Pro Bono Scholars Program Externship

LW.12651 / LW.12763
Professor Paula Galowitz
Open to 3L students
Maximum of 10 students
Spring semester
14 credits*
No prerequisites.


The Pro Bono Scholars Program (PBSP) was created under special rules of the New York Court of Appeals to allow law students to take the New York Bar Exam in February of their 3L year if they commit to spending the last semester of law school working full time on pro bono legal work through the law school for credit. Through the NYU PBSP Externship, students can participate in this program in partnership with a civil legal services organization. After law students take the Bar Exam in February of 2021, their entire course load in the Spring semester (March through May) will consist of this externship. During the 12 weeks of this reconfigured semester, students will be expected to spend approximately 45 hours each week participating in the externship’s fieldwork and seminar.  

Course Description


The fieldwork component is the central focus of the PBSP. Students’ fieldwork represents 10 credits of the PBSP Externship. Students should include information in their applications about their interest in particular experiences and career directions so that these can be taken into account when assigning fieldwork placements. (For more information about the fieldwork assignment process, please see “Additional Information” section below.) Students assigned to one of the “Fieldwork Partners” discussed below will work with one or more attorneys in the particular non-profit, in consultation with Professor Paula Galowitz.

NYU students can also participate in the PBSP through the Education Advocacy Clinic (EAC) with Professors Randi Levine and Matthew Lenaghan, working on special education cases. Students interested in participating in the PBSP through the Education Advocacy Clinic should apply directly to that clinic.

Fieldwork Partners

PBSP Externship partners with public interest organizations for students’ fieldwork. Current possible partners are listed below, but students interested in PBSP should check the Pro Bono Scholars Program Externship description on the website during the application period because this list may grow/change.

1.    Bronx Defenders
The Bronx Defenders (BxD) is a public defender non-profit that is radically transforming how low-income people in the Bronx are represented in the justice system, and, in doing so, is transforming the system itself. Our staff of over 350 includes interdisciplinary teams made up of criminal, civil, immigration, and family defense attorneys, as well as social workers, benefits specialists, legal advocates, parent advocates, investigators, and team administrators, all of whom collaborate to provide holistic legal and social service advocacy. Through this integrated team-based structure, we have pioneered a groundbreaking, nationally-recognized model of representation called holistic defense that achieves better outcomes for our clients.

Our Civil Action Practice provides comprehensive legal services to our clients and their families by fully integrating civil representation with our Criminal and Family Defense Practices. Our goal is to minimize the severe and often unforeseen fallout from Criminal and Family Court proceedings, while facilitating the reintegration of our clients into their community. Our Civil Action Practice attorneys and legal advocates represent our clients in every forum in New York City—administrative, state, and federal—to address these problems. Civil attorneys and advocates provide comprehensive advocacy to help our clients resolve civil legal problems related to barriers to access to employment, public benefits, and housing (including eviction efforts); police misconduct and criminal record errors; and civil forfeiture.

Pro Bono Scholars will assist attorneys in every aspect of client representation. Their responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: preparing for hearings and trials; interviewing clients and witnesses; conducting legal research; writing legal motions; connecting clients with key services and resources, and representing clients in court, pursuant to the Student Practice Order.

2.    Disability Rights New York
Disability Rights New York (DRNY), the Protection and Advocacy System for New York State, is a statewide organization advancing the civil rights and legal rights of people with disabilities. DRNY challenges systemic abuse, neglect, discrimination, and legal rights violations through legal case-handling, individual and systemic reform litigation, public investigations, advocacy, and collaboration with stakeholders. Justice for individuals with disabilities is DRNY's focus.

Pro Bono Scholars will assist DRNY in providing pro bono legal representation to individuals with disabilities in New York. The student will be given a diverse experience, including opportunities to interact with and directly advocate for clients, conduct legal research on case-specific legal issues, participate in investigations of abuse and neglect, engage in community outreach, and help with litigation tasks such as drafting complaints, motions, petitions, and pleadings. Students will be supervised by a practicing attorney and will participate in both individual representation and systemic advocacy.

3.    Lawyers For Children
For over 35 years, Lawyers For Children (LFC) has advocated tirelessly on behalf of almost 30,000 children in New York City court proceedings involving: voluntary foster care placement, abuse, neglect, termination of parental rights, adoption, guardianship, paternity, custody and visitation. We give our clients the representation and resources they deserve— a voice in the decisions that affect them, guidance in evaluating their options and support for the next steps in their lives. By advocating, educating and empowering, we dramatically improve the lives of youth in foster care, who are predominantly children of color from poor and low-income families from the five boroughs of New York City, and compel comprehensive reform of the foster care system.

