May 2, 2012
NY Court of Appeals To Require 50 Hours of Pro Bono Service For Bar Takers
The New York Courts are about to do something that will affect how law schools prepare their students for practice. Starting with next year’s graduating class, bar takers in New York will have to provide 50 hours of pro bono services before getting a license to practice. The news came in New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Law Day 2012 address. The goal is to provide legal services to the poor and near-poor:
By assisting a family facing eviction or foreclosure, by working with an attorney to draft a contract for a fledgling not-for-profit, by helping a victim of domestic violence obtain a divorce, or by using their legal talents to help state and local government entities in a time of economic stress, law students can access the real-world lessons that are so important to succeeding in legal practice and hopefully also experience the intrinsic reward that comes from helping others through pro bono service.
The new rules place the burden on the bar-taker to seek pro bono opportunities and not the law school to provide them, though I think there will be competitive pressure on law schools to provide some form of help for compliance. That may shift the balance between teaching scholarship and teaching practice skills for some schools. I’ll wait for the law schools to react. I’m sure the new rules will generate a lot of faculty discussion. There might even be some need for academic law libraries to add practitioner materials to the collection. I'll add that the American Bar Association has never placed anything remotely like this on a law school’s curriculum content or graduation requirements. I wonder if the Association knew this was coming.
I would think an alternative to incorporating this new requirement into the curriculum likely would be for New York firms to allow their new hires to perform pro bono work under firm supervision. It’s all a bit unclear how this will work in practice. Judge Lippman explains:
How will this new admission requirement work in New York? First, it will not be solely the responsibility of law schools to provide pro bono opportunities, although there are law schools that already require some pro bono service to graduate, and most law schools today have an impressive array of clinical programs to offer their students. These students also may want to look outside the campus walls to legal service providers in their area and explore internships, or work with local bar associations to find pro bono possibilities. And while most applicants to the bar will want to complete their pro bono service during the law school years or over the summers, they will also have the option to do so after graduation, or even after taking the bar exam or after beginning a paid legal position in a law firm or elsewhere.
Still, the devil will be in the details as to what qualifies as pro bono service. Could someone volunteer for, say, Wells Fargo to prosecute a mortgage foreclosure? I don’t think that is what the Court has in mind, but who knows at this point. There might even be a backlash in that some students are not attracted to clinical work or public service. Some might even feel this is another burden that affects the speed of paying off student loans.
Judge Lippman indicated that aside from being the first Court to put this requirement in place, he hoped others would join. I don’t know if this will be a trend. I suspect other states will jump on this bandwagon but it’s too early to say how popular this idea will be. [MG]
The new york city's court discipline too acceptable. i praise the new york city's discipline. actually i am a advocate in the new york city's court. i was working many years in this court. this court giving me many facilities.
Posted by: new york city | Jul 21, 2012 11:37:14 PM