Overview

 

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has a long and proud tradition of advocating for equal access to justice for all New Yorkers in civil matters through a combination of government-funded legal services programs and voluntary pro bono service by private practitioners. The Department also provides assistance and educational training programs for attorneys employed by legal services organizations and oversees a number of attorney recognition programs that promote, recognize, and honor pro bono service by individual attorneys and law firms. The Department works with many of the Association’s sections and committees to encourage their voluntary participation in pro bono projects.

  • NYSBA does not generally provide direct legal services to the public.
  • NYSBA is currently recruiting attorneys for pro bono work to help Veterans in the Restoration of Honor Project.
  • If you need a pro bono attorney, please visit lawhelpny.org for a civil legal service organization that may be able to assist you.
  • Looking to volunteer?  Click here to find a pro bono opportunity that is tailored to your specific requirements.
  • Click here for the Unified Court System’s website that provides info on the pro bono requirement for admission to the bar as well as the mandatory biennial reporting requirements.
  • Visit Free Legal Answers website to register as an attorney volunteer. It is A Virtual Legal Advice Clinic where attorneys can answer questions from the public on civil legal issues on a limited scope basis.
  • The Pro Bono Appeals Program provides pro bono representation for selected civil appeals to the Appellate Division, Third and Fourth Judicial Departments. Visit the Pro Bono Appeals program page for more information.
  • New York Public Interest Research Group’s (“NYPIRG’s”) Small Claims Court Action Centers provide assistance on small claims court and consumer matters. Please visit https://www.nypirg.org/sccac/ or call (800) 566-5020 and leave a message if you need assistance.
  • We invite you to submit articles showcasing excellence in pro bono service for upcoming editions of the Pro Bono Newsletter. Articles can be sent to [email protected]

Clients Served Infographic

Pro Bono Free Legal Answers

Thank you to the following legal service organizations!

Workers’ Compensation Board’s Injured Workers Legal Assistance Pro Bono Project

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board’s Injured Workers Legal Assistance Project (“IWLAP”) helps injured workers obtain medical treatment through the assistance of pro bono attorneys.

The New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”), its Torts, Insurance, and Compensation Law Section, and its Workers’ Compensation Law Division have partnered with the Workers’ Compensation Board to connect volunteer attorneys with injured workers seeking representation in medical-only claims.

In these medical-only claims, the insurance carrier or self-insured employer who pays the medical benefits has accepted liability, but is disputing the medical treatment sought by the injured worker. These cases typically pose a challenge for injured workers seeking legal representation as no attorney fees are awarded when there are no lost wages.

Are you an Injured Worker Seeking Representation in Medical-Only Claims?

Please complete the following form if you are currently not represented by an attorney (or licensed representative) and you received a notice telling you that a request for authorization for a medical procedure or medical treatment was denied, and you would like to request legal assistance in navigating the next steps: https://nysbawcb.cliogrow.com/intake/3f1c2d3abbb72c984177e16f941ea146

The New York State Bar Association does not guarantee it will find an attorney who will accept your case and does not guarantee the outcome or results of that representation.

Are you an Attorney Interested in Volunteering?

Sign up here to help injured workers obtain medical treatment: https://nysba.joinpaladin.com/nysba/opportunities/help-injured-workers-obtain-medical-treatment/

This opportunity is for attorneys who are licensed to practice law in New York State. Malpractice insurance coverage is provided for volunteers.

Lawyers who are interested in volunteering will be required to participate in a free training webinar worth 2.0 MCLE credits. The training is presented by Alex C. Dell, Esq., founding attorney of The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC. Volunteers must complete the training webinar to be eligible to receive cases from NYSBA. You can access the training webinar at:

The training webinar is free for both members and non-members but you must log in to the NYSBA website to access the webinar and earn MCLE credits. Please contact the NYSBA Member Resource Center at [email protected] or 800-582-2452 should you need assistance in accessing the training webinar.

NYS Workers’ Compensation Pro Bono Training Program

Workers Comp

 

This program is presented by Alex C. Dell, Esq., Founding Attorney of The Law Firm of Alex Dell, PLLC.

President’s Pro Bono Service Awards

Each year the Association proudly bestows the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards. These awards recognize outstanding pro bono contributions made by individual attorneys, law students, law firms, corporate counsel and/or government offices.  The awards ceremony is usually held on or about May 1st as part of the Association’s Law Day Celebration.

