Columbia University School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Nadine F. Mompremier, Esq. (she/her)
Assistant Director, Pro Bono and Summer Programs
Columbia Law School | Social Justice Initiatives
435 West 116th Street, New York City, NY 10027
Pro Bono Graduation Requirement Program
Description of Programs
Columbia Law School’s mandatory pro bono program requires that every J.D. student perform at least 40 hours of public interest law service between the end of 1L year and March 1 of 3L year.
Columbia's Pro Bono Program, created in 1993, has both mandatory and voluntary components. First- year students and those who have completed the Pro Bono Graduation Requirement are encouraged to do voluntary pro bono service. Oversight of the Pro Bono Program is provided by the Office of Social Justice Initiatives. Students meet with the pro bono program director to create partnership projects and placements and to ensure that the necessary forms are filed before pro bono credit is awarded. Each student must complete an Exit Questionnaire and have his or her placement supervisor complete a Supervisor's Report in order to receive credit. Information from the Exit Questionnaire is used to develop and revise the Pro Bono Program.
The Law School's adoption of the Mandatory Pro Bono Requirement has led, among other things, to the creation of over 20 in-house pro bono projects, in which students work together under the supervision of a faculty member, an alumnus/a of the Law School, or other lawyers. In-house pro bono opportunities are promoted and facilitated at meetings and training sessions at the Law School, which are held at the beginning of each semester. Meetings are held with the student leaders of in-house pro bono projects at the end of each semester, with the lawyers who direct other in-house projects on an annual basis, and with both more frequently as needed.
Other opportunities are promoted/facilitated through many means, which include one or more of: a web-based pro bono opportunity database; weekly emails to all students; lunchtime meetings and training sessions at the Law School; and individual matching of a student who has a particular interest with an organization that works in the area of the student's interest.
The LawNet database tracks students’ pro bono hours and provides the information to Academic Services regarding the fulfillment of hours. Social Justice Initiatives maintains a web-based database of student evaluations, which facilitates comparisons of student experiences and tracks organizations and/or supervisors over time.
The Pro Bono Office solicits intensive projects from public interest organizations and government agencies. These projects can be carried out throughout the fall and spring semesters or during winter, spring, or summer breaks. The most popular intensive experience is the Sidley Austin LLP Spring Break Caravans Program, in which groups of students travel across the country or abroad to work together at a public interest organization. Each year, approximately 125 students participate in Caravans with over 20 different host organizations across the globe. Students work on matters related to LGBTQ+ rights, environmental law, criminal justice, capital punishment, immigration, domestic violence and women’s rights, human rights, and Native American rights.
Location of Programs
Social Justice Initiatives is a free-standing department of the Law School that offers public interest career counseling and programming and administers the Pro Bono Program.
Two full-time employees of Social Justice Initiatives are involved in the administration of the Pro Bono Program.
The Pro Bono Program is funded by grants and alumni contributions and is benefited by the full support of the staff and facilities of the office of Social Justice Initiatives. The Sidley Austin LLP Spring Break Caravans are funded by special grants from the Public Interest Law Foundation and Sidley Austin LLP.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
Veterans Legal Assistance Project – New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG): Law students meet with veteran clients and their families to prepare benefits applications and develop the strongest cases possible. Students have the opportunity to work on PTSD claims, Agent Orange-related disability claims, discharge upgrades, sexual assault claims, and appeals. Students work simultaneously for multiple clients on various stages of the benefits application process. Students are the main point of contact at NYLAG for each of their clients and keep clients informed of case progress by telephone and in person.
Criminal Justice Action Network (CJAN) and Public Defender Students of Columbia Law School (PDS)
Prisoners' Rights Project: Law students draft Article 78 Petitions for incarcerated individuals to appeal disciplinary tickets in court that they'll then file pro-se. Students identify whether an administrative agency failed to perform a duty enjoined upon it by law; if the agency proceeded in excess/without jurisdiction; whether determination was made in violation of procedure, was capricious, or was marred by abuse of discretion or error of law.
