We provide below answers to some of the questions we receive most frequently about the 50-hour pro bono requirement. Please be reminded that the information below is provided for general guidance only. The best source of information is the rule itself, available on the website of the New York Unified Court System.
Does this apply to me?
You must fulfill this requirement if:
- You are applying to the New York State bar
- On or after January 1, 2015
Does my work count?
Work must be:
- Legal work (not non-legal community service)
- Supervised by an attorney
- Generally speaking, on behalf of low-income people who cannot otherwise afford representation, OR work at a government agency or court
Q: I received a public interest fellowship from the school. Does my work still count?
A: If your work otherwise counts, receipt of a grant or stipend from the school does not disqualify the work.
Q: Does clinical work apply?
A: Most likely yes. Go to the Portal (under “Student Resources > “Academics”) to find the most recent list of New York Law School clinics and whether they qualify. Click on the “Information about 2016-17 OCEL Courses, Application and Registration” under the Office of Clinic and Experiential Learning heading.
Q: Does a judicial externship satisfy the requirement?
Q: I did some pro bono work at my firm last summer. Does that count?
A: Possibly. Pro bono work may count if the firm did not pay you a bonus or separate compensation for the work, and the work otherwise met the requirements listed above (e.g., supervised by an attorney, for low-income individuals, etc.).
Q: I’m doing research for a professor. Does that count?
A: Only if it was legal research for low-income individuals on a pro bono project by the professor. (If it was part of an academic research project that did not service clients, it most likely will not count.)
When and where do I have to complete the requirement?
Work must be completed:
- After you started law school
- Before you apply for admission to the bar
Q: I did volunteer work before law school. Does that count?
A: No. You can only count hours completed after you began law school.
Q: Do I have to complete the requirement before I graduate?
A: No. You can complete the requirement after you graduate, so long as you complete it before applying for admission to the bar.
Q: Do I have to complete the work in New York?
A: No. Work in other states or even foreign countries may satisfy the requirement, so long as it meets the other requirements (e.g., serves low-income individuals) and is supervised by an attorney licensed to practice in that jurisdiction.
Q: I worked at two different places. Can I combine the hours to satisfy the requirement?
A: Yes. So long as the work at each location would count toward the requirement, you can combine the hours, BUT you must submit a separate affidavit for each place you have worked that you are counting toward the requirement.
Q: Where can I find opportunities to do pro bono work?
A: Review the opportunities in this guide and reach out directly to organizations to sign up as a volunteer. Each organization listed below will have specific requirements and a formalized way to sign up. Many of the organizations below have projects specifically designed for students and graduates wanting to complete their 50 hours of service. Additionally, most clinical opportunities and internships/externships with non-profit legal services providers, government agencies and courts will qualify for pro bono work as long as they are legal work supervised by an attorney.
Q: I have reached out to numerous organizations to volunteer and have not heard back. What should I do now?
A: Reach out to Swati Parikh, Director of Public Service Careers and Pro Bono, to discuss your interests and availability. She can follow up with organizations to find opportunities if you have not heard back from any organization.
Q: How can I better my chances of finding an opportunity?
A: When you reach out to any organization, make sure to include your resume, a description of your interests, and your availability. Flexibility is important, as it is often a challenge for organizations to place volunteers who have very limited availability. They also want volunteers who are eager to work with their clients and attorneys, so showing enthusiasm for the work is very helpful. Also, don’t wait until the last minute to seek out an opportunity! The earlier in your law school career that you seek out an opportunity, the better.
Okay, I’m done with my hours. Now how and where do I report all this?
You demonstrate compliance with the requirement by:
- Submitting affidavits for your work
- Signed by the attorney who supervised you
- For a total of 50 hours
Q: What records do I keep?
A: With your application for admission to the bar, which you will submit to the appropriate Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, you must include an “Affidavit of Compliance” for each institution at which you performed qualifying pro bono work.
Q: Where do I get this form?
A: The Affidavit of Compliance is available here: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml
Q: Do I turn this in at the law school?
A: No. This is a requirement of the New York State courts, not a requirement of New York Law School, so New York Law School does not collect or maintain this documentation. You must submit your documentation along with your application for admission to the New York State bar.
Q: I am filling out my affidavit and was wondering if I should have the current lawyer at the office where I worked sign it, or the lawyer that was there when I interned.
A: The form affidavit provides for the attorney who actually supervised the work to sign the affidavit.
I still have questions. Where do I get more information?
The rule itself can be accessed here: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml
The Court has also posted an extensive set of FAQs, and they can be found here: http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf
You can also find more information, including volunteer opportunities, at the law school’s Pro Bono Initiatives webpage: www.nyls.edu/probono and portal page, which can be found at Career Resources > Pro Bono Initiatives.
If after visiting the website you still have questions, feel free to contact Swati Parikh in the Office of Career Planning at firstname.lastname@example.org.