“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 LLM’s) applying for admission to the Bar to certify that they have completed fifty hours of law-related pro bono service. Pro bono hours do not need to be completed prior to sitting for the bar exam, but you must provide proof of compliance prior to 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. For example, under the New York Rule, you can receive academic credit or summer funding for pro bono work and judicial internships count as pro bono. However, while volunteer hours done for Street Law to prepare and teach legal education classes can be logged for the Pro Bono Program, these hours are not eligible pro bono under the New York Rule.
Qualifying pro bono work, under the New York Rule, must be legal or policy related and supervised by an attorney or law school faculty member. (FAQ No. 11) *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)
Examples of qualifying pro bono:
- summer public service or governmental internships
- 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)
- most externships (including international);
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
FAQs #16 - 30 include other examples of non-qualifying pro bono work.
New York State Pro Bono Opportunities Guide (pro bono projects in New York City and State)
The Law School and the Pro Bono Program cannot verify that any specific project is eligible for the New York Rule. If you still have questions after reading the FAQs or if you want advance approval of a project, you can email the Advisory Committee on New York State Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirement at ProBonoRule@nycourts.gov.
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. Complete the affidavit as soon as you end your pro bono project. It can be difficult to locate a supervisor months or years later. The staff of the Pro Bono Program cannot sign Affidavits of Compliance.
To complete the affidavit:
- Fill out page one of the affidavit, describe your work, including specific tasks, as well as the name the organization and the supervisor.
- Sign the completed form in front of a Notary Public.
- 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. Each project requires its own affidavit with a supervisor signature.
Submit the original affidavit when you are contacted after taking the Bar exam. No photocopies or scanned versions will be accepted. Make a copy of the original affidavit for your records before submitting.
* All information provided is subject to change, be sure to read the New York Pro Bono Bar Admissions Requirement for the latest updates.