ESC Individual Attorney FAQ

Individual Attorney 

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

Photo Gallery

To participate in the Empire State Counsel® Photo Gallery, please follow the steps below:

  1. Complete the current year Empire State Counsel® application
  2. Email a high quality photo along with a brief statement describing the nature of their pro bono service to probono@nysba.org

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 year.  

 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.

 Q.        Why is the definition of pro bono used by the Empire State Counsel® Program so narrow?

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® Program?

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 at probono@nysba.org.

 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.        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.