The Legal Aid Society's Pro Bono Program is the leading program in the nation with more than 2,000 attorneys and paralegals-- primarily from New York's major law firms and corporate law departments-- handling 2,200 matters on behalf of Legal Aid clients. Pro bono work ranges from complex litigation to staffing an immigration hotline. Many of these matters are part of a law firm project in which the firm, under partner leadership, staffs a number of cases annually. Other cases are placed with firms through regular case list distributions. Society staff members meet with firms to discuss developing a customized pro bono project or individual case referrals.
The Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project, in which volunteer lawyers allocate a third of their time over a nine month period or serve as full-time externs for up to a year, provides legal resources to assist with the enormous caseload handled by the Criminal Practice. Under the mentorship of senior Legal Aid Society trial counsel, participating attorneys work arraignments and handle misdemeanor cases for clients as part of this program. Working with Society staff, volunteer lawyers are responsible for research, conducting criminal investigations, drafting motions and memoranda, preparing witnesses and conducting hearings and trials on their cases. They also serve as part of litigation teams on complex felony matters.
In the Criminal Appeals Bureau, pro bono attorneys, mentored by senior appellate counsel, review the trial record, engage in issue selection, write the appellate brief, and engage in oral argument.