The New York Court of Appeals recently approved a rule requiring that all applicants to the New York State Bar complete 50 hours of pro bono legal work. This rule goes into effect for all applicants who seek admission after January 1, 2015. Because of the lag time between sitting for the bar exam and achieving admission to the bar, it is safe to assume that all applicants who sit for and pass the July 2014 bar exam or later will need to meet this requirement. Note that you need not have completed the 50 hours in order to sit for the bar exam; however, you must have completed the 50 hours in order to seek admission after passing both the bar exam and the MPRE.
The Court of Appeals has said that it will allow work performed in another country in fulfillment of the 50-hour pro bono requirement and that for foreign LL.M. students such work may be completed up to one year before beginning the LL.M. program. Therefore, we strongly encourage all students coming from abroad to reach out to public interest organizations engaged in legal work in their home countries to establish a relationship that will allow students to fulfill this requirement in due course (either before they begin the LL.M. program, during school breaks, or following the bar exam). We believe that this will provide the most abundant opportunities for LL.M. students to fulfill this obligation.
The law school is trying to find opportunities for LL.M. students to meet this requirement, however it will likely be impossible for us to find pro bono opportunities for all, or even most, of the LL.M. students who will sit for the New York bar exam. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to seek out and identify such opportunities.
For additional information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions document issued by the New York Court of Appeals. We advise you to review this document carefully so that you will understand completely the nature of the work you must perform and the supervision and reporting required. If you have any questions, you may contact the Board of Law Examiners directly.