How To Apply
Click on the application link below to download the current years application. Please fill out the application, including your name as you want it to appear, your firm, your mailing address and your total number of qualifying pro bono hours.
2014 Verification Form
To participate in the Empire State Counsel® Photo Gallery, please follow the steps below:
- Complete the current year Empire State Counsel® application
- Email a high quality photo along with a brief statement describing the nature of their pro bono service. To submit click HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I qualify for the
Empire State Counsel® Program?
A. To be eligible for the Empire
State Counsel® Program you have to be a member of the New York State
Bar Association and have performed 50 hours or more of pro bono during the
Q. What types of pro bono
service qualify for designation as an Empire State Counsel®?
A. Providing direct, free legal
representation to a low-income or vulnerable person, without expectation of a
fee, is one way to qualify for Empire State Counsel®. Direct
legal services can be limited in scope or full representation. Examples
of limited scope representation include, but are not necessarily limited to,
providing brief advice and consultation services to an individual through an
“Ask-A-Lawyer,” or an “Attorney-for the-Day” program, or other clinical
setting. Examples of full service representation may include
handling a client’s bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, contested divorce,
eviction, or unemployment insurance benefits hearing or appeal.
Other qualifying pro bono work includes donating free legal services to an
organization whose services are designed primarily to address the legal and
other basic needs of persons of limited financial means or by providing free
legal services to an organization dedicated to increasing the availability of
legal services to vulnerable and/or low-income populations.
For example, if you provide free legal services to the board of a shelter
for homeless women and children, that work would qualify. Similarly,
advising a not-for-profit community based organization that provides job
training to disabled clients would qualify.
In contrast, if you donate free legal services to the board of an animal
shelter, that would not qualify. Neither would serving on the board of
the local symphony orchestra qualify for the program.
Why is the definition of pro bono used by the Empire State Counsel® Program
A. The numbers of unrepresented
litigants in New York State civil courts is estimated at 2.3 million. Many of
these litigants are too poor to hire a lawyer to represent them when faced with
the possible loss of basic necessities of life such as shelter, food, child
custody, and safety. Free legal programs lack the resources to represent every
eligible litigant, regardless of the potential merits of the case. To help
bridge this access to justice gap, we narrowly define pro bono service so as to
encourage our members to donate free legal services to help vulnerable
individuals maintain basic life necessities.
Q. How may I use the
designation of Empire State Counsel®?
A. Empire State Counsel® is
an honorific designation which may be used as a credential on an attorney’s
resume or curriculum vitae.
Q. How often do I have to
verify my pro bono contribution?
A. Since the Empire State Counsel®
designation is valid for the year in which it is bestowed, attorneys are urged
to verify annually.
Q. When are the Empire
State Counsel® recognized?
A. During the Association’s Annual
Meeting, Empire State Counsel® are recognized during the Justice For
All Luncheon. Law firms are encouraged to reserve a table for the free
luncheon celebration during which awards are bestowed upon the law firms
enrolling the greatest number of Empire State Counsel®. Two
individual attorneys also are recognized for their outstanding pro bono
contributions with a plaque.
The names of the Empire State Counsel® and their law firms are
publicized on the Pro Bono webpage. In addition, a special edition of the
Pro Bono newsletter is devoted to the Empire State Counsel®.
Q. I am an associate at a
law firm. Does the firm have to nominate me for the Empire State Counsel®
A. No; no formal nomination
process is required. To enroll as an Empire State Counsel® an
attorney may complete the on-line verification form and submit it to the Department
of Pro Bono Affairs. To submit am form click HERE.
Q. I did pro bono in
another state, country, or at my previous law firm. Does that pro bono work
count for the Empire State Counsel® program?
A. Yes, provided the pro bono was
donated during the calendar year in which you are applying for
recognition. The Empire State Counsel® program recognizes our
members’ pro bono contributions throughout the United States, Europe, Africa
Q. What is the Empire State
Counsel® Photo Gallery?
A. Each Empire State Counsel®
is encouraged to submit a high resolution photograph and a brief statement
about his/her pro bono contribution for inclusion in The Photo Gallery.
For example, comments could be about why the lawyer does pro bono or what the
volunteer learned from the experience. The Photo Gallery is prominently
displayed during Annual Meeting and on the Pro Bono Website. It serves as an
incentive to others to do pro bono.