Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pro Bono Requirement for Admittance to the Bar

Other influential states may be getting ready to follow New York’s lead and require bar candidates to first complete hours of pro bono service. From the National Law Journal (excerpts):

It's been nearly a year since the New York State court system announced its first-of-its-kind 50-hour pro bono requirement for new attorneys. No state has followed suit yet, but that may soon change. Leaders of the State Bar of California are poised this fall to adopt a similar rule, while a task force of ­judges, legal educators and attorneys in New Jersey is weighing the merits. Any move by California could well have a ripple effect throughout the country.

Lippman announced New York's pro bono requirement in May 2012. Many applauded the move as a way to improve access to legal services for the poor and instill a sense of professional responsibility in new lawyers, but some criticized the rule for heaping additional responsibilities on already busy and financially strapped law students, and for placing a new training burden on legal service organizations.

Effective in 2015, every applicant to the New York State Bar Association must have completed 50 hours of pro bono legal work. Supervised work done in law school clinics and for nonprofit organizations, plus court clerkships or externships, will count toward the requirement.

The [California] task force recently unveiled a draft report containing three key recommendations: adoption of a 50-hour pro bono mandate; requiring new lawyers to complete either 15 credit hours involving practical skills or a six-month apprenticeship or clerkship after graduation; and requiring new lawyers to complete 10 hours of specially designed continuing legal education courses.

California's proposed pro bono mandate differs slightly from the New York rule in that new lawyers could fulfill the requirement either in law school or during their first year of practice.


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I am proud of Vermont for many reasons, but this might be a good place to point out that Vermont never abandoned our apprenticeship requirement. Before being called to the bar, aspiring lawyers must complete three months of apprenticeship. While the focus is on learning (and the apprenticeship may be accomplished in private practice as well as in public service) a great deal of client service is provided in the course of these apprenticeships. They may be completed during law school or after taking the bar, but everyone who wants to practice in Vermont must complete the requirement under the supervision of a lawyer admitted in Vermont.

Posted by: Liz Ryan Cole | Apr 29, 2013 3:35:26 AM

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