The Domestic Violence Project
- U-Visa Project: Participants represent undocumented low-income victims of domestic violence seeking a path to U.S. citizenship through a petition for U non-immigrant status. Students are assigned a client and complete the petition application from beginning to end and learn skills such as interviewing and drafting affidavits.
- Courtroom Advocates Project: Students serve as advocates in Family Court for domestic violence victims. Under the supervision of Sanctuary for Families, students help victims draft and file petitions for Orders of Protection, educate them on their rights and safety precautions, and advocate for them during court appearances.
- Uncontested Divorce Workshop: Law student volunteers participating in the Uncontested Divorce Workshop help victims of domestic violence attain uncontested divorces from their abusers. Under the supervision of attorneys from Sanctuary for Families, each two-student team meets with a client and helps the client prepare and file papers for the divorce process. From this process, students can gain experience working directly with a client while developing a better understanding of the issue of domestic violence. Completion of the project also involves learning and executing the procedure for filing for an uncontested divorce in the state of New York. This includes learning to draft and revise initial and final papers, as well as learning the rules around service (who is able to serve the papers, when must the papers be served, etc.) and filing.
- Human Trafficking Intervention Court: Columbia students work with Sanctuary for Families attorneys to interview foreign-born individuals with cases before the Human Trafficking Intervention Court in order to identify any trafficking-based or immigration remedies potentially available to them.
High School Law Institute (HSLI)
HSLI has law school students spend their Saturday mornings and early afternoons teaching high school students a legal curriculum based on Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Moot Court, and Mock Trial. The knowledge our student-teachers learn in their classroom and extracurricular settings plays directly into their lesson plans.
The Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual (JLM)
The JLM is a handbook of legal rights and procedures distributed to thousands of prisoners across the country each year by Columbia’s Human Rights Law Review. Student volunteers write, update, edit, and cite check discrete sections of the JLM and its various state supplements. Short assignments are available (up to 6 hours), but volunteers who complete longer assignments may be eligible for “by-line” writing credit. Students interested in immigration law can also work on the JLM Immigration Law Supplement.
Latino/a Law Student Association (LALSA)
Know Your Rights Series / Spanish Street Law: Law students are tasked with conducting research on substantive areas of the law (immigration law, housing law, labor law, consumer rights, etc.) and they are expected to make PowerPoint presentations that allow them to present their findings in a succinct and intelligible manner. They have the opportunity to work with attorneys who specialize in those areas of the law and work with them to develop the knowledge needed to then present this information to large groups in various locations in our NYC Latino communities.
Legal Clinic for the Homeless
Working with attorneys from the City Bar Justice Center, students are assigned a client and advocate for the resolution of various legal issues. Students commonly work on issues related to public assistance, immigration, employment, and family law.
Mentoring Youth Through Legal Education
Debate & Mock Trial Program: Columbia Law School students work with attorneys from major New York firms in coaching New York high school students for constitutional law debates. The year-long constitutional law debate program is a key part of Legal Outreach’s effort to inspire and prepare young people to go to college. Student coaches establish a strong mentoring relationship with individual students through one-on-one tutoring and guidance. They also adjudicate a series of four exciting debates, all conducted at Columbia Law School.
Outlaws and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC)
Transgender Legal Defense Fund: Through the Transgender Name Change Project, law students assist transgender clients in petitioning to have their names legally changed to match their gender identity. This involves both helping the client file name change documents and representing them in a hearing before the court, supervised by attorneys from Sullivan and Cromwell. Students learn valuable written and oral advocacy skills and gain firsthand experience interacting with clients.
Leveraging the vast research resources available to Columbia students, Rightslink provides free legal research services to human rights groups that lack the capacity or political freedom to conduct their own research. Students interested in human rights gain the opportunity to contribute to research projects covering both domestic and international issues ranging from language discrimination to human trafficking.
The Rightslink Research and Advocacy Program (RAP) will give students (JDs and LLMs) the chance to join a dedicated human rights advocacy community and participate in exciting human rights research ongoing at Columbia Law School.
Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
- Aldea -- Credible Fear Monitoring: This project is a remote project working with families detained at the Berks Detention Center in Pennsylvania who have applied for asylum based on fear of returning to their own country. Our volunteers are present on the phone during the 1 - 2.5 hour-long interviews to listen in and make sure the family is being afforded a fair interview and then to offer a closing statement in support of the family's claim at the end. No language fluency is required because the Asylum Officer has an interpreter on the call. The day or evening before the interviews are set to happen, we send out a request for volunteers, and once a volunteer confirms availability, we send the family's case summary and provide the closing statement that should be read by the volunteer at the end. The Asylum Office will call the volunteer directly. Volunteers do not have to commit to doing any amount of interviews per day, week, or month, so it is a very flexible opportunity.
- Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project (ASAP): Starting in the spring, Columbia students can collaborate with law school students from around the country to assist in creating two guides focused on asylum claims: (1) A guide focused on expedited removal proceedings; and (2) A start-to-finish toolkit/guide on assisting pro se applicants with asylum applications. Additionally, students can pick up discrete assignments to contribute various aspects to an ASAP client's case, like writing letters to the court, helping draft motions, and doing translation work.
- Church World Service (CWS): A prominent non-profit in the fields of globaldevelopment and immigrant and refugee rights, CWS was founded in 1946 and now has offices all over the world. Its headquarters are right next to campus. CWS's low-fee and pro bono programs are open to all immigrants and refugees, regardless of their religious affiliation. To learn more about CWS, check out its website. Columbia Law students may apply to assist CWS’s senior staff attorneys with its immigration and refugee program. Students may decide to assist CWS in a great many ways, from advocacy to managerial work.
- Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH): The Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) program was created by the Department of Justice to assist immigrants in removal proceedings in understanding their rights and learning to navigate the immigration system effectively. Unlike in criminal court, immigrants facing removal from the United States are not appointed free or low-cost lawyers. ICH attorneys from Catholic Charities provide immigrants facing removal with information about the immigration court process, how to access and utilize available resources, and referrals to competent representation. Volunteers assist us at the New York Immigration Court providing one-on-one screenings and also assisting particularly vulnerable immigrants fleeing persecution during our pro se asylum clinics. Foreign language skills or prior immigration experience is appreciated, but not required.
- Immigration Equality: Students assist attorneys at Immigration Equality with asylum applications for LGBT immigrants. Students can sign up to write country conditions reports, which support an asylum application by providing information about the applicant's country of origin to corroborate their claim of persecution. Students may also apply to work on an entire asylum application over the course of a semester under the supervision of an attorney from Immigration Equality.
- International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP): Columbia Law School students partner with attorneys to help refugees primarily located in the Middle East navigate the refugee resettlement process. Columbia Law School students can get involved with one of two exciting IRAP opportunities: (1) as an intake volunteer to help IRAP National identify clients for resettlement and (2) become a caseworker and work in-depth with a client on his/her resettlement case.
- New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG): Students participate in Key to the City “immigration clinics." These clinics are typically held on Saturday mornings and give students the opportunity to conduct an initial screening of potential immigrant clients under the supervision of NYLAG staff.
Suspension Representation Project (SRP)
SRP is a pro bono project in which law students represent New York City public school students at their suspension hearings. SRP’s mission is to safeguard the right to public education and due process by providing high-quality advocacy services to New York City public school students facing the Superintendent’s suspensions, which can range from ten days to a full year. SRP advocates develop meaningful legal skills—including interviewing clients and conducting direct- and cross-examinations—and SRP’s clients gain valuable assistance and support.
Tenants’ Rights Project
- SRO Law Project, The Legal Aid Society and NMIC Legal Services: Students assist attorneys at local community organizations in all aspects of low-income tenant representation. Types of work include legal research, motion and memorandum drafting, client intake, and court appearances. Cases range from eviction defense to living condition complaints.
- Manhattan Legal Services Housing Intake Clinic: Manhattan Legal Services will hold a weekly housing intake clinic on Fridays during the Fall Semester. During intake sessions, students will conduct one-on-one intake interviews with potential low-income clients, helping to assess legal issues presented in the case, as well as potential defenses and evidence for litigation. All work will be performed by students under the supervision of housing attorneys at Manhattan Legal Services.