LFC employs a unique multi-disciplinary model, in which a lawyer and social worker, both with extensive experience and training in child advocacy, work together on every case. In addition, we support our clients through self-advocacy and community engagement, and use both the legislative and judicial systems to pursue reform of the foster care system so that all youth in foster care in NYC can overcome systemic barriers to success, break the cycle of poverty, and build bright futures for themselves and for their own families.

Pro Bono Scholars will assist LFC’s staff attorneys with their front-line litigation caseloads providing legal representation in the New York City Family Courts in foster care, abuse, neglect, termination of parental rights, adoption, custody, guardianship and visitation proceedings. Typically, this involves legal research and writing, including motion practice; appearances in court on the record under supervision; monitoring cases to insure compliance with Court orders; assisting with intake; trial preparation; and, client contact.  

4.    Mobilization for Justice—Housing Project

Mobilization for Justice’s mission is to achieve social justice, prioritizing the needs of people who are low-income, disenfranchised, or have disabilities. MFJ provides the highest quality, free, direct civil legal assistance; conducts community education and build partnerships, engages in policy advocacy, and brings impact litigation, with a focus on four key areas:  Housing; Economic Justice; Disability and Aging; and Children’s Rights. The Housing Project works to prevent homelessness by defending tenants in eviction proceedings, improve living conditions for tenants, while also fighting harassment and discrimination to keep people in their homes and their communities intact.

Pro Bono Scholars will work alongside staff attorneys in advocating for housing justice. Past Pro Bono Scholars and volunteers have assisted with all forms of litigation from intake to trials and appeals; drafted amicus briefs; testified before the City Council; collaborated with community partners to educate and empower tenants; participated in outreach; and performed legal research and writing.

5.    New York Legal Assistance Group—Consumer Protection Unit

Founded in 1990, the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) is a leading not-for-profit civil legal services organization advocating for adults, children, and families that are experiencing poverty or have low income. We tackle the legal challenges and systematic barriers that threaten our clients’ economic stability, well-being, and safety. We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion and constantly improving how we respond to systemic issues of racism that affect our clients in their pursuit of justice. We address emerging and urgent needs with comprehensive, free civil legal services, direct representation, impact litigation, policy advocacy, financial counseling, medical-legal partnerships, and community education and partnerships. Last year, we affected the lives of 90,800 people.

NYLAG’s consumer protection and foreclosure prevention attorneys work to eradicate abusive debt collection practices, lending violations, and fraud that create barriers to education, job mobility, stable housing, and, in some cases, safety for our clients. Our work promotes the long-term financial security of families with low incomes and aims to stop the cycle of debt and poverty.

Pro Bono Scholars in the Consumer Protection Unit may have the opportunity to represent clients in court, negotiate with opposing counsel, and argue before a judge. Pro Bono Scholars may appear in court in defense of debt collection actions (under attorney supervision), perform legal research, draft motion papers, create legal self-help and reference materials, work directly with clients, conduct client intakes, and more. Some light administrative work is expected, such as entering client data into our case management system.

6.    Queens Legal Services—Homeowner & Consumer Rights Project or Immigration Advocacy Project)

Founded in 1967, QLS seeks equal access to justice for all low-income residents of Queens through a range of legal advocacy, education and community partnerships. We provide free legal counseling, and representation in civil legal matters including housing, public and disability benefits, immigration, domestic violence prevention, consumer and homeowner protections, family law, access to education, and employment rights to eligible low-income individuals and families. We work with our clients and partners to identify and address root causes for systemic inequalities in Queens and throughout New York City. We provide civil legal services from our community based office in Jamaica and at the Queens Family Justice Center. We are part of a network of local programs that make up Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), the largest free civil legal services provider in the United States. The Pro Bono Scholar will be housed in either our Homeowner & Consumer Rights Project (“HCRP”) or our Immigration Advocacy Project (“IAP”).  

HCRP helps homeowners facing foreclosure and consumer debtors through litigation, non-litigation advocacy, and community education to challenge and eradicate abusive lending practices. We represent homeowners in foreclosure proceedings and in dealing with predatory lending, tax liens, and problems with reverse mortgages. We also assist consumers with a range of debt collection issues, including student loans, nursing home debt and credit collection lawsuits. Under supervision of an attorney, the Pro Bono Scholar will be involved in all aspects of our practice, including interviewing clients, conducting legal research, drafting pleadings and motions, and representing clients in court supervised settlement conferences.

Our IAP focuses a significant amount of our immigration work on domestic violence survivors, including VAWA Self-Petitions and Battered Spouse Waivers. We also work on removal defense, asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status applications, family-based petitions, naturalization, and applications for survivors of human trafficking. Under supervision of an attorney, the Pro Bono Scholar will be involved in all aspects of our practice, including interviewing clients, conducting legal research, preparing applications, and drafting petitions.  

