Why volunteer to be a pro bono attorney?

Representing a litigant who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer is part of the legal profession’s proud tradition. Litigants without lawyers file more than 2,000 cases each year in the Southern District of New York; these cases constitute over 20% of the Court’s civil docket. Pro se litigants’ cases often raise important constitutional and civil-rights issues, and without counsel, they may have a harder time presenting their claims. 

Lawyers who participate in the Court’s Pro Bono Program help ensure that pro se litigants enjoy equal access to justice. Volunteering also provides lawyers with the opportunity to improve their litigation and negotiation skills. Depending on the procedural posture of the case, a pro bono lawyer may appear before a federal district judge or magistrate judge, conduct depositions, attend settlement conferences before a judge or mediator, engage in motion practice, or try a case. 

Training and CLE credit

The Court periodically offers training in trial advocacy and mediation skills. Please check the Court’s website, https://nysd.uscourts.gov/about/news-and-events, for announcements of upcoming trainings. Training is also available from other CLE providers, some of which offer complimentary or reduced-price programs for pro bono attorneys.

Lawyers may receive CLE credit for pro bono work. See http://ww2.nycourts.gov/attorneys/cle/probono.shtml for more information.

How to volunteer

If you are interested in serving as pro bono counsel for a party in a civil action, please complete this form: SDNY Pro Bono Registration. Once we receive your application, we will contact you to discuss your interests and to give you instructions on viewing available opportunities. The Pro Bono Program is a voluntary program. You will have an opportunity to review available cases and decide whether you would like to volunteer for any of them. You will not simply be assigned to a case.