- Lenox Hill Neighborhood House:
- Lawyer-for-the-Day Clinic at the Harlem Community Justice Center: students provide brief legal services to public housing tenants. By the end of the semester, students have the opportunity to enter into a limited-scope retainer allowing them to negotiate with attorneys for the New York City Housing Authority and/or appear in front of the housing court judge. Students will also conduct intakes and provide legal advice and counsel to public housing tenants.
- Tenant Advice Clinics: students provide weekly assistance at tenants’ rights clinics and to assist the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House housing advocacy team with diverse projects. Students attend four tenants’ rights clinics where they will conduct intakes and, after consultation with a housing attorney, provide legal advice and counsel to tenants. On the weeks without a tenants’ rights clinic, students will have the opportunity to assist Lenox Hill housing attorneys with legal research and writing projects, participate in home visits, and conduct phone intakes with low-income tenants.
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF)
SALDF fights to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. This project provides a chance to complete legal research, writing, and fact investigation on pending animal litigation issues and cases. Animal law permeates most traditional areas of the law – including tort, contract, criminal, and constitutional law. The animals involved range from companion animals and wildlife to animals used in entertainment or research or who are raised for food.
Bankruptcy Assistance Project
Under the direction of Legal Services for New York, students conduct client intake to assess the appropriateness of cases and help clients file bankruptcy petitions.
Davis Polk Asylum Workshop
Under the direction of Davis Polk & Wardwell, teams of Columbia students assist in preparing the factual record and brief the legal issues involved in complex asylum cases that bring human rights violations from around the world into the U.S. legal arena.
Students staff LiveHelp, an online, real-time chat service that will direct users toward relevant self-help materials, legal assistance organizations, and court information.
New York State Courts Access to Justice Programs
- Volunteer Lawyer for the Day - Consumer Credit: Students provide pro bono assistance for unrepresented litigants in its Volunteer Lawyer for the Day - Consumer Credit Project in New York City’s Civil Courts. This program provides law students with the opportunity to represent clients in court, negotiate with opposing counsel, and argue before a judge. Interns gain invaluable, hands-on experience in lawyering while simultaneously helping some of New York’s most disadvantaged civil litigants obtain due process of law. The program is supervised by a coordinating attorney with expertise in consumer credit law.
- Uncontested Divorce Program: Students provide assistance to unrepresented litigants in Uncontested Divorce matters in New York City’s Supreme Courts. The program is supervised by a court attorney with expertise in matrimonial law. Assistance through this project is targeted to those litigants who cannot afford counsel. Law students assist unrepresented litigants with the preparation of uncontested divorce forms under the supervision of the Supreme Court Help Center’s Court Attorney. The court system will provide training at a date to be determined at Columbia Law School. Law students do not represent litigants in court or file papers on their behalf. The Uncontested Divorce Program operates in all NYC Counties.
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
There is not a formal faculty pro bono policy, but the annual report of the faculty to the Dean of the Law School includes a request for information about pro bono service.
Students often assist faculty members with their pro bono projects, which often take the form of research and publications.
The annual Public Interest Honors Dinner is a community event held in April in which the Law School honors all students who show significant dedication to public interest and public service including those who have been leaders in pro bono service throughout their time in law school.
All pro bono hours, mandatory and voluntary, are reported on student transcripts.
Pro bono service is considered favorably by the committees that award public interest postgraduate fellowships and enhanced LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) packages.
Students have received awards from the City Bar for their pro bono work. The student leaders often are nominated for "citizenship" honors such as graduation co-chairs, marshals at graduation etc.
