Pro Bono
Need Legal Help?

For information about legal services please contact Hannah Sears, Pro Bono Programs Administrator at or 212-267-6646, ext. 217

Tax Court Project

The Problem: Most taxpayers who appear in front of the U.S. Tax Court are unrepresented and cannot afford to pay an attorney to represent them.  While some calendar call locations have Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, such clinics in New York only provide representation to taxpayers who are already clients.  This leaves many pro se taxpayers at calendar call without access to legal advice.

How NYCLA Helps

The Tax Court Project provides limited legal assistance to those unrepresented pro se petitioners at calendar call.  The volunteer attorneys help taxpayers navigate the unfamiliar process of calendar call.  They (1) consult with the pro se petitioners regarding the merits of their cases and assist in the evaluation of any settlement proposals from the Internal Revenue Service, (2) provide procedural advice to pro se petitioners who decide to proceed to trial, and (3) act as communicators or mediators between the parties in an effort to assist in resolving each case.

Project Restore

The Problem: Unemployment is the persistent factor most strongly correlated with recidivism.  Obtaining gainful employment, however, is typically difficult for a person with a criminal history, particularly one who seeks to enter a vocation requiring state licenses.  Routinely, the New York Department of State, which has the authority to grant the necessary licenses, denies them to individuals solely on the basis of their prior criminal convictions.

How NYCLA Helps

Project Restore provides pro bono representation to individuals who have been denied vocational licenses and who are challenging the denial.  Advocacy includes representing license seekers in administrative law proceedings, appealing adverse Administrative Law Judge decisions to agency commissioners and when warranted, appealing commissioners’ decisions to the New York State Supreme Court via Article 78 Petitions.

State Central Registry Project

The Problem: When the New York State Office of Children and Family Services receive a call regarding suspected abuse and neglect, a report is entered into the State Central Register. Read More If an individual listed on the Register wishes to remove their name from the list, they have an opportunity to request the report be labeled as “unfounded” and if the Register refuses to remove the person’s name, they have a right to an administrative review and fair hearing.

How NYCLA Helps

Through the State Central Registry Project, volunteer attorneys provide counsel and representation to individuals who seek to amend, seal or expunge indicated reports from the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

Legal Counseling Project 

The Problem: When people cannot afford legal counsel or they are uncertain about how to obtain legal assistance to solve a particular problem, they become discouraged by the legal system. Read more Consequently, they either endure needless and unjust hardship or give up on problems that might otherwise be easily solved.

How NYCLA Helps

The Legal Counseling Project gives the public the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an attorney to discuss their legal problems and explore options and solutions.  The project provides counseling to individuals at evening clinics held once a week on an appointment-only basis in the areas of (1) family, focusing on divorce, annulment, legal separation, enforcement and modification of child support and maintenance, custody and visitation (2) employment, with an emphasis on wrongful discharge matters, pension and ERISA issues, and (3) landlord/tenant including holdover proceedings and non-payment proceedings.  The volunteer attorneys review documents, answer questions, discuss areas of concern that the individual should be aware of when entering certain agreements or point out various methods whereby the individual can correct a problem or seek appropriate assistance and direction.

Social Security SDNY Project

The Problem: Each year, the Social Security Administration rejects hundreds of thousands of people who apply for benefits, on the grounds that they are not disabled. There is an appeal process within the agency, and many Social Security claimants use it to appeal the denials of their applications. Individuals who have lost at all steps of the administrative process have the right to file civil actions in the United States District Court, and nearly 20,000 people do so each year. Many of these litigants do not have lawyers and are left to navigate a federal appeals process on their own.

How NYCLA Helps

In partnership with the SDNY Pro Se Office, NYCLA works to train and match volunteers with individuals who are appealing their denial of benefits. Volunteers review the record and help file motions for judgments on the pleadings, which are accompanied by memoranda of law. Briefs are sometimes accompanied by oral argument, before the District Judge issues a decision. With our help, litigants stand a fighting chance to receive highly needed benefits.

Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct Project

The Problem: Unfortunately, a previously incarcerated individual faces a number of barriers.  Having a criminal record often means that individuals cannot access the same employment and housing opportunities as others, which makes it even more difficult to reintegrate into society.

How NYCLA Helps

Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into society and contribute to their communities by removing bars and disabilities resulting from certain convictions.  In collaboration with the New York County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors, Milton A. Tingling, NYCLA volunteer attorneys consult with previously incarcerated individuals seeking to learn more about these types of certificates and walk through the application process, timing and documentation required to obtain them.

Veterans Discharge Upgrade Project

The Problem: Military discharges that are not characterized as “Honorable” can disqualify veterans from substantial government benefits. These discharges are often the result of undiagnosed mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or the experience of sexual assault.

How NYCLA Helps

The Veterans Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Program provides certain veterans who have received a less-than-honorable discharge with legal assistance to appeal their discharge status. Volunteer attorneys prepare written applications through investigation and record-building. If a written application is denied, attorneys have the opportunity to represent the client at a hearing before a Discharge Review Board.

Manhattan CLARO Project

The Problem: As a result of the growing number of New Yorkers using credit cards to make ends meet, the Civil Courts are being inundated with consumer debt cases.

How NYCLA Helps

The Manhattan CLARO Project addresses the needs of unrepresented debtors who are being sued by their creditors, by providing pro se litigants the opportunity to meet with an attorney to discuss their case and obtain limited legal advice.  Rather than representing individuals in court, the CLARO volunteer attorneys meet with individuals at evening clinics at the New York County Civil Court and advise them on how best to represent themselves in their court cases.  The volunteer attorney explains the court process, review the client’s case file, prepare court papers, and give advice on other consumer debt issues.