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New York StateUnified Court System

Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga & Oswego Counties

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I sign up for Pro Bono work?
If you know that you would like to become a volunteer for the Fifth Judicial District Pro Bono Action Now Program, all you need do is open the Attorney Registration Adobe form that you complete online. At the end of the form, choose “Email Completed Form” to send it to Program staff. They will contact you to let you know it was received and to discuss how you might volunteer. You can also simply call us at (315) 703-6500 and ask for any Fifth District staff person.
Who can do Pro Bono?
Any attorney who is currently licensed in New York, and who is in good standing can do Pro Bono. Attorneys who are not licensed in New York can also do Pro Bono work, but they will need to work in the same capacity as a paralegal with attorney supervision
Can I do Pro Bono if I work for the government or for the courts?
Yes! There may be some limitations, but there is a way for you to contribute.
I’m a Judge, Court employee or work for a government agency. Can I still do Pro Bono work?

If you are a Judge, the rules of 22 NYCRR § 100 apply, and can be found at:

A full-time judge cannot practice law. However, a judge can provide a meaningful and helpful contribution by agreeing to participate as a speaker at a Continuing Legal Education class attended by attorneys who have agreed to take pro bono cases in exchange for being invited to such a class.

A part-time judge is not required to comply with the same rule as that for full-time judges. There is a list of limitations in the practice of law while employed as a part-time judge that are set forth in 22 NYCRR § 100.6. This section directs that the part-time judge may not practice law in the court on which the judge serves or in any other court in the county in which his or her court is located, nor practice before a judge who is permitted to practice law, and shall not act as a lawyer in a proceeding in which the judge has served as a judge or in any other proceeding related thereto. If you have any doubt about committing to a Pro Bono program or case you can make a request for an opinion to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.

If you are a Court employee, the rules of 22 NYCRR § 50 apply, and can be found at: fromCourtInterpreterManual.pdf

Court employees can perform Pro Bono legal services, which do not interfere with the performance of their jobs, in contested and uncontested matters, except those brought in the courts of their own employment. Any Pro Bono legal services should be conducted with prior case-to case or annual approval by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for lawyers employed by that court, the Presiding Justice of the appropriate Appellate Division for lawyers employed by an Appellate Division and the Chief Administrator of the Courts for lawyers employed in every other court or court - related agency in the unified court system. Pro Bono services in any contested matter shall be performed under such written terms and conditions as may be specified by the approving authority.

If you are a government employee: the rules specific to your agency will apply.

Government lawyers are allowed to do Pro Bono with some limitations of federal and state statutes and regulations. Each agency may have their own policy devoted to outside employment and volunteer activities or Pro Bono activities in particular. The type of work that government attorneys can do depends on the policy in his or her office and Pro Bono programs in that area.

The New York State Bar Association has a brochure “Pro

Their web site also has examples of the NYS Attorney General and U.S. Dept. Of Justice policies


What’s in it for me?
What’s in it for me? After helping someone with a legal problem, you will know that you have made a difference in someone’s life. You will also be a part of a larger effort by our profession to be sure that there is equal access to justice for all New Yorkers. You can receive one free CLE credit for every 5 hours of Pro Bono, and you will be covered by our malpractice insurance policy even if you have your own coverage. You will have the opportunity to learn something new and have access to mentors, various trainings and training materials.
Can I get Paid?
Yes, you can take a Pro Bono referral even if you request attorney’s fees. If at the end of your representation you are fully paid, the case will no longer be Pro Bono. If you get some payment, but are not paid for all of your work, we will ask you to calculate that portion that is Pro Bono so that we can give you credit for the Pro Bono portion.
Do I need to provide malpractice insurance?
No, our Program will cover this. The Program provides malpractice insurance coverage to any Pro Bono attorney for any client they serve who is a client of our Program. The coverage is paid for by the Program and is primary coverage, meaning that should a Pro Bono attorney have their own coverage, it would be secondary to our coverage.
Can I get CLE credit for Pro Bono work?
Yes. For every client you assist who has been determined to be unable to afford to hire an attorney, you can earn one CLE credit for every 5 hours of Pro Bono work. Your time assisting multiple clients can also be combined. You can earn up to 6 of these CLE credits for each two year reporting cycle. For more information see our CLE information page and download the Affirmation of Services for CLE form
Is training available?
Yes, we host training when we need to recruit attorneys. We also have training materials available from past training. We can also provide you with mentors. In addition, attorneys at our office have a vast knowledge of poverty law.
Do you have mentors?
We will make every effort to find mentors when requested. Some attorneys agree to handle a Pro Bono matter on the condition that we pair them with a mentor.
I volunteer for a church or other charitable organization- is that Pro Bono?
All volunteer work is laudable. But because attorneys have a monopoly on the provision of legal services, they are the only people in our society who can directly assist those unable to hire an attorney. There is simply not enough funding for legal services offices to meet all of the need. Lawyers have a professional obligation to help those people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance. Therefore, our Program's focus is on direct assistance to low income people.
I think I have a Pro Bono client now- what do I do to get credit?
Contact staff via phone or email to find out if the client qualifies for our Program. If so, we’ll take care of the rest
Do I need a retainer agreement or a written letter of engagement?

You must have a retainer for any matrimonial case (see 22 NYCRR 1400) (and link to Unified Court page

Our Program has a Pro Bono retainer for each client that needs Pro Bono representation, but it is signed by our Program and the client and not by Pro Bono attorneys. It is a good idea for Pro Bono attorneys to have their own retainer or letter of engagement, even for a Pro Bono matter, and arguably necessary if you request attorneys fees in an action. See link for more information.

Can I help by donating money?
Yes! In fact the Lawyers’ Code of Professional Responsibility states that lawyers “should provide financial support for such organizations designed to increase the availability of legal services to persons of limited financial means”. Your donation to an organization is tax deductible.

Do you have a question we did not answer? If so, please send us an email or call us at (315) 703-6500.