Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: March 4, 1999

Seal of the Unified Court System
Survey Detailing Pro Bono Activity of New York Attorneys Released
NEW YORK - The Unified Court System today released the results of a survey showing that 47 percent of all attorneys polled in New York State provided pro bono legal services for the poor in 1997, averaging nearly 42 hours of service. Based on this finding, it is estimated that New York attorneys devoted approximately 2 million hours of pro bono service during that year.

The results generally mirror those of similar surveys undertaken by the state court system between 1990 and 1992, which indicate that the percentage of pro bono participation has remained unchanged since then. The average number of service hours rendered has declined from 43.5 to 41.9 hours. All the surveys were conducted by questioning a random sample of the New York bar.

The latest survey was authorized by the Administrative Board of the Unified Court System after it adopted a pro bono resolution, which urges every attorney to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono legal services to poor persons each year and to financially support the work of organizations that provide such services. The resolution has been incorporated into the attorney registration statement, which must be filed every two years by attorneys who practice in New York. The survey was intended to establish a benchmark for measuring pro bono services rendered in New York in 1997. A follow-up survey in the year 2000 will be conducted to determine the impact, if any, of the resolution on increasing pro bono activity.

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said, "I applaud the efforts of New York attorneys who have generously performed millions of hours of pro bono service. These significant efforts, however, only begin to meet the need for pro bono services which has never been greater in New York State. The continuous drain of available legal services for the poor in recent years is threatening to create an inequitable system of justice - made of those who can afford representation and those who must do without. The survey released today is a snapshot of the current level of pro bono activity in New York. It will be used as a benchmark for a future survey that will measure the impact of the Administrative Board's adoption of a pro bono resolution for New York. Now more than ever, pro bono service is an important professional responsibility in which every attorney should participate voluntarily. I urge all within the legal community to reexamine what can be done individually and organizationally in this regard."

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, "The survey, conducted by the Office of Court Administration, was based on anonymous responses to a questionnaire randomly sent to ten percent of the attorneys who practice in New York State. It is comprehensive and accurate, with a margin of error within two to three percentage points. The results of this survey can help us evaluate pro bono activity in New York, as well as gauge the level of such activity in comparison with other parts of the nation. We have every confidence that the New York bar will continue its national leadership role on so many fronts, including the very critical area of providing pro bono legal services to the poor."

Other notable findings revealed by the court system's recent study, which measured pro bono activity among New York lawyers in 1997, are as follows:
- Attorneys who performed pro bono work were most likely to provide free legal
services in a civil matter.
- New York City attorneys were less likely to engage in pro bono activities as
compared to attorneys from other regions, but those who volunteered devoted on
average the highest number of hours statewide.
- Attorneys who performed pro bono services tended to be in private practice.
- Attorneys throughout the state contributed an average of $82.00 to organizations
that provide legal services to the poor (in the earlier pro bono surveys, attorneys
contributed $80.00 on the average).
- Those who earned between $55,000 to $85,000 were less likely to engage in pro bono work than those who earned either more or less from the legal profession.

Copies of the pro bono survey report can be obtained by calling (212) 428-2500. It has also been posted on the court system web site at

Web page updated: August 16, 2006