Although nominees do not have to be members of the New York State Bar Association, to be eligible for one of these prestigious awards an attorney must be admitted to practice in New York State and must have rendered her/his pro bono service or participated in a pro bono program within the state.  Nominees are evaluated based on pro bono service donated during the previous year including, but not limited, to the number of clients served, number of hours contributed, impact of the service on clients, and/or the impact of the service on a pro bono program or community.

Pro Bono Service Award Winners

Previous Honorees

Please Note: the 2020 President’s Pro Bono Service Awards were not held due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony

A 2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony featuring the Denison Ray Civil Award and the Phil Dailey Award was held during Pro Bono Month on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.

From President’s Committee on Access to Justice Co-Chair Edwina Frances Martin, Esq.:

The global Coronavirus Pandemic has had a profound impact on New York’s low-income communities and communities of color, from the unspeakable loss of thousands dead, to thousands losing jobs as a result of mandatory business closures, and thousands more living in locations and/or working in jobs designated as “essential” that left them especially vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic. The pro bono and legal services community has come together during this time to fight for adequate health care, vaccine access in the early stages of distribution, and unemployment and other benefits for the communities hardest hit by the impacts of the pandemic on health and well-being. We have not, however, been able to come together in traditional ways or traditional settings, most especially, we were not able to hold our biennial Partnership conference in 2020. An important aspect of that conference is the recognition of our colleagues for exceptional service to the community. So that we can still recognize this service, in the new virtual world we are working in, we are holding a special Denny Ray Awards program on October 19, 2021 from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.

2021 Special Legal Services Awards Ceremony featuring the Denison Ray and Phil Dailey Award Winners

Winner of the Denison Ray Civil Legal Services Attorney Award

Laura Diane Rolnick, Esq. 
Laura Diane RolnickLaurie Rolnick is the Program Director for the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York’s Eviction Defense Program.  Laurie earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University’s NY State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where she was an officer of the speech and debate team and active with Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-educational service fraternity. She then graduated with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, where she was an active member of the Moot Court and President of the Trial Law Academy. Laurie worked for Jackson Lewis’ Atlanta, Georgia office, representing employers in labor law and employment litigation matters, before taking an in-house position with Medical Doctor Associates. Laurie spent several years as a disability advocate with Attorney Michael P Daly in Manlius, NY, focusing primarily on Workers Compensation and Social Security matters. She started with VLP in 2016 as a volunteer interim director of the Reentry Program and joined the staff in 2017. Laurie has held several positions within VLP, including work with the Reentry and Homeless Advocacy and Prevention Programs. She has been full time with VLP’s Eviction Defense Program since January 2018, and her goal is to promote safe and stable housing in the community. Laurie enjoys a wide variety of volunteer and recreational activities. Most recently, she has been an Academy member for the Syracuse Area Live Theater Awards.

Laurie is so thankful to Sally and Deb for the opportunity to be with the eviction defense program, and wants to especially thank Bethanie, Luz Marina, Tre’Coy, and the entire VLP family for their hard work and support. Special thanks to Alan, Rebecca, Jacob, Sky, and my mom and Dad. None of this work would be possible without you!

Eviction Defense and Tenant Rights Program Description:

The Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York Eviction Defense Program assists tenants facing the loss of their home through eviction. Every year we represent 800-1200 tenants at court. This can only be done with the help of a wonderful and talented group of volunteer attorneys, and our amazing Housing Team members Luz Marina Zender and Tre’Coy Boyd. The program was started by the wonderful Deborah O’Shea when VLP was with the Onondaga County Bar Association. She recruited local law firms to provide volunteer attorneys at court for these important, yet summary proceedings.

Our goal is always to promote safe and stable housing in the City of Syracuse and surrounding areas. We see community education and outreach as some of the most important work we do. We work to address underlying systemic factors that have led to injustice in our community housing situation. When Covid-19 closed the courts, we wanted to continue to provide assistance to those most in need, as well as continue to engage volunteers. We started a daily virtual Tenant Rights Clinic, which has helped provide much needed advice and counsel to hundreds of tenants during these turbulent times.

Winner of the Denison Ray Legal Services Director Award:

Cindy Kanusher, Esq.

