“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 all graduates (J.D.s and LL.M.’s) applying for admission to the Bar to certify that they have completed fifty hours of law-related pro bono service. The requirement does not need to be completed before applying to take the New York bar exam, but you must provide proof of compliance prior to filing an application for admission. See rule (22 NYCRR 520.16).
Qualifying Pro Bono
The New York Bar’s definition of pro bono differs from that of Pro Bono Program. Some pro bono hours may count for one program, but not for the other. The Law School cannot officially verify that any particular pro bono project is eligible for the pro bono requirement.
Qualifying pro bono work, under the New York Rule, must be legal or policy related and supervised by an attorney. (FAQ No. 11.b) Pro bono work done for academic credit or compensation may count towards the NYS Bar requirement. Only pro bono work done after the applicant has started their legal studies at an accredited law school will qualify.
*LL.M. students may count qualifying pro bono hours performed outside of the U.S. during the year immediately prior their LL.M. course of study. (FAQ No. 4) However, all other requirements for qualifying pro bono and certification must be met.
Examples of qualifying pro bono:
- Summer public service or governmental internships (paid or unpaid)
- Judicial internships (FAQ No. 12)
- Academic clinics that provide assistance to low-income clients (IP or business law clinics may not qualify) (FAQ No. 15)
- Private law firm pro bono (FAQ No. 27)
- Externships (including international)
- The majority of the pro bono opportunities publicized in e-mails from the Pro Bono Program
Examples of Non-qualifying pro bono:
- Projects that do not necessitate the use of legal skills such as completing tax forms (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 (FAQ No. 21)
- Community service projects such as tutoring, food drives, or home build days
- Work on political campaigns
- Training hours that exceed the number of service hours
See FAQs #16 - 30 for other examples of non-qualifying pro bono work.
The staff of the Pro Bono Program cannot make a final decision regarding whether any specific project qualifies towards the NYS Bar’s requirement. You are encouraged to carefully read the rule and the FAQs to determine whether or not your work qualifies. If you still have questions regarding pro bono eligibility or would like to obtain advance approval of a project, email the Advisory Committee on the New York State Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirement at ProBonoRule@nycourts.gov.
New York State Pro Bono Requirement – Rule 22 NYCRR 520.16
New York State Pro Bono Opportunities Guide (pro bono projects in New York City and State)
Affidavit of Compliance
Applicants for admission to the New York Bar must submit an Affidavit of Compliance for each project used to meet the pro bono hours requirement. All affidavits must include the signature of the project’s supervising attorney. Prepare the affidavit as soon as you complete your pro bono project as it can be difficult to locate a supervisor later. The staff of the Law School's Pro Bono Program cannot sign Affidavits of Compliance.
- Type, do not handwrite your Affidavit. Fill out page one of the affidavit, describing your work, including specific tasks, as well as the name of the organization and the supervisor. Sign the completed form in front of a Notary Public (several are available at the Law School);
- Ask your supervising attorney to complete the Supervisor Certification page of the notarized form. Supervisor signatures are not required to be notarized, but they cannot be scanned or emailed. *Some Departments may now accept digital signatures on the affidavits. If you have questions about a specific department and their guidelines, reach out to the NYS Bar Office;
- Each project requires its own affidavit with a supervisor signature; and
- Submit the original affidavit with your application to the NYS Bar after you have passed the NYS Bar exam. No photocopies or scanned versions of affidavits will be accepted. Make a copy of the original affidavit for your records before you submit your completed application for admission.
* All information provided is subject to change, be sure to read the New York Pro Bono Bar Admissions Requirement for the latest updates.