"Pro bono work is vital to our court system. One of the most cherished protections citizens have is the constitutional right to be represented by counsel."
- Chief Justice Stuart Rabner
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Pro Bono Training Resources
Your assigned pro bono case might involve an unfamiliar area of the law. To help you fulfill your pro bono requirements, New Jersey Courts provides comprehensive training materials. The Closing the Justice Gap video provides an overview of this important mandate. Visit our FAQ for answers to essential questions.
The parole revocation hearing training video walks you through the process for this case type. Access the parole revocation training manual for more detailed information. This notice to bar provides information on modification of pro bono parole revocation assignments. See all state parole locations.
Although not assigned through the Madden list, the manual for Representing a Birth Parent in a Private Contested Adoption Case Manual also is available.
These materials are updated periodically. Attorneys assigned pro bono cases are expected to conduct their own research on relevant issues and the most current case law.
For additional questions, email
Pro Bono Contact Information
Exemptions for Other Pro Bono Service
Attorneys who certify they have performed at least 25 hours of voluntary qualifying pro bono service in New Jersey are exempt from taking Madden v. Delran cases in the following year (Rule 1:21-12). Organizations that provide qualifying service are listed in the pro bono organizations portal.
Retired attorneys who had a plenary New Jersey bar admission are permitted to provide pro bono legal services through authorized legal services organizations. A retired attorney who certifies to the Supreme Court that the only aspect of the attorney’s participation in legal practice is by providing qualifying pro bono service as defined by Rule 1:21-11. See the Dec. 10, 2020 notice to the bar for details.
Attorneys who provide at least 25 hours of court-appointed adult guardianship services can be exempt from Madden assignments. See the March 4, 2021 notice to the bar and the March 1, 2021 Supreme Court order for details. Attorneys seeking this exemption must submit a completed certification form.
Attorneys may also receive an exemption by providing at least 25 volunteer pro bono hours of service in certain landlord tenant matters. See the October 20, 2020 notice to the bar and appended Supreme Court order for details. Attorneys seeking this exemption must submit a certification form. All certification forms can be filed electronically and submitted via email to
Attorneys could be exempt from taking Madden v. Delran cases for other reasons, such as retirement. See the 2023 Exemptions from Pro Bono Counsel Assignment.
Qualifying Pro Bono Service Organizations
Certified pro bono service providers can be found in the Pro Bono Organizations Portal. Pro bono organizations seeking to become certified must apply. Certification applications can be submitted at any time during the year. Rule 1:21-11. Follow instructions in the portal to apply.
For questions, email
Pro Bono Requirements in New Jersey Attorneys
The New Jersey bar performs pro bono work for indigent litigants in cases where the legislature has made no provision for a public defender. Because this responsibility was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Madden v. Delran, 126 NJ 591 (1992), these cases are sometimes referred to as Madden cases.
All attorneys must report their compliance with pro bono requirements during the online registration process each year. They also must ensure that their contact information remains correct in the system. Attorneys are assigned pro bono cases through the Administrative Office of the Courts. The court’s computer system maintains an alphabetical list of attorneys eligible for a pro bono assignment in each county. Attorneys selected for a pro bono assignment are then moved to the bottom of the list. This prevents them getting more pro bono assignments than are required.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am a limited license attorney, under R. 1:27-2, who works for a corporation. Am I required to do Madden pro bono cases?
I am a limited license attorney, under R. 1:27-2, who works for a corporation. Am I required to do Madden pro bono cases?
No. These circumstances do not require you to take a pro bono assignment.
Q. I am completely retired from the practice of law. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
No, you are exempt from mandatory pro bono. You should request exemption code 86 on the annual pro bono questionnaire that is part of the online annual attorney registration.
Q. I am an attorney who has worked 25 hours during the past year for various programs listed under category #88. I have worked 15 hours for one of the programs and 10 hours for another. Am I eligible to claim an exemption from pro bono?
Yes. The 25-hour requirement is not tied directly to service for one program. If the attorney volunteers 25 hours for any one program or for a combination of programs listed under category #88, then the attorney is eligible to claim an exemption.
