On September 14, 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals adopted a new rule requiring applicants for admission to the New York State bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono services. This has implications for law students outside of New York who wish to seek admission to practice law in New York. Beginning in 2013, prospective attorneys will be required to spend 50 hours performing pro bono work as a requirement for admission to practice law in New York State.
Current law students with a desire to be licensed in New York State need to calculate the tentative date of their application for admission in order to determine whether they must satisfy the 50-hour Pro Bono Requirement. Law students enrolled at an ABA-approved law school in 2011 and expecting to be admitted to practice in New York after January 1, 2015 will need to complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work before applying for admission to the New York bar. 2014 graduates should be aware that if they take the New York Bar examination in July 2014, admission will likely be sometime after January 1, 2015, and therefore the 50-hour pro bono requirement must be met in order to be admitted.
Pro Bono is defined broadly in the rule, and will generally include most legal work with pro bono projects at a law school, legal clinics at law schools, unpaid internships and/or externships with non-profit legal services providers, public defenders, most government offices and the courts. Please be aware that the definition of pro bono for purposes of the new New York rule is different from that used at the Law School for calculation of hours for pro bono awards at graduation, which does not recognize paid work or work for academic credit as pro bono. See the rule and the FAQ's posted by the New York State Judiciary for complete definitions of qualifying pro bono work.
In order to document compliance, applicants for admission to the New York State Bar will be required to complete an Affidavit of Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirement wherein the pro bono work is described. The Affidavit asks applicants to identify when and where the work was performed, provide a description of the work or project and identify the supervisor. The form will also contain a certification to be completed by the supervising attorney, judge or legal officer attesting to the hours worked.
If you plan to practice in New York State, now is the time to start planning to be sure you will meet the new Pro Bono Requirement! For questions about the New York State Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements see the resources linked above, or see Pam Mertsock-Wolfe, Associate Director of the Pro Bono and Public Interest Program, or Associate Dean Angela Baker, with specific questions.