The Results Are In…

For the past four months the legal world has been wondering what the New York rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono for admission would say:  Would clinical hours count? When would the rule take effect?   Would pro bono work done out of state meet the requirement?  Possibly the greatest area of concern surrounded how pro bono would be defined.  Last week the full details of the requirement were released, answering all of these questions. Future lawyers can now begin planning on how best to accomplish the task.

The new rule (Section 520.16) applies to applicants who seek admission on or after January 1, 2015 and is closely in line with ABA Model Rule 6.1. Like Model Rule 6.1, Section 520.16 defines pro bono as work that assists in the provision of legal services, without fee, for persons of limited means, non-profit organizations and individuals or organizations seeking to promote or secure access to justice. The rule also provides for service through work with the judiciary.

The rules differ in two main areas: First, section 520.16 expands its definition of pro bono to include clinical work which traditionally has been considered separate and distinct from pro bono in the law school context. Second, Section 520.16 includes any type of non profit whereas Model Rule 6.1 specifies organizations “designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.”

The rule also allows admission seekers to perform pro bono in any of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or any foreign country. This provision expands the reach of this rule beyond the borders of New York State and could potentially increase pro bono participation across the country. Any law student or practicing attorney from another state who wishes to sit for the New York state bar will also need to participate in pro bono service. This not only encourages participation on a larger scale but forces law schools across the country to assess the quality of pro bono support they provide their students.


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  • Pro Bono