We call this page our "Getting Started" page, to help guide interested volunteers through some pro bono basics in New York. We also share our tips on how to engage with resources, find your pro bono opportunities with one of our 100+ legal service partners, and navigate our network of justice communities to help stay connected with the support you need to sustain your pro bono momentum throughout your career.
Help to Bridge the “Justice Gap"
The “Justice Gap" is a term coined in the access to justice community which recognizes that even with the collective efforts of the legal services communityto meet the needs of low-income Americans, 1 in 2 people are still turned away, and less than 20% of civil legal needs are being met nationally. Many volunteers participate in pro bono work recognizing this call to duty, and the responsibility of our profession to ensure that equal access to justice is attainable by all. Learn More about the Justice Gap here.
Get Professional Development and Training
You can earn CLE credit for doing pro bono work in NY.
Many attorneys finds that pro bono work can be great opportunities to learn new areas of law, build trial or drafting experience, gain interviewing skills with clients or broaden skill sets. Pro bono work can take many different shapes and sizes throughout a professional career and our legal service partners pride themselves on providing high quality pro bono opportunities that are rewarding and enriching.
Make a Difference
As well as the opportunity to connect with and serve different client communities, pro bono volunteers very often note with surprise how their skills can have transformative effects, reminding some of why they wanted to become a lawyer, and very often carrying a great degree of personal satisfaction.
9 in 10 attorneys believed that it was somewhat or extremely important for attorneys to offer pro bono services, and nearly all attorneys believed that pro bono made a different in improving equal justice under the law.ABA Survey on Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers
Honor Our Professional Responsibility
Although there is no obligation to provide pro bono in New York, it is at the heart of our professional commitment to a equal justice system for all.
Justine Rousseau on why it's important to do pro bono work: "With great power comes great responsibility. As an attorney, I sometimes feel powerless...But I remind myself of all of the times that I have sat in the back of a courtroom and watched pro se litigants try to represent themselves, I am reminded of the power that comes with my proficency in the language of law, and how important it is to share that power with those without the resources to obtain it themselves."
Charitable and pro bono legal work provides opportunities to meet people with very different backgrounds and interests whom you may not otherwise meet in your daily life. Fundraising for charities, serving as a board member for a nonprofit and the like will connect you with local business leaders and lead to new friends and new networking opportunities.
You can find remote and 50 hour opportunities in our pro bono opportunities guide.
Finding Pro Bono Opportunities in New York
Finding the right pro bono opportunity is unique to each person. There is no "fixed criteria", and each organization offers different types of opportunities with different levels of experience required, varying time commitments and different types of training, mentoring and support.
Our Pro Bono Opportunities Guide centralizes these opportunities for you and addresses some key criteria, but don't forget other great sources, such as speaking to your pro bono counsel or department in your law firm, your careers pr public interest office at your law school, or friends and collegues that have inspiring stories to share.
Our Top 5 Tips
- the amount of time you have
- your areas of interest
- your professional development goals
- the legal needs of the community you wish to serve
- the level of support or mentoring you wish to have, and the resources that the legal services partner has to meet your preferences
Probono.net/ny is a network of sites coordinated, contributed to and hosted by multiple leading service organizations, bar assocations and law firms around New York. Our network is designed to assist you find a pro bono case, as well as support you when you take a pro bono case.
JOIN the NYC Pro Bono Center!
The NYC Pro Bono Center is a diverse online community of legal professionals committed to pro bono in New York. Our members gain access our library of resources, the latest pro bono and public interest news, trainings and events, and join a community committed to sustaining their pro bono momentum throughout their careers.
Search for available pro bono OPPORTUNITIES
To search for pro bono opportunities in NY, we suggest you:
This guide lists information such as organization, whether pro bono opportunities offer training, CLE credit, and supervision, which types of volunteers are sought (e.g. law students, attorneys) and pro bono contact information at the organization to find out more and get started.
We feature short-term and limited scope pro bono opportunities such as clinics or volunteer lawyer for a day programs in this special area of the NYC Pro Bono Center.
Tips! Subscribe to our NYC Pro Bono Center monthly e-newsletter to stay up to date on these types of opportunities and receive them straight to your inbox.