Community service is led by student groups, in conjunction with the Student Services office and the Center for Public Interest Law. There is a regularized process and funding is given to support this work through departments and student fees.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Erica Smock, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives
Haley Harvis, Part Time 1L and LLM Advisor
Areas: Part-time 1L and LL.M. advising
Madeleine Kurtz, Director of Public Interest Professional Development
Areas: Public interest and fellowship advising
Tory Messina, Senior Career Advisor: Graduate Advising
Areas: Graduate Advising
Nadine Mompremier, Assistant Director of Pro Bono and Summer Programs
Areas: Pro Bono and Summer Programs
Devi Patel, Assistant Director, Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program
Areas: Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program
Rachel Pauley, Director of Government Programs
Area: Government advising
Kiran Singh, Senior Career Advisor
Areas: Part-time 1L and Government advising
Columbia encourages every student to create the curricular program that best satisfies their individual needs and interests. Information and encouragement to explore public interest courses and opportunities begins when students arrive their 1L year - public interest faculty and students speak during Orientation. There are many opportunities to learn more throughout students’ time at Columbia. Legal clinics and the Pro Bono Program offer informational panels each semester. Individual counseling is provided by faculty members, Social Justice Initiatives and Student Services.
Public Interest Centers
Center for Constitutional Governance
Center for Gender and Sexuality Law
Center for Institutional and Social Change
Center for the Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies
Center for Law and Philosophy
Center for Public Research and Leadership
Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity
Center for the Study of Law and Culture
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Human Rights Institute
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
Public Interest Clinics
Adolescent Representation Clinic
Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic
Community Advocacy Lab
Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic
Environmental Law Clinic
Health Justice Advocacy Clinic
Human Rights Clinic
Immigrants' Rights Clinic
Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic
Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic
Columbia Law School offers over 30 Externships and Internships in Public Interest and Public Service settings. A few examples are listed below:
Bronx Defenders Externship on Holistic Defense
Civil Litigation - Employment Externship
Constitutional Rights in Life and Death Penalty Cases - Fall Only
Criminal Appeals Externship
Criminal Prosecution (Manhattan/Brooklyn DA's Office)
Domestic Violence Prosecution Externship
Externship on Federal Government – Semester in Washington, DC
Federal Appellate Court Externship
Federal Court Clerk Externship: EDNY
Federal Court Clerk Externship: SDNY
Federal Prosecution: U.S. Attorney's Office for the SDNY Externship
Immigrant Youth Advocacy Externship
Immigration Defense Externship
Knight First Amendment Institute Externship
Law, Power and Social Change Externship
Lawyering for Social Justice (Pro Bono Scholars Program)
Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem Community Defense Externship
N.Y. Attorney General's Office Antitrust Enforcement
N.Y. Attorney General's Office Financial Enforcement and Economic Justice
N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Social & Environmental Justice Externship
Representing NYC: New York City Law Department Externship
United Nations Externship
U.S. Attorney's Office for the EDNY Externship
Classes with a Public Service Component
Columbia Law School offers dozens of courses with a public service component. A few examples are listed below.
Abolition: A Social Justice Practicum
Educational Equality: The Role of Law
Lawyering for Change
Professional Responsibility Issues in Public Interest Practice
Public Health Law and Social Justice
Children and the Law
Current Issues in Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
Election Law for Civil Rights Lawyers
Human Rights at Home: Advancing U.S. Social Justice
Law and Policy of Homelessness
Native American Law
September 11, The Trump Administration and the Rights of Non-Citizens
Socio-Economic Rights: Theory and Practice
Structural Change in Public Education Policy and Social Change Lab
The American Bail System
The Legal History of American Slavery
Vision, Action and Social Change
Public Interest Journals
Columbia Human Rights Law Review
Columbia Journal of Environmental Law
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law
Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems
Columbia Journal of Race & Law
Columbia Journal of Transnational Law
PI Career Support Center
Generally Columbia Law School’s Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) provides holistic counseling to students from their first year through their post-graduate years. SJI staff provide individual counseling as well as speakers, panels and workshops on public interest careers and issues. SJI's philosophy is that there is no one path for students who want to practice law in the public interest. It works with students who want to enter public interest law immediately after graduation or a clerkship, those who want to work in the corporate sector for a few years while doing pro bono and those who see themselves as combining public interest and law firm work throughout their careers. SJI staff builds strong relationships with students because Columbia's public interest career counseling services are in an office that also is responsible for its Human Rights Internship Program and other summer programs, the pro bono