Pro Bono Representation 

The Southern District of New York seeks the assistance of attorneys to appear pro bono on behalf of indigent litigants in civil cases. 

Representing a litigant who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer is part of the legal profession’s proud tradition. Litigants without lawyers file about 1,400 cases each year in the Southern District of New York; these cases constitute about 15% of the Court’s civil docket. Many of these cases implicate constitutional rights – from employment discrimination to conditions of confinement and use of force – and the protection of livelihoods.  The need may be for full scope representation, or for a more limited purpose – mediation, settlement, discovery, or dispositive motion practice. 

Lawyers who provide pro bono representation help ensure that litigants’ inability to hire an attorney does not limit their access to a fair outcome. Volunteering also provides lawyers with the opportunity to improve their litigation and negotiation skills. 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 before a judge or mediator, engage in motion practice, or try a case. 

For Pro Bono Attorneys

Attorney Registration

The court publishes a periodic newsletter of pro bono opportunities. To receive this newsletter, please send an email to

As of July 1, 2024, in order to receive regular notification of pending Orders for Pro Bono Counsel, attorneys must be admitted to the Southern District of New York and registered in the CM/ECF system with an updated email address. 

Exploring a Case
When considering a case, alert and provide regular updates on your progress. This helps prevent multiple attorneys reaching out to a single litigant. Though attorneys will follow their own processes, the main components in exploring a case are:

  1. conflict check;
  2. docket review;
  3. outreach to the litigant;
  4. obtaining a retainer agreement. 

Registering Pro Bono Representation on the Docket

An attorney representing a litigant pro bono must file a “Notice of Appearance of Pro Bono Counsel” or, if the representation is for a limited purpose, a “Notice of Limited Appearance of Pro Bono Counsel.”  

To receive electronic notification of case filings when appearing pro bono in a limited capacity, attorneys must add the case as a “case of interest” via the “Maintain Your Email” option under the Utilities menu in CM/ECF. Select the option to “Add additional cases for noticing.” 

If the pro bono representation is for a limited purpose (e.g., mediation, settlement, discovery), the attorney must file a “Notice of Completion” when the purpose laid out in the Notice of Limited Appearance of Pro Bono Counsel has been completed. Such notice should be served on all parties.

Support Pro Bono Attorneys

Free PACER access is available to pro bono attorneys. Please contact for details. 

The Federal Bar Council’s Access to Counsel Project offers support to pro bono attorneys and periodic trainings in trial advocacy. The FBC has convened an Advisory Panel of experienced attorneys who are available for mentorship and training. They can be contacted at

Reimbursement up to $5,000 is available for costs related to pro bono representation. The relevant voucher is available on the SDNY website. For costs exceeding $5,000 (up to $10,000), pro bono attorneys may make an application, which must be preapproved. 

Lawyers may receive CLE credit for pro bono work

The Southern District of New York recognizes its pro bono attorneys.

2023 Year-End letter from Chief Judge Swain.

For Pro Se Litigants