Representing a litigant who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer is part of the legal profession's proud tradition. The pro se docket in the Southern District of New York represents more than 20% of the cases filed each year. This means that, without volunteer lawyers, thousands of litigants must navigate the legal process on their own. These litigants, who often raise important constitutional and civil rights claims, are significantly disadvantaged compared to counseled parties merely because of their indigent status.
A pro bono lawyer who represents a pro se litigant not only ensures equal access to the courts but also is provided with a unique opportunity to hone litigation skills and appear before a federal judge. Depending on the procedural posture of the case, a pro bono lawyer may appear before a federal district judge or magistrate judge, conduct depositions, attend settlement conferences, oppose (or file) dispositive motions and try cases. In fact, because some judges do not grant requests for pro bono counsel until a case has survived a dispositive motion, pro se cases often provide a rare opportunity for an immediate trial.
If you are interested in representing a party in a civil action, please contact your firm's pro bono coordinator, or you are always welcome to contact Margaret Malloy, Chief Counsel to the Office of Pro Se Litigation, at (212) 805-0181. This telephone number is only for lawyers who are interested in volunteering; it is not for people seeking legal assistance. If you are interested in representing a plaintiff in an employment discrimination case solely for mediation, please visit Mediation in Pro Se Employment Discrimination Cases.