Executive Director, Pace Women’s Justice Center

Cindy KanusherCindy Kanusher, Executive Director of the Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC), has focused her career on domestic violence and legal services for the underrepresented. Twenty-three years ago, she joined PWJC, a legal services provider for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, serving Westchester and Putnam Counties.

During her tenure, PWJC has grown into a highly respected, multi-faceted legal services and training center serving over 3500 victims and survivors of interpersonal violence annually. After becoming Executive Director in 2015, she identified a need for a flexible legal service model for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse. In response, she developed a walk-in clinic concept to provide free, bilingual legal services in a safe and accessible location; the new clinic and office space was inaugurated in June 2018. Since its opening, the clinic has been serving 70-80 victims of abuse monthly, increasing services by 20%.

Prior to becoming Executive Director, Cindy was responsible for oversight of PWJC’s Legal Helpline, Moderate Means Panel of lawyers, Elder Justice Unit, and PWJC’s rural sexual assault and domestic violence training programs, through which she has trained lawyers, judges, advocates, and law enforcement agents.

Before PWJC, she worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the N.Y. County District Attorney’s office for 10 years, specializing in the prosecution of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence cases. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and received her Law Degree from Brooklyn Law School.

Cindy has strong relationships with partner agencies and community members at large, serving on various boards and councils. She was appointed to serve on Westchester County’s Women’s Advisory Board in 2018, is on the Board of the Westchester

Women’s Agenda, and serves on the Westchester County Domestic Violence Council, Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force, and Westchester County Families Task Force.

Winner of the Nonprofit Organization

Pace Women’s Justice Center

Pace Women's Justice CenterThe Pace Women’s Justice Center (PWJC) is a civil legal services center within the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Founded in 1991, we were the first academic legal center in the country devoted to training attorneys and others on domestic violence (DV) issues and have since grown to be the largest civil legal services provider dedicated to serving victims and survivors of DV, sexual assault, and elder abuse in Westchester and Putnam counties.

PWJC’s mission is to pursue justice for victims, and prevent abuse through quality legal services, community partnerships, education, and awareness. PWJC provides direct legal representation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, training, community education and outreach, service coordination, and referrals. With a staff of 29 and the contribution of pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and law students, PWJC provides legal services to almost 3,000 victims and survivors, and conducts over 140 training, community education and outreach events each year. PWJC serves clients in both Westchester and Putnam Counties, with a small percentage of clients coming from other parts of the NY metro area. 70% of clients served live in Westchester County.

PWJC has a long history of innovation in the provision of legal services to victims. Here are some of our key milestones:

  • In 1998, we created a courthouse-based service for DV victims to receive same-day, walk-in services at two family courthouses (Family Court Legal Program), which focuses on obtaining emergency orders of protections and other legal safeguards. The program utilizes pro bono attorneys and staff attorneys and serves nearly 1000 clients annually. Clients who need ongoing representation after emergency protections are in place are referred to our Family Law Unit.
  • PWJC has developed a dedicated group of volunteers in our Pro Bono Program, who enable us to serve many more clients than we could with paid staff alone. Our pro bono attorneys, law students, paralegals and court volunteers assist in our Family Court Legal Program, work in the Walk-In Legal Clinic, operate our Legal Helpline, and accompany clients to court (when safety protocols allow). The pro bono attorneys work exclusively in-house, where they are trained and supervised by PWJC’s staff attorneys. The Pro Bono Program has expanded significantly in the past 3 years with the addition of the Walk-In Legal Clinic in 2018. We now have 65 active volunteers who provide an estimated value of more than $2 million in work hours annually.
  • In 2005, we were one of the first legal service providers in our area to recognize the issue of elder abuse, and to provide services to elderly victims. PWJC conducts training to professionals on this issue (police officers, healthcare providers, nurses, aides, and social workers) and conducts outreach to seniors to help them recognize abuse and educate them on how to seek help. We serve approximately 160 seniors in our Elder Justice Unit annually.
  • PWJC’s Family Law Unit, originally founded in 2005 by the federal Office on Violence Against Women (part of the US Department of Justice) was innovative in its formal collaboration with community partners, recognizing that victims require a holistic community response. The Family Law Unit provides the full spectrum of legal service and representation to Community partners complement our legal services and provide victims with shelter, counseling, health care, benefits, and immigration assistance. The Family Law Unit serves over 400 clients each year.
  • In 2018, we moved our offices, opened a new Walk-In Legal Clinic, and experienced a significant increase in funding, staff and client volume, much of this driven by the success of the A high-volume program that provides limited scope legal services, the Clinic provides a safe, private, welcoming space for victims of abuse to speak to an attorney, with or without an appointment.

The most significant change for PWJC in 2021 has been continuing to accommodate to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center has remained fully operational during the Covid-19 Health Crisis, with all of our attorneys and staff working remotely from home as of mid-March 2020. We made the following accommodations to continue serving our clients without interruption during this challenging time:

  • Phones: Our general office phone number remains fully staffed during normal business So that critical legal services can be delivered to clients immediately, and when they are needed, we created a new phone number for our court-based Family Court Legal Program for clients seeking help with ex-parte orders of protection. Our Legal Helpline remains fully staffed during normal business hours, and partially staffed after hours and on weekends.
  • Video Chat: We have implemented 2 new web-based video platforms – Gruveo, which enables us to meet with and represent our clients remotely, and Microsoft Teams, which enables us to represent clients during remote court appearances. We upgraded our Zoom platform for more confidentiality. We have also secured software, Eversign, to enable clients to sign legal documents remotely.
  • Walk-In-Clinic: Our staff and volunteers continue to meet both by appointment and on a “walk-in” basis with clients remotely. Our partner organizations also continued to keep remote “office hours” at the Walk-in-Clinic, to be available for any clients who need safety planning, counseling, and referrals for other social
  • Community education and training: We are delivering our community education and training programs via audio and webinar
  • Community outreach: Our dedicated staff is actively communicating with our community partners, supporters, clients, media, and the public to update them on our services and how we can continue to be a resource during this difficult

More recently, now that the courts have slowly begun to re-open, our Family Court Legal Program staff are once again serving clients on-site at the Yonkers and White Plains Family Court houses. In addition, when possible, our Training Outreach, and Education Director is engaging in in-person legal trainings, such as for police officers, and also in outreach opportunities such as National Night Out and community fairs.

We will continue to use the remote, web-based platforms to connect with clients who cannot reach us for reasons other than social distancing into the future, such as lack of transportation, or physical impairment or disability.

Winner of the Phil Dailey Award

Kelly Perine, Paralegal

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.

Kelly PerineKelly Perine is a paralegal/advocate with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.  who works in LawNY’s Bath office in the domestic violence unit. Prior to joining LawNY in 2004 as an AmeriCorps paralegal, Kelly worked at Arbor Housing and Development’s Domestic Violence Program and Shelter.  Kelly is a domestic violence survivor and brings that experience to her work. She also continues to work on a per-diem basis at the shelter and was a volunteer for the Sexual Assault Resource Center for 15 years.

When she became a LawNY staff paralegal in 2006, Kelly began working closely with Attorney David Pels on both domestic violence and public benefit cases.  They worked together as a team to make a difference in the lives of clients who are often in desperate situations.  Their model of trauma-informed representation of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is still used by the domestic violence team.  Kelly is often the first contact when a client is referred to LawNY, and from there she continues to build the relationship through on-going safety planning, court accompaniment and regular check-ins just to see how the client is doing.  Kelly also participates in case strategy sessions and client meetings, drafts pleadings and correspondence, and provides whatever other support is needed by the attorneys and clients.

Kelly also works on public benefits issues, negotiating with the Department of Social Services to help clients obtain public assistance and other critical public benefits. When cases do not resolve through negotiation, she represents clients in administrative fair hearings. She has earned the respect of several hearing officers who have made direct referrals of clients to her for representation.  Kelly has focused particular attention on assisting clients who face barriers to employment due to an indicated report from Child Protective Services.