program, and public interest programming. The office is staffed by a Dean, who was a public interest lawyer for over 10 years; a Director of Public Interest Professional Development; Director of Government Programs; Assistant Director of Human Rights and International Public Law; Assistant Director of Pro Bono and Summer Programs; Assistant Director, Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program; Assistant Director of Operations; 3 part-time career advisors; and 4 coordinators to assist with administrative and program management. These areas of expertise are augmented by Columbia graduates who return to counsel students as well as participate in panels and other programs. SJI invites 40-50 public interest and government employers to campus throughout the year to interview students for internships and fellowships, including a variety of not-for-profit legal organizations, the U.S. Attorney's Offices in New York, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the NYC Law Department. The Office of Career Services also holds a fall on-campus interview program for 20-25 government and regulatory agency employers. Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program The Public Interest/Public Service (PI/PS) Fellows Program, launched in Fall 2019, creates an opportunity for Columbia Law School students who are interested in exploring public interest and public service more fully, as preparation for careers in these sectors. The Program focuses on supporting students in four key areas: (1) community-building, (2) mentorship, (3) professional development and reflective learning and (4) in-depth career and curricular counseling.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
Columbia Law School offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) that is among the most generous in the country to ensure that law school debt does not prevent graduates from entering the public interest sector. LRAP benefits are loans, which are used to repay Law School debt. LRAP loans are gradually forgiven when graduates remain in public interest employment for more than three years.
Participants have the option of electing the traditional Columbia Law School LRAP, or a program that combines Columbia’s LRAP with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Columbia Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) is one of just four institutionally funded loan forgiveness programs among the nation’s top law schools; the remainder rely on the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The LRAP program recently made significant changes to raise the income threshold and establish a new dependent allowance, thereby strengthening our already nationally renowned LRAP program. For detailed information about the programs, please refer to the Columbia Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program description found on our website.
Public Service Bridge Loan
Columbia Law School's Public Service Bridge Loan will provide up to $10,000 in forgivable loans to assist recent graduates entering careers in public interest/public service with bar exam expenses over the summer following graduation. Columbia Law School is the only premier law school in the country to offer a forgivable institutional loan for this purpose. Public Service Bridge Loans and third-party bar examination loans will be qualified debt under Columbia's LRAP program and therefore also eligible for LRAP loan forgiveness.
Law School Funded:
The list of available post-graduate Fellowships changes from year to year. For a list of currently available Fellowships, please visit the Law School’s Fellowship page: https://www.law.columbia.edu/social-justice/students/careers-public-service/postgraduate-fellowships/current-fellowships
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
Public Interest Fellowship
Columbia Law School awards Public Interest Fellowships, scholarships that provide tuition benefits for the full three years, to a small number of incoming students who are committed to public interest or public service law, bring strong academic credentials, and are expected to work in public interest or public service for at least the first five years following graduation. In addition to the Guaranteed Summer Funding program, Columbia Law School offers fellowships to students spending their summers working in public interest.
Greene Public Service Scholarship
The Greene Public Service Scholarship is an annual scholarship that was established at Columbia Law School in 2017 through a generous gift from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation for the purpose of “cultivat[ing] legal minds whose focus is to serve their communities and fight for social justice.” The Greene Public Service Scholarship awards full-tuition scholarships to two incoming students who express a strong interest in pursuing a career in public interest or public service and demonstrate a commitment to such a career, bring strong academic credentials, and are expected to work in public interest or public service for at least the first five years following graduation.
Alongside the tuition benefits provided under both the Public Interest Fellowship and the Greene Scholarship, recipients are partnered with a faculty mentor who is a public interest activist-scholar in their field of interest, as well as with Columbia Law School alumni and upper-year mentors. They also receive automatic acceptance into the Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program during their 1L year and the Human Rights Internship Program or Guaranteed Summer Funding Program for their first and second summers.
There is no application process for either the Public Interest Fellowship or the Greene Scholarship. Candidates are selected based on admissions materials, and individuals will be contacted directly by the selection committee and will be notified about selection upon admission to Columbia Law School.
