The Briefcase Diaries

The New York State 50-Hour Pro-Bono Admission Requirement

Law students planning to practice in the state of New York must be cognizant of a recently adopted rule by the New York Court of Appeals: the fifty (50) hour pro bono admission requirement.

On September 14, 2012, the Court of Appeals adopted 22 NYCRR § 520.16[1]; which mandates that all applicants seeking admission to the New York State bar after January 1, 2015 must perform fifty (50) hours of law-related pro bono services before filing their bar application.[2] The 50-hour requirement does not have to be completed before a “law student applies” to take the New York bar exam.[3] Only pro bono services completed after a student begins law school qualify in satisfying the requirement. And “the [pro bono] work [must] not violate any of [the] law school’s regulations or policies about student employment or volunteer activities.”[4] The bar applicant may even perform and complete all of the pro bono work in any other state or foreign country.[5]

While pro bono is broadly defined, it is critical to understand that all “pro bono work” performed must essentially be “law-related in nature”; and the work has to be formally “supervised by a licensed attorney or faculty member.”[6] The typical law-related activities which satisfy the 50-hour pro bono requirement are:

  • (1) Externships or Internships: (even if funded or performed for academic credit) for a nonprofit provider of legal services, legal aid office, judge or court system, Public Defender, U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, State Attorney General, or other federal, state or local government agency or legislative body;
  • (2) Clinics: Law-school sponsored clinics that provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford representation;
  • (3) Pro Bono Projects / Programs: Law school sponsored projects or programs that serve the poor or disadvantaged (as long as the work is law-related and supervised in accordance with the pro bono requirement);
  • (4) Law Firm Activities: Private sector pro bono work;
  • (5) Law Professor or Adjunct Assistance: Law-related work in connection with a faculty or instructor’s pro bono work.[7]

Bar applicants are required to file an Affidavit of Compliance[8] for each type of pro bono activity used to satisfy the 50-hour requirement. Additionally, all Affidavits must be signed and certified by the proper supervising attorney or faculty member; and the affidavit must also be notarized.[9] The Affidavit(s) of Compliance are to be submitted as part of an applicant’s bar application.[10]

It should be a relatively undemanding burden to satisfy the requirement based on the many opportunities students have during the summer or academic year with internships, externships, clinics, and the like. Nevertheless, students with any pressing questions or concerns should refer to the Frequently Asked Questions page[11]; which provides further details for everything a prospective bar applicant should be informed of in meeting the New York State Bar’s requirement. Familiarizing oneself with this mandate in advance should provide for a smoother bar application process for all future New York attorneys.

[1] 22 NYCRR § 520.16, Pro Bono Requirement for Bar Admission, Part 520 – Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/520rules10.htm#B16 (provides a full text of the rule).

[2] New York State Bar Admission: Pro Bono Requirement FAQs, NY Courts (Sept. 24, 2015), https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf. “Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced [the] new initiative [on May 1, 2012, which is] aimed at providing additional legal resources to expand access to justice for low-income New Yorkers.” Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] See id.

[6] New York Bar Pro Bono Admission Requirement, Georgetown Law, https://www.law.georgetown.edu/careers/opics/pro-bono/nybar-probono.cfm.

[7] Id.

[8] Form Affidavit As to Applicant’s Compliance With the Pro Bono Requirements, Including Certification By Supervisor, http://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/AppForAdmission_Pro-BonoReq_Fillable.pdf.

[9] New York State Bar Admission: Pro Bono Requirement FAQs, NY Courts (Sept. 24, 2015), https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/FAQsBarAdmission.pdf.

[10] See id.

[11] Id.


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