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On May 27, 2014, beginning at 4:00 p.m., NYCLA will hold a Public Forum to address new rules that now require New York attorneys to report certain information about their pro bono service, as well as their charitable contributions to organizations that provide pro bono legal service, on their biennial registration statements. The speakers at the Forum will address, among other issues: the mechanics of and rationale for the new rules; whether the Administrative Board of the Courts had the statutory authority to impose mandatory reporting; whether the new rules advance legitimate public policy goals; whether they impermissibly infringe on the privacy and First Amendment rights of New York lawyers; and whether the definition of "pro bono" used in the new rules is appropriate.

We encourage you to attend the Forum, during which there will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the panelists. In addition, it would be helpful to the Working Group on Mandatory Reporting of Voluntary Pro Bono (the "Working Group"), which is organizing the Forum, to have written comments from your Section or Committee in advance of the Forum, so that the moderators can take your views into account.

For your convenience, you can access copies of the relevant rules (Section 118.1 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator and Rule 6.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct) and the current biennial registration form being used by the Office of Court Administration here. Additional information about the new reporting requirements is available here. If you would like further background information, please contact Natalie Wimbush at nwimbush@nycla.org, and she will put you in touch with the Working Group.

In considering the new rules, you should be aware that NYCLA historically has been a strong supporter of voluntary pro bono efforts by the New York bar and an equally strong opponent of mandatory pro bono requirements. The purpose of the Forum is not to debate either of these positions, but to address the pros and cons of mandatory reporting of voluntary pro bono service and charitable contributions. The new reporting requirements raise complex and difficult issues, including whether the stated justifications for the reporting rules – encouraging lawyers to increase their voluntary pro bono service and charitable contributions, and allowing the Judiciary to track statistical information about voluntary pro bono service and charitable contributions – are legitimate goals; if so, whether those goals can be accomplished in a way that does not implicate privacy or First Amendment concerns; whether mandatory reporting is inherently coercive; whether mandatory reporting is a prelude to mandatory pro bono service; whether imposing mandatory pro bono reporting is beyond the powers of the Judiciary; whether the current definition of "pro bono services," which excludes many pro bono efforts that should be encouraged and recognized, is too narrow; whether the amendment to Rule 6.1, which raised the aspirational goal for New York lawyers from 20 to 50 hours of pro bono service annually, is unduly burdensome, either standing alone or in conjunction with Section 118.1; and whether certain categories of lawyers are properly exempted from the reporting requirements. The speakers at the Forum will be addressing these and other related questions.

Please send the written comments of your Section or Committee to nwimbush@nycla.org with PROBONO FORUM COMMENTS in the subject line no later than May 16, 2014. While there is no pre-set page limit for comments, the moderators would appreciate concise submissions that can assist them in guiding the panel discussions during the Forum.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Barbara Moses, President