7.    Sylvia Rivera Law Project

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social, and economic justice. We seek to increase the political voice and visibility of people of color and low-income people who are transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex (TGNCI). SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.

The Direct Services Team at SRLP provides direct legal representation for TGNCI people of color and/or low-income people. We currently have three project areas: Immigrant Justice, Prisoner Justice, and Survival & Self-Determination. These areas employ various strategies including direct client services, organizing legal support, public education, policy advocacy, and more to achieve self-determination and collective liberation for our clients.

A Pro Bono Scholar at SRLP will assist with the following, based on interest and client need:

  • manage their own docket of clients
  • conduct legal intakes
  • draft, finalize, and file petitions for incarcerated people in NYS county courts
  • draft, finalize, and file petitions for clients on the outside in NYC civil courts
  • work on asylum, T visa, permanent residency, and naturalization applications for clients with criminal histories
  • attend immigration and name change court proceedings
  • attend membership organizing meetings and provide legal research and other support for our campaigns, including our Shelter Organizing Campaign and work with our Prisoner Advisory Committee
  • conduct legal research and writing in immigration, name change, discrimination, benefits laws
  • review and edit Know Your Rights guides

Fluency in Spanish is preferred. SRLP encourages students who are people of color, trans people, gender nonconforming people and people with intersex conditions to apply.

8.    TakeRoot Justice—Workers’ Rights Practice Area

TakeRoot Justice provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.  

TakeRoot Justice employs a unique model of partnership with grassroots and community-based groups. Our partners take the lead in determining the priorities and goals for our work, and advance our understanding of justice. This upends the traditional power dynamics between communities and service providers. We believe in a theory of change where short-term and individual successes help build the capacity and power of our partners, who in turn can have longer term impact on policies, laws and systems that affect their communities. Our work has greater impact because it is done in connection with organizing, building power and leadership development.

The Workers’ Rights Practice Area’s mission is to ensure that labor and antidiscrimination laws are enforced and workers are able to lead lives of strength and dignity. We represent low-wage workers to recover stolen wages, and combat violations such as unpaid minimum wages and overtime, tip theft, discrimination, sexual harassment, labor trafficking, and retaliation against workers who assert their rights under the labor laws. We also provide community education workshops on workers’ rights, engage in legislative and policy advocacy.  We believe that when workers stand up for their rights in the workplace, they are transformed and empowered in every area of their lives.

The Pro Bono Scholar will assist attorneys on various aspects of their work on individual and group cases. The Pro Bono Scholar will have client contact and work on cases including those in front of government agencies and federal courts. The Pro Bono Scholar will also assist attorneys with: preparing demand letters; calculating damages spreadsheets; submitting Department of Labor claims, drafting court pleadings; policy and advocacy campaigns; doing clinic intakes at worker centers; attending court and agency hearings; and performing cutting-edge legal research. Additionally, there will be exposure to activities in the area of public advocacy and community engagement.

9.   The Door

The Door is an unparalleled model for youth development, offering a comprehensive range of integrated services within a single site for nearly 11,000 New York City youth each year. Our mission is to empower young adults to reach their full potential by providing comprehensive youth development services in a diverse and caring environment. At The Door, youth can access health care and education, mental health counseling and crisis assistance, legal assistance, college preparation services, career development, housing supports, arts, sports and recreational activities, and nutritious meals – all for free and under one roof. By providing participants with our suite of integrated services, we seek to provide any motivated young person with the tools, resources, and opportunities needed to successfully transition to adulthood. The Door’s Legal Services Center is an office of twenty attorneys, ten support staff, and three social workers. We specialize in serving vulnerable youth, including those who are homeless, undocumented, and/or LGBTQ.

The Pro Bono Scholar will primarily assist in the representation of young people in immigration matters. Our immigration practice focuses on pursuing forms of humanitarian relief including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum, U visas, and T visas. Our civil practice focuses on representing youth in other matters such as family law, landlord/tenant matters, and public benefits. Proficiency in Spanish, Mandarin, Haitian, Creole or French is preferred.

10.    Developing Partnerships

The NYU PBSP Externship is also open, on an ad hoc basis, to developing other fieldwork partnerships for students with a particular field or community of interest that is not represented by our current possible partnerships. PBSP students interested in an exploratory fieldwork partnership should contact Professor Paula Galowitz early in the application process and will need to be an active partner in developing any ad hoc arrangement.