GET INSPIRED! Browse througn volunteer profiles to get advice and tips from people that are already volunteering on the challenges, benefits and types of work they have been involved in. Explore our "getting started" portal on Unaccompained Immigrants Children to gain an in-depth insight into how you can help immigrant children in New York.
Access libraries of LEGAL RESOURCES to support you in your pro bono case
We have worked hard with our legal service partners to develop specialized practice areas, including Housing, Consumer Debt, Family Justice/DV, Asylum and Voting Rights. Each practice area is hosted and co-ordinated by leading legal service providers in New York, and membership to each area is separate. You can explore our state and national networks here.
Explore our TRAINING CALENDAR, curated monthly
Attend a training and see whether the pro bono opportunity suits your comfort or experience level. Most of the trainings included in our calendar are free, and many are for CLE credit. Content is curated by our NYC Pro Bono Co-ordinater, and trainings are submitted by our network of bar associations, and community and legal service partners.
TIP! Subscribe to our training calendar e-newsletter to receive this straight into your email inbox every month.
Review our PRO BONO FAQ for pro bono basics
Wondering whether you need to have malpractice insurance to start your pro bono case? Want to know more about pro bono reporting or how you can CLE credit? Explore our FAQ!
A common question we receive from volunteers is about training and support that is offered as part of any pro bono volunteering opportunity. The level and type of training, supervision and support is different each pro bono opportunity, and can be anything from a 3-4 hour training for volunteers that have little or no experience in the subject-matter area, and on the ground supervision, to a more independent case review and placement. The Pro Bono Opportunities Guide addresses training and supervision as seperate files, and you should always ask the pro bono contact at the non-profit you are working with about what's offered, and what you feel comfortable with.
What is pro bono work?
The term "pro bono" comes from the Latin pro bono publico, which means "for the public good." For practicing lawyers, “pro bono public legal services” refers to the delivery of legal services at no fee or expectation of fee, with an emphasis that the services be provided to people of limited means or nonprofit organizations that serve persons of limited means. Whilst this explanation focuses on how pro bono is described in the ABA Model Rules, there are other definitions of “pro bono”, including for example, the Pro Bono Institute’s definition of “what counts” for its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.
Am I required to provide pro bono services in New York?
An admitted attorney is not required to provide and render pro bono services, however, providing pro bono services is seen as an ethical obligation as a member of the legal community. According to Rule 6.1. of The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct which NY adopted, lawyers are strongly encouraged to provide pro bono legal services to poor person. Under rule 6.1, every lawyer should try to commit at least 50 hours per year providing pro bono services and strive to support financially the work of organizations that provide such services. In an effort to encourage pro bono service, New York State has adopted and promulgated rule 6.1. of Rules of Professional Conduct. You can read Rule 6.1 here: https://www.nycourts.gov/ATTORNEYS/probono/rules.shtml
Do attorneys permitted to practice law in New York have to report pro bono work?
Yes. Effective as of May 1, 2015, all attorneys admitted to practice law in New York must report their voluntary pro bono services or charitable contributions on their biennial registrations. This reporting may be done anonymously. However, as noted above, there is no mandatory requirement to provide pro bono services. For more information on reporting pro bono work (22 NYCRR Part 118), please visit the NY Courts website: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/reportingreqs-intro.shtml
Can I gain CLE credit for providing pro bono legal services?
Yes. CLE credit may be earned for performing eligible pro bono work for clients unable to afford counsel pursuant to either (i) assignment by a court, or (ii) participation in a pro bono CLE program sponsored by an “approved pro bono CLE provider”. Pro bono work performed outside of New York State will not be eligible for CLE Credit. Typically, credit is calculated in increments of 0.5 CLE credit hour (e.g. 1 hour of of pro bono services translate to 0.5 pro bono CLE credits). A maximum of 10 pro bono CLE credit hours may be earned during any one reporting cycle. You can learn more about the pro bono CLE credit rule here: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/cle/probono.shtml For a list of approved Pro Bono CLE Providers, please visit: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/cle/aplist.pdf.
What is the 50-hour pro bono requirement for the admission to the New York State Bar? How can I fulfill this requirement?
