National Center for Access to Justice

NY’s Chief Judge Announces Specifics of 50 Hours Public Service Requirement for Applicants to NY Bar

In a comprehensive report, FAQ sheet, press release, and rule, New York moved forward on September 19, 2012 with the nation’s first statewide public service requirement for applicants seeking admission to a state bar.  The rule, requiring completion of 50 hours of public service work, had initially been announced by Chief Judge Lippman in his State of the Judiciary remarks on Law Day, May 2, 2012.  

The Advisory Committee on Pro Bono Requirements for Admission to the Bar, established by the Chief Judge, provided answers to most of the questions raised in the months following the initial announcement, including the following:  

i) pro bono service will qualify if it assists in the provision of legal services without charge; assists in the provision of legal assistance in public service for a judicial, legislative, executive or other governmental entity; or is provided pursuant to other requirements in §484 of NY’s Judiciary Law;

ii) supervision by an attorney, judge or legal officer is required;

iii) pro bono performed in other locations (outside New York) will count;

iv) law-related pro bono will count, but “community service” will not count;

v) clinics that provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford legal representation will count,

vi) externships and internships that occur in placements with features specified in the FAQ will count;

vii)  law school sponsored projects that serve the poor or disadvantaged will count;

viii) law-related work for nonprofits serving the poor in civil or criminal matters, or otherwise promoting access to justice, will count;

ix) receipt of a stipend, grant or academic credit won’ t prevent tasks from counting;

x) part time students and LL.M students are subject to the requirement,

xi) the rule does not apply to students currently in their third year of law school, and

xii) partisan political activities do not qualify under the rule.  

The FAQ states explicitly that student-supervised projects will not qualify, and in response to a question at the September 19, 2012 press conference at NYU Law School, a co-Chair of the Advisory Committee observed that the supervision requirement will perhaps prompt law schools to designate faculty members to supervise the students who participate in these  projects.  

Overall, the new developments in effectuating the rule mark substantial progress in the continuing struggle to close the justice gap.  Readers of this blog are encouraged to examine the specific text of rule itself and of the court’s interpretation of the rule as set forth in the Advisory Committee’s FAQ sheet.