Graduate Student Funded
Other Funding Sources:
Law School Funded:
Guaranteed Summer Funding (GSF)
Columbia Law School is proud to support students who work full-time in public interest or public service internships in the U.S. over the summer through its Guaranteed Summer Funding program. GSF provides funding to nearly 300 1Ls and 2Ls annually to work at public interest and public service organizations during the summer. All J.D. students are eligible to receive GSF as long as they complete the program requirements. 1L students are eligible to receive $6,720 (pre-tax) for 8 weeks of work and 2L students are eligible to receive $8400 (pre-tax) for 10 weeks of work.
Human Rights Internship Program (HRIP)
Unique to Columbia, the Human Rights Internship Program (HRIP) has a long tradition of providing Columbia students with the opportunity to do human rights law-related work throughout the world. The program’s more than 1,700 “graduates” are leading human rights lawyers throughout the world who, among other things, have been instrumental in drafting the South African Constitution; documenting human rights abuses of gay and lesbian youth in America’s prisons; establishing International Criminal Tribunals; helping to write a Freedom of Information Act for Guatemala; and working to improve environmental law in Hungary. Interns from years past also work on the domestic front, now lead community economic-development efforts, head legal services offices, fight against employment discrimination, and defend death row inmates. All first-year and second-year students are eligible to apply to participate in HRIP, however students must submit an application and participate in a training and orientation program. Participants receive a $7,350 stipend for 10 weeks of work, a round trip plane ticket, and emergency evacuation insurance.
Graduate Student Funded:
Public Interest Law Foundation
The Public Interest Law Foundation, Columbia's Equal Justice Work's chapter, provides student funded fellowships. The number of these fellowships varies with the success of PILFs fund-raising efforts, but there usually are about 15-20. Some match the Public Service Fellowships and others provide full stipends. Funds are raised through an annual dinner, an annual auction, an annual Dean's Cup basketball game between Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law, a Donated Day's Salary drive, small private grants and membership of students, faculty and administrators.
Other Funding Sources:
Catalyst Public Service Fellowships
Center for Japanese Legal Studies Morrison & Foerster Public Interest Fellowship
The Center for Japanese Legal Studies Public Interest Fellowship is open to first and second-year law students who demonstrate an interest in public interest law and working in Japan for the summer. Up to two fellowships are available and each will provide a stipend of $10,000 to cover airfare, living, and other expenses for the summer.
John R. Oldham Fellowship
This fellowship is administered through the Center for Chinese Legal Studies and is available to first- and second-year law students to support summer public interest (including government) work or academic research in greater China.
Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship
The Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship provides a stipend of $2,500 to two law students for ten weeks of work in an unpaid internship for either a nonprofit organization or a governmental entity.
Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin Summer Fellowship
The Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of criminal and civil-rights law at every stage of litigation. 1L and 2L funding will be matched and 3Ls will be paid on an hourly basis.
Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI) Fellowships
The Weatherhead East Asian Institute offers funding for research, language acquisition, and unpaid internships during the summer and academic year to selected Columbia students committed to professional and academic engagement with East and Southeast Asia.
Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho Summer Associate Fellowship
The Oakland, California plaintiffs’ civil rights and environmental justice law firm Goldstein Demchak Baller Borgen & Dardarian offers a summer associates program and postgraduate fellowship to eligible students.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Student Public Interest Groups
Columbia Law School has many student organizations with a public service component. A few examples are listed below.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
American Constitution Society
Asian Pacific American Law Student Association-APALSA
Black Law Students Association - BLSA
Columbia Law School Democrats
Columbia Health Law Association - CHLA
Columbia Law If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive
Columbia Law School Disability Rights
Columbia Society for International Law
Criminal Justice Action Network
Domestic Violence Project - DVP
High School Law Institute
Empowering Women of Color
Environmental Law Society
Latinx Law Student Association - LaLSA
National Lawyers Guild
Native American Law Students Association
Public Defender Students of Columbia Law School
Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF)
Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC)
Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights - SIRR
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF)
Student Public Interest Network (SPIN)
Tenants' Rights Project - TRP