Pro Bono Work: what does it cover?

This is a very common question that you might think about as a lawyer who will take the bar exam or who already have taken the bar and waiting to fulfill your requirements to be a certificate attorney once and for all.

Pro Bono are nice latin words that translate a notion of helping people in need of legal resources and/or representation and who can’t afford any legal assistance.

Some organizations are specialized in this type of work: Legal Aid, a civil or criminal legal services organization that serves low-income clients, a Public Defender, a Conflict Defender, a U.S. Attorney, a District Attorney or a State Attorney General, etc.

A law student would tipically have opportunities to advocate in fields as family law, children’s issues, consumer fraud, AIDS-related problems, housing, immigration, taxation, environmental law, criminal defense, elder law and death penalty appeals.

In the state of New York, you are required to work 50 hours doing law-related tasks appropriate for lawyer and that require legal skills. If you are not yet certified, you must be careful and avoid unauthorized practice of law.

New York State courts give examples of activites that would fall into that category:

  • assisting attorney with trial preparation
  • helping litigants prepare for court appearances
  • engaging in witness interviewing and investigation
  • drafting court or transactional documents
  • engaging legal research directly related to client representation
  • perform law-related assignement
  • make court appearances authorized under student practice orders issued by the Appellate Division of the New York State Court

Your work must be performed under the surpervision of an attorney in good standing and with the appropriate licensing or by a judge. She or He will certify the hours spent on pro bono work on an Affidavit Form of compliance. https://www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono/AppForAdmission_Pro-BonoReq_Fillable.pdf

The projects are also mentionned:

  • assiting low-income persons, typically while working in non-profit organizations or law firms performing pro bono work
  • represent person with disabilities
  • representing victims of domestic violence, in housing matters, access to health care or educational services, incarcerated persons, applicants at public assistance hearings
  • advocate for victims of alleged human rights violations or protection of civil liberties

Performing pro bono work with clients does not mean that you will not be paid at all, whereas all your clients in these type of projects will not pay any fees.

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