In 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted a rule requiring all applicants for admission to the New York State bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono services. The 50 hour pro bono requirement applies to all law students and foreign educated applicants admitted to practice in a foreign jurisdiction that seek admission to the New York State Bar. To fulfill the requirement the applicant must demonstrate they have performed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono services before applying for admission in New York State. The New York Courts website keeps up to date information on this rule, including a set of helpful Frequently Asked Questions. Click here: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf If you have completed your pro bono requirement, and are looking for the Form Affidavit of Compliance, click here: https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/baradmissionreqs.shtml.
I am an attorney or law student who would love to participate in a pro bono project but I have very limited time. What can I do?
There are many ways to provide pro bono services. For example, you can provide limited scope services, such as participating in a volunteer attorney for a day program. Limited scope legal representation or limited scope legal assistance is providing a limited number of legal services to a client that is less than the full package of services provided to a paying client. Registering for these programs is easy and the legal aid provider normally provides training to volunteers. For example, an attorney providing pro bono legal services may help a client draft or fill out a legal form but may not represent the client in court or file any legal forms on their behalf (i.e. the client will be ultimately be a pro se litigant).
Are there any ethical issues in pro bono representation that I should be aware of?
An attorney providing pro bono representation or service to any client is required to comply with all rules of the professional code of conduct. Any violation of the rules of the professional code of conduct may be cause for disciplinary action. The 2 key ethical rules specific to the pro bono context is rule 6.1 articulated baove which sets out the aspirational target to do pro bono work, and rule 6.5 which dispenses with compliance with conflict of interest requirements in limited legal services programs where the attorney has no actual knowledge at the time of commencement of the representation that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest.
The NYC Pro Bono Center library contains archived on-demand trainings related to the ethical responsibilities in pro bono representation in New York. You can also sign up for the probono.net/ny training calendar to stay up to date on upcoming trainings.
Do I need malpractice insurance to provide pro bono services?
It is critical that you check whether pro bono legal services are covered by your firm's malpractice insurance. If you do not have such coverage for pro bono work, check to see whether the pro bono service provider includes malpractice coverage for volunteer attorneys. Many legal service organizations provide malpractice insurance for their volunteers, but not all. This information is indicated in the Pro Bono Opportunities Guide listing as a separate field.
I am an out-of-state attorney employed as in-house counsel in New York State. May I provide pro bono legal services in New York State?
Yes, as of December 2013, all out-of-state attorneys employed as registered in-house counsel in New York State may provide pro bono legal services in the state if they are in good standing in the state or territory where they are admitted to practice law. Prior to providing any pro bono legal services in New York State, please ensure that you are properly registered as in-house counsel in the state of New York. For more information, please visit: https://www.nycourts.gov/ATTORNEYS/in-house-counsel/probono-by-IHC.shtml
Is there any particular training or skills I need to have to provide pro bono services?
The ABA's Rule 6.1 recognizes that only lawyers have the special skills and knowledge needed to secure access to justice for low-income people, whose enormous unmet legal needs are well documented. Nearly every state has an ethical rule that calls upon lawyers to render pro bono services. The training and skills you need to provide pro bono services will typically depend on the context, and we encourage all intersted volunteers to speak to the legal services organization they are volunteering with about training and support, to ensure that high quality services are provided. The Practising Law Institute has a set of dedicated resources about pro bono lawyering, including in relation to interviewing skills and cross-cultural competency.
In what ways can a law student become active in pro bono public service prior to graduating from llaw school?
Law students, particularly in New York may engage in pro bono work prior to graduation in many ways. Current law students may be eligible to participate in the Pro Bono Scholars program, volunteer to be a lawyer for a day, or provide legal guidance at one of our many New York State Courts. You can use the “student” search filter in the NYS Opportunities Guide to explore the opportunities available to law students: www.probono.net/ny/oppsguide/ or contact your law school career office to learn more about opportunities. The American Bar Association Pro Bono Committee keeps a Directory of Law School Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs in law schools around the nation here.
This information was last reviewed on [Date X]. It is for informational purposes only... disclaimer.
Are you ready to participate in a pro bono opportunity? Please visit our Pro Bono Opportunities Guide or join a Practice Area to receive more information.