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The Justice Center News blog features our advocacy on issues affecting low-income New Yorkers today and the latest CBJC happenings.  For press releases, click here. For publications, click here.

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Pro Bono Scholars Change Lives of Low-Income New Yorkers

by Michael Fil, Communications and Development Coordinator April 20, 2018

How great would it be if law students could take the bar exam before they graduated? Or enter the legal field a few months early? What if they could do both while providing pro bono services to those New Yorkers who need them most? Huzzah! They can do all of the above through the Pro Bono Scholars Program.

The Pro Bono Scholars Program

The Program was created by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York State Court of Appeals in 2014. Since then, the City Bar Justice Center has been an eager partner in this initiative, welcoming three Scholars to assist in its goal to close the justice gap in the legal system. As candidates of the Program, law students in the State dedicate 12 weeks of their final semesters to full-time pro bono service. Many are taking the first steps of their legal careers.

This year, our Scholars Anthony Desiderio, Daniel Lei, and Wesley René have been assisting the CBJC by working with our Free Legal Hotline, completing legal research, drafting documents, and interviewing clients for a variety of projects. In addition to some weekly law school check-ins and assignments.

Anthony Desiderio

Anthony Desiderio Pro Bono Scholar“I think the program has provided me with a great opportunity to finally use what I spent two and a half years learning in law school. I’m able to experience many different clients and make a real impact in their lives. Being a part of the program at CBJC allowed me to see the trust that clients place in their lawyers and the impact that a lawyer, even one just starting their career, is able to make on their lives.”

Anthony Desiderio is in his third year at New York Law School. He is currently working with the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project and the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

Daniel Lei

Daniel Lei Pro Bono Scholar“Working at the CBJC is a great opportunity because I get to solve a variety of legal problems for clients in need. In law school, you learn the black letter law and legal theory. Applying the things I learned to real life situations really allows me to see how the law works.”

Daniel Lei is in his third year at Albany Law School. He is currently working with the Legal Hotline, the Planning and Estates Law Project, and the Foreclosure Project.

Wesley René

Wes Rene Pro Bono Scholar“In law school, we are primarily trained to analyze and write in a legal context for professors or hypothetical partners. The Pro Bono Scholars experience exposes us to real client interactions. This gives us an opportunity to develop communication skills with clients, a pivotal part of practice.”

Wesley René is a third year law student from Albany Law School. He is working with the Cancer Patient Advocacy and Elderlaw Projects.


“We are proud to have supported the Pro Bono Scholars Program since its inception,” says Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of the City Bar Justice Center. “It has proven to be a great partnership between the law schools and public interest practice. Law students get an immersion in the legal work of a public interest law office for their last semester and more poor clients get help as a result. Having seen the need up close, I hope that this year’s scholars will continue to do pro bono work throughout their careers.”

You can learn more about City Bar Justice Center’s projects here and our impact here. If you need free legal advice, please contact our Legal Hotline at 212-626-7383 or apply for help online here.

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