Easing the Burden of the Bar

On commencement day, Sturm College of Law (SCOL) graduates have a lot to celebrate.

Long hours of studying and worrying about exams aren’t behind the new JDs, however, when they receive their diplomas. A big test, perhaps the biggest yet, lies before them: the bar examination.

For many students, preparing for the bar is their first full-time job after graduation. Students are encouraged to take a bar preparation class and set aside 50 to 60 hours per week for eight to 10 weeks to prepare for the exam. Unfortunately, this full-time job is not only unpaid; there also are hefty fees associated with preparing for and taking the exam. Add to that the student loan debt many graduates face, and the months post-graduation can be a very stressful time.

Hoping to ease the financial burden of taking the bar, members of the SCOL Student Bar Association (SBA) created the SBA Quasi Endowed Scholarship to help students who face financial barriers to preparing for and taking the bar.

While the scholarship was initially seeded with unspent SCOL student activity fees, the 2017-2018 SBA decided it made sense to try to grow the fund through the already successful annual philanthropic event, One Day for DU.

Partnering with One Day for DU organizers, the SBA raised close to $9,000 from 75 donors in 24 hours. In all, 74 of those 75 donors were SCOL alums—donors who could relate to the stress new law grads face.

With the interest generated from the SBA Quasi Endowed Scholarship, the SBA hopes to award three graduating students scholarships in 2019. The scholarships will be awarded based on need.

Christopher Newman, a SCOL graduate who serves as SCOL assistant director of Student Affairs, SBA advisor and bar success coach, noted that while the $700-$1,000 scholarships may seem like a nominal amount compared to what students have paid in tuition, he hopes it will help “relieve the sting of bar exam expenses” for students in need.

Newman said the SBA hopes that as the endowed fund grows, so will the number of graduating students they’ll be able to help with bar expenses. The SBA’s remarkable success in working toward its vision dovetails with the goals of SCOL.

Dean Bruce Smith said, “If we are to continue to attract outstanding students—irrespective of their financial circumstances—we need to tackle the high costs of legal education and professional licensure. This innovative program does just that, in a manner that testifies to the initiative of our students and to the strength of our community.”