A few months ago we did a round-up of news about pro bono initiatives and one of the stories that we covered was about a new rule that was proposed in May that would make New York the first state in the country to mandate pro bono work for law students. A story published last week by Thomson Reuters News & Insight (TRNI) offers more details on the new program.
As previously mentioned, the new rule requires aspiring lawyers to perform free legal work in order to be admitted to the bar in New York State. The regulation requires law students to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono work between their first year of law school and the time they apply for a license.
TNRI reports that pro bono service is defined as providing “law-related” services to low-income people, nonprofits, civil rights groups, or government entities. It also allows existing programs at law schools such as clinics and internships to qualify, an issue that had concerned school officials over the summer. If their existing programs did not qualify, they would have been forced to quickly implement new ones.
The new rule will apply to applicants admitted to the New York State bar on or after January 1, 2015. Other stipulations include:
- The pro bono service can be completed in any state or territory of the US, the District of Columbia, or any foreign country.
- Bar applicants must file affidavits for each position used to satisfy the 50-hour requirement with the Appellate Division, describing the dates and nature of the work and the number of hours completed.
- The affidavits must be certified by the supervising attorney or judge.
- Participation in partisan political activities do not count towards the 50-hour requirement.
First proposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in May, the regulation is being supported by legal service providers as well as law schools. Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society of New York says that his agency turns away eight out of every nine people seeking representation in civil matters because of a lack of resources. Esther Lardent, executive director of the Pro Bono Institute, after reviewing the final rule was pleased by how quickly a workable rule was put together. She said:
“I think that is a reflection of the sense of urgency that Judge Lippman and his committee have about this crisis in access to legal services, which is really negatively impacting the justice system and public faith in the system.”
Posted by Marianne Purzycki