How To Apply
Click on the application link below to download the current year's verification form. Please fill out the application, including your name as you want it to appear on your certificate, your firm, your mailing address and your total number of qualifying pro bono hours.
2016 Verification Form to be posted as soon as it is available.
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 calendar
Q. Because I am licensed to practice law in
New York State does that mean I am automatically a member of the New York State
New York State is a voluntary, not mandatory, bar state. Membership in
the New York State Bar Association is purely voluntary and unrelated to whether
or not you are licensed to practice in New York. To become a member of the association, an
attorney licensed to practice in New York may choose to join the Association by
signing up for membership and paying annual dues.
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.
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.
Q. Why is the definition of pro bono used
by the Empire State Counsel® Program so narrow?
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®?
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 re-verify annually.
Q. When are the Empire State Counsel®
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.
Q. I am an associate at a law firm. Does
the firm have to nominate me for the Empire State Counsel® Program?
A. No; no formal nomination process is
required. To enroll as an Empire State
Counsel® an attorney may complete the online Verification form and submit
it via email email@example.com.
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 and Asia.
Q. When does the Verification form have to
A. Although the Verification form may be
submitted at any time during the calendar year, to be
included in the current year’s program the form must be received no later than
the last day of February of the next calendar year. For example, to be included in the 2015
Empire State Counsel® Program your verification form must be
received on or before February 28, 2016.
Q. What information must be included on the
A. The attorney’s name, indicate attorney’s
gender by checking Mr. or Ms., the approximate number of pro bono hours
donated, and an email address. Attorneys
are strongly encouraged to legibly print your name on the Verification form exactly as you wish it appear on the
Empire State Counsel® Certificate.
Q. I am a law firm pro bono
counsel/coordinator, may I send in a single list of firm attorneys for
inclusion in the Empire State Counsel® program?
A. Yes. Law firm pro bono
counsel/coordinators are encouraged to submit a single Verification form
together with an excel spreadsheet list of firm attorneys who are active NYSBA members who performed 50
hours of pro bono during the calendar year to the via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include attorneys' full names, not nicknames, and approximate amount of pro bono hours each contributed. The single Verification form should be signed by the pro bono counsel/coordinator attesting to the accuracy of the information contained in the excel spreadsheet.