By: Tom Stebbins, LRANY Executive Director
Last Tuesday, New York’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, made what many are calling a revolutionary announcement during his Law Day address. Beginning next year, all new lawyers in New York will be required to do 50 hours of pro bono work BEFORE they are admitted to the bar. This is a first in the United States, and could have major implications for the field and society at large.
The requirement has already been approved by all four of the state’s appellate divisions, though it will take some time and effort to fully implement. “What better way to send the strongest message to those about to enter our profession? Assisting in meeting the urgent need for legal services is a necessary and essential qualification to becoming a lawyer,” Lippman said during his speech.
While this requirement is new, the idea behind it has been around for years, according to Lippman. There are lots of excellent New York attorneys who provide their services pro bono, even without the prospect of a contingency fee. Many noble organizations, like the Legal Aid Society, help people access these legal services.
You may be surprised to hear it, but we at LRANY support this work. Legal services offered in good faith are far better than the legal services offered on a billboard or on late night television. Providing those less fortunate with counsel on real estate, contracts, business law, family law and a host of other necessary legal services is a laudable endeavor — and one far nobler than encouraging those less fortunate to sue. Unless, of course, they have a case.