New York State Bar Pro Bono Admission Requirement

New York State Bar Pro Bono Admission Requirement

“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 those (including LL.M.s) applying for admission to the New York Bar after January 1, 2015 to file an affidavit demonstrating that they have performed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service. You do not have to complete the New York Pro Bono Requirement in order to sit for the Bar Exam.

Applicants must submit an Affidavit of Compliance certifying that they have completed 50 hours of pro bono work. A separate affidavit and attorney supervisor signature is required for each qualifying 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 attorney supervisor after the project has concluded. The staff of the Law School’s Pro Bono Program cannot sign the required affidavit.

What Is Qualifying Pro Bono?

The New York Pro Bono Requirement differs from the Law School’s Pro Bono Challenge. The definition of qualifying pro bono is not the same for both programs.  For example, work for which you receive academic credit or financial compensation can qualify for the New York Pro Bono requirement but not for purposes of the Law School’s Pro Bono Challenge.  Students should read the full rule (22 NYCRR 520.16).

Under the NY Bar rule, qualifying pro bono work is broadly defined as:

  • law-related and supervised by an attorney judge, or law school faculty member; and includes;
  • summer internships (receiving a PILA summer grant does not disqualify the work), academic clinics (assisting low-income clients or nonprofits) and externships with governmental agencies, prosecutors, public defenders, legal services or non-profit organizations if they are attorney supervised and law-related;
  • pro bono work for a law firm if it is uncompensated, law-related and appropriately supervised and;
  • completed while you are enrolled in law school (some exceptions for LLM students).

Examples of 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 and the staff of the Pro Bono Program cannot officially confirm that any specific pro bono project qualifies for the New York State Bar Pro Bono Requirement.  Students with questions about what pro bono work counts toward the requirement should email the New York bar directly

New York State Pro Bono Requirement – Rule 22 NYCRR 520.16

New York State Bar Admission: Pro Bono Requirement – FAQs

Andrew Ognibene '18

"Over the past two years, I’ve done civil rights work, issue advocacy, Supreme Court litigation, wills and probate work, and community economic development, and that just scratches the surface of what's possible here."