Q. What if the assigned attorney has no previous experience in the type of case he or she is assigned for pro bono?
The Supreme Court addressed this issue in Madden v. Delran, 126 N.J. at 607-08. It recognized that frequently attorneys who have no experience in the substantive area of the law involved in the pro bono case will be called upon. As the Court said: “Real estate attorneys, corporate counsel, experts in commercial leases, all have been assigned to represent indigent defendants charged with simple assault, driving while intoxicated; all were required not only to learn how to defend those cases but to find out where the courthouse is.” 126 N.J. at 607. If, however, the trial judge is convinced that the assigned counsel will provide ineffective assistance of counsel, the judge should direct the assigned counsel to obtain a substitute. 126 N.J. at 608.
Are free transcripts provided for pro bono cases?
Yes. For Appeals to the Appellate Division, see R.2:5-3(d): “If the appellant is indigent and is entitled to have a transcript of the proceedings below furnished without charge for use on appeal, either the trial or the appellate court on application, may order the transcript prepared at public expense.”
For Municipal Court Appeals to the Law Division, see R.3:23-8(a)(3) (emphasis added): “If the appellant, upon application to the court appealed to, is found to be indigent, the court may order the transcript of the proceedings below furnished at the county’s expense if the appeal involves violation of a statute and at the municipality’s expense if the appeal involves violation of an ordinance.”
Q. I recently lost my job with a law firm and have not yet found another law job. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
No, while you are not practicing law you are exempt from mandatory pro bono. You should request exemption code 86 on the annual pro bono questionnaire that is part of the online annual attorney registration. When you obtain new legal employment, you are required to update your online attorney registration.
Q. I am a retired municipal court judge, am I exempt from pro bono assignments?
No. Exemption code 82 identifies retired judges as Supreme Court Justices, Superior Court and Tax Court Judges, Federal Court Judges, Workers’ Compensation Judges and Administrative Law Judges. Only these judges are exempt after retirement.
Q. Why are New Jersey attorneys required to represent indigent defendants for free when assigned those cases by the court?
In Madden v. Delran, 126 N.J. 591 (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the bar's duty to represent indigent defendants without pay where the Legislature has made no provision for the Public Defender to represent defendants who are entitled to counsel. The Court recognized that it was placing a burden on the bar that should be more generally shared by the public at large. The Court said: "We realize it is the bar that is bearing the burden . . . . We trust the bar understands the strong policy considerations that have persuaded us. As has so often been the case, it is the bar that makes the system work, often without compensation." 126 N.J. at 614.
Q. I do not have malpractice insurance. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
Yes. The Supreme Court has determined that having malpractice insurance is not a prerequisite for handling Madden pro bono assignments. In fact, there is no requirement that any practicing attorney maintain malpractice insurance.
Q. I am an attorney and would like to complete my annual attorney registration on-line. Where can I get information?
You may go to: Annual Attorney Registration.
Q. I am an attorney, admitted in New Jersey and I am employed as an in-house counsel with my primary office in New Jersey. I do not engage in private practice. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
Yes. The Supreme Court has determined that attorneys who are in-house counsel with offices in New Jersey and who are in good standing are eligible to receive pro bono assignments, because their work constitutes practicing law.
Q. I am an attorney admitted into practice for 50 years or more. I am granted an exemption from payment from New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. Am I required to do pro bono work?
No. If you have an exemption from payment for 50 years or more you are also exempt from pro bono. There is no exemption code number to fill in on the pro bono section of the card; it is automatic.
Q. How are attorneys chosen for pro bono assignment?
Pro bono cases are assigned from a computer list each county maintains of all the attorneys eligible for pro bono assignment in that county. Cases are assigned strictly in order of the list. At the top of the list are attorneys who have had no pro bono assignments, in alphabetical order.
Q. I am an attorney, admitted in New Jersey, but I practice law and have a bono fide office in another state. I do not practice law in New Jersey. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
No, you are exempt from mandatory pro bono. You should request exemption code 90 on the annual pro bono questionnaire that is part of the online annual attorney registration.
Q. I am having trouble with the on-line attorney registration system, who do I contact for help?
Q. I am an attorney who maintains a bona fide law office in New Jersey. However, I have not represented a private client out of that office for more than a year. Am I required to do pro bono cases?
