“The new pro bono service requirement for admission to the New York bar serves to address the state’s urgent access to justice gap, at the same time helping prospective attorneys build valuable skills and imbuing in them the ideal of working toward the greater good. It is so important that the next generation of lawyers in New York embraces the core values of our profession that so fundamentally include pro bono legal assistance.”
—Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, State of New York, Court of Appeals
The state of New York requires that all graduates applying for admission by examination to the Bar demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of law-related pro bono service.
Applicants must submit an Affidavit of Compliance certifying that they have completed 50 hours of pro bono work. A separate affidavit and attorney signature is required for each pro bono project. It is recommended that you complete the affidavit as soon as you finish your pro bono work since it can be difficult to locate your supervisor after the project has concluded. The staff of the Pro Bono Program cannot sign Affidavits of Compliance.
Applicants do not have to complete the pro bono requirement prior to sitting for the Bar Exam, but will need to provide proof of compliance before they can be admitted.
What Is Qualifying Pro Bono?
The New York Rule and the Pro Bono Program have different definitions of qualifying pro bono. To understand what counts for the NY Bar, students should read the rule (22 NYCRR 520.16). Work must be law-related and performed under the supervision of an attorney or law school faculty member while the applicant is enrolled in law school. (LL.M. students may count qualifying pro bono performed outside of the U.S. during the year before beginning their LL.M. course of study.)
Qualifying pro bono under the NY Rule includes:
- summer public service internships (whether or not the student receives a PILA grant or other stipend)
- academic clinics (assisting low-income clients or nonprofits)
- externships with governmental agencies, prosecutors, public defenders, legal services or non-profit organizations (whether or not the student receives academic credit)
- pro bono work for a private law firm
Non-qualifying work includes:
- projects that do not necessitate the use of legal skills such as filling out tax forms (VITA) (see FAQ No. 19) or mock trial programs (Street Law) for high school or college students;
- research for a faculty member’s scholarly/academic publications;
- travel to and from pro bono work sites;
- translation or interpretation services (see FAQ No. 21); or
- community service projects such as tutoring, food drives, or Habitat build days.
The Law School does not administer the NY Rule and is unable to confirm that any specific pro bono project qualifies. Students with questions about what work counts should email the New York State Unified Court System directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.