ESC Individual Attorney FAQ

Individual Attorney - How To Apply

Click on the application link below to download the current year's verification form. Please fill out the application, including your name as you want it to appear on your certificate, your NYSBA member ID number, your firm, your mailing address and your total number of qualifying pro bono hours. If you do not know your NYSBA member ID number, please call member resource center at 800-582-2452. 

2017 Verification Form 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.        How do I qualify for the Empire State Counsel® Program? 
A.        To be eligible for the Empire State Counsel® Program you have to 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.        Because I am licensed to practice law in New York State does that mean I am automatically a member of the New York State Bar Association?
A.        No.  New York State is a voluntary, not mandatory, bar state. Membership in the New York State Bar Association is purely voluntary and unrelated to whether or not you are licensed to practice in New York.  To become a member of the association, an attorney licensed to practice in New York may choose to join the Association by signing up for membership and paying annual dues.

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 qualify. 

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.

Q.      Why is the definition of pro bono used by the Empire State Counsel® Program so narrow?
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 I 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.        How often do I have to verify my pro bono contribution? 
A.        Since the Empire State Counsel® designation is valid for the year in which it is bestowed, attorneys are urged to re-verify annually.

Q.        When are the Empire State Counsel® recognized?

A.        At the Association’s Annual Meeting, Empire State Counsel® are recognized during the Justice For All Luncheon.  At the luncheon, awards are also bestowed upon the law firm and individual attorney honorees.
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.        When does the Verification form have to be submitted?
A.        Although the Verification form may be submitted at any time during the calendar year, to  be included in the current year’s program the form must be received no later than the last day of February of the next calendar year.  For example, to be included in the 2017 Empire State Counsel® Program your verification form must be received on or before February 28, 2017.

Q.        I am an associate at a law firm. Does the firm have to nominate me for the Empire State Counsel® Program?

A.        No; no formal nomination process is required.  To enroll as an Empire State Counsel® an attorney may complete the online Verification form and submit it via email  [email protected].

Q.        I did pro bono in another state, country, or at my previous law firm. Does that pro bono work 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 and Asia.

Q.        What information must be included on the Verification form? 
A.        The attorney’s name, indicate attorney’s NYSBA member ID number, the approximate number of pro bono hours donated, and an email address.  Attorneys are strongly encouraged to legibly print your name on the Verification form exactly as you wish it appear on the Empire State Counsel® Certificate. 

Q.        I am a law firm pro bono counsel/coordinator, may I send in a single list of firm attorneys for inclusion in the Empire State Counsel® program?  
A.        Yes. Law firm pro bono counsel/coordinators are encouraged to submit a single Verification form together with an excel spreadsheet list of firm attorneys who performed pro bono service from 12/1/16 - 11/30/17 via email to [email protected]. Please include attorneys' full names, not nicknames, NYSBA member ID numbe where knownr, and approximate amount of pro bono hours each contributed.  The single Verification form should be signed by the pro bono counsel/coordinator attesting to the accuracy of the information contained in the excel spreadsheet.