Policy

Bar Pre-Admission Pro Bono

The Role of Pro Bono Service as a Condition for Receiving a Law License

In 2012 New York became the first U.S. jurisdiction to require pro bono service as a condition to become licensed for law practice.  As New York’s “50-hour Rule” has evolved from proposal to policy, other states are formally considering related requirements that tie pro bono to law licensing.

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service has issued a detailed analysis tracking the 50-hour Rule’s history, exploring potential benefits and drawbacks of pre-admission pro bono requirements, and highlighting the 50-hour Rule’s impact outside of New York.

Below is our tracking of state-level activity. Please send questions or updates to Cheryl Zalenski.

California

Policy Status: 

No current action by State Bar Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform (TFARR).

Governor Brown vetoed the 50 hour pro bono mandate in August 2016. Here is an ABA Journal article on this.

Date Implemented:

N/A

Policy Summary:

50 pro bono hours (pre- or post -admission) “devoted to pro bono or modest means clients.”

Supplemental Resources:

TFARR webpage with updates/links.

Connecticut

Policy Status:

No current action. Judicial Branch declined proposal to create exploratory task force.

Date Implemented:

N/A

Policy Summary:

N/A

Supplemental Resources:

Report/proposal to Judicial Branch

News story on Judicial Branch declining action.

Montana

Policy Status:

Implemented.

Date Implemented:

December 16, 2014

Policy Summary:

The Order requires the State Bar to give all applicants the opportunity to submit a voluntary statement of any pro bono law-related activities they have performed as of the date of their application.

Supplemental Resources:

Supreme Court of the State of Montana Order.

New Jersey

Policy Status:

No current action. The Supreme Court considered a working group proposal, the State Bar opposed it. The initiative has not advanced since that date.

Date Implemented:

N/A

Policy Summary:

“Working Group proposes adopting a preadmission pro bono requirement for applicants for a…license.”

Supplemental Resources:

Working Group Report (April 2013)

NJ State Bar resolution opposing pre-admission pro bono req. (Feb. 2013)

New York

Policy Status:

Implemented.  NY Court of Appeals Rules for Attorney Admission § 520.16(a).

Date Implemented:

September 2012 (but first effective for all bar admittees on/after 1/1/15).

Policy Summary:

50 hours of qualifying pro bono service prior to filing application for bar admission.

Additional Resources: