Yesterday, New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that lawyers seeking admission to the state bar will be required to perform 50 hours of pro bono work before being licensed to practice. The move—which will make New York the first state to implement this type of requirement on lawyers before they are licensed—was made in an attempt to increase free legal services to those in need, especially in cases involving foreclosures, unemployment insurance, health care, and domestic violence.
While some say the requirement is a step toward achieving social justice in New York, others worry about placing additional burdens on recent law graduates who may be devoting all of their time and resources to simply finding a job. Moreover, there is some concern that forced legal service will not be of a high quality. Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute, told the New York Times, “I worry about poor people with lawyers who don’t want to be there.”
According to the American Bar Association, at least 39 law schools currently have a pro bono or other community service requirement in place; it is expected that these hours would count toward the New York requirement. Some law firms also require associates to spend a certain amount of time each year on pro bono matters.
What do you think about the new requirement? Is it a step forward for society and the legal profession? Or is it an unfair burden on new graduates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or by tweeting us @VaultLaw.
--Rachel Marx, Law Editor