Yes. The Supreme Court has determined that any attorney who maintains a bona fide law office in New Jersey, regardless of the amount of activity out of that office, is eligible to receive assignments.
Q. I am active military service and exempt from payment from Lawyer’s Fund for Protection. Am I required to do pro bono work?
No. If you have an exemption from payment from Lawyers’ Fund for Protection and have completed its form, you are also exempt from pro bono assignments. There is no exemption code number to fill in on the pro bono section of the card; it is automatic.
Q. How many hours of pro bono service a year must an attorney provide?
Attorneys are not required to do a certain number of hours per year. Rather, attorneys are required to complete an assigned pro bono case, no matter how many hours that may require. Further, there is no requirement that an attorney complete a certain number of pro bono cases a year. Attorneys are called upon whenever their name reaches the top of the list. For example, depending on the county, an attorney may be required to complete two cases a year or one case every two years.
Q. I am an out of state attorney who is admitted in NJ, and recently claimed exemption code 90. Am I still exempt from pro bono under exemption code 90 if I do volunteer legal work in NJ?
No. You are not eligible for exemption code 90 if you are practicing law in New Jersey even on a volunteer basis. However, if you volunteer 25 hours of pro bono service for one of the approved organizations, you are exempt under exemption code 88 in the following year.
Q. I am an attorney who occasionally works for a local law firm. I am not formally affiliated with that firm, but only work on an as needed basis. Am I eligible to claim an exemption from pro bono?
No. The Supreme Court has determined that attorneys who work on a per diem basis are eligible to receive pro bono assignments. However, the Court has further determined that an assignment should only be made during a time that these attorneys are actively practicing law in New Jersey.
Q. I am a stay at home mom and only work part-time on occasional real estate transactions, or wills, and such; am I required to do pro bono work?
Yes. If you are a licensed attorney in New Jersey and perform occasional attorney transactions you are still required to do pro bono.
Q. Must all New Jersey attorneys complete pro bono assignments?
No, certain attorneys, such as most full-time government attorneys, are exempt from mandatory pro bono service. Each year, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts issues a list of all the categories of attorneys who are exempt. To be exempt, the attorney must request the exemption on the annual pro bono questionnaire which is part of the online annual attorney registration. If an attorney fails to request an exemption on the pro bono questionnaire, he or she will be assigned a case when his or her name rises to the top of the list.
Q. I am an in-house counsel for an out-of-state corporation and my office is also out-of-state. But the corporation does have stores in New Jersey. Am I eligible to claim an exemption from pro bono?
Yes. The Supreme Court has determined that attorneys in this situation are eligible to claim exemption code 90, because they are not practicing law in New Jersey, in any capacity.
Q. I am an attorney who practices law by being placed by a temporary employment agency in law firms or corporations. Am I eligible to claim an exemption from pro bono?
No. The Supreme Court has determined that attorneys who practice law through temporary employment agencies are eligible to receive pro bono assignments. However, the Court has further determined that an assignment should only be made during a time that these attorneys are actively practicing law in New Jersey.
Q. I am a mediator, and or, arbitrator am I exempt from pro bono?
No. The Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the Committee on Attorney Advertising consider attorneys serving as third-party neutrals, such as mediators and arbitrators, as engaging in the practice of law.
Q. What types of cases are assigned as pro bono cases?
Most mandatory pro bono cases fall within three categories: violation of domestic violence restraining orders; municipal appeals; and parole revocation hearings.
Q. I am an attorney with a bona fide office in another state, but will occasionally appear in the Federal court system in New Jersey. I have no cases in the New Jersey State courts. Am I eligible for an exemption from pro bono under exemption code 90?
Yes. Practicing in a Federal court in New Jersey does not count as practicing in New Jersey, since Federal courts are a separate jurisdiction.
Q. Can an attorney with bona fide offices in both NJ and PA donate legal services to a domestic violence prevention program in Philadelphia and use that volunteer work to claim exemption from the New Jersey pro bono requirement?
No. Under exemption code 88, an attorney may claim an exemption if he or she can certify that he or she has performed at least twenty-five (25) hours of pro bono services for domestic violence service providers. However, the volunteer work must be done in New Jersey in order to claim the exemption.