In addition to her direct work with clients, Kelly coordinates and facilitates the Steuben County Domestic Abuse Review Team. DART is a multi-disciplinary team focused on victim safety, offender accountability and community education on best practices for responding to domestic violence and sexual assault.  In this role, she has helped promote best practices, such as use of the Danger Assessment tool in identifying high-risk domestic violence cases.  Within LawNY, she facilitates a workgroup for attorneys and paralegals working on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as other victims of crime.  More recently, Kelly took over facilitation of the agency Public Benefits workgroup.  She has also been instrumental in assisting with grant applications and reporting for federal, state and local grants that help support LawNY’s work on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Kelly was born and raised in Steuben County and spent most of her life in the area.  She raised four children and is married to Paul Perine. When Kelly is not at work, she spends her time with her family including their 12 grandchildren. Kelly and Paul are involved in many local organizations and volunteer their time.  Also, they share a love of history and spend time re-enacting both the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War time periods, along with doing school programs about the Revolutionary War.

Past Award Winners

Civil Legal Services Staff Attorney Award Winners

2018 Mary Beth Conway, Esq. and Jennifer Metzger Kimura, Esq.

2016 Josh Cotter, Esq. and David Kagle, Esq.

2014 Susan C. Antos, Esq. and Lori M. O’Brien, Esq.

2012 Michael Hanley, Esq. and Ian F. Feldman, Esq.

2010 Pamela J. Bayer, Esq. and Jeff Hogue, Esq.

2008 Jason D. Hoge, Esq. and James T. Murphy, Esq.

2006 David E. Ralph, Esq.

2004 Sarah Betsy Fuller, Esq.  and Judith Studebaker, Esq.

2001 Carole Boccumini, Esq. and Joshua Zinner, Esq.

2000 Marc Cohan, Esq. and Peter O’Brien Dellinger, Esq.

1998 Michael Hampden, Esq. and Mary M. Withington, Esq.

1997 Leslie D’Cora Holmes, Esq. and Barry Strom, Esq.

1995 Margaret H. McDowell, Esq., Douglas Roy Ruff, Esq. and Wendy H. Wahlberg, Esq.

1994 Sheryl Randy Karp, Esq., Jerrold M. Levy, Esq., and William F. Mastroleo, Esq.

Legal Services Program Director Award Winners

2018 Barbara Finkelstein, Esq.

2016 Karen Nicolson, Esq.

2014 Alan S. Harris, Esq.

2012 Michael Rothenberg*, Esq.

2010 Steven B. Telzak*, Esq.

2008 Lillian M. Moy, Esq.

Pro Bono Program Director Award Winners

2012 Richard S. Hobish, Esq.

2006 Lisa A. Frisch, Esq.

Nonprofit Organization Award Winners

2016 Community Service Society of New York Next Door Project

2014 Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York

2012 New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

2010 Legal Health, a Division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

2008 The Worker’s Rights Law Center of New York, Inc.

2006 Western New York Law Center of Buffalo and its Executive Director, Joseph Kelemen, Esq.

2004 inMotion Inc.

2001 Greater Upstate Law Project (GULP), Inc.

Phil Dailey Award Winners

2018 Deborah O’Shea, Pro Bono Coordinator Onondaga County Bar Association

2016 Phil Dailey*

*Awarded posthumously.

Empire State Counsel

The Empire State Counsel® Program recognizes NYSBA members who, during the prior year, performed 50 hours or more of pro bono legal services either through direct legal representation of a low-income/vulnerable individual, 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 providing free legal services to an organization dedicated to increasing the availability of legal services to vulnerable and/or low-income populations.

All Empire State Counsel® honorees receive a certificate suitable for framing and may use this honorific designation as a credential on their resume.

Partnership Conference

Partnership was not held in 2020. Plan to be held in fall 2022 – additional details shared when available in 2021.

We thank you for your support and efforts in assembling such wonderful programming and look forward to the day when we can safely meet together again. Information on the Denison Ray Civil Awards and Phil Dailey Award Ceremony will be circulated at that time.

New York State Bar: Pro Bono Requirements

Find Out More About Pro Bono Requirements for New York State Bar Admission

If you were enrolled at an ABA-approved law school and you are seeking admission to practice in New York on examination, you will need to complete 50 hours of qualifying pro bono work before you apply for admission to the New York bar. Only eligible pro bono work performed on or after May 1, 2012 will satisfy the Rule. The Requirement need not be fulfilled before a law student applies to take the New York bar examination; rather, the 50 hours must be completed before filing an application for admission.

Explore Resources

New York State Bar Pro Bono Requirement (NYU Public Interest Law Center)

Bar Admission Requirements – Pro Bono (NY Courts)

Bar Admission & Pro Bono – FAQs (NY Courts)