1. How do the changes to the Pro Bono Reporting Requirement (22NYCRR§118.1(14)), effective as of May 1, 2015, affect my reporting of pro bono?
Effective as of May 1, 2015, the required reporting of pro bono services and financial contributions is made anonymously, separate and apart from the attorney registration form, on the new Anonymous Report of Voluntary Pro Bono Services and Contributions. In addition, the categories of pro bono services and financial contributions that may be reported have been expanded to include voluntary and unpaid public, community, or charitable service.
2. Under the revised rule, who must file the new Anonymous Report?
Under the revised rule, all attorneys who are admitted to practice in New York State must submit the Anonymous Report when they register. (Retired attorneys as defined in 22NYCRR§118.1(g) continue to be “exempt” from reporting pro bono service details, but are required to submit the form to confirm their exempt status.)
3. How do I file the required Anonymous Report of Voluntary Pro Bono Services and Contributions?
(a)If you register by mail, you will receive a copy of the Anonymous Report along with your registration form and two return envelopes. The Anonymous Report should be mailed in the blue envelope provided.
(b) If you register online, you will be linked to an electronic version of the Anonymous Report, which is submitted online and stored anonymously.
4. Am I required to maintain records of pro bono service and contributions, or a copy of the Anonymous Report?
While it is recommended that attorneys maintain a copy of their Anonymous Report, there is no requirement to do so, nor that attorneys keep records of the amount of their pro bono service and contributions.
5. Under the 2015 revised reporting requirement, am I mandated to perform pro bono legal services?
No. Pro bono legal service by attorneys admitted in New York is completely voluntary. Only the reporting of such services and contributions is mandatory.
6. How do I fill out the Anonymous Report if I have no pro bono services or financial contributions to report?
For those attorneys required to complete Section IV of the Anonymous Report (see below), enter “0” if you have no hours of service or financial contributions to report.
7. Have any recent revisions changed who is considered to be Exempt from reporting?
Yes, retired attorneys as defined in 22NYCRR§118.1(g) continue to be “exempt” from reporting pro bono service details, but are required to submit the Anonymous Report to confirm their exempt status. However, effective in 2018, attorneys employed by legal services providers are no longer Exempt from this mandatory reporting requirement. See below.
8. What is the term of the reporting requirement on the Anonymous Report?
Data entered on the Anonymous Report should reflect the two-year time period ending on December 31 of the year preceding registration filing. For example, if you file during 2015, you should report information for the period January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014. Similarly, if you file during 2016, you should report information for the period January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015.
9. Section III. What do I do if I don’t know my Judicial District?
Attorneys are asked to identify the location of their principal place of business. If that location is within New York State, but outside New York City, please check the appropriate box for the Judicial District in which your office is located. The Chart on NYS Judicial Districts contains a list of those districts, matched by county.
10. How do I list my various pro bono services and contributions on the new Anonymous Report?
The new Anonymous Report has three separate sections—IV, V and VI-- for reporting pro bono efforts. Section IV is mandatory for all attorneys, except those who are exempt; sections V and VI are voluntary for all attorneys.
(a) Section IV, Rule 6.1 Pro Bono Legal Services and Charitable Contributions
All attorneys, except those who are exempt, must, in this section, report the number of hours of unpaid legal services performed and funds contributed to legal services organizations, in accordance with Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. In accordance with Rule 6.1(c), appropriate organizations for financial contributions are:
(1) organizations primarily engaged in the provision of legal services to the poor; and
(2) organizations substantially engaged in the provision of legal services to the poor, provided that the donated funds are to be used for the provision of such legal services.
Note: If you are employed by such an organization, do not report any hours of your paid employment.
This is the same information that was required to be reported prior to the May 1, 2015 revision. Rule 6.1, Voluntary Pro Bono Service, remains unchanged
(b) Section V, Other Pro Bono Services and Contributions
This new, totally voluntary section, provides the opportunity for any attorney (whether exempt or non-exempt), to report charitable and pro bono services and contributions that fall outside the scope of those required to be reported under Section IV. In voluntarily answering Section V, you should not repeat information already mandatorily reported in Section IV.
For purposes of this section, reportable charitable activities and financial contributions are not restricted to those related to providing legal services for the poor. Under Section V, attorneys may report the total number of hours of any voluntary and unpaid public, community, or charitable service performed, as well as the total amount of all charitable contributions made to any institution, person or cause.
This section also gives attorneys the opportunity to report legal services performed for the public good, at a rate substantially below their normal billing rate. While we have suggested a billing discount rate of at least 40% for this reporting purpose, this figure is only a suggestion; attorneys may report services at a smaller discount rate if they choose. (Do not include fees that were intended to be billed and collected but could not be collected.)
(c) Section VI, Details of Reported Service and Contributions
Section IV (mandatory reporting) and Section V (voluntary reporting) ask for numerical responses. Section VI, a new, totally voluntary section, offers you the opportunity, should you choose to do so, to provide any additional details about the service and contributions numerically reported in Sections IV and V.
11. What are some examples of the types of services and contributions that are voluntarily reportable under Sections V and VI?
Voluntary services and financial contributions can be for any public, community, or charitable service. For example, they might benefit the arts, the elderly, education, disaster assistance, religious entities, or youth programs. Voluntary legal services include, but are not limited to, unpaid volunteer work of a legal nature on not-for-profit boards and for bar associations, and voluntary mediation or arbitration.
12. If my status is “Exempt,” do I still have to file an Anonymous Report?
Yes, all attorneys registered in NYS are required to submit the new Anonymous Report. On the Anonymous Report, exempt attorneys are required only to confirm their exempt status. If you are exempt, you may, at your option, respond to additional questions on the form and voluntarily report your pro bono service and financial contributions, but there is no requirement to do so. Whether you choose to report such service and contributions is up to you, but you still must file an Anonymous Report.
The Administrative Board of the Courts has determined that attorneys who are "retired" from the practice of law as defined in 22 NYCRR §118.1(g) are exempt from this mandatory reporting requirement. These attorneys may simply check the "Exempt" box and submit without further information. However, even if you check "Exempt", you may voluntarily choose to report your pro bono service and complete the remainder of the form.
Note: As of 2018, The Administrative Board of the Courts has determined that attorneys employed by an organization primarily engaged in the provision of pro bono legal services (for example, a legal services agency, legal aid society, defenders organization, or similar group), are no longer exempt from this mandatory reporting requirement.