NYCLA Pro Bono Programs for New Yorkers


New York County Lawyers Association offers pro bono programs to help New Yorkers.  For information about legal services contact Hannah Sears, Pro Bono Programs Administrator at  or call 212.267.6646 ext. 217.

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. 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 provides free phone consultations to the public in the areas of Landlord/Tenant Law, Family Law, and Employment Law. Legal volunteers review documents, answer questions, explain legal procedures and rights, and discuss options for the individual to resolve their problem or seek appropriate assistance and direction. The program covers the areas of (1) Landlord/Tenant Law, including eviction proceedings, issues with maintenance and repairs, and landlord harassment; (2) Family Law, focusing on separation and divorce, enforcement and modification of child support and maintenance, and custody and visitation; and (3) Employment Law, with an emphasis on wrongful termination, employee discrimination and hostile work environment, and pension and ERISA issues. Consultations are scheduled flexibly based on volunteers’ and clients’ availability.

To receive assistance from the Legal Counseling Project, please submit an online intake form here.

Volunteer Lawyer for the Day (VLFD) and CLARO Consumer Debt Programs

The Problem: Many individuals who are sued by creditors for a debt are unable to afford representation, and may not be aware of all their rights and options when they defend themselves in Civil Court. 

NYCLA has a library of short informational videos on Common Consumer Debt Questions and Answers. You can watch these videos below.

Video: Understanding Consumer Debt Judgements



How NYCLA helps

NYCLA provides two closely linked programs, the Volunteer Lawyer for the Day (VLFD) Program and the CLARO Program, that help people who have been sued by creditors in New York County Civil Court. CLARO provides legal advice outside of court, for example with understanding and preparing case documents. The VLFD Program provides unrepresented litigants with limited scope legal representation in their court appearances. The VLFD reviews documents, gives advice, and advocates for pro se litigants before the judge.

To receive assistance from the Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Consumer Debt Program, please submit an online intake form here.

To receive assistance from the CLARO consumer debt program, please email the Pro Bono Programs Administrator, Hannah Sears, at

Reentry Initiative: Certificates Project

The Problem: People with criminal records face a number of barriers that persist even after they complete their sentence. Having a criminal record often means that individuals cannot access the same employment and housing opportunities, which makes it even more difficult to reintegrate into their communities.

How NYCLA helps

The Certificates Project provides free legal counsel to determine eligibility and apply for Certificates of Relief from Civil Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct. These Certificates help people with criminal convictions successfully reintegrate into society and contribute to their communities by removing barriers imposed by their convictions. They facilitate access to employment, housing, and civic participation. This program was created in collaboration with the New York County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors, Milton A. Tingling. Volunteers provide consultations through virtual and in-person legal clinics with community partner organizations, as well as to individuals who contact NYCLA directly for assistance. Eligible individuals can continue to receive free legal assistance with the application process.

To receive assistance from the Certificates Project, please submit an online intake form here.

Reentry Initiative: Project Restore

The Problem: For individuals with past criminal convictions, unemployment is a persistent factor most strongly correlated with recidivism. Obtaining gainful employment is typically difficult for a person with a conviction history, particularly one who seeks to enter a vocation requiring licenses through the New York Department of State. Routinely, the Department of State Division of Licensing Services denies these necessary licenses to individuals solely on the basis of their prior criminal convictions, without considering other factors.

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.

To receive assistance from Project Restore, please email the Pro Bono Programs Administrator, Hannah Sears, at

State Central Registry Project

The Problem: When the New York State Office of Children and Family Services receives a call regarding suspected abuse and neglect, a report is entered into the State Central Register (SCR). These reports can be incorrect, unfair, and discriminatory, and can limit a person’s access to certain types of employment and other opportunities. If an individual listed on the SCR wishes to remove their name from the list, they have an opportunity to request the report be labeled as “unfounded.” If the Register refuses to remove the person’s name, they have a right to an administrative review and fair hearing.

How NYCLA helps

The State Central Registry Project provides pro bono representation to eligible individuals who seek to amend, seal, or expunge indicated reports from the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Advocacy includes reviewing files, client interviews, letter-writing and advocacy during the pre-hearing stage, settlement negotiations, and, if necessary, presentation at a hearing before a Hearing Officer.

To receive assistance from the State Central Registry Project, please contact our program partner Bronx Legal Services at 917-661-4500.

Social Security SDNY Project

The Problem: Individuals with disabilities that prevent them from working are able to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 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

The Social Security SDNY Project provides free representation to eligible individuals who are appealing their denial of benefits in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. This program works in partnership with the SDNY Pro Se Office to connect people who file civil actions with volunteer lawyers through NYCLA. Volunteers review the record and help file motions for judgements 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.

To receive assistance from the Social Security SDNY Project, please contact our Volunteer Program Coordinator, Carolyn Kubitschek, at Lansner & Kubitschek: 212-349-0900.

Civil Appeals Pilot Project

The Problem: There is a significant gap in legal services that exists for unrepresented litigants who file civil appeals in the Appellate Division. Even if an individual is fortunate enough to have had pro bono counsel at the trial level, there are fewer programs and resources for litigants who seek to appeal an adverse ruling, and unrepresented litigants are at a significant disadvantage.

How NYCLA Helps

The Civil Appeals Pilot Project provides free representation to eligible litigants who have filed civil appeals in the Appellate Division – First Judicial Department. This program covers appeals of Article 78 decisions related to New York State or local agency decisions, and Family Law appeals including child or spousal support and matrimonial disputes.

To receive assistance from the Civil Appeals Pilot Project, please submit an online intake form here.

Veterans Discharge 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.

U.S. Tax Court Project

The Problem: Most taxpayers who appear in front of the United States 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 unrepresented petitioners at U.S. Tax Court calendar call. Volunteer attorneys help taxpayers navigate the unfamiliar process of calendar call. They (1) consult with the pro se petitioners regarding the merits of their case 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 resolve each case.