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Bar Exam

The state of New York requires all applicants to the New York Bar to complete 50 hours of law-related pro bono service before their time of application.  (The requirement is waived for J.D. and LL.M. spring 2020 graduates due to Covid-19.)

Pro bono activity that satisfies the HLS Pro Bono Graduation Requirement may or may not satisfy the New York Bar admission requirement. Because Harvard Law School is not the administrator of this requirement, we cannot officially verify or confirm whether your pro bono activities will count for the bar. To find out if your pro bono work will qualify, we recommend you review the New York Bar website and contact them directly. And, for questions about the HLS pro bono requirement you may contact OCP.

No other state bar has a pro bono requirement of applicants.

What type of work qualifies?

Under the rule, 22NYCRR 520.16, amended September 16, 2015, pro bono is broadly defined, though the work must be law-related in nature and supervised by an attorney or faculty member. Examples of qualifying activities include:

  • Law-school sponsored clinics that provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford representation;
  • Externships or internships (even if funded or performed for academic credit) for a nonprofit provider of legal services, judge or court system, legal aid office, legal services organization serving low-income clients, Public Defender, U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, or State Attorney General;
  • Private sector pro bono work;
  • Law school sponsored project or programs that serve the poor or disadvantaged (provided the work is law-related and supervised in accordance with the pro bono requirement);
  • Law-related work in connection with a faculty or instructor’s pro bono work.

Certifying your pro bono hours

Students and alumni can see their HLS summer public interest, SPO, clinic, and pro bono positions in the Public Service Summary section of Helios. This includes hours, dates, and supervisor information.

Pro Bono Affidavits

To prove that you have completed the 50-hour requirement, you will need to submit
Form Affidavit as to Applicant’s Compliance with the Pro Bono Requirements, including Certification by Supervisor (“Pro Bono Affidavit”) for each pro bono activity. It is recommended that Affidavits be completed soon after the qualifying pro bono work is done, as tracking down supervisors or required information months or years after the pro bono work has been completed can be very difficult.

Neither the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs nor the Office of the Registrar may sign these Affidavits – only a supervising attorney or faculty member may certify pro bono hours. Each Affidavit must be signed by the student before a notary and certified and then signed by the attorney who supervised the pro bono work. After an attorney signs the Pro Bono Affidavit, it should be returned to the student who is responsible for submitting the original signed document as part of the Application for Admission after you have passed the bar exam.

Students seeking to be admitted to the New York bar will need to submit Form Affirmation as to Applicant’s Law-related Employment and/or Solo Practice (“Law-Related Employment Affirmation”).

The Application for Admission requires an applicant to list every type of employment the applicant has had (since the applicant reached the age of 21, or in the last 10 years, whichever period is shorter) and submit affirmations for every law-related position. The Application for Admission’s definition of “employment” includes employment with or without monetary compensation, law-related work-study employment, and law-related employment for academic credit only, including participation in law school clinics and externships, and work as a research assistant. For this reason, students are required to submit Law-Related Employment Affirmations for any Student Practice Organization (SPO) or Clinic that they participated in at HLS.

The Law-Related Employment Affirmation is completed by the person signing on behalf of the Clinic or SPO – not the student. Upon completion, the students should receive the original Affirmation and submit it with the Application for Admission after you pass the bar exam.

One exception: If a student is submitting a pro bono affidavit for SPO/clinic work, the student does not also need a Law-Related Employment Affirmation for that same work.

Bar exams

For official information about New York please visit the New York Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirement.

For more information about the bar exam process, please visit this DOS website.

NOTE: HLS does not participate in the New York Bar Pro Bono Scholars Program.