US District Court • Southern District of New York

Representing Yourself in Federal Court (Pro Se)


Appearing
Pro Se

Role of the
Pro Se Intake Unit

How to Start a New Lawsuit without an Attorney

How to Find an Attorney

If Named as a Defendant

Pro Se FAQ’s

Contact Pro Se


How to Find an Attorney?

It is advisable to proceed in federal court with an attorney. Litigation can be complicated, time-consuming and as a result overwhelming. Experienced legal counsel familiar with the law and rules of procedures can greatly increase your chances of successfully resolving your case.

Ask your family, friends, and associates for the names of attorneys with whom they are pleased. A word of mouth recommendation is invaluable.

Most bar associations (organizations to which attorneys belong) provide referral services, in which members of the public can consult and hire the lawyers who are members of the bar association. You can access three of the largest lawyer referral services just by visiting the websites of the New York State Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers’ Association. The bar associations for each county of New York may provide other referral services.

Web-based organizations, such as LawHelp/NY, or Martindale-Hubbell can also be helpful in finding the right attorney for you. Telephone books also have listings for attorneys, but are generally not the best way to find an attorney because they typically only provide the name and contact information for attorneys.

Remember to keep detailed records of your efforts to find an attorney. If you are unable to find an attorney whom you can afford, then you may ask the judge put you on a list that may allow you to obtain an attorney who will represent you for free. Your records will be helpful to the Court should you ever make such a request.

An attorney who represents pro se litigants for free is called a pro bono attorney. To apply for a pro bono attorney, you must:

  • file an application with a supporting request to proceed in forma pauperis in a case already pending in the Court.
  • The application should include what efforts, if any, you have made to find a lawyer.

It is within the judge’s discretion, based on factors set forth in the case law, to either grant or deny your application for the Judge to request the appointment of pro bono counsel. If the judge grants the application, there is no guarantee that an attorney will volunteer to take the case. If no attorney volunteers to take the case, you must proceed without one.

If after filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus you require free counsel, then you must:

It is within the judge’s discretion, based on factors set forth in the statute and case law, either to grant or deny the appointment of habeas counsel. If the judge grants the application, an attorney will be appointed from the Court’s Criminal Justice Act’s (CJA) Panel.