How To Apply
To make submission easier, law firms may send a list of all their qualifying attorneys. Please follow the guidelines listed below for your submission:
- Excel file containing the following information in separate columns
- First Name
- Middle Initial (if applicable)
- Last Name
- Suffix (if applicable)
- NYSBA member number (if known)
- Total number of hours of pro bono rounded up to a whole number
- One completed verification form per firm
- To download the verification form click HERE
For your convenience a template has been set up and can be downloaded by clinking
- If using the template, you do not need to fill out the verification form
Attorneys who wish 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do attorneys qualify for the
Empire State Counsel® Program?
A. To be eligible for the Empire State Counsel® Program, attorney must 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
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 an attorney 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. 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. Does pro bono in
another state, country, or at a previous law firm 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.