 weeks (from March - May 2018) in a local pro bono placement, while also completing a 3-credit seminar course at the law school.

Why should I consider this program?

As a Scholar, you will be providing access to justice for those in need and getting significant experience and developing contacts in the public interest field locally and statewide. Accepted Scholars for next year will also be permitted to take the New York bar examination in February 2018 (before graduation).

Upon successful completion of the program and any other graduation requirements, you will be awarded your Juris Doctor degree and, assuming success on the bar exam and meeting of other bar requirements, be admitted to practice as soon as practicable after graduation. Therefore, by participating in the program, you accelerate the pace at which you can enter the legal market as a licensed attorney, with a semester of full-time experience.

If you have any questions, please contact Melinda R. Saran, Vice Dean for Social Justice Initiatives.