NYCLA Special Masters Program

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About the Special Masters Program

NYCLA first launched the Special Masters Program in 1976 to help the New York court system manage its congested calendars during a statewide budget crisis. 350 NYCLA lawyers volunteered to act as Special Masters of the courts to relieve the burden.

The program, was relaunched in 2021 with a focus on creating a pipeline for attorneys of color and other underrepresented communities to volunteer in the courts and inspire them to become judges. The new program is administered in partnership with the Unified Court System and the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission.

Special Masters work closely with an assigned Justice of the Supreme Court and assist with various tasks based on the needs of the Court. Tasks may include handling discovery conferences, settlement conferences, conducting legal research, drafting memos of law advising the Court on pretrial and trial issues, preparing written recommendations on resolving motions, etc.

The 2023 Special Masters Program will begin volunteering in May 2023 for a one-year term ending on the last day of May 2024. Special Masters who have satisfactorily completed their one year term may seek to continue on for another term.



In order to be considered for the Program, applicants must:

  • Become NYCLA member if accepted into the Program and maintain membership throughout their time as a Special Master.
  • Be admitted to practice law in the State of New York and have practiced law for at least five years as of the application date.
  • Submit a complete application.
  • Be able to volunteer for a maximum of 12 hours per month for up to one year.
  • Be able to complete mandatory training during their term as a Special Master.


How to Apply

In order to apply to the Program, please submit your resume, a one-page letter indicating why you are interested in serving as a Special Master and how you are qualified for the role, and a writing sample (maximum 10 pages). 

Email the documents to the attention of Onya Brinson, the Special Masters Coordinator at:


The application DEADLINE is Friday, June 30th, 2023 at 5pm.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are Special Masters compensated for their work?
The Special Masters Program is a volunteer program; however, participants will receive approximately five hours of complimentary CLE credits as part of their training. Additionally, special masters will have a unique opportunity to work closely and be mentored by a Justice of the Supreme Court.

What training is involved to be a Special Master?
As part of the Program, applicants are required to complete training sessions covering topics such as ethics, drafting decisions and orders, handling discovery and settlement conferences, and other important topics.

Does NYCLA offer membership discounts to new members?
Yes. NYCLA offers a variety of membership discounts, which include discounts if you are a member of an affiliate bar association. Check out our current membership fees and list of participating affiliate bar associations

Where will Special Masters be assigned to volunteer?
Special Masters will be assigned to volunteer with a Justice of the Supreme Court, Civil Term in New York County. Assignments include helping Justices in the general IAS parts and specialized parts, including the City Part, Transit Part, Motor Vehicle Part, and others. Assignments will depend on the needs of the Court, the candidate’s legal experience, and history of volunteering as a special master.

Are applicants for the Special Masters Program required to have experience in a specific area of law?

No. There is no requirement to practice in a specific area of law, however, lawyers who have experience in civil litigation and working knowledge of New York state court practice are strongly encouraged to apply. However, lawyers with litigation backgrounds in areas other than civil practice are also welcome to apply.