public interest law center

New York State Bar Pro Bono Requirement

Under the New York State Pro Bono requirement, persons applying for admission to the New York State Bar must file an affidavit showing that they have performed fifty hours of pro bono service.

You will be required to complete the affidavit form, including certification by your attorney supervisor, for the qualifying pro bono project(s) that you do. If you do more than one project to make up the 50 hours, you will need to file affidavits for each project. It is recommended that you complete the form(s) at the time you complete the pro bono work. You can find the affidavit form, Rule 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals (which explains the requirement), and Frequently Asked Questions, on the NY Courts website. We strongly suggest that you review the rule and Frequently Asked Questions before completing the affidavit to ensure that your work qualifies.

What counts:

  • Pro bono work must be law-related and supervised by an attorney, judge, or law school faculty or instructor in order to qualify.
  • Internships with a broad range of organizations including legal services providers; public defender and prosecutor offices; not-for-profit organizations; state, local, or federal government agencies or legislative bodies; and judges or court systems can all count if the work is law-related and properly supervised.
  • Pro bono work abroad can also qualify if it is law-related and supervised by an attorney in that jurisdiction. You will be asked to explain the nature and circumstances of the work in detail.
  • Pro bono work at a law firm can qualify as long as no fee is being paid, and the work is duly supervised and law related.
  • Many, though not all, NYU Law clinics qualify.
  • You are allowed to receive funding or academic credit for qualifying pro bono work and still satisfy the requirement.

What does NOT count:

  • Scholarly research, such as academic research for a professor or work for a law journal or publication.
  • Student-directed pro bono. At present, work of student organizations such as REACH, Unemployment Action Center, and the Suspension Representation Project does not qualify because students are not supervised by an attorney.
  • Community service that is not law-related, such as serving food at a shelter.
  • Pro bono work done before you started law school. However, LLMs can count some work completed prior to the LLM program.

How to get credit for your pro bono work:

  • After you have completed the qualifying pro bono work, you will need to download and fill out the form affidavit (found here), get it notarized, and then have it signed by your supervisor. Your assigned Judicial Department will contact you after the Bar exam, asking you to submit the pro bono affidavit along with all other admission application materials. Only original, hard copy versions of the pro bono affidavit may be submitted (not electronic versions or photocopies).
  • You may also need to ensure your pro bono hours are documented on an affidavit of law-related employment. Check the requirements with the Judicial Department to which you are assigned for the purposes of admission.

For more information:

  • The text of the rule and a detailed FAQ can be found here.
  • You can watch PILC's NYS Pro Bono Rule Information Video here.
  • Contact David Glasgow, Associate Director and Research Fellow (david.glasgow@nyu.edu)

How to track pro bono hours on Symplicity:

How to Activate the Pro Bono Module on Symplicity

  1. Log onto your Symplicity profile. From your Symplicity homepage, click on “Pro Bono Hours Tracking” link on the right-hand side of the homepage.
  2. If you have not previously registered to activate pro bono hours on Symplicity, then you will be directed to the Pro Bono Hours Tracking “Terms of Use” page. Read the information carefully on the page and check the box next to “I understand” and click on the “Submit” button.
  3. You will then have access to the “Pro Bono Reporting” tab.

How to Add Pro Bono Hours on the Pro Bono Module on Symplicity

  1. From your Symplicity homepage, click on “Pro Bono Hours Tracking” on the right-hand side of the homepage.
  2. Select the “Pro Bono Reporting” tab.
  3. Click on “Add New” button.
  4. Review the instructions on the page and fill in all the required information. When you are finished, click on the “Submit” button.

How to Upload your form Affidavit of Compliance on the Pro Bono Module on Symplicity

  1. From your Symplicity homepage, click on “Pro Bono Hours Tracking” on the right-hand side of the homepage.
  2. Select the “Pro Bono Reporting” tab.
  3. Click on the “Edit” button next to the Employer to which you wish to upload an Affidavit of Compliance.
  4. Click on the “NYS Pro Bono Rule Affidavit of Compliance” tab.
  5. Click on the “Choose File” button to upload a saved electronic copy of the Affidavit of Compliance from your computer to the Pro Bono Module on Symplicity. Select the file you wish to upload.
  6. After you have selected the file you wish to upload, click the “Save” button.
  7. A link will appear the page with the name of the file you selected to upload signaling the successful upload of the file.

How to Retrieve a Previously Saved Affidavit of Compliance

  1. From your Symplicity homepage, click on “Pro Bono Hours Tracking” on the right-hand side of the homepage.
  2. Select the “Pro Bono Reporting” tab.
  3. Click on the “Edit” button next to the Employer from which you wish to retrieve your previously saved Affidavit of Compliance
  4. Click on the “NYS Pro Bono Rule Affidavit of Compliance” tab.
  5. Click on the link with the name of the file you previously uploaded to begin download of the file.