The options for a developing partner placement are numerous, although the program can only support a few such placements in a given year because the development and supervision planning demands more from the Program. Many organizations in New York City delivering legal services to low-income or disenfranchised clients are already accustomed to accepting Pro Bono Scholars and have a process for doing so; a candidate should inquire early to ensure compliance with that organization’s process, which may be competitive.

Seminar Components

The PBSP seminar begins after New York State’s February bar examination with an intensive one week course. In this initial week, students will learn about the work of our partner organizations and talk with leading practitioners in diverse fields of public interest law and community client-centered lawyering. This initial week will also include some training in key substantive and procedural law, which will provide a foundation for later lessons in the seminar and for students’ field-specific learning in their fieldwork.

The seminar, both in its initial week and thereafter, will complement students’ fieldwork with an intensive analysis of the legal, strategic, ethical and cultural issues that typically arise in public interest lawyering, as well as a study of the broader political, social and institutional norms that influence the lives of clients and communities and create obstacles to successful lawyering.

The seminar will focus on a variety of issues including the development of professional identity and values, cross-cultural lawyering, and relationships with clients. Current issues in public interest lawyering will be discussed, including innovative strategies and interdisciplinary approaches.      

Case or work rounds will be part of the weekly seminar. Students will have multiple opportunities to reflect on own experiences, and to think critically about the legal profession and various legal institutions. Issues of access to justice, including barriers to it, will be addressed along with observations about systemic issues in the justice system.

The weekly two-hour seminar will be either on Tuesdays from 6:00-8:00 p.m. or on Wednesdays from 4:00-6:00 p.m. 

Qualifications for Applicants

The clinic is open to 3Ls who will complete all other coursework required for graduation prior to the Spring semester; be in good academic standing and in compliance with law school, New York State and ABA requirements for graduation. Prior to applying, students should review the Overall Caps and Non-Classroom Credit Caps in the JD Program Requirements.

Students must take the New York Bar Exam in February, 2021. (In extraordinary circumstances, student may not be required to take the New York Bar Exam but require the permission of Professor Galowitz.) States other than New York rarely, if ever, allow pre-bar graduation exam taking or early admission; students hoping to take other state bar exams pre-graduation (in addition to the New York Bar Exam) and/or to seek early bar admission are responsible for determining whether the state in question makes allowance for such choice.

Application Procedure

Students should submit an application, resume and transcript on-line via CAMS. Applicants should submit a supplement to the application via CAMS ranking their preferences for all of the possible fieldwork placements mentioned in this PBSP Externship description. Applicants will be contacted during the clinic application period for an interview during which the topic of fieldwork and planned training will be discussed in greater detail. After the interview, applicants can revise the ranking of their preferences for the fieldwork options by emailing Professor Galowitz by no later than Wednesday, April 15th.

For questions regarding the application process, please contact Susan Hodges. If you have questions about the Pro Bono Scholars Program Externship itself, you can contact Paula Galowitz. If you have any questions about the Education Advocacy Clinic, contact Randi Levine.

Additional Information

Students interested in the PBSP Externship must complete all required courses, including Professional Responsibility, by the end of the first semester of the third year. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the Option A writing requirement by the end of the fall semester of the third year. The PBSP Externship can count for either the experiential learning requirement or the Option B writing requirement.

Students in the PBSP Externship should consult with the Office of Academic Services to ensure that the credit hour and other academic requirements for graduation and bar admission are satisfied, after completion of the PBSP Externship. At least 64 of the 83 credits required for graduation must be in regularly scheduled classes. The four-credit seminar in the PBSP Externship is a regularly scheduled class. Students who have taken other externships and some clinics or received academic credit for supervised research, law review, moot court or other nonresidential academic activities should ensure they have the necessary credits to graduate if they participate in the PBSP Externship. Prior to applying, students should review the Overall Caps and Non-Classroom Credit Caps in the JD Program Requirements.

Students will receive a letter grade for the seminar. The fieldwork component is assessed on a credit/fail basis.

The fieldwork assignment process will occur after students are accepted into the Pro Bono Scholar Program Externship and have accepted the offer. The deadline for students to accept a clinic position is on May 15, 2020. Professor Paula Galowitz will then email the accepted students the possible fieldwork placements. In the few weeks after May 15th, the plan is that students will contact the possible fieldwork placements listed in that email and have screening interviews by those possible placements, preferably during the weeks of May 18th or 26th. If for some reason a student accepted in to PBSPE is not matched with a fieldwork placement that is one of the student’s top three choices, Professor Galowitz and members of the PILC (Public Interest Law Center) will work together with the student to find an acceptable placement.

Additional general information about the Pro Bono Scholars Program is available on the New York State Unified Court System website

* 14 credits include 10 fieldwork credits and 4 academic seminar credits.