Pro Bono Requirement for New York Bar

For students considering sitting for the New York Bar, there is a requirement that every applicant admitted to the New York State bar on or after January 1, 2015 will need to demonstrate that they have completed 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work prior to submitting an application for admission. If you take the bar exam in or after July, 2014, you will probably be admitted after January 1, 2015. For complete details, please review the New York Unified Court System website regarding Pro Bono Requirement.

You will be required to complete a Form Affidavit of Compliance, including certification by your attorney supervisor for each qualifying pro bono project you do.

Please note: The New York Bar Pro Bono Requirement is different from Northwestern Law's public service commitment. Some activities that qualify for the New York Bar Requirement (clinics, externships) do not count toward Northwestern Law's public service hours. Similarly, some work that counts towards Northwestern Law's public service hours (non-legal community service) do not count towards New York's requirement.

Rule Overview

The requirement affects both JD and LLM students.

Timing of pro bono service for JD students is any time after the commencement of the applicant's legal studies and prior to filing an application for admission to the New York State bar. LLM students may also count qualifying pro bono service completed outside the United States during the one year before the commencement of their LLM course of study.

Location of pro bono service includes anywhere in the world.

Pro Bono service is defined as supervised law-related work that (1) assists in the provision of legal services without charge for persons of limited means; not-for-profit organizations; or individuals, groups, organizations seeking to secure or promote access to justice, including, but not limited to, the protection of civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights; or (2) assists in the provision of legal assistance in public service for a judicial, legislative, executive, or other governmental entity.

Some law school offerings qualify as pro bono service, including law school clinics that provide legal assistance to low income clients (the Entrepreneurship Law Center typically charges clients and therefore does not meet the NY requirements and should be evaluated on a case by case basis) and externships (whether or not the student receives law school credit) and summer pro bono internships (whether or not the student receives a grant or stipend).

For more information on this requirement and how to satisfy it, we strongly recommend that you review the Pro bono FAQs from New York State Office of Court Administration.

Please note: Because Northwestern Law is not the administrator of this requirement, we cannot officially confirm that a particular activity will count. There is a list of pro bono opportunities on the New York Bar website. For specific questions about the requirement, contact the New York Bar directly via email to ProBonoRule@nycourts.gov or call the toll-free number 1-855-227-5482. For Northwestern Law specific questions, contact Maureen Stratton at m-stratton@law.northwestern.